After relocating to Melbourne I didn’t want to repeat my mistake of staying mostly in the city and not seeing much around, which was the case when we lived in Brisbane for over 4 years. It took only 3 weeks to make myself feel settled in the apartment, familiar with my neighbourhood and itching for adventures. It wasn’t too hard to pick our first road trip from Melbourne: the Great Ocean Road.
The Great Ocean Road was on my Must See list since we came to Australia. I envied all my Couchsurfing guests telling me about it and I couldn’t wait to finally go and see it myself. Ideally, I would really love to do it over a week. Go slowly, stop many times on the way, see a couple of spectacular sunsets and sunrises and go for more walks. Unfortunately, my first encounter had to fit in one weekend.
Day 1 – drive from Melbourne to Warrnambool (the entire length of the Great Ocean Road)
The first part of the drive to the beginning of GOR isn’t too interesting, but at least it’s not too long (took us about 1 hour to get to Torquay from the CBD). Then the road quickly changes from the boring, straight highway and becomes a winding road, giving you glimpses of the ocean, beaches and rainforest. Countless lookouts start popping up on the side of the road and most of them provide spectacular views.
It was great to stop for a moment, sit on the ground and soak up the incredible sights.
The goal of our first day was to drive the entire length of the GOR and to get to Warrnambool before 6pm as we had 7pm dinner reservation and needed to shower and rest after all day on the road. Thanks to that, we’ve skipped some of the lookouts and ended up doing only Mait’s Rest (30min rainforest loop), 12 Apostles (that’s something I don’t think I’ll do again, it was way too crowded, but is definitely worth seeing once) and The Arch (which wasn’t any less pretty than 12 Apostles and being less famous meant less people).
Great Ocen Road – where to spend the night
35 Banyan Street, Warrnambool
A lovely, tastefully decorated place with the thing I always look forward to the most – a bathtub. Hidden away in a quiet street, within walking distance to shops and restaurants, was a good 1-night-home for us. There is a small kitchen (coffee & tea, plunger, glassware and some pots provided), dining & lounge area, bedroom with king size bed, bathroom with both shower & bathtub, and parking space right by the front door.
Anniversary dinner at Pickled Pig, Warrnambool
[update 2019: looks like the restaurants have been permanently closed since last year] It was just 3 days before our actual anniversary date, so we decided to celebrate it during that weekend. When I asked on twitter about my best dining options in Warrnambool, all answers were the same – Pickled Pig. Trusting people of the Internet I booked a table (they usually have a full house on Saturdays) and was very curious if it’s really as good as everyone told me.
When we arrived, we were surprised with a complimentary glass of bubbles, to help us kick off our celebrations. By the time we tried the amuse bouche of pork with noodles, I was already sure it was going to be a great evening. And the next courses only confirmed that. For entree we’ve had: pork belly, cucumber, carrot, herbs, soy and prawn, jamon, squid, beetroot, radish (if we had to pick our favourite part of the meal, we would both choose our entrees – they were amazing). For main: sirloin, spring onion, broad bean, mushroom, chestnut, potato and duck, spring roll, turnip, broccolini, passionfruit sauce. And beetroot and orange, soil, segments, coconut for dessert to share.
Welcoming and friendly service, great food (one of the best restaurant meals we’ve had in a while) and nice atmosphere. Well done Pickled Pig.
Day 2 – Warrnambool to Melbourne
We started the day at Cheese World and picked up some cheese made just across the road (yay for edible souvenirs). Then we drove quite a big part of the Great Ocean Road again, which gave us a chance to stop at lookouts we skipped the day before.
I highly recommend stopping about 400m after the 12 Apostles (coming from Warrnambool) at Gibson Steps parking and walking down to the beach. For us seeing 12 Apostles and cliffs from that perspective (and sans 200 people that were with us on the official 12 Apostles lookout) was far more thrilling.
After about 100km we parted ways with GOR and went to the other side of the Great Otway National Park to do some bushwalking. Our “torture” of choice was 5km return walk to the Little Aire Falls. It was a bit more strenuous than the easy loop to Triplet Falls we did afterwards but very much worth it. We also stumbled across the unusual Otway Black Snail – carnivorous snail living only in the Otway Park area.