Get on board the bus and buckle your seatbelt! It’s gonna be a big day! In just under 12 hours, we’ll be covering 500 kilometers along the Great Ocean Road. There are a lot of ways that you can travel the Great Ocean Road… you can do multi-day trips in a camper van, go it alone in a rental car, or join a tour. I chose to take a Gray Line tour because as much as I love gorgeous scenery, I’m a bit of a history buff and to miss that aspect of the Great Ocean Road is to miss one of the most beautiful parts.
1. Know the places to go
Sure, you’ve seen the 12 Apostles and you may have heard of Loch Ard Gorge… but did you know that Urqharts Bluff offers a great photo opportunity? Or that George’s Takeaway will give you an opportunity to try flake (fillet of shark)? Your friendly driver does, and by the end of the tour, you will too.
If you travel the Great Ocean Road alone, you may be tempted to take 1,798,642 photos of the 12 Apostles. After all, if you’ve searched the Great Ocean Road on Instagram, you’ve seen at least that many photos from other travelers. The trouble with that, though, is that if you spend all your time taking photos at your first stop, you’ll miss some other gorgeous landmarks.
Taking a tour with a guide who leads the trip multiple times per week means that they’ve perfected the timing of photo ops with travel so you can see the most in one day. Trust their timing and be back to the bus when they ask. Being on time means that your guide may even fit in a few unscheduled photo ops.
3. Lookout for wildlife
The big picture windows of the bus gives you ample opportunity to watch for native Australian wildlife. Watch for kangaroos that spend their days laying around, panting like dogs since they don’t have sweat glands. And keep your eyes on the trees, because koalas call this area home.
4. A little bit of Australiana
On your way to the Great Ocean Road, stop in the town of Anglesea for a Bush Billy tea in the style of swagmen from the Colonial Era. Be brave and try the Vegemite (it’s a tourist’s right of passage to try this Australian favorite).
Then, indulge in a Lamington. Back in the Colonial Era, the Governor of Queensland was having guests over and wanted a new treat. For Lord Lamington’s party, the typical French vanilla sponge cake cut into smaller squares, dipped in chocolate and rolled in shredded coconut so it wouldn’t get on ladies’ white gloves. It was a big hit with the guests and remains that way today.
5. Big bus=less likely to get motion sickness
I don’t know about you, but curvy roads and I don’t quite get along. For me, though, to travel in a big bus is much less quease-inducing than a car. And, our great driver even promised to make wide turns wherever he could to straighten out the road for us.
6. You want options? You’ve got them!
If you’re on a backpacker’s budget, like me, you’ll be stoked with the opportunity to visit the Great Ocean Road. If you’re looking to splurge a bit, Gray Line offers the option to add on a helicopter tour of shipwreck coast and the 12 Apostles.
Without knowing the history, the Great Ocean Road is just another beautiful seafront drive. But with a Gray Line tour, you’ll learn about the history of the WWI heroes who built the road and the importance of this passage to Australian culture. You’ll also learn about a few of the 157 shipwrecks that have occurred along this coast.
8. Current events
Did you hear about the Christmas 2015 bush fires? Or the landslide that closed portions of the Great Ocean Road in 2016? Your driver has and will point out the community that’s rebuilding and the road reconstruction. Be sure to be on the lookout for the house that’s been built on a stilt.
9. Movie time
Since moving to Australia, I’ve heard of plenty of movies that feature this great country. It wasn’t until my tour with Gray Line, though, that I got to watch Oddball. Set in the town of Warrugal (which we traveled through on our trip), this heartwarming story follows a troublemaking dog who becomes an unlikely protector of penguins. It’s based on a true story, and is the perfect way to end a day of beautiful scenery.
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Disclaimer: I received this tour free of charge. All opinions are my own, though, and I wouldn’t recommend anything to you that’s not awesome!