The Great Ocean Road (GOR) one of the world’s most scenic drives that includes natural wonders, outdoor activities, divine dining experiences, exotic wildlife and endless trails to explore. Many nomads have sought to experience this journey, be it by camper van, car, bus or even hitch hiking their way down the GOR. Whatever way you choose to experience the GOR, it will be an astounding adventure.
Although Australia is a popular country for road tripping, organizing a guided tour bus might not be such a detestable decision as compared to driving your own vehicle. Now the word ‘tour’ may seem like an inauthentic experience and a step towards becoming a cliché tourist, but you’d be surprised with how informative, budget friendly and efficient it can be! Not only do you not have to stress over finding the sights you want to see or getting lost, but you can sleep when you feel like it and still trust that you will get to your destination. Tours also offers inclusive packages with food and accommodations that can save you hundreds.
Last April, I took one of these bus tours from Melbourne to Adelaide and couldn’t have been more impressed with the service, knowledge, accommodations provided by the tour company. Although I usually travel independently rather than groups, especially tour groups, this option suited my travel needs to get from Melbourne to Adelaide, to experience some of the GOR and to do it the most affordable way possible. Thanks to the all inclusive packaging and pricing, a tour bus was the perfect way to travel for me at the time.
The trip began with the tour bus picking my new travel buddy and me from a prominent hostel in St. Kilda, a suburb of Melbourne that many backpackers head to when in Melbourne, thanks to the affordable hostels and several nearby activities. The bus headed to a few other hostels in St. Kilda and in the Central Business District of Melbourne to fill up the bus with a plethora of international adventurers that ranged from two 19 year old German boys who were on their premiere travel experience, to a 50 year old Australian woman wanting to explore her country to the 30 year old Irish woman having a midlife crisis and travelling the world. The majority of the other people on the bus were in their early twenties and were just trying to see as much of Australia as they could while visiting.
Our first stop was at a vantage point where we could see swerving cliffs that we had just driven the first four hours, cascading down into the cerulean blue lapping against the shore.
We then made our way to rest area that had a café where we acquired nourishing sausage rolls and witnessed a large camping area where we could use the toilets. Little did we realize that this was also the stop where we could see koalas! The tour guide led us up a short path to a few eucalyptus trees where sure enough, there were four koalas sleeping lazily on branches or perhaps chewing a stem half awake. Australia’s reputation for bizarre and unique animals is as compelling as it is on television and as one of the many stereotypical tourist checklist items to do in Australia, experiencing their natural wildlife is unparalleled and should definitely be pursued while in the country.
After the tour guide provided us with a humble sandwich lunch and a good stretch at a small beach town, our tour continued to the Great Ocean Road Memorial Archway. This structure was built to serve as a tribute for the soldiers in WWI who contributed to the creation of the Great Ocean Road. There is a sculpture next to the arch that commemorates returned soldiers and service men. There were many other tour buses present, which means waiting for your turn to take photos without strangers in them. This matter would have happened whether we took a tour bus or arrived there on our own accord.
Lorne is an easy-going art-centric sea town with amazing surroundings thanks to the Great Otway National Park and a happening social and cultural scene. Falls Fest and the Festival of Performing Arts are hosted in Lorne and attract all types of music aficionados.
After Lorne, we headed up into the rainforest of Maits Rest in the Otways, which features cool forest air with gigantic ancient ferns and 300-year-old trees. There is a path that winds through the vegetation, allowing you to search for any local inhabitants of koala, possums or wallabies. It was an interesting excursion in comparison to our morning full of beaches and wave watching.
From there we headed to the city of Maits Rest where we all independently grabbed dinner and provisions for the rest of the evening as our next and final stop for the day would be at the accommodations that the tour organized for us. There were two houses, one with several rooms each with multiple beds and nearby outdoor bathrooms and the other house merely being one room with 6 beds and a small sink. The tour guide surprised everyone with drinks and food and facilitated, in a sincere and not commercialized sort of way, a ‘party’ of sorts where everyone could relax and get to know each other.
We were told that the next day would include mountains, dams and eventually our arrival in Adelaide. Stay tuned for Day 2 of my bus experience down the Great Ocean Road!