Monday, April 30, 2012

Melbourne- Adelaide and the Great Ocean Road

Australia's southeast has some beautiful stretches of coast and vibrant cities. Experience them with this 3-day road trip from Melbourne to Adelaide.

Day 1: The Great Ocean Road- Melbourne to Warrnambool

Melbourne is the stately and laid-back counterpart to the hype of Brisbane and Sydney. With a New England feel and a more temperate climate, it is an exceedingly pleasant place to shop, wander and visit! Before departing on your trip, if you have a few days in Melbourne spend some time exploring and taking in the unique and multicultural atmosphere. Hot spots to visit include Chinatown, the retail precinct of Docklands by the water, Federation Square, the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Aquarium and any of a number of galleries and museums.

by Patrick Nouhailler Flickr Creative Commons

On the way out of Melbourne, take Princes Highway/M1 to Geelong. This is an industrial centre with a bustling port, so not the prettiest of all spots on the coast! It does, however, mark the beginning of the Great Ocean Road, so follow the signs through town to get on this legend of a road.

The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia's greatest scenic routes. The journey will be a pleasure on this stretch of the trip! There are many holiday parks along the way so if you want to see everything more closely, break this part of the road trip into two days. From Geelong, you will hug the coast, passing through many small towns. Take some time to have a coffee with the friendly locals! At Apollo Bay, check out the wood carvings that decorate the foreshore, a depiction of the region's relationship with the sea.

After Apollo Bay, you will leave the coast for a while (don't worry, it's coming back!) and pass through Great Otway National Park. You can take a side road out to the coast and the isolated, beautiful lighthouse at Cape Otway, or explore the walking tracks and numerous waterfalls in the Park.

 Cape Otway
by Sherman Geronimo-Tan Flickr Creative Commons

The beautiful towns, coves and beaches continue along the road- too many to describe individually! One of the stunners of the Great Ocean Road however is the Twelve Apostles rock formation. Standing tall in the wild southern ocean, these rocks are one of the most-photographed natural phenomena in the country. Visit the visitor information centre for some insight on the formation of the incredible coastline.

 Great Ocean Road
by edwin.11 Flickr Creative Commons

Port Campbell has a somewhat tragic history of shipwreck, the most notable of these being the foundering of 3-masted clipper Loch Ard in 1878- there were only 2 survivors, and their tale is told along a signposted walkway above Loch Ard Gorge near Port Campbell. These tragic past events do make for excellent diving around Port Campbell though, so get in the water if that's your thing!

 Loch Ard Gorge
by Gavin Llewellyn Flickr Creative Commons

Warrnambool, your stop for the night, is a popular beachy tourist destination. The shipwrecks continue here, and the Flagstaff Maritime Museum is a fascinating place to visit where you can learn the stories of the coast and its victims. Once a month, there are markets held at the showgrounds, and there is a viewing platform in the town for the Southern Right Whales which visit every year in winter.

Day 2: Warrnambool- Kingston SE

Head out of Warrnambool on Princes Highway/A1. On the way out, have a look at the Tower Hill Reserve- a lake and several small hills nestled inside an inactive volcano. It is an amazing haven for wildlife, with koalas, emus, kangaroos and many types of birds abundant.

 Tower Hill Reserve
by Sydney Oats Flickr Creative Commons

The road continues to hug the coast until Portland, Victoria's first permanent settlement. It is now a decent-sized centre, so reprovision here if you need anything! Many artists have made Portland their home, and there is an art centre that can be visited with a gallery and a theatre. There are over 200 buildings in the town classified by the National Trust, a gem for those interested in the history of the region.

 Portland Town Hall
by Matt Flickr Creative Commons

After Portland, the road heads inland for a while, for a pleasant drive along the Princes Highway . One attraction along the route is the Princess Margaret Rose Cave in Lower Glenelg National Park, 18km off the highway. Just after crossing into South Australia, go left onto Vorwerk Road, left again onto Main Road, right onto Border Road which skirts the border on the Victoria side then go left onto Princess Margaret Rose Caves Road. The cave is an underground wonderland, dripping in stalactites and full of stalagmites, cave coral and other amazing things. Guided tours are available.

Next town on the route is Mount Gambier in South Australia. This city is most famous for its stunning lakes in extinct volcano craters, especially the stunning Blue Lake. There are many dining restaurants in town and lots to do- if you want to spend a while here, visit the Lady Nelson Visitor and Discovery Centre on Jubilee Highway East.

Between Mount Gambier and Kingston SE, there are two routes- Highway 1 and the coastal Southern Ports Highway which starts at Millicent. Both pass through several charming small towns, and the coastal route will have you venture past beaches and lakes. The two meet up again at Kingston SE, your suggested destination for the night. On the shores of Lacepede Bay, the 'SE' is to distinguish this town in the southeast of the state with another one of the same name. Don't miss the giant lobster affectionately named Larry on your way into town, and this is the perfect spot for a casual picnic dinner, as Kingston SE is home to one of Australia's best fish and chip shops, Macs Takeaway. Kingston Caravan Park is a great place to lay your head!

 Larry the Lobster
by Alpha Flickr Creative Commons

Day 3: Kingston SE- Adelaide

Leave Kingston SE and continue on the trusty Highway 1.

This last stretch of the journey will take you past some amazing wetlands. Coorong is a national park and lagoon ecosystem. The lagoon extends over 100km along the coat between Kingston SE and the Fleurieu Peninsula, separated from the ocean by a sand dune. It is a sanctuary for birds, fish and other wildlife- recognised by BirdLife International as an 'Important Bird Area.' The lagoon and Park are a unique and interesting part of Australia, and great for recreational activities such as fishing, camping and boating, so be sure to take a look as you pass. You can take guided tours by the native people (the Ngarrindjeri people) leaving from Meningie.

 The Coorong
by Mick Morrison Flickr Creative Commons

After Meningie, head inland to skirt Lake Albert and Lake Alexandrina. You will come across the famous Murray River at Tailem Bend, and cross it at Murray Bridge. The Murray is Australia's longest river at nearly 3,000 kilometres, and was a vital waterway for many years as the main route for transporting people and goods inland. Although its glory days of steamers and riverboats are largely over, the Murray is deeply ingrained in Australia's culture.

 The Murray River
by thinboyfatter Flickr Creative Commons

Keep going along the highway into the city of Adelaide. Set on the River Torrens and extending to the coast, Adelaide is unique in that the city centre is entirely circled by parkland. It was constructed by design, and the city centre is a grid of 5 squares with the parklands surrounding it. Adelaide has wide streets, plenty of things happening, beaches to the west and rolling hills to the east. Places to visit include the Adelaide Central Markets, the zoo and Botanic Gardens, the historic Edmund Wright House, the South Australian Museum and of course the city parklands. Adelaide is considered the Wine Capital of Australia, and is home to the National Wine Centre of Australia where you can taste all manner of Australian wine. A fitting end to the journey! There are a number of holiday parks to park your campervan.

by bram.souffreau Flickr Creative Commons

Check here for great deals on Melbourne campervan hire!

Author: Rohan Marx+

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