The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road, aside from being the world’s largest war memorial, is also regarded as one of the world’s most scenic drives. The road, which spans more than 200km, hugs most of the craggy southeastern coast of Australia, starting from Torquay and ending in Allansford, near Warrnambool. Its various twists and turns offer spectacular views of the Southern Ocean, with much of the expanse carved into limestone hills and some parts traversing through rain forests.
Construction of the road began in September 1919, although plans for it were initially developed towards the end of World War I, with the establishment of the Great Ocean Road Trust Fund made possible by the then-mayor of Geelong, Howard Hitchcock. An estimated 3,000 soldiers who returned from the war were set to work on the road, therefore providing the servicemen jobs upon coming back home and also giving them the opportunity to be part of an epic memorial for their comrades who perished in the war. It proved to be a monumental and grueling task, as the workers executed the construction by hand, mostly with just picks and shovels, wheelbarrows and explosives to help get the job done. Thirteen years later, the Great Ocean Road was completed and in 1932 it was gifted to the state.
The 223km stretch of road links once-isolated towns along the coastline, accessible before the completion of the road only by bumpy bush tracks or by sea. Nowadays, the Great Ocean Road has a plethora of sights and activities to offer to the people who take the drive down its expanse; every area that the road has helped link together has something to give, no matter where your interests may lie. Perhaps one of the most well known spots along the road is Port Campbell, where the majestic rock formations named The Twelve Apostles stand, protruding from the Southern Ocean. Once upon a time, these massive limestone stacks were part of the overhanging cliffs but were gradually eroded by the sea and harsh weather conditions, first into cliffs, then arches, and after collapsing, now stand as the dramatic and rugged rock formations that people from all over the world flock to admire.
For surfers seeking to “get stoked”, the surfing capital of Australia, Torquay, is the perfect place, and a multitude of other water activities are available in other areas besides the aforementioned, such as Port Philip Bay and Apollo Bay; for those interested in history and heritage, a number of the seaside villages located along the Great Ocean Road have just that to offer, such as Queenscliff, Port Fairy and Colac; and for those simply looking for the best lookout to marvel at the ocean view, then Mount Leura in Camperdown is just the place. Warrnambool is ideal for animal lovers and the like as the Tower Hill Game State Reserve will give you the chance to come upon wildlife like koalas, kangaroos, emus, echidnas and more or, if you’re there between June and October, whale-watching from Logans Beach is an option, with a great vantage point on a specially constructed platform in the sand dunes.
With so much to offer, it’s no surprise that the Great Ocean Road has become one of the biggest tourist attractions in Victoria, contributing much to the region’s economy, with a significant number of people hailing it as one of the finest coastal drives in the world.