On the way to Robe you’ll cross the Adelaide Hills and pass through Coorong National Park with its outstanding beaches and pelican population. You’ll browse around the old whaling town of Port Fairy and discover the story of the infamous Shipwreck Coast at Flagstaff.
The road to Apollo Bay takes you past London Bridge, carved by the elements from limestone, and the iconic Twelve Apostles – now reduced by erosion to seven – before ushering you along the Mornington Peninsula to Melbourne’s trendy St Kilda.
Adelaide is the kind of city that lets you explore at your own pace, with a collection of interesting sights, wide variety of restaurants and bars, good shopping and some excellent galleries and cultural opportunities. Worth spending a couple of days here before collecting your hire car and setting off along the Great Ocean Road.
Stay: Two nights in The Mayfair.
On the best road trips, the route becomes the destination. Today your drive takes you corkscrewing through the Adelaide Hills between lofty pines and rolling vineyards. The flatlands of the Murray River are equally picturesque, leading to the marram-capped dunes, crescent-shaped lagoons and nesting pelicans of Coorong National Park. Stand on the sandy beach and there is nothing between you and the Antarctic.
Stay: One night in a beachfront cottage at Robe Lifestyle.
Stop, on your way to Port Fairy, at Mount Gambier. Here an extinct volcano has filled with water to become the vivid Blue Lake. Port Fairy itself is a characterful old whaling station set at the mouth of the Moyne River, and has retained much of its listed 19th century architecture. The town is so charming you may want to take the option of extending your stay here by a couple of days.
Stay: One night at Oscars Boutique Waterfront Hotel.
The evocatively entitled Shipwreck Coast – named after the huge number of vessels that met their end here – is next on your itinerary. Stop off at Flagstaff to see the ‘shipwreck museum’ before driving on to the cliffs of Port Campbell National Park; a 300 foot wall of limestone, sculpted by the elements into caves, arches, stumps and stacks. The most famous are London Bridge and the iconic Twelve Apostles. Thick forests and dense fern gullies line the way as you climb into the Otway Ranges before arriving on the other side at Apollo Bay.
Stay: One night in a one or two bedroom villa at Beacon Point Ocean View.
Today the Great Ocean Road reveals a procession of charming resort towns like Angelsea, Lorne and Torquay on the way to Queenscliff, where you’ll take a ferry over Port Phillip Bay to Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula. Here a gentle drive takes you through highly photogenic scenery, farms and as many as 50 wineries – many offering superb vintages and great cuisine.
Stay: One night in one of a choice of rooms at Woodman Estate.
Finally you arrive at Melbourne, regarded as Australia’s most sophisticated, artistic city. With some justification. You’ll be staying in the vibrant St Kilda district with its easy access to brilliant beaches, a great period funfair, happening restaurants and bars and the rest of Melbourne’s cultural, sightseeing and shopping opportunities. Don’t miss the seasonal Victoria night market.
Stay: Two nights in the Crown Promenade in Melbourne.