Great Ocean Road Tour Part I

The Great Ocean Road is an important tourist attraction in Victoria, Australia. It is an Australian National Heritage listed 243 km stretch of road along the southeastern coast of Australia between the Victorian cities of Torquay and Allansford. Built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932 and dedicated to soldiers killed during World War I, the road is the world’s largest war memorial.

There are many tour operators running the Great Ocean Road tour from Melbourne daily, so after doing some research online and checking with friends, I decided to sign up for the tour with “A Tour With A Difference” (ATWAD), for it seemed to be more value for money at A$130 (S$153.35), promising small tour groups of maximum 10 passengers with more meals provided and more stops than other tour operators.

As they did not reply to my email queries before my Australia tour, I called them up when I was in Tasmania to check if they have a suitable tour date that I could join. Frankly, the pre-tour service, or rather lack-of, was quite bad. I requested for a Monday tour date but they only had a confirmed tour on Tuesday, so the staff Grace told me that she would register me for Tuesday tour first and to indicate my preference for Monday tour, so she would call me on Sunday to confirm whether there would be enough passengers for Monday tour or I would have to join on Tuesday. By Sunday afternoon, no one from ATWAD called me so I called them back, only to get a reply “oh yes you are booked for Tuesday”. I then asked about the pick-up point and time, and was again told to wait till Monday for them to call me to confirm as they had to sort out the route. I guess you know what happened next, they still did not call me back by Monday evening and I had to make the call again. 😦 This pre-tour service really made me wonder if I actually made the right choice in joining them. So I could only keep my fingers crossed that it would be a good tour eventually.

The next morning, I realised I was the first passenger to be picked up at about 7.15am. It was a small but comfortable 11-seater green bus. My tour guide was Doug, who suggested we made a simple introduction to one another after all 10 of us were on-board. After the short introduction, he gave us an idea of our itinerary for the day:

  • Pass through Geelong, Victoria’s second largest city
  • Stop for morning tea along the way near the beach
  • Visit Bells Beach, famous for its international surfing competition and its feature in the movie, Point Break
  • Stop for photo-taking at the Memorial Arch
  • Travel along the Great Ocean Road and see the impressive coastal scenery
  • Find wildlife koalas and colourful local birds at Kennett River
  • Lunch at Apollo Bay
  • Temperate rainforest walk at Maits Rest
  • Go down the Gibson Steps onto the beach and get a close-up view of the apostles-lookalike
  • Marvel at the limestone stacks of the Twelve Apostles at Port Campbell National Park
  • Explore Loch Ard Gorge and view the remains of London Bridge, Island Arch and the Razorback
  • Dinner in a restaurant at Port Campbell before returning to Melbourne

Without further delay, below are photos and description of the great journey that morning for your viewing pleasure. 🙂

Panoramic view of Bells Beach (stitched 2 photos up)

Panoramic view of Bells Beach (photo-stitch)

Bells Beach is a famous surf beach, on the Great Ocean Road near the towns of Torquay and Jan Juc. The beach is the home of the world’s longest-running surfing competition – the Rip Curl Pro Surf & Music Festival, held since January 1961 annually during Easter.

As soon as our Aussie style morning tea with Vegemite, Crackers and traditional Lamington Cakes was set up in a sheltered area near the beach, it started to drizzle. Lamington cakes are actually squares of sponge cake coated first in a layer of chocolate sauce, then in desiccated coconut, a sweet Australian dessert. The Vegemite is a dark brown Australian food paste made from leftover brewers’ yeast extract with various vegetable and spice additives, tasted just like the Marmite Singapore kids ate when young. Not too bad when spread on the crackers. It was an experience to be sipping hot tea and eating traditional Australian food in beautiful nature. 🙂

On our way to the Memorial Arch, we stopped by a vast green field where there were a lot of wild kangaroos, finally I saw them!

Wild kangaroos feeding on the grass

Wild kangaroos feeding on the grass

The Memorial Arch & coastline

The Memorial Arch & coastline

The Memorial Arch was built as a tribute to the soldiers from the First World War who were engaged in the construction of the Great Ocean Road, started as a project to create work for WWI returned servicemen.

Lorne - a very popular beach tourist resort town

Lorne – a very popular beach tourist resort town

Koala & colourful local birds spotted by the Kennett River

Koala & colourful local birds spotted by the Kennett River

Cape Patton lookout - spectacular views of the coastline stretching to Apollo Bay

Cape Patton lookout – 1 of the highest lookouts of the coastline stretching to Apollo Bay

I was definitely wow-ed over by the picturesque coastline scenery of the Great Ocean Road the whole morning. Good times really flew by quickly and it was time for lunch at the Apollo Bay Hotel. Doug had already passed us the menu for our selection of our main courses and called the restaurant to prepare before we reached the hotel. Thus shortly after we arrived, our food was served.

Sumptuous Beer Battered Fish & Chips lunch @Apollo Bay Hotel Restaurant

Sumptuous Beer Battered Fish & Chips lunch @Apollo Bay Hotel Bistro

Doug’s recommendation for lunch was great – the beer batter was crispy and tasty while still maintaining the freshness of the fish. I was surprised I managed to finish the huge portion of fish, only some chips were left over as I was really so full. The thick and fat chips were also quite well done. Oh, almost forgot to mention that complimentary cold drink and hot tea or coffee were included in the lunch too. There was a special cold drink being served here, can’t remember the exact name but it tasted a bit like bitter lemon, I loved it!

Up till this point, this tour by ATWAD had not disappointed me as I enjoyed myself very much, and so I looked forward to the second half of the tour after lunch. Watch out for my next post on the rest of the tour! 🙂

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