As part of my short trip to Melbourne, I arranged to participate in two tours with Bunyip Tours. The first tour took me to Phillip Island, the second, along Great Ocean Road. Both tours offer a full day excursion from Melbourne to maximise sightseeing opportunities in this part of the world.
The Australian national heritage listed Great Ocean Road consists of 152 miles/ 244 kilometres of road from Anglesea to Allansford. It’s known as one of the world’s most scenic stretches of road as it takes in the stunning Surf Coast of Victoria, Australia.
The tour starts with an early morning pick up where groups are shuttled to the Bunyip Tours office in Melbourne and reconnected to the relevant bus for each tour. This was all very efficient and we were provided with clear instructions about our connecting bus. If in doubt, there are plenty of Bunyip Tours staff available to assist.
The driver for the day introduced himself as Janner, before explaining that we’d be covering roughly a 600km return journey through the day and the highlights that we could expect to see, the first being Westgate Bridge (twice the length of Sydney Harbour Bridge) that we crossed as we departed from Melbourne.
The first two hours of the day involves driving through flat farmland before a stop off in the town of Colac for tea, coffee and biscuits.
The drive then continues for a further hour but Janner did remind us that this part of the route provides an opportunity to see kangaroos and wallobies on the road. There are around 90 million kangaroos in Australia, so the chances of seeing one are pretty high to say the least!
Janner also shared information with us on a regular basis whilst driving, for example: did you know that a female kangaroo is known as the smartest of mothers in the animal kingdom as she always has three Joeys at any time? She can also decide when she will give birth in order to choose the right time and environment. Amazing!
Depending upon the time of year there’s also an opportunity to see whales and penguins along the coast. I didn’t see any on the day of our tour but it’s an added bonus if you’re able to spot any additional wildlife.
The next stop of the tour was my personal highlight, an opportunity to see the Twelve Apostles (originally named the Sow and Piglets).
As part of the package with Bunyip Tours, there is an option to add extras onto the package.
I opted to add the helicopter flight over the Twelve Apostles as I’d never flown in a helicopter and who knows when I’ll have the chance to visit Australia again! This is at an additional cost of $95 when booked via Bunyip Tours.
I was a little scared of being in such a light aircraft (I’m uncomfortable with heights) but I felt reassured by the professionalism of the helicopter facility that is not operated by Bunyip Tours. After a safety briefing, we were whisked to a height of 750ft to observe the Twelve Apostles (of which eight are remaining).
Due to the limestone coast, the softer rock is still eroding and forming however the Sentinel remains the tallest rock in the national park at 73ft tall.
The smooth flight them comes to an end and we had a further 30 minutes to spend at the Twelve Apostles, a great chance to take any additional photos.
Janner then regathered the group for us to continue to Loch Ard Gorge, the scene of many ship wrecks.
After a short stop at Loch Ard