Simply put, 48 hours in Melbourne is not enough, but Aaron wanted to make a go of it anyway so we did just that. And even though we weren’t there for very long, we had a pretty fantastic time.
The airport is situated about 22 km from the CBD, so rather than taking a pricey taxi (~$65) we opted for the SkyBus ($30 for two people) to Southern Cross station then walked over to our hotel from there. We decided to stay at the Citadines on Bourke because of its central location and reasonable price tag, and we were very appreciative when they told us we’d been upgraded to a room on their top (25th) floor. We had a delicious Indian meal at Red Pepper, then called it an early night. We had a big day ahead of us, after all.
Saturday was the main event: the Great Ocean Road! When I first went to Melbourne in 2005, everyone told us to drive on the Great Ocean Road but I was naively skeptical about doing so. Being the native Californian that I am, a drive along the ocean sounded rather ordinary and I wasn’t convinced that I should devote an entire day to doing that when there were so many other things to see within the city of Melbourne.
But, and you can already guess where I’m going here, I was totally wrong. My friends and I rented a car, listened to Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy” on the radio far more often than anyone our age ought to, and had an amazing day. I knew that I wanted to recreate those memories with Aaron.
Renting a car in Melbourne’s CBD is super easy. We used Redspot, which had a location right around the corner from our hotel, and headed off toward Geelong.
Our first stop was Torquay, home to some of the best surfing in the world as well as to a couple of the most famous surf companies (Rip Curl and Quiksilver). We picked up some takeaway coffee from Sticks and Stones Cafe and headed over to Bells Beach to watch the surfers do their thing.
After a quick photo break in breathtaking Anglesea, we drove on toward Lorne. I remember a lot about my previous Great Ocean Road experience, but I have no recollection of Lorne whatsoever! I don’t understand how that’s possible as it was my absolute favorite stop this time around. *Shakes head*
Anyway, Lorne is a major stop along the Great Ocean Road, and time permitting we would have happily spent an entire weekend there. The beaches were gorgeous, there were plenty of interesting shops along the main road, and a huge variety of different restaurants. We grabbed a milkshake at The Bottle of Milk (though they are famous for their burgers), tried Australian-Mexican food for the first time at Mexican Republic, and actually came back to Lorne at the end of the day for dinner at Chopstix.
After reluctantly leaving Lorne, we drove on to Apollo Bay. (Fun fact: back in 2005 my friends and I were so sick of listening to Aussie radio that we bought the only two tapes/CDs we recognized at an Apollo Bay general store – the greatest hits of Green Day and Billy Joel.) Apollo Bay seemed a lot sleepier than Lorne, but it would also be a nice play to stay for a weekend. While there we bought Aaron his first pair of thongs (Aussie for “flip-flops”) and grabbed a snack at Apollo Bay Bakery (Aaron said it should’ve been named Apollo Bay-kery). Our final destination along the Great Ocean Road was the Twelve Apostles rock formations at Port Campbell National Park. There, unfortunately, is where you’ll run into the huge crowds of tourists wielding selfie-sticks. The best times to visit are either at sunrise or sunset, but we aimed for 4:30 pm to avoid the largest crowds and also so that we wouldn’t have to drive too long in the dark on the way back to Melbourne. You can spend an entire day exploring the park (there’s much more to it than just the Twelve Apostles!), but, alas, we had a lot of driving ahead of us so we just took the necessary pics, gawked at the natural beauty, and hit the road. From Port Campbell you can either take a more direct route back to Melbourne, or you can just turn around and go back the way you came along the ocean. Aaron wanted to do the latter, which was also a good idea because we missed a stop the first time around. In between Lorne and Apollo Bay there’s Kennett River Holiday Park, a popular place to go camping and spot koalas in the wild. They can be difficult to find, so just walk around and look for groups of people who are also looking at the trees and taking photos – they’ll be happy to point out the ones they’ve found so far.
All in all, our Great Ocean Road excursion was about 13 hours long (we left around 9 am, and got back to Melbourne at 10 pm). The scenery is so spectacular that you’ll forget that you’ve been driving all day!
If you want to do a trip similar to ours, here are some additional suggestions:
- Mobile phone connection cuts out between the major stops. The road signs along the way are quite clear, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring a physical map with notes for where you want to make stops.
- Aussie radio stations are limited along the drive, and if you don’t want to go crazy listening to Fine Young Cannibals over and over, bring either a USB or auxiliary cord or some *gasp* physical CDs.
- You’re going to take A LOT of photos along the way, so make sure to either bring your camera or phone charger so you don’t get stuck with a dead battery.
- Lather up. We saw so many sunburned tourists at the beaches that it made our own skin hurt. The sun down under is a lot stronger than what most of us are used to back home, so apply and re-apply your sunscreen like clockwork.
- Hire your own car rather than sign up for a bus tour. Alright, I’ll admit that I’ve never done the bus tour myself, but I just can’t imagine how it can be better than the independence of driving yourself! Making stops along the Great Ocean Road at our own pace, singing along to music as loudly as we wanted to, and finding remote lookout points for photo opps were the best parts of our day.
- If you have loads of cash burning a hole in your pocket, yes you can do helicopter tours.
The next blog post will be about our lazy Sunday in Melbourne.