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Victoria: The Great Southern Touring Route

Great Ocean Road 2
Great Ocean Road 5
Cape Otway
Great Ocean Road 4
Surfers Great Ocean Road
Surfers Great Ocean Road 2
Port Fairy
Surf Museum
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Sovereign Hill Ballarat
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Sovereign Hill Ballarat 2

Victoria: The Great Southern Touring Route

story by: Tom Ricketts

If you’re a fan of stunning coastal vistas, quaint seaside towns, unspoiled forest-clad national parks, then Victoria’s Great Southern Touring Route is definitely for you.

Departing Melbourne, the road takes you across the impressive Bolte Bridge, through the city’s western suburbs and around the western shores of Port Phillip Bay to Victoria’s second largest city of Geelong. Great for a quick stop to stretch your legs, head for the city’s regenerated waterfront district where you’ll find boardwalks and piers which boast a number of top restaurants. You’ll also have the opportunity to take a harbour cruise or scenic flight over the region.

From Geelong, head south until you arrive in the small town of Torquay which is where the world famous Great Ocean Road starts. The road was built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932 and is dedicated to those who lost their lives in World War 1, making it the world’s largest war memorial. The first section takes you through the ‘Surf Coast’ - beaches around Torquay attract surfers from all over the world, but perhaps the most famous is Bells Beach which holds an annual round of the World Surfing Tour. It was also the setting for the final scenes in Point Break, however the film was not actually filmed here. Surfers will definitely want to make a stop in Torquay to check out all the big brand surf labels who have stores here, and Surf World, the world’s largest surf museum and home to the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame.

Continuing along the Surf Coast, you’ll travel through several small towns including Lorne, which has is a fantastic stop for lunch. If you overindulge, take a walk through the bush to the beautiful Eriskine Falls above the town. The road winds its way up and over several lookout points where you’ll be able to see a handful of surfers enjoying the waves.

Finally, not much further down the road is Apollo Bay, your stop for the night. The sleepy town has a collection of cafes, restaurants and pubs for dinner tonight.

Day two of your journey along the Great Ocean Road will perhaps be the most spectacular. Just out of Apollo Bay is the Great Otway National Park and Cape Otway. A must-see is the Cape Otway Lighthouse whose 91 metres can be climbed for stunning views across Bass Strait.

Back on the highway, you’ll head inland for a while before joining the ocean again near Princetown and the Great Ocean Road’s most famous sight, the Twelve Apostles. The Twelve Apostles is a collection of sea stacks that have been eroded away from the limestone cliffs by the churning surf. A walkway takes you to best points of view, or take an incredible helicopter ride over the beach to see the eight remaining stacks, as well as awesome coastal scenery.

Just down the road at Port Campbell National Park you’ll find another two major geological areas, the Loch Ard Gorge and London Arch. The latter was formerly known as the London Bridge and formed a natural double arch resembling its famous namesake. However in 1990 the first of the two arches collapsed, leaving the rest of the rock separated from the mainland. Two tourists found themselves stuck on the now newly formed island and had to be rescued by a helicopter!

Loch Ard Gorge is a small bay that took its name from a ship that wrecked herself there 1878. Various relics can be around the bay, as well as a small museum. This section of the coast is known as the Shipwreck Coast and has claimed over 600 ships. More can be learned about the long notorious history of the shipwrecks at Warrnambool’s Maritime Village. The largest town on the Great Ocean Road, Warrnambool has a number of great attractions including a Shipwreck Sound and Light Show in the evening.

The coast ends at Port Fairy, a busy fishing port and your next stop for the night.

From Port Fairy you’ll bid the ocean farewell and head north through rich farmland for the Grampians National Park. This is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise! The huge national park has a plethora of walking tracks and trails for all abilities, particularly famous for a handful of scenic lookouts high atop various peaks in the park. Some can be reached by car, and others by short walks or longer hikes. Wildlife is abundant in the park with wallabies and kangaroos often seen, as well as some of Aussie’s more secretive creatures such as echidna and emus. The Aboriginal people have of course known about the park for eons and there have been over 60 sites found throughout the park with Aboriginal rock art. Only five can currently be visited, but the fantastic Brambuk National Park and Cultural Centre has a number of exhibits and experiences where you can learn about the culture of the local Aboriginal peoples.

Turning back towards Melbourne now, your next stop is the inland city of Ballarat. This city of 100,000 has a long and fascinating history. It all started with the Victorian Gold Rush, one of the richest and longest in world history. Melbourne was the main benefactor of the gold rush, but Ballarat’s impressive collection of beautiful heritage buildings shows that they benefited greatly too.

Gold also led to the city’s other major event, the Eureka Rebellion. Also known as the Battle of the Eureka Stockade, the event took place when gold miners revolted against the British authorities and resulted in approximately 27 deaths (rebels and cops), causing outrage throughout the nation. It resulted in suffrage for all men, and is seen as the first event in the move to democracy in Australia. All this history, and much more, can be learned at the popular Sovereign Hill Heritage Park, Museum of Australian Democracy, and the spectacular Blood on the Southern Cross sound and light show.

Finally, the last day’s driving takes you across farmlands towards Melbourne. Perhaps take a short detour to Daylesford and Hepburn Springs for a spa and a dip in the healing mineral waters, a perfect way to relax after exploring the best of Victoria.

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