our last hurrah in australia was exploring the great ocean road. this scenic stretch of coastal highway certainly lives up to its name, and we were happy to hit the road again and feel the ocean breeze in our (now flowing) manes. the entire drive from melbourne to the very end can easily be done in a day, but we allowed ourselves double that and then some to explore – time well spent, as teetering along the edge of jagged land and wild sea comes with a unique sense of freedom and carefree bliss!
after a leisurely lunch in the small beach town of lorne, we headed over to our first natural wonder. set against a backdrop of lush forest, erskine falls tumbles down one of the highest drops in great otway national park. beams of sunlight filtered through bright green ferns to highlight its best angles. from there it was onto kennett river to catch a glimpse of the koalas there. we drove up a narrow winding road, craning our necks and searching for furry bundles settled high in the eucalyptus trees. for twenty minutes we didn’t see much of anything and were disappointed. but searching for koalas in the wild is like looking for tiny crabs in the sand – as soon as you spot one, you’re bound to find them everywhere. sure enough, just as i was about to give up alex pointed triumphantly out the window at a small blob high up in the trees. an adorable koala was napping in the branches! suddenly we noticed two others all curled up and sleeping soundly. when we drove back down, we were treated to an even better surprise – a large koala scampering across the road and scurrying up his favorite tree for an afternoon snack. watching his woolly little behind waddle around had me in full-blown cuteness overload. i was lucky enough to catch the whole thing on video, and it’s provided me with “heaps” of entertainment ever since.
we spent the rest of the afternoon winding our way along the coast, stopping here and there for photos and beach breaks. we eventually decided to make “camp” in johanna beach. our original plan was to rent a campervan for our little excursion, but every company required a 5-day minimum rental so we ended up with a cozy toyota corolla. while sleeping in the backseat was by no means comfortable, that night we traded comfort for some pretty fantastic scenery. over a random yet delicious dinner of chinese takeout and fish and chips, alex and i were treated to one of the dreamiest sunsets we’ve ever seen.
friday was essentially a laundry list of impressive sights and spectacular views. our adventure began at cape otway lighthouse, which ended up being way too expensive at $20 per person. we opted instead for a pretty walk in the surrounding forest for the nice price of free. bonus: another koala sighting, this time a family of three! afterwards we headed to the twelve apostles, a series of magnificent limestone rocks along the shore that were gradually carved out of the headlands by the southern ocean. on our way there the morning clouds passed and the sky brightened, giving us the best possible views of the impressive formations. we took the 86 steps down to the beach below and immediately felt dwarfed by the dramatic 230-ft cliffs and sheer stacks of rock. exploring the grotto, london arch, bay of islands, and other coastal wonders kept us in awe the rest of the afternoon. we settled down in port campbell for the night and chowed down on bowls of pasta that set us back a whopping $30 each. good thing they were healthy servings, or it would’ve made the price that much harder to swallow! the night ended with a trip back to the twelve apostles at dusk to hopefully catch a glimpse of the penguins making their way back to shore. for forty minutes we waited on the wind-blown cliffs with our binocular-clad eyeballs glued to the beach. worried we’d missed the little guys’ homecoming, we were stoked when a tiny blob of black dots suddenly emerged from the ocean and hurried across the sand. there were maybe ten or fifteen of them huddled close to stay warm, and within a few seconds they made their way into the shadows and disappeared. it was the perfect “good night” to the great ocean road.
the last day of our little road trip came quickly. we got up early on saturday to make the drive back to melbourne and catch our flight that afternoon to new zealand. we of course built in a bit of extra time to make one more pit stop in kennett river and say goodbye to our fuzzy koala friends. the return trip was beautiful and relaxing, although we later found out that despite our deliberately careful driving and heavy use of cruise control, we’d gotten slammed with two tickets thanks to australia’s ridiculous hidden speed cameras. those mishaps aside, as i boarded our plane to christchurch i couldn’t help but reflect on how amazing our three weeks here had been. i can’t wait to come back and experience more of australia’s incredible natural beauty. but air new zealand’s lord of the rings themed safety video was an awesome reminder that until then, i’d have to settle for three weeks in Middle-earth.
// trip down under to date: 6 flights, 1 country, 3 states, 1 boat, 2 road trips, 1 campervan adventure, 2580 km