The Great Ocean Road will always hold a special place in my heart. This winding stretch of road will forever be to me a place of happy memories and new adventures; a place where a new relationship blossomed.
The Great Ocean Road is a 243 km winding stretch of road along the south-east coast of Australia between Torquay and Warrnambool, not too far from Melbourne and the perfect place for a weekend getaway. That is what it was for Damian and I, the first trip that we took together not long after we began dating. A car was borrowed, a tent was packed and we set off on our first adventure together.
I remember nerves, both because we hadn’t been dating for long and because Damian had only recently passed his driving test. Such a long and circuitous drive would be a test for even the most experienced of drivers, nevermind for someone who had only been driving for a few days. Nevertheless, we set off together and have lived to tell the tale.
The Great Ocean Road is the world’s longest war memorial, having been built by returning soldiers following WWI in memory of their fallen comrades. At the time it was built, the south-east coast was largely inaccessible and the road was envisaged as a way to connect isolated communities, as well as to provide work for returning veterans. It took some 3000 men more than thirteen years to complete the entire road between 1919 and 1932.
Today the Great Ocean Road is a major tourist attraction and is Australian National Heritage Listed. The road quite literally hugs the coastline in many parts, with forest on one side and sharp drops into the sea on the other. Needless to say, Damian was white knuckled for much of the drive, while I hung out the windows taking pictures of the ever more breathtaking scenery. On a sunny day I think you would struggle to find more beautiful scenery anywhere in the world.
Although there are innumerable notable natural landmarks along the way, from rainforest walks, to eucalyptus forests and towering sandstone cliffs along the way, the crowning glory of the Great Ocean Road is definitely the Twelve Apostles off the shore of Port Campbell National Park. These limestone stacks that balance perilously in the Southern Ocean are the icons of the area and are truly amazing to behold.
The Twelve Apostles is a bit of a misnomer, as there were only ever nine stacks, but as of 2002 there are only eight remaining after the stack called Judas collapsed due to erosion. As the Apostles are all composed of soft limestone the forces of erosion are of great threat to the landmark, with each stack eroding an average of 2cm per year. Someday the Twelve Apostles as we know them today will not exist, but new stacks will emerge from the headland cliffs creating an ever-evolving natural landscape.
After such a memorable trip the first time, I decided to make the drive one of the first outings on which to take my mom when she visited me in Australia. This time I was in the driver’s seat and it was my turn to be white knuckled on the steering wheel while my mother hung out of the window snapping photos as everything rushed past. Over the next couple of days we fed parrots, we spotted koala bears, we walked on long sandy beaches, and generally soaked in all that the Great Ocean Road had to offer.
After two faultless trips with two of the most important people in my life the Great Ocean Road has left a mark on my heart which hasn’t faded over the five years since I was last there. It is a place of breathtaking beauty and awe-inspiring landscapes, though I wouldn’t recommend it as the place to learn to drive!
This post was brought to you by Emirates, who have regular flights into Melbourne, Victoria, which is the perfect departure point for a Great Ocean Road adventure.