THE Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s top driving routes, but there’s plenty of reason to park the car and enjoy the swag of attractions that flank this ribbon of asphalt snaking around Victoria’s beautiful southwest coast.
1. Every Easter the world’s best surfers descend on Bells Beach (below) — the famous strip of sand a stone’s throw from Jan Juc — but for the rest of the year locals ride the waves with Surfworld Museum in nearby Torquay telling the story of the sport in Australia.
2. Don’t just watch the experts but squeeze into a wetsuit and take to the water during a Go Ride A Wave lesson, with classes on how to hang five offered along the Great Ocean Road from Anglesea and Torquay to Lorne and Wye River.
3. The Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge and London Bridge are famous Great Ocean Road destinations and while there are platforms dotted along the cliffs to offer visitors a view of the coastline another perspective is provided by 12 Apostles Helicopters during sightseeing flights.
4. Lorne has been a favourite holiday spot for generations of Victorians but, instead of staying in a motel and tramping the town’s tourist trail, live like a local by occupying a house — Ocean House Lorne (below) is the best — and head to the pier for a drink at the Lorne Aquatic and Angling Club before buying fresh seafood at the Fisheries Co-op.
5. Melba Gully is home to a colony of glow worms, lurking in the shady corners of the Cape Otway National Park rainforest, and nocturnal nature lovers can follow the trails to see the tiny critters shine beyond the guardrails that mark the best locations.
6. While Warrnambool (below) is technically west of the Great Ocean Road this historic settlement is worth a visit with travellers able to step back in time at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village and become immersed in the tale of the Loch Ard at the nightly Shipwrecked sound-and-light show.
7. While Wye River isn’t much more than a few holiday houses hidden in the bush and a beach-side pub this sleepy hamlet is home to the Wye River General Store, with locals in nearby Lorne boasting the café serves the Great Ocean Road’s best pastries.
8. Detour to the Otway Fly Treetop Adventure — north of the coast on the Colac-Lavers Hill Road — and get a bird’s-eye view of the bush during an easy one-hour stroll around a 2km circuit that includes a 600m steel walkway standing 30m above the ground.
9. Do a self-guided tour of the Cape Otway Light Station — or linger a little longer and join the Lightkeeper’s Shipwreck Discovery Tour — and learn about the beacon built in 1848 that’s now mainland Australia’s oldest surviving lighthouse.