Australia, The Great Ocean Roadtrip – A superlative adventure

Any destination, landmark or area such as the Great Ocean Road, Grand Canyon, Great Barrier Reef or Great Trango Tower which uses superlatives to describe itself has a lot to live up to. Including hyperbole within a name puts a little extra pressure to live up to the billing. Fortunately most deliver in spades and the Great Ocean Road, Australia does not fail either.

Log cabin in the Grampian Mountains of Queensland, Australia on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Cabin in The Grampians

Most people would probably include this particular one hundred and fifty mile stretch of tarmac in Victoria, Australia among the iconic road trips of the World. The ideal way to experience it would be in an open-topped sports car, dawdling between towns and viewpoints with a soundtrack that rocks blaring from a powerful stereo drowning out the crashing waves.

Cannonball Run

My experience however was with a friend and her parents stuffed in the back seat of a Honda Civic hatchback which was much-loved but way past its prime. It involved speeding down the famous stretch of road in less than a single day. A little less ‘Thelma and Louise’ and a little more “Cannonball Run.” It may not have been the ideal way to see the Great Ocean Road, but it still provided its own excitement, made for a memorable trip and bonus the ocean could actually be heard at times.

Fireside in my own log cabin, in the Australian Grampians on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Travelling can be tough

Dropping down from the Grampian Mountains where we had spent the previous day, staying overnight in a little log cabin with wine and a log fire the starting point for our sprint down the coast was the fishing village of Port Fairy with its restored whalers cottages and wharf with Australian pelicans. No time to enjoy it though, we had to keep moving.

Next stop was Warrnambool, although it was not possible to see any Southern Right Whales on their annual migration at this renowned whale watching town it was possible to get a full English breakfast. Though not fully compensating for missing out it was still heaven on a plate that particular morning.

No surprise the road of course hugs the coastline, winding its way through the spectacular scenery. This keeps changing both left and right, whilst the ocean maybe a constant the view never looks the same. On the other side however it changes much more dramatically, early in the journey there are open fields before the little car passes beneath high and imposing cliffs, it did seem a little insignificant in their shadow.

Twelve Apostles

The possible stars of the trip are the ‘Twelve Apostles” a series of limestone stacks which stand proud above the restless waves. Their name is a bit of a misnomer as there have never actually been twelve, but it is a little more evocative than the original name; “Sow and Piglets.” When we travelled along this particular stretch of Australian coastline they informed me there were nine. However as a result of erosion there are now only eight, the sea is relentlessly claiming them one by one.

The Great Ocean Road on the Queensland coast of Australia on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Marilyn and some of the Twelve Apostles

The road passes through the Port Campbell National Park, the Apostles spaced out between Princetown and Peterborough. Stopping along the route to take some images and watching the waves pounding the stacks it is easy to understand why they are inexorably collapsing into the sea.

This is how the coast appears to be along here, the rock is limestone and relatively soft so it get worn down quite quickly leaving all sorts of rock formations; apart from the stacks, there are caves and arches. With names that stir the imagination such as the Bay of Martyrs, Shipwreck Coast, Massacre Bay and the Bay of Islands along with smaller viewpoints with no less evocative names; London Bridge, Devil’s Breath and Fairy Grotto.

Crashing waves on Melbourne's Great Ocean Road on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

The Devil’s Breath

The power of the ocean never ceases to amaze me, the day we visited it was relatively calm but even so the constant motion of the ocean was tirelessly eroding the coastline even as we passed along it.

There is the option to take a helicopter ride over the famous stacks and although I have flown in several helos my friend Marilyn had not. Their flight schedule however required a full load of passengers but our own rushed flight schedule did not allow us the luxury of waiting. I am not totally convinced however that she was genuinely disappointed.

Although the Apostles are the undoubted jewels in the crown of the drive, there are other worthwhile stopping off points strung out like precious stones on a necklace. We enjoyed coffee and dainty pastries in a café in Lorne, often passing rather too quickly through a number of other towns and villages. Our chauffeur for the day also drove past a number of the signs which signified a viewpoint, cherry picking the ones he deemed worthy of a stop. There were not any complaints about his choices from me though.

Fairy Grotto on the Great Ocean Road in Melbourne, Australia on Mallory on Travel adventure, photography

If this is a grotto where’s Santa?

A highlight for me was the owner of a restaurant in Port Campbell giving some other tourists a very severe ticking off for feeding the seagulls. It was pretty amusing but there was a serious side however, the gulls are quite aggressive almost dive bombing anybody with a little food without the need for further encouragement. This was fairly intimidating for some, they almost appeared to resemble small fighter planes from World War II strafing the diners as they tried to enjoy their meals.

