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This post is part of our Australia/New Zealand Series. You can find the rest of the series here.
During our time in Melbourne, Brooke and I wanted to see the Great Ocean Road. The Great Ocean Road is a 151-mile stretch of road along the southern coast of Australia. Along the road, you will enjoy beautiful views, coastal towns, and the famous “Twelve Apostles” limestone formations. Join us for a trip down this famous road in The Little Penguin Bus!
The Little Penguin Bus Tour
The Great Ocean Road officially starts about an hour southwest of Melbourne. A few companies provide full-day tours (13-hours) departing from Melbourne. After reading lot of reviews on TripAdvisor, we selected The Little Penguin Bus (5-star rating!). Don’t let the name fool you, they do more than just penguin-related tours. Their price is also one of the best available at $125/person, which includes National Park entry fees, morning tea, and a pub dinner. The tour starts a bit later than most, at 9:30am, which helps avoid all of the larger tour buses. As always, we prefer small tour companies, and The Little Penguin bus is truly little, with a maximum capacity of 10 people. Our guide, Nicky, greeted us with a huge smile upon arrival, and we were on our way!
Anglesea – Morning Tea
Our first stop was near the seaside village of Anglesea. Here, we gathered near a creek with crystal blue water to have some morning tea, complete with cookies and cake!
Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch
Quick stop to take a few pictures of the Great Ocean Road memorial arch. This arch is a tribute to the servicemen who built the road between 1919 and 1932.
This lookout point is not accessible by the larger tour busses. What a shame for them, because this view of the Surf Coast is famous for good reason.
We stopped at Kennett River to try spotting some wild koalas. Fortunately, the koalas here are easy to find, and we saw quite a few. We were also greeted by some colorful parrots, who were happy to pose for a picture.
Apollo Bay – Lunch
Just before 2pm, we rolled into the town of Apollo Bay for a lunch break. Nicky recommended a few places, so we took her advice. First, we visited the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse to sample some local beers. The Prickly Moses Spotted Ale was a very nice, tropical golden ale. Next, we walked down the street to the Apollo Bay Bakery for their scallop pie, a local lunchtime favorite. Then, we hit the award-winning Dooley’s Ice Cream shop for a sweet treat. A few of the locals insisted that we try the Vegemite-flavored ice cream, so we went for it… ugh, no good! The shop has an excellent array of flavors, including honeycomb, which we liked much better than the Vegemite! While we ate our ice cream, Brooke and I strolled down the beach, until it was time to board the bus again.
Maits Rest Rainforest Walk
After lunch, we ventured a bit inland into Otway National Park, along the “Green Coast.” Here we stopped at a place called Maits Rest for a rainforest walk. Unlike the warmer Daintree Rainforest, this was a “cool-temperate” rainforest. We walked along an approximately 1km path through huge ferns and gum trees. Nicky told us about the carnivorous black snails that live in this forest, but unfortunately, we didn’t find any.
The Twelve Apostles
Leaving the rainforest and the green coast, we drove onto the famous portion of the Great Ocean Road known as the “Shipwreck Coast.” Here, strong winds and rugged cliffs have caused hundreds of shipwrecks over the years. The first stop along the shipwreck coast is the world-famous Twelve Apostles. These “apostles” are actually large limestone stack formations. The scenery here is simply incredible. Bright blue water crashing against massive limestone cliffs, with towering monoliths rising from the surf. Brooke and I counted eight apostles, and found out that the other four are at the bottom of the sea.
Lock Ard Gorge/Island Arch/Razorback
Just down the road from the Twelve Apostles, we stopped to check out three points of interest. Three trails depart from a central parking lot to the various view points. First we walked down into Lock Ard Gorge, onto the sandy beach at the bottom. Next, we took the trail out to see the Island Arch, and then over to the Razorback. Both of these are large rock formations carved out by the ocean. Each point of interest is very unique, but equally stunning!
The final stop along the Great Ocean Road is the Gibson Steps. Descending the 86 steps allowed us to get down to the beach, put our toes in the water, and gaze back up at the huge cliffs.
Aussie Pub – Dinner
We returned to Melbourne via an inland route. Along the way, we had the opportunity to try our hand at spotting kangaroos in the wild. We found too many to count! At dinnertime, we stopped at a small town pub. The menu was impressive, with options like chicken parmesan (Aussie pub staple), garlic prawns, spaghetti carbonara, Asian salad, and more. After dinner, pretty much everybody passed out until we arrived back in Melbourne around 10:30pm. Nicky dropped everyone off at their respective hotels to end a fantastic day.
When you take this tour, here are a few pieces of advice:
- Arrive just a bit early, and grab a seat on the left side of the bus. This will be the coastal side for the entire ride along the Great Ocean Road.
- Bring sleeves. It gets very windy on the coast, and it can be quite cool on the rainforest walk.
- Try the Vegemite ice cream. It’s an Aussie delicacy. “When in Rome…”
- Order the chicken parmesan for dinner. Again, this is a staple dish at Australian pubs. It’s delicious!
We absolutely loved our tour of The Great Ocean Road with the Little Penguin Bus. Nicky was a phenomenal tour guide. She told great stories, shared her incredible amount of knowledge about the area, and most-importantly, she had a fun sense of humor the whole day. We highly recommend taking a tour with The Little Penguin Bus. If you want to take a tour with Nicky (and you should), she only works on the weekends. We hope you have the opportunity to take a Great Ocean Road tour during your time in Australia. Cheers!
We received complementary tours from The Little Penguin Bus in exchange for our honest review.
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