With Melbourne as our first home base (thanks to the generosity of our sweet hosts, Leo, Maria and baby Zoe) we hit the ground running on our first full day in Australia and headed down the coast via the iconic Great Ocean Road. We grabbed a rental car from Avis in downtown Melbourne and we were off! The Great Ocean Road was originally built by WWI soldiers after they returned home and now serves as a beautiful memorial for those who were lost in the war.
Thanks to crazy Melbourne rush hour traffic, Shane quickly adjusted to driving on the wrong side of the road and we made our way to Bell's Beach, made famous in surf cinema classics Point Break and The Endless Summer. Bell's is also home to the world's longest-running surfing competition, the Rip Curl Pro Surf & Music Festival.
Sadly, the surf was totally lacking, so after some killer views of Bells and some long walks on the beach, we made the drive to the hip little beach town of Lorne, where we enjoyed some delicious (giant) burgers and fries (the real kicker was the chipotle chili dipping sauce for the fries reminiscent of Good Stuff Eatery back in DC) at The Bottle of Milk -- definitely recommend this locals joint for lunch along the Great Ocean Road!
Many people make the Great Ocean Road an overnight excursion, but we were so happy with the length of our day trip! Since we left early in the morning, we had plenty of time to make lots of stops at stellar beaches and quaint towns, like the sleepy Apollo Bay. Here we stopped into Cafe 153 for a long black and some iced coffee which turned out to be coffee poured over ICE CREAM! I was so thrilled and have proceeded to order iced coffee throughout Australia and New Zealand to see if they will continue giving me ice cream and IT JUST KEEPS COMING! It's amazing. We need to make this a normal thing in the States, yeah?!
Shortly after Apollo Bay, the landscape drastically changed and we were soon surrounded by towering rainforest. Feeling a need for a break from the coastal heat, we pulled into a carpark on the left side of the road for Mait's Rest Rainforest Trail and were not disappointed by this very easy 1 km trail through the jungle. Also along this section of the road are a couple nature reserves that claim to have easy access to wild koalas but we were unfortunately deterred by rain.
Our hosts advised us to check out any pulloffs on the side of the road that looked like they may have paths to the beach as they often lead you to your own private relaxation spot. We struck gold on this one below that appeared shortly after exiting the rainforest but miles away from the crowds at more publicized beaches.
Our adventure down the Great Ocean Road ended with the Razorback rocks and the Twelve Apostles - eroded stacks of limestone off the coast of the Port Campbell National Park. Despite there only being 8 "Apostles" left due to erosion, these magnificent pieces of creation stand nearly 150 feet out of the water and are a majestic sight against the Antarctic Ocean. Some of the best viewpoints of these pillars face directly west and are ideal for sunset viewings if you still have the vigor for the 3 hour drive back to Melbourne.
We would love to hear about some of your favorite coastal drives! A road trip down California's Pacific Coast Highway is definitely on our bucket list but where else would y'all recommend?