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Epic Aussie Road Trip Part 3: Great Ocean Road and Grampians National Park

October 28, 2010

Driving the Great Ocean Road

After a morning spent picking up our campervan from Travellers Auto Barn and getting our stuff from our friend’s house, we finally hit the road again. We made our way out toward the Great Ocean Road and soon found ourselves at Anglesea, meeting the ocean with immediately fantastic views. Within just the first ten minutes we’d already pulled over two or three times to gaze from lookouts and walk along beaches.

From Anglesea to Apollo Bay you are constantly driving along gorgeous winding coastal roads, winding up and down the cliffs next to the ocean. Every view is a great one, and there are tons of places where you can pull over and go down to the beach.

We took advantage of every lookout and stop along the road, and had planned to stop for the night in Apollo Bay. However, somehow I had been convinced that the famous Twelve Apostles were just a little down the road from Apollo Bay, so I wanted to keep going to see them at sunset.

Twelve Apostles

Lucky for us the sun sets much later these days as summer approaches and daylight savings is in action, because the Twelve Apostles (of which there are not actually 12, and apparently never were) ended up being very far away from Apollo Bay! An hour and a half of driving along the inland road we finally arrived there. We had hoped to see penguins coming in from the sea as well, but we definitely didn’t see that! In fact, the wind was so great we could barely stand, and the rain was pounding down on us. We did get a little color from the sunset, but not much and definitely not enough to change the color of the Apostles.

The town of Port Campbell was only a few kilometers away and by then it was after 8:00 and getting late. When we got to Port Campbell we found there was only one caravan park and the reception was closed. We had no service on our phones, so we found a pay phone and tried to call the caravan park but there was no answer. As it was our first night on the road, I did not want to risk just camping somewhere on the side of the road (especially in such a small town).

Bay of Islands, Great Ocean Road

After walking and driving around the tiny town in the rain, we decided to go into one of the two hostels and ask if they knew what we should do. One hostel was closed. The second (I believe it was called Port Campbell Hostel), thankfully, had a very kind woman at reception who offered to let us park the van in their parking lot and use all the facilities (kitchen, showers, TV room, etc.) for just $10. Score! It was awesome, especially because the hostel was brand new and very nice (and cost almost $30 a night for a bed in a dorm!). We cooked dinner in their lovely kitchen then watched  part of Jurassic Park III in their common room and chatted with some of the tour group passengers staying at the hostel. It was very nice (and warm and dry!)

The next day we set off to finish our drive on the Great Ocean Road. We had already covered more than half, and some of the most scenic parts, but we went back to see the Apostles and some of the other rock formations nearby. Further on we stopped at many spots along the Bay of Islands, which are not at all as played up as they should. It’s an impossibly gorgeous area that you hear nothing about. At one point we just sat in the van and stared out at the vista in silence, it was that amazing. Definitely one of the GOR highlights!

Some wildflowers in the Grampians

Before we knew it we were in Warrnambool, the official end of the Great Ocean Road (though the road does continue further down the coast through other towns). From there we headed inland, toward Grampians National Park. Soon enough we could spot some beautiful mountains on the horizon, and a little while later we entered the park. It’s a bit of a drive through the park to the main town, Halls Gap, but it’s very scenic. We kept hearing about how impressive the wildflowers are in the park in spring, but maybe we were too early as I really only noticed a few different kinds. Our drives since then in South Australia have had better wildflowers I think. But still the drive is beautiful.

Just as we were approaching Halls Gap we had our first encounter with a kangaroo hopping across the road in front of us. It was pretty cool and got us excited about being out in nature. We stopped in town to pick up some supplies, then headed out to a caravan park a little out of town.

Views in the Grampians

We set up camp and indulged in cooking in the camp kitchen where we could watch some TV. When we headed out to the van to go to bed we had a bit of an encounter with a possum. Oscar had first seen it earlier, when he said it had kind of approached him threateningly. I found it when it was climbing up a tree next to our van, and it just stood there and stared at me for a few minutes before climbing down and starting to approach us, where we promptly jumped in the van and slammed the door!

The next morning we set off to see some of the top sites in the park. We ventured out to a few viewpoint walks, including the Balconies. Then we did a short hike to McKenzie Falls, which was very big and beautiful after all the rain. We made a few other stops before heading to Wartook, where we decide to just relax for the day and set up early at a caravan park. We took the afternoon and evening to nap and relax a bit, as the next day was going to hold a lot of driving for us.

This is part 3 of a 12 part series. Read the rest of the Epic Aussie Road Trip series or watch the video to drive across Australia in 2 minutes.

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