Poaching a Porsche to explore one of the world’s most scenic drives – the Great Ocean Road in Australia. Here’s her guide to making the most of five days behind the wheel.
Drive: Melbourne to Apollo Bay, 195km (three hours 30 minutes, no stops)
Things to see: The first half of the journey from Melbourne isn’t very exciting. Most of it is highway, so turn up the tunes and relax – you can sing at the top of your lungs if you want to. But don’t forget to high five when you pass the Great Ocean Road sign on the B100. From there onwards it’s all dramatic coastal views, craggy rock faces and the emotive Pacific Ocean.
Stop for lunch: Torquay is the first town you’ll reach on the Great Ocean Road and when we went, just before Christmas, the place was gearing up for the flocks of summer holidaymakers. There are plenty of ATMs here and two big supermarkets, so it’s a good spot to buy road trip essentials – gummies from the Natural Collection and Twisties. Eat at Growlers (23 The Esplanade) which has a chalkboard and sandpit area for kids and an ocean view for adults. Then head to the Nördenfine Ice Cream shop (34B Bell Street; www.nordenfine.com.au) and pick from 32 flavours.
Detour: At Lorne, follows signs towards Erskine Falls. This adds 17km to your trip, but the 38m high waterfall at the end of a fern-lined path is worth a look.
Stay: Nelson’s Perch B&B, (54 Nelson Street, Apollo Bay; www.nelsonsperch.com). A well located, clean, modern and homey B&B. Each room has a small private courtyard. Prices from A$145 (S$190) per room, per night.
|Top TipIf you have an extra day, consider spending the first night in Torquay, which has everything from a backpackers’ to a four-star Crowne Plaza hotel. The famous break at Bell’s Beach was used for the closing scene of the movie Point Break (the rest of it was actually shot in the US), and is home to one of the world’s longest-running and most esteemed surf competitions, the Rip Curl Pro Surf, held every Easter. Try The Surf Rider (26 Bell Street; www.thesurfrider.com.au) for delicious fusion food, worthy of a top-notch city restaurant, but served in a laid-back environment.|
Drive: Apollo Bay to Port Campbell, 97km (one hour 30 minutes, no stops)
Detour: Shortly after you leave Apollo Bay, follow signs to Cape Otway. Along the winding road through fairytale woods you’ll probably be see a few cars parked at the side of the road. Do the same – the drivers have most likely spotted some koalas in the trees. As long as you’re quiet, you can get up very close and get some fabulous snaps. Keep your eyes peeled all the way to the lighthouse, as you’re sure to spot a few more munching on leaves along the route.
Stop for lunch: Cape Otway Lighthouse was Australia’s longest-serving lighthouse until it was decommissioned in 1995. It’s now a nice stop-off for road-tripping tourists. Climb to the top where a bearded and slightly grumpy sailor will reluctantly retell the building’s history. After a stroll around the gardens, grab a bowl of soup or a sandwich at the Lighthouse Café, which looks out over the ocean.
Things to see: Back on the Great Ocean Road, you’ll find it slow going as you’ll want to stop and snap stunning landscapes every 10 minutes. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the driver or a passenger, because both the coastal and inland views are astonishing. Just before you reach Port Campbell you’ll see the 12 Apostles on the left. You can stop at the well-maintained Apostles Visitor Centre and walk along the boardwalk to the third-most-photographed view in Australia (after Ayres Rock and the Sydney Opera House). Linger to view the brooding rock formations. For a difference perspective, try the 10-minute flight with 12 Apostles Helicopters. It’s fantastic and well worth the A$95 per person fare.
Stay: Anchors (2549 Cobden-Port Campbell Rd, Port Campbell). A new, self-catering unit with floor to ceiling windows that offer breathtaking views over the coast. Prices from A$200 per room, per night.
Drive: Port Campbell to Port Fairy, 91.6km (one hour 30 minutes, no stops)
Detour 1: If you had bad weather the day before, it might be worth tracking back for another look at the 12 Apostles, stopping in at the London Bridge rock formation.
Stop for lunch: About half an hour out of Port Campbell you’ll find Cheese World in Allansford. Skip the cheese museum and go straight for the general store which has everything you need for a gourmet picnic lunch of cold meats, bread and, of course, cheese.
Detour 2: Take your picnic to Childer’s Cove. You’ll have to back-track as it’s signposted from the B100. It is a good 15-minute drive from the main road, so being a little off the beaten track you won’t find many other tourists there. We had the whole beach to ourselves. It’s not for swimming, as there’s a strong current, but set up your picnic on the rocks and enjoy the view.
Things to see: Try to get to Port Fairy in time for a walk around in the town and wharf during daylight, as it is very pretty.
Stay: The Coastal Barn (9 Willoughby Street, Port Fairy; www.port-fairy.com/thecoastalbarn). It doesn’t have sea views, but it’s clean, stylish and comfortable with a lovely hostess. Prices from A$150 per room, per night.
Drive: Port Fairy to Dunkeld, Grampians, 91.6km (one hour 30 minutes, no stops)
Detour: Head back along the Great Ocean Road towards Melbourne and take a left towards Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve. It was a volcano over 300,000 years ago, but now it’s just a crater teeming with wildlife. You can spot emus, kangaroos, koalas and water birds in just a short walk.
Stay: Check in early at the fabulous Royal Mail Hotel (98 Parker Street; www.royalmail.com.au) so you can have lunch there. The hotel rooms are spacious, modern and have private balconies that look out over the Southern Grampians. Prices from A$165 per room, per night.
Stop for lunch: If you’re a foodie, I recommend the award-winning Royal Mail; have lunch in the more informal bistro and dinner in the main restaurant.
Detour: Take a drive up into the Grampians and choose one of various walks that offer spectacular views over the landscape. There are walks for all levels, from a long and challenging hike to a 30-minute stroll.
Drive: Dunkeld, Grampians to Melbourne, 253km (just over three hours)
Stop for lunch: There are plenty of cafés and restaurants in the towns of Ararat and Bellarat, which you’ll pass as you head towards the city. We were driving back to my brother’s house in Torquay (sadly, we had to return the car), so decided to leave Dunkeld early and take in a few of the vineyards close to Geelong. We ate lunch at the stately Pettavel Winery and Restaurant (65 Pettavel Road).
Detour: The wine tasting is free at Pettavel, and you’ll find it hard to leave without a couple of bottles of pinot. For a totally difference experience, try Wolsely Winery (1790 Hendy Main Road; wolseleywines.com), just a 15-minute drive away. We found the owner on his tractor getting ready to work the vineyard, but luckily he was happy to spend some time letting us taste a few wines. We headed into a barn stacked full of barrels, tired the most sensational botrytis semillon and ended up buying more bottles here than at Pettavel.
Plenty of airlines offer direct flights from Singapore to Melbourne Tullamarine. The 1970 Porsche 911 (pictured) was lent to us by my brother, but there are five car hire companies operating out of the Melbourne airport. To travel in style, visit Sports Car Rentals (www.sportscarrentalsaustralia.com.au). A 2008 Porsche 911 starts from A$1,000 a day.
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