The Great Ocean Road - the world's largest war memorial (part 1)

For part 2 click - here

The Great Ocean Road is 243 kilometres of National Heritage listed road on the south-east coast of Australia. Built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932 it is the world's largest war memorial - dedicated to the dead of World War I.

A memorial to the fallen - photo by Chris @ematrader

It is also a stunning drive. With long sweeping curves coiling and flexing along the contours of a coast littered with breathtaking views, the road begins just east of Warrnambool and finishes at Torquay, an hour's drive south of Melbourne. For much of that distance it hugs the edge of the continent, occasionally spilling inland through bucolic farmland scenery.

The Grotto

Eons of erosion have chiseled away at the limestone cliffs leaving sentinel-like rock stacks standing in the sea abandoned by the retreating coastline. The ocean sometimes claims a new victim.  Land bridges, arches and stacks all succumb occasionally to the relentless waves. In 1990 the 'London Bridge' formation fell suddenly, stranding a few unlucky tourists on a pinnacle surrounded by water. They were rescued by helicopter a few hours later. In 2005, 'Judas', one of the formations known as 'The Twelve Apostles' fell, disintegrated and was swallowed up.

Some of the apostles

Foolishly we thought we could do the road justice in a single day. Now we have to come back next year to finish it properly. We discovered the hard way that while you can just drive the Great Ocean Road, if you want to appreciate it's complexity you really have to stop sometimes - lots of times - get out of the car, and make the short treks to the lookouts, boardwalks and access points scattered along the route.

The remains of  'London Bridge'.

Practical stuff:

Where is The Great Ocean Road? -

On the Eastern side the Great Ocean Road ends at the M1 freeway which will have you in Melbourne in an hour. From the west the road begins just out of Warrnambool.

View Larger Map

How do I travel it? -

You can drive it, cycle it, or fly over it.

I wouldn't recommend cycling. There is no separate cycle path and the road is often narrow with blind corners.

If you want to fly over it there are reasonably priced helicopter tours which leave from a heliport opposite the information centre at 'The Twelve Apostles' lookout.

By far the best way to see it is to drive - but do yourself a favour, allow more than a day, you'll need it and there are plenty of accommodation options in the towns en route.

When should I go? -

November and March are probably the best times.

For part 2 click - here

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