Monday, 29 December 2014

The Great Ocean Road, Australia

After a couple of days exploring Melbourne [which you can read about here], it was time to embark on a two day tour of the Great Ocean Road. We were super excited about this and put a lot of research into finding a good company to book with. After looking at packages with different companies, we decided that Ride Tours looked like the best option, for what they offer and in terms of price. Our tour was also aimed at backpackers, so we thought we would be more likely to meet likeminded people on this tour. We also sent some enquiry e-mails to other companies, who sent very confusing replies and got various bits of info wrong. You can check out the Ride Tours website here.

We were the first in the group to be picked up, which was from near our guest house, bright and early at around 7am. After we had collected the other passengers from various hostels around Melbourne by the tour company owner, we finally picked up and were introduced to Jude, our tour guide for the next two days. Jude was very lovely and enthusiastic throughout the tour and loved to tell interesting stories along the way.

road sign

Ride Tours pride themselves on doing their Great Ocean Road tour 'backwards'. This means that instead of driving for around an hour to where most people regard the start of the GOR to be, they drive for over three hours to the 'end'. This means the tour arrives at the various photo stops along the way at a different time to most of the other tour companies, of which there are a huge number. We barely bumped into any other tour groups during the two-day tour, which meant we were able to enjoy all of the beautiful scenery with uninterrupted views and great photo opportunities.

We stopped for hot drinks and biscuits at a little picnic stop after a couple of hours and parked up next to this sign for a 'Powernap Area', which we found really entertaining! It sounds way more exciting than a plain old service station. Our first big stop was at the Tower Hill National Park, which is an extinct sunken volcano. We drove in and almost immediately saw some wild wallabies. After parking up, we were greeted by several Emus and after a short walk we were absolutely delighted to discover some incredibly cute Koala Bears chilling in trees. 

cheese and wine

We drove on to a local supermarket to buy lunch, before travelling a little further to Cheese World. Jude had booked us in for a cheese tasting session here and as cheese enthusiasts, we were pretty delighted about this! After this, in the early afternoon, it was finally time to see some of the outstanding natural coastal beauty. We stopped at several viewpoints along the Great Ocean Road, each of them incredibly beautiful. Jude told us interesting stories about each place along the way. Check out the photos below to see some of the places we visited. 

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Bay of Islands

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Bay of Martyrs 

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Bay of Martyrs

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London Bridge

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The Grotto

After stopping at several locations and walking along parts of the beach, it was time to check into our hostel in Port Campbell. We had a very tasty BBQ dinner which Jude cooked with the help of some of the people on our tour. The BBQ was included in the tour price. We had to eat pretty quickly, to jump back on the bus and drive to the 12 Apostles in time for sunset. The sunset was simply amazing and probably the single most beautiful natural thing I've ever seen. It was quite busy at the viewpoint, but there was still plenty of space to enjoy the views.

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Sunset at the 12 Apostles

The following morning we had a quick breakfast [also included in the tour price], before jumping back on the bus, ready to see lots more beautiful scenery. We returned to the 12 Apostles, where we enjoyed the views in daylight from several different viewpoints. We were given the opportunity here to go on a 10-minute helicopter ride, for what we thought was a very good price. Emily is terrified of flying, but has become a lot more calm after flying 23 times this year! Emily took a bit of convincing, but the promise of stunning views was enough to sway her decision. She said afterwards that the helicopter ride was way less scary and very relaxed, compared to flying in a plane. The views were unsurprisingly insanely awesome from the helicopter and the whole experience was very exciting!

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Our first helicopter ride

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View of the 12 Apostles from the helicopter 

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View of the 12 Apostles from the helicopter 

The rest of our second day on the tour involved stopping at lots more stunning viewpoints for photo opportunities. We also stopped in Apollo Bay for lunch, where we took a picnic to the beach and watched people surfing. This little town was very relaxed and pretty and I would have loved to have been able to stay here and enjoy it for a day or two, rather than the fleeting visit.

We told Jude that we wanted to see some more Koala Bears, so she added an extra stop onto the journey to be able to spot some. There was also a little shop to buy bird food at this stop [which Grace on our tour kindly did] so we could feed wild Parrots. The Parrots go mad for the food and at one point I had four parrots feeding from my hands and on my shoulder! A parrot did a poop on one of the other people on our tour and I was pretty relieved it wasn't me!

feeding parrots
Feeding Parrots

One of the last stops on the tour was at the Split Point Lighthouse, which is famous for it's feature role in the 90s children's TV programme 'Round the Twist'. Check out the video below - I loved this programme! Looking back on it now, it was so bad that it was good. The lighthouse is impressive in itself, even if you're not familiar with the programme. We spent ages taking various silly photos, one of which you can see below.

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Split Point aka 'Round the Twist' Lighthouse!

As we were heading somewhere to park up and have a hot drink and biscuit break before the final drive home, we were delighted to spot dozens of wild kangaroos hopping around in a field. They're huge and interesting creatures and one of the main things I associate with Australia!

We ended up getting back to our guest house three-hours later than planned, due to Jude making many unplanned stops along the way, to see lots of extra stuff. We didn't mind this at all, as we felt like we got far more than our moneys worth on the tour. We loved the two day tour and would highly recommend you check out Ride Tours if you want to visit the Great Ocean Road. Many companies offer a one-day tour, but I really don't think this would be enough time to properly appreciate the Great Ocean Road in all it's glory.

wild kangaroos
Wild kangaroos

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Our Great Ocean Road tour group

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The end for us [but beginning for other tours] of the Great Ocean Road

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