Put “Great Ocean Road” into any search engine and the page lights up with countless photos and descriptions and the obligatory travel advisories and “special tour packages” from self drive to 50 seater bus day trips from Melbourne (not my idea as you know from previous posts).
15 or so years ago when I lived in Melbourne for a few months as a backpacker, the Great Ocean Road was one of the “must see” places and still is. I have been back at least 5-6 times since. The thing about this “Road” is that it is not just a Road per say = yes cars drive on it but there is so much more to the 240 odd kilometers that meander along the southern coast of Victoria (Australia).
This is also the worlds largest War Memorial as it was built by returned service men after World War One to commemorate their fallen comrades and to give them employment.
The Road also leads to some of the most stunning scenery and wildlife in the state if not the country. Thousands of tourists can attest to the allure of the 12 Apostles and the temptation of a nice clean wave at some of the worlds best known surf beaches – (the Bells Classic is on the World tour). There are 2 National Parks and one Marine Reserve and they even have a Bay of Islands Nature Reserve (almost home I should say).
One can experience waterfalls & lush forests, Koalas and other native wildlife, stunning cliff faces and the oceans relentless battering of those. There are plenty of picturesque villages and towns dotted along the way that invite visitors to spend more than a few fleeting hours there and plenty of things to do for families as well. Hiking and fishing are some of the more popular activities as well as golfing (watch out for the kangaroos on the greens) and of course surfing.
Why am I a telling you this? Because I decided that it was time to go back for yet another visit – just because I love the area so much and it’s been far to many years since my last drive along one of the best drives in the world (my own personal opinion).
Lucky it was not high season yet – otherwise we would have had to “battle” our way along countless tour buses – but early in the season it was a leisurely drive with plenty of stops to take in the scenery and the wildlife.
Overnight stop was right at the end in Warrnambool and the next morning we backtracked a little to take our time with the 12 Apostles before heading inland to join some friends in Geelong (a larger than I thought town south of Melbourne).
When people ask me what to do in Australia – since it is such a big continent and one has to pick a few special area’s – I would normally have a few key area’s in mind – and the Great Ocean Road is one of them – so go and have a look for yourself and who knows – it might be your first time there but I am sure not your last:-)
On to the next Aussie destination: Sydney… who does not know Sydney?
October is spring time in Sydney – however this year it is also the month the bush fire season started – earlier than usual and more fierce than in a long time in New South Wales (according to the press). We saw a few of those fires from the air flying from Melbourne to Sydney (on a typically delayed Jet Star flight).
I tried rather unsuccessfully to count the times I have been to Sydney over the last 18 or so years and I thought I know the city quite well – for a tourist that is. Not so – every time I go there I find a spot I have not been to (no surprise given it’s size) – two weeks ago was no exception.
I’ve had a few “first” again – the “Gap” (apparently the prime suicide spot in town – sorry to say), Watsons Bay (near the Gap) and Cabbage Tree Bay in Manly to name the most prominent ones.
I’ve noticed that whilst Sydney is in general more expensive than New Zealand as a whole there are few things that are cheaper – and quite a bit – Petrol is one of those things – and when traveling that does make quite a difference.
The weather was all over the place too – one day 18 degrees the next 34 – that gets the heart rate going for sure. Which brings me back to the start of the Sydney part of this post. Whilst Victoria appeared lush and green while we where there – in New South Wales the soil was bone dry and this leads to many bush fires in the Blue Mountain region and further north.
On leaving Sydney we also had to cope with the weather events in New Zealand – due to a stormy day in the southern North Island, Wellington Airport had to be closed – that ultimately lead to delays on our Sydney to Auckland flight – 3 hours.. meaning arriving in Auckland at 3am!! However – Air New Zealand at least handed out $15 meal vouchers to be used in the airport at Sydney – so whilst the delay was unpleasant we did not starve and got to see the “Kiwi’s” on their way to the Rugby League World Cup… not to bad after all this short holiday in OZ:-)