When it comes to great city escapes from Melbourne nothing beats the oft-trodden Ocean drive. Much touted at every tourist bureau, the Great Ocean Road is nothing short of spectacular, with a dramatic sweep of landscapes, and boundless ocean (coastal) drive.Book your tickets online, there are many offerings, including lunch and various halts. I personally found it very short pitched especially if you get a driver who hustles you to hurry every step to pack in the drive and 12 Apostles not in one day, but only 6 hours!
Just an hour away from Melbourne Central begins the winding, windswept drive, extensively over cliff tops until a stretch of the blue ocean comes into full view. The majority part of the road drive is widespread by the Ocean, and the driver offers us time to imbue in the most popular part of surfers beach.
We continue on to the next circuit of the drive and it was mostly uphill. That is when the ancient rainforest appears and the south-west coastline that we were skirting along disappear.
The rainforest is another highlight and a trek deep within Otway Forest and National Park is fascinating. The topography of the National Park is home to ancient trees, ferns, and spreading roots far and wide giving thick overhead coverage.
I felt the Maits Rest Rainforest named after the forest official was a rushed walkway and one could do no justice to look up admire ancient trees with literal cave like gateways at its root.
The rainforest in this gully has been evolved over millions of years and is a valuable source of information on life and history. For ten thousands of years, the local Aboriginal tribe called Maar held a spiritual connection with these forests and continues to provide cultural and historic links.
Prehistoric massive ferns, lush, surrounding ponds and waterfalls was tempting to plunge into. Take a moment to stand still and tune into the tranquil surroundings and smell of the ancient forest. The old Myrtle beech trees stand tall providing a lush canopy above, providing shade to the plants below.
There are signboards and brief on some pathways signifying trees that grow around, name and tag of the species of plant that thrive, age and ancestry. Some of the Redwood trees are over 500 years old, tallest in the world, well preserved and thriving.
After completing a short loop of this incredible rainforest exploration, back on the road and final stop is the magnificent 12 Apostles.
The Great Ocean Drive is one of Australia’s top journeys of a lifetime, the 12 Apostles (only 8 remaining) at Port Cambell National Park is really the most panoramic scenes high above the crash of waves, the cliffs and foaming waters below will keep you spellbound.
These limestone outcrops stack up, off the shores in ghostly sizes and figures, being adjacent to the park, this road is highly popular with tourists.
The Marine Park with the 8 limestone outcrops has Gog and Magog cliffs, the London Bridge with a hollow in the middle, the narrow openings to the sea blocked by the cliffs are few landmarks here.
The Razorback is a rock stack with sharp edges and bumps caused by the wind blown spray eroding away the softer layer of stone leaving the hard uneven surface. With over one wave every 14 seconds there has been a lot of erosions over centuries!
It’s very difficult to comprehend some of the spiel aforesaid by the Aussie guide, stories of intrigue and valour abound in these cliffs, also of ships and pirates.
In all a great time, a great coastal drive of over 400 Kms, lots to see and ponder, a day trip isn’t enough.
On my next visit here I plan to stay back and explore more as it takes 2 days or more to cover. Many homestays and apartments are available here, passing through old towns and villages we briefly stopped at a popular restaurant Stiks for lunch.
More reasons to visit Australia, Melbourne again and retrace the Great Ocean Road
Text/Photos Jyoti Shetty.