It’s easy to be dazzled by the Great Ocean Road. To be beguiled by the crash of the surf, the roar of the wind and the might of those (mostly) steadfast outcrops of sandstone, the Twelve Apostles.
What is not as easy to do is tackle the round trip from Melbourne in one day. It’s much better to linger and enjoy the journey. Stopping often and getting out of the car to blow the cobwebs away opens up small beaches, hidden waterways, simple-but-sensational cafes and a greater connection with the splendours of this well-worn route.
Make yourself at home
Using RACV Torquay Resort as a base enables travellers to relax and enjoy the area.
Torquay and Jan Juc beaches provide a picturesque backdrop to the resort at No 1 Great Ocean Road.
Enjoy the golf course or the state-of-the-art health club. As well as offering a fully equipped gym, there is a 25-metre heated indoor swimming pool, spa and sauna.
Relax at One Spa, with treatments including remedial and relaxation massages, or enjoy kids’ activities with a wading pool, playground and family-friendly restaurant and bar.
Number One restaurant offers modern Australian cuisine. Complementing the restaurant is Harding’s Lounge with a selection of light meals, while White’s Paddock is a Mediterranean-inspired bistro and bar.
Surfing through the ages
Torquay is also the place to learn about the thrills of the area’s main immersive activity – surfing – without getting wet, let alone dumped. Simply visit the Australian National Surfing Museum.
The museum charts surfing through the ages, and afterwards you can drive to Bells Beach and view some actual surf action. It’s unlikely you will be disappointed, but you may be blown away by the wind.
Next on the itinerary is Split Point Lighthouse, which stands between Aireys Inlet and Fairhaven, and if you arrive on the hour you may be in time for a 30-minute guided tour. As you climb the 136 helical steps, you might recognise that this is the lighthouse used in the ’80s children’s TV series Round the Twist.
As you greet the breeze on the balcony of the lighthouse, 34 metres above the clifftop, you will be rewarded with extraordinary views up and down what historically has been a very dangerous part of the coast.
“Between Point Lonsdale and Portland, there are 100 shipwreck sites from 1834 to 1941,” says lighthouse guide Carolyn. “At Moonlight Head, you can still see anchors at low tide.”
There are several short walks from the lighthouse, including a two-kilometre circuit track and a 300-metre track to a lookout over Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary.
Another lookout has views over Fairhaven Beach, towards Lorne, the town that marks mainstream Great Ocean Road tourist territory. But it’s winter, and the holiday crowds are absent, so after a walk on the pier, aim for a lunch stop at Wye River.
Stop a while
There’s nothing between the Wye River General Store wyerivergeneralriverstore.com.au and the ocean – except the road and a strip of sand. With Great Otway National Park as a backdrop and the beach and ocean as entertainment, it’s hard to keep moving.
About five kilometres further on, at the base of bush-clad hills, is the small community of Kennett River, where a wetlands reserve meets the river and Point Hawdon provides views of the coastline ahead.
Before reaching Apollo Bay, take another pause, this time at Skenes Creek, where you may spot a solitary surfer. It’s not until the Twelve Apostles are reached that the crowds appear. Winter travel along the Great Ocean Road can have its own lonely charm.
RACV members save
RACV members who book directly with the RACV Torquay Resort save up to 25 per cent on accommodation. Go to racv.com.au/torquay or book on 5261 1600.
Members save 20 per cent on all museum entry tickets at Torquay’s Australian National Surfing Museum. Go to racv.com.au/sycas