When one thinks of Australia a few things come to mind. Most people think koalas and kangaroos or perhaps envision the Sydney Opera house but not me. My first thoughts go to epic road trips!
Australia is a shockingly large country. When we visited last year we spent 10 days and visited roughly 1 mm of space on the map. We explored Sydney, the Blue Mountains, and Jervis Bay. It was lovely, clean, beautiful, and not nearly enough.
To start you can rent a car in Melbourne. Really you can rent a car anyplace, even Sydney to drive the Great Ocean Rd but from Sydney you would need to add on roughly 12 hours of driving. If you are short on time get to Melbourne by plane and grab a car there.
From Melbourne you will want to head down to Torquay where the Great Ocean Rd starts. From there the road brings you West, is roughly 243 km long, and ends in Allansford.
You can drive this road in 2 days or 10 depending on how much time you have and what your priorities and desires are. You can take surf lessons, sample wines, hike, whale watch, and explore the history of the area. Really anything goes.
There are a few things though that even if you only have a couple days you should be sure not to miss. Probably the most iconic section of the road is the 12 apostles, beautiful limestone formations in the water. The rugged coastline would be hard to miss but be sure to stop at the lookouts provided and don't miss the apostles (pictured above).
Melba Gully is another don't miss spot. It is one of the most wet and rainy spots in the state and due to that has prolific plant growth that offers a glimpse into a dense rain forest. Try to plan your stop here for late afternoon. The most unique aspect of the park is the glow worms which can be seen in the evening along the 35 minute walking trail. Explore late afternoon and then when the sun sets explore again to see the worms and the difference between night and day deep in a rain forest. The sounds will amaze you.
Discovery Bay Coastal Park is the last in my list of must see spots but I can assure you there are heaps of options, none of which you will regret seeing. The coastal park is a nice blend of everything the road has to offer. In this remote park you can enjoy coastal cliffs, rolling sand dunes, and freshwater lakes. Hiking and canoeing options are plentiful. If you are short on time this is a great spot to condense what you see in a shorter amount of time.
Wildlife in Australia is unique and always fun for people new to the country. On the road you can expect to see all the standard critters people think of when they picture Australia. Kangaroos and koalas are plentiful and can be seen up close at the Tower Hill State Game Reserve. Koalas can be seen in the wild along Kennett river and Grey River Road is famous for it's koala filled gum trees.
For dolphin and seal spotting, or even for getting in for a swim alongside, head to Port Phillip Bay. The elusive platypus can sometimes be seen while canoeing or kayaking around Lake Elizabeth near dawn. For whale watching head to the dunes at Logan Beach where they have a sanctuary or go a little further West towards Portland!
Tips for road travel
We have been on many a long road trip the past 15 years. Some alone and some with children. We have learned quite a few things that help make long periods in the car easier on everyone.
- Stop often for breaks. Getting out and stretching your legs can help ease boredom, reduce tension, and usually leads to a great new discovery.
- When going on a long stretch bring toys or electronics for the kids. We have found that bringing an external battery charger helps loads, especially on a long drive where recharging multiple devices may prove to be very difficult. Ours has saved the day many times! Nothing worse than having a device but not being able to use it because of bad batteries or poor planning.
- Let the whole family take part in deciding where to go. We often times let each child pick a spot they want to explore so they have a more vested interest in the entire trip.
- If you need WIFI like we do on a very regular basis, I can tell you from experience that driving through Australia will bring challenges. As digital nomads it is imperative that we stay connected so what we do is either use our iPhone as a hot spot or bring our travel router with us. That way as long as there is WIFI available we can all connect when we need to.
- Play games with your surrounding. We love the alphabet game and in Australia it was extra fun with all the new things to see.
- Bring disposable cameras for the kids. Australia offers so many great photos opportunities why not kill 2 birds with 1 stone by entertaining and getting some great shots while you are too busy driving to get any yourself.
- Have an activity bag for each kid. I like to pack new toys, download new apps, and bring favorite snacks. Australia views will keep kids pretty busy, but take it from me after 2 hours of stunning coastline children just don't feel the same awe inspiring thrill in it.