The Great Ocean Road is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Australia, and there’s no doubt about why. Taking the long way, the narrow road from Melbourne to Adelaide winds its way along the stunning Victoria coastline. The picturesque scene of eucalyptus forests meeting open ocean and half moon bays cannot be overstates. Koalas drift lazily across the road, while echidnas attempt to bury themselves in the hard soil when a tourist stops to take its picture. Cozy hamlets and larger villages dot the way, cafes spilling out onto the sidewalk offering a shady reprieve from the summer sun. One can live off pasties and flat whites while taking in the rolling hills towering above crashing waves, with the sense that this is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world.
But don’t be fooled into tranquility quite yet. With the number of tourists driving this route- especially the quantity not used to driving on the left- attention needs to be sharpened like a fine tool, your eyes, mind and reflexes honed and alert to the dangers of hairpin turns, roaming wildlife and the ever-prevalent “caravans” (also known as an RV). Kids shout from the back, drivers lean out the window to snap a quick picture, people stop in the middle of the road to point at a kangaroo in the hills, and every fifth car veers into the oncoming lane. On busier weekends, general mayhem ensues.
Yet I was lucky. Unlike in 2013 when I rode this same route, this time was much quieter, and given the chance, I would potentially have stayed indefinitely to watch the koalas in the trees high above, babies clutched to their bosoms sleepy-eyed and content to nestle in for a long nap.