Great Ocean Road over 2 days – tips on seeing wildlife, attractions and choosing accommodation
The Great Ocean Road is one of those bucketlist destinations I had to include on our 2 month road trip around Australia. Famous for being one of Australia’s National Heritage Site, known for its spectacular coastal scenery, stunning drive and several attractions – it was one of those places we wanted to visit, no matter how touristy it might be! The Great Ocean Road opened in 1922, is 243 km long and goes from Torquay to Allansford. It attracts a high number of tourists each year and along this drive there really is something for everyone. I had seen many pictures, read stories…I can’t imagine how people do it over one day and do it with a group tour as well. We did the Great Ocean Road over 2 days and here I provide our own unique experience and tips on seeing wildlife, some unique and several of the usual hotspots and when best to see them. I also want to highlight why our stay at Clifton Beach Lodge was special and why we would recommend staying here in such a touristy destination. I will lump our 2 day experiences into two categories – unique and special finds that were unexpected along with tried and tested experiences – but are still must dos 🙂
Unique Place to Eat At
We came across this cute little organic café – McGrains Café – and absolutely loved it! Part shop, part nursery and part café, the décor and ambiance of the place was lovely and the food was great. Highly recommend having a meal here if heading towards great Ocean Road.
Our other meals were enjoying a picnic lunch just after Bells Beach which was closed off due to some surfing activity and home cooked meal at our lovely and peaceful accommodation at Clifton Beach Lodge.
Unique Place to stay at the most peaceful location, yet so close to 12 Apostles and other attractions
We had passed through a few popular towns such as Apollo Bay and Lorne which had all the amenities – restaurants, bars, lots of accommodations. But they all looked very busy and had throngs of tourists everywhere. We are really glad we chose Clifton Beach Lodge, located just 2km from the 12 Apostles.
We arrived at Clifton Beach Lodge and there was self check in with one of the four cottages with our name on it. We stayed at Loch Ard – a lovely 2 bedroom cottage with a spacious living room and dining area and open plan kitchen which was stocked well. The 12 Apostles, Great Ocean Walk and National Parks are just a short drive away, but the location of the cottage is such that it is just a little distance from the main road with panoramic views of the Gellibrand River Estuary. Outside the cottages there were several sports activities which our kids enjoyed a lot – they played table tennis, cricket and Totem Tennis. I went for a little walk around the estate and saw so many bird species!
Our cottage was really spacious, one room had a double and 2 singles and the other room had a double. Ashique went out to the corner shop to pick up some milk and saw an Echidna on the road on his way back.
He cooked dinner and we had a nice relaxing evening and did little bit of star gazing at night. It was so pitch dark outside, there really is nothing all around! Next day, the kids played outside again in the morning, and after checking out at 10am, we set off for 12 Apostles which is only 2k away. A lovely refreshing stay, away from the hustle and bustle of hot tourist spots.
Unique Spot for Wildlife
Seeing wild koalas at Kenneth Koala Cove Café and Kennett Caravan Park
We found this place thanks to Travel with Bender’s Post – did I ever mention how useful I find other travel bloggers recommendations for planning our journey? I know this information is also available online or on the leaflets but I hadn’t seen either and it was only thanks to Erin’s post on seeing wild koalas here that we made a stop. We were rewarded with not just wild koalas but several new bird species as well.
And what was even more exciting was the fact that we managed to see two koalas being active – they sleep 20 hours and are active only 4, so that was quite special watching one climb up the branch and reaching out towards another branch!
Tried, Tested and All True
Some of the main highlights of the Great Ocean Drive include 12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge and Maits Rest Rainforest Boardwalk. We did two of these and thought they were wonderful. Would have loved to do some of the others but time did not permit.
The timing was perfect for visiting this popular site as I had heard horror stories of bus loads of tourists arriving and everyone trying to get the best shots of the 7 apostles that can be seen. We got there at 10:30 and there were only a few other tourists around. 12 Apostles was as beautiful as I had seen in all the pictures, but with Shama burning up with fever, we couldn’t really do the walk. The boys and I walked from the Information centre to Gibson Steps. Nice enough walk, saw a few unknown bird species, lovely views of the sea in the horizon. We walked down to the beach and splashed about in the waves for a bit, it wasn’t very crowded which was great. After more than two dozen pictures and admiring the stunning coastal scenery we set off for our next stop -Mait Rest Rainforest Boardwalk
This was really lovely, took us around 45 minutes to walk along the boardwalk, admiring these giant ancient trees, learning about nutrient cycles and spotting birds along the way.
Pitstop at Lorne –
Cute little town which looked great for families – lovely play area, safe beach to learn surfing and swim at, lots of restaurants and ice cream shops. Kids enjoyed ice creams and playing in the water 🙂
In all honestly, I personally thought that the Great Ocean Road lived up to all my expectations and finding so much wildlife and lovely cottage to stay at was an added bonus. Ashique was a bit disappointed and found it bit too crowded for the drive to be amazing. Our trip was also shadowed by the fact that we had two sick kids with us running on high temperatures and Shama particularly feeling very lethargic. It took all the effort to just walk to the 12 Apostles and do the Rainforest walk.
Additionally, I must admit our standards for a great drive are quite high having done some epic road trips throughout Europe and New Zealand – the GrossGlockner Alpine Drive and West Coast, South Island – to name a few. But the scenery was ever so spectacular, and we were really lucky with the weather, it was sunny the whole two days and warm enough during the day.
If I were to do it again, we would stay longer, stay again at Clifton Beach Lodge and really take our time to explore this beautiful part of Victoria, Australia.
Thanks to Clifton Beach Lodge for hosting our stay. We genuinely enjoyed our time here and all opinions are 100% our own.