The intrepid sprint down the Great Ocean Road ended at the surfing Mecca of Torquay before having to head back to Melbourne.

Koala spotting

We did manage a detour via the Bellarine Peninsula which seemed fairly thickly wooded. Marilyn mentioned possibly spotting a koala but our driver, her dad, explained that it would be impossible to see one in the wild from a vehicle; game on! My eyes were totally fixed to every single branch in every single tree from that moment on; I did not see just one but two koalas. Yeah you guessed right I still have a smug look about it now.

All too soon however we were driving through the suburbs of Melbourne. A lovely city and one of my favourites anywhere not just Australia. However I could not help wishing that the sea breeze was still blowing through the open windows of the Honda Civic.

Coming to think of it; still missing the Superlative Ocean Road now.

Koala on the Bellamarine Peninsula, Australia on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Give us a pose little guy

*In memory of my friends parents Leon and Sandra Bergman who sadly passed away a few years ago.


Comments 17

  1. Katie Foster

    Am I assuming correctly that this is in Australia? Do you know of any resources for great road trips through Europe. We are just starting to plan one and are on the lookout for the “great” roadways to cruise in our “open topped sports cars.” Loved your article.

    1. Post

      Hi Katie you assume correctly, as for resources for road trips through Europe I am sure the major UK road associations AA and RAC websites will have details and possibly Michelin too. Amalfi coast, and anywhere along the Southern coast of France and Spain, depends how long you have. All of mainland Europe is so well connected now with open borders and so much to see, coastlines and mountain passes you will have an awesome trip. Glad you liked the article.

  2. Gail Gillespie

    It is a beautiful stretch of Australian coastline. It is a pity you didn’t have a little longer, Ian as there are wonderful walks, and the historic Cape Otway Lighthouse is well worth visiting. Port Douglas is a good point to stay overnight so you can get to see the Apostles either at sunset or sunrise.Port Fairy is just gorgeous. too.This whole area has so many fascinating stories of the early ships that came to grief along the coast. You can read my account at

    1. Post
  3. evan and noraronken

    Great post! This was my favorite area in Australia–especially the Grampians. I know that Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef get all the headlines, but this area is so wonderful!

    1. Post

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and totally agree it is an awesome placve to visit. Jealous of your Uluru experience I need to visit there very soon

  4. Judy


    I loved my three weeks that I spend travelling throughout Australia and the great ocean road was great the picture I took were amazing. But my highlight was climbing Uluru (Ayers Rock) I went to Melbourne, Cairns, Alice springs, Ayers Rock, Sydney and I travelled all around each area it was amazing. I am deffinately going back again just not sure when to many other places I want to travel to right now 😀

    1. Post

      I am jealous actually Judy as I did not get to many of those places and really do want to return soon to visit them especially Uluru that must have been an amazing experience. Also like to return to repeat the great ocean road however this time take a little more time over it.

  5. Judy


    You will love climbing Uluru, but dont be surprised when you tell the locals how they might not like it, they are against people climbing and when I did tell some people they became very quiet and others would tell me about them climbing. “Story time about Uluru” I was climbing down the mountain and an inexperienced climber was going up lost her open water bottle, water and the bottle go down the hill, I had let go of the chain to stretch and enjoy the beautiful view from where I was, slipped on the water then the girl yells watch out water bottle, thank goodness I knew to fall backwards when climbing down or I would probably not be here because of this girls carelessness. You could hear people all around me gasping. she yelled I am so sorry I just waved and continued down the mountain. I also came across people who had no water and gave them water. I went this past January it was very hot. also if you go to other places to explore remember the flys can be really bad and you know what the fly net really helps I was walking in an area where the flys where so bad that I had about twenty on just my face net, they can be pesky. You must do the sounds of silence while there it was amazing and feeling the red sand against you feet is nice and soft. I have other stories but it seems I am starting to write a book. Look forward to you going and writing about it when you do go.

  6. Rob

    We’ve been dying to do the Great Ocean Road – better to see it in a Honda Civic than not see it at all!

    Next time around I’m not leaving until we’ve seen it. Looking awfully smug in your bathrobe btw 😉

    1. Post

      You’d look smug wearing a bathrobe with a glass of wine in front of an open fire in a Grampian Mountain log cabin too! I hope you get to visit both soon, thanks Rob

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  8. Jessica

    Nice post! Looks like a beautiful little road trip you went on. Those 12 apostles are just breathtaking! Would absolutely love to do this one day! Need to get myself to Australia first! Thanks for sharing!

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