Week 2: Great Ocean Road[trip]

AS, JS, TF, RH, ES, ZB, CB, GW, BR, IE, and me.

With Welcome to Travel ending Sunday night, I just couldn’t bear to part with the friends I’d made the previous week, so 11 of the 22 of us decided to embark on a five-day road trip along the Great Ocean Road, a 243 km stretch of road that runs along the south eastern coast of Oz between Melbourne and Adelaide. With recommendations from WTT and the internet, we were able to map out an itinerary. We loaded up two minivans and spent four nights in four different towns, with some pretty amazing sights along the way.

We all had to relocate from the YHA Metro to the Base Hostel in St Kilda for Monday night. We’d had an exhausting week, and were about to embark on another adventure, so perhaps under different circumstances, we would have been more excited for Monday night’s Boozy Bingo. That didn’t stop us from enjoying a few pitchers of gin and tonics, but still.

Day 1: Tuesday, November 26

After a slight delay in picking up the cars, and a brief bickering about who would be in what car with which bags, we were on the road by half ten. Oddly, but not surprisingly, the two Americans were driving each car, and other than a few mistaken directions, including me driving on the wrong side of the road briefly, it was smooth sailing.

Our first destination was Halls Gap, at the edge of the Grampians National Park, which took about four hours to reach. We dropped our bags at the YHA there, freshened up, and hopped back in the car for our first hike. We meandered our way up the mountain to Mackenzie Falls, a lookout point with waterfalls and a trail. After climbing down to the foot of the falls along the steep staircase, we were then able to enjoy the next couple of hours winding our way along the falls, and further into the park. While I’m not usually the first one to jump at the opportunity to hike, this was absolutely one of my favorite parts of the week.

Back at the cars, the day wasn’t over yet. We made a pit stop at the Wartook Reservoir, on our way to the Balconies and Reeds Lookouts for sunset. The Balconies looks west into the park, looking down on the canopy of trees going on for miles. We took a few (thousand) photos, and then crossed the parking lot to the Reeds, looking east across the same canopy. Despite the wind whipping at us for a bit, we enjoyed the amazing sunset, all of us remarking how happy and lucky we were to be there.

Back at the hostel, closer to 10 PM, we made enough chili to feed a small village, snarfed it down, and promptly went to bed. This hostel was my favorite of the trip, remotely set in beautiful scenery; if ever you find yourself in the middle of Victoria, I recommend staying here.

Observations Day 1: My role as ‘group mum’ has been solidified. Are we surprised? No. While I do often like to be in charge and in control (duh), it’s always nice when someone else takes over. I’m very happy with the group that we have, and am so glad I get to spend another week with them.

Day 2: Wednesday, November 27

Up bright and early for our second hike of the trip, we were off to the Pinnacles. Having driven the entire first day, I got to sit back and relax. This hike was about the same duration as the first, but was more scrambling up and over rocks to reach the top. The view was equally rewarding, although with the timing of the sunset, I still preferred the previous day’s hike. We were able to pop back to the hostel to finish our chili for lunch, and then were on our way towards the coast.

We had a 2.5-3 hour drive down to Thunder Point in Wanrambool. Cue our photo shoot of crashing waves, officially on the Great Ocean Road. It was at this point that RH realized her sunglasses were missing, and thought it possible that they had fallen out along the side of the road during a quick pit stop. So we sent the boys car to the next destination, and us girls headed 30 minutes back the way we came. Using driving distance, a time stamp from a photo, and markers including a hill and trees, we miraculously found the glasses. We should get our own detective series, that’s how impressive it was.

Less than an hour behind the boys, but already well into the afternoon, we met them at the next stop, and proceeded to hop along the coast, driving a few minutes to see each of the following attractions. First was Bay of Islands: rocks, waves, sun glistening. All very lovely. Next up: The Grotto. Beautiful archway formed by crashing waves. Followed by London Bridge (serenaded by Fergie along the way): previously intact ‘bridge’ that had been eroded by wind and water. Fascinating to see what nature can do, but still, it was now just a rock off shore. Finally, The Arch, which is exactly what it sounds like, but far less impressive than the Grotto.

With our patience well exhausted at this point, we were ready to check in to our hostel for the evening in Port Campbell. We had a warm welcome in the form of a preemptive lecture about our large group and behavior, and being too tired to argue, silently rolled our eyes and went upstairs. We had pizza and beer for dinner, and again, promptly to bed.

Observations Day 2: I wouldn’t recommend Port Campbell quite as much as I would the Grampians, and it’s possible that two weeks is too long to spend with some people. It’s also possible that we tried to pack too much in to five days.

Day 3: Thursday, November 28

For those of us who didn’t come prepared with food, we went to one of the only restaurants in town for breakfast, and with nothing else to do in Port Campbell, hit the road. Our first stop was the main attraction of the Great Ocean Road, The 12 Apostles. Which is now more like 7 because the others have been eroded. With rainy weather and some large rock formations, we were back in the cars quickly. On to more adventuring, we drove to Wyelangta to see some waterfalls and do more hiking. When we arrived, it was still a bit wet, and turned out the hike was closed due to the weather. So we were able to check out the falls, which felt very tropical and removed from the beach setting we’d just been in.

After a quick panic of almost running out of gas in the middle of nowhere, we decided to head straight to our next stop, Apollo Bay. We checked in to the YHA there, and then went for a late lunch/early dinner, and then most went back to the hostel. I wanted to make the most of my time, so I wandered around the shops, and then back and forth along the beach. This was another surprise highlight of the week, and I would love to go back to Apollo Bay. A quick stop for a glass of wine, and then back to the hostel for a movie. We had a fun night, and I couldn’t believe we only had one full day to go.

Observations Day 3: I love a good beach town, and would love to come back for a longer visit. It’s just as much fun doing nothing, as long as you’re with friends.

Day 4: Friday, November 29

We spent the morning wandering around the shops some more, and then piled back in the cars and continued along the coast. We stopped at Teddy’s Lookout, a viewpoint over the ocean, which was a nice view but nothing special. A quick drive to Lorne for lunch and shopping, and then on to Aireys Inlet, a picture-perfect lighthouse. Next stop: Chocolaterie, in between Anglesea and Torquay. This was a highly recommended and a worthwhile chocolate factory. We arrived at Bells Beach Backpackers hostel in Torquey around mid afternoon, and were greeted by a similar, yet much friendlier, lecture for the group.

Torquay is known for its surfing, especially since the brands Quicksilver and Rip Curl were started here. We wanted to hit the surf shops, but they were closed when we arrived. To mark the final night of our trip, we had a nice dinner out at Olé Torquay, and then began our pub crawl, ending at ‘The Pub’, the only place in the entire town open after 10pm. I got to share and teach some card games (thank you T & T), and all around had a lovely last night after spending two weeks together.

Observations Day 4: I don’t think I’ll have authentic Mexican food until I’m back in California, and I don’t think I’ll ever be very good at surfing, but would love to live in a surf town. Because I’m a good daughter, I remembered to call home for Thanksgiving on Oregon time.

Day 5: Saturday, November 30

Our final morning of the road trip we got to sleep in, do some more wandering around the town and beach, and then head back to Melbourne through Geelong. The two cars met back at the YHA Metro, and we all went our separate ways. Many were staying at the YHA, for a night or longer. Some had flights to catch, places to be. Two had booked an Airbnb, and I opted to change hostels with TF. While two weeks is a lot of time to spend your undivided attention with the same 11 people, I don’t think I could have asked for a better group to travel with, and am so unbelievably happy to have those memories.

If you’re interested in more photos from the trip, I’ve added them here.

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