Pack the car and hit the road on these two scenic seaside drives from Melbourne, in Part Two of road trip guru Lee Atkinson’s series on the best driving holidays from each of our capital cities.
Great Ocean Road
Australia’s most well-known coastal drive, the cliff hugging Great Ocean Road that curls along the southern coast between Geelong and Port Fairy, is also our most loved. But on weekends and summer holidays, the traffic can be frustrating, and it can be almost impossible to find a parking spot or an empty cafe table in the seaside towns along its route. Mid-week, mid-winter is a glorious time to drive it as you’ll have the road almost to yourself.
For most travellers, the Great Ocean Road stops at Port Fairy, but continue west towards the SA border and you’ll find yet more fabulous coastal scenery – without the crowds or traffic snarls. A highlight is Cape Bridgewater, 21km south-west of Portland (Victoria’s oldest town), where you can walk to the edge of the highest sea cliffs in Victoria to peer down at large colony of around 650 fur seals.
Most people drive the Great Ocean Road from east to west but if you go against the flow –drive the A1 from Melbourne to Warrnambool or Port Fairy and then hook up with the coastal road – you’ll have less traffic. But you’ll also have to watch out for vehicles, including tour buses and caravans, that might drift into your lane on tight bends.
The Great Ocean Road might be famous for its ocean views, but it’s also flanked by gorgeous rainforest that is largely ignored in the rush to see the famous Twelve Apostles. Erskine Falls is just a few minutes’ drive from Lorne and there are easy walking tracks though the rainforest past huge tree ferns to the 30-metre-high falls. Maits Rest Rainforest Trail in Otway National Park, near Apollo Bay, is a 30-minute boardwalk stroll where tall myrtle beech trees tower above a delicate understorey of tree ferns, lichens and moss.
It’s 275km between Geelong and Warrnambool, and many people do the return trip to Melbourne in one (very long) day – but this is a drive best taken slowly over two or three days, so you can savour every cliff-top view, enjoy seaside walks and rainforest trails, explore museums, browse the boutiques and linger over long lunches in seaside cafes.
Day tripper: Bunurong Coastal Drive
In theory, it should only take 15 minutes or so to drive the 14km Bunurong Coastal Drive between Cape Paterson and Inverloch on the way to Wilsons Prom east of Melbourne. But it won’t, because it’s just not possible to drive this cliff-hugging seaside stretch without pulling over, again and again, to admire the view.
Have you taken either of these road trips? Do you have any favourite tips for Victorian road trips?