Great Southern Touring Route
A road trip is a quintessential Australian experience, and the Great Southern Touring Route is an iconic destination for both locals and tourists. Combine the two and you've got a recipe for one of the most visually spectacular trips you'll ever take - and it's right here on your doorstep.
Victoria's Great Southern Touring Route is huge, and at around 842 km, you'll unlikely be able to tackle it all in one go. The best approach is to break it up into manageable chunks, booking in holiday accommodation at towns along the way.
Fly in to Melbourne or Avalon Airport, hire a car and hit the road - or be extra adventurous and drive your own vehicle from your destination to the start of your tour. Make sure you take time during your trip to stop partake in the following.
The Great Southern Touring route is breathtaking, so it's a good thing the trip has plenty of well-maintained scenic lookouts to stop at during your road trip. The stretch of road between Torquay and Lorne is particularly beautiful, with ocean and beach views aplenty at lookout platforms around the famous Bells Beach Surfing Reserve. When you make it to Anglesea, make sure you head across Great Ocean Road via Harvey Street to the elevated memorial lookout, where you'll find coastal views worthy of many a photo.
At Aireys Inlet, put your walking shoes on and head up to the Split Point Lighthouse. Here you'll get a lookout over Eagle and Table rocks. Further along in Lorne you'll find one of the touring route's best viewing spots - Teddy's Lookout. This platform sites high about the coast and gives panoramic ocean views as far as the eye can see.
Adventurous types should try The Gable lookout on Moonlight Head Road after Wattle Hill. The platform dangles over the top off a cliff, some 70 metres high above the crashing waves below. The Cape Nelson Lighthouse also provides exquisite views of the coastal and inland environment, and as such is a popular tourist spot. Be prepared to climb up the tower, however.
This area is blessed with an abundance of national parks. One that simply can't be missed is the Twelve Apostles Marine National Park, just east of Port Campbell.
Here you'll find the iconic crumbling pillars of the Twelve Apostles, one of our country's most stunning and famous landmarks. The park runs along 17 kilometres of coastline, covering 7500 hectares, and protects not only the Apostles but also underwater scenery such as canyons, fissures, reefs and arches. Kelp forests and sponge gardens hide beneath the pounding surf, which snorkellers and divers will be thrilled to discover. Along with these natural beauties are lobsters, seals, reef fish and sea spiders. Patient visitors in the early morning or evening may find Little Penguins nesting in the caves beneath the Twelve Apostles, and whales have been known to pass through the area from time to time.
Mount Richmond National Park is great for nature lovers looking for something a bit different. It's an extinct volcano sitting in the middle of low, flat land, covered with sand blown inland from Discovery Bay a long time ago. As you can imagine, this makes for an unusual sight.
Mount Richmond's unspoilt bushland is a haven for wildlife and spring wildflowers, and is a great picnic location for groups looking for a break on their great southern roadtrip.
And for something completely different, check out Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary, located just past Apollo Bay. It protects 12 hectares of ocean water including Little Henty Reef, and sits 150 metres offshore. The Henty Reef is packed with sea life and this part of the touring route is particularly stunning.
You're likely to come across sea snails, abalone and tubeworms here, with seaweed gardens in deeper waters. The diverse habitat selection here sees species such as Zebra fish, wrasse and Australian fur seals exploring the waters regularly.
No holiday is complete without some fine wine and food, and the Great Southern Touring Route doesn't disappoint. Make sure you factor in a trip to Terindah Estate, located in Bellarine. It's open 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. seven days a week for brunch, lunch and wine tastings. You can also see mussel farmers at work in local waters, wander through the vines and fig trees or just sit back with a glass of wine and admire the surrounding landscapes.
Dine at The Shed @ Terindah, which is highly acclaimed and combines fresh, local seasonal ingredients to create tantalising dishes. Start with a dish of beef tartare, baby turnips, beets and crisps, then move on to kangaroo, juniper berries, daikon, malt and smoked eel. Finish with a dessert of apple, rhubarb, grapefruit, blueberry and custard.
For a meal with a view, you can't go past Chris's Beacon Point Restaurant in Apollo Bay. The beloved establishment serves up delicious fresh Greek-inspired dishes such as eye fillet beef on oxtail terrine with a potato galette, crispy bacon and leek with pepper sauce, along with Walnut and Pistachio Baklava - with mastixa ice cream & cherry glyko. It's open for dinner from 6:00 p.m. seven days a week, and boasts sandstone floors, floor-to-ceiling windows and ferns and manna gums surrounding the dining room. There are different floor levels to give every table a different vantage point, and a wood fire to warm diners during winter.
If you make it as far as Geelong, you'll find one of the nation's favourite wine regions. It was Victoria's largest grape growing region in Victoria in the 1800s, and recently has undergone something of a revival with winemakers rediscovering its rich soils and European climate. Chardonnay and Shiraz varietals are particularly good here, so stop at Jack Rabbit Vineyard or Leura Park Estate for some of the best drops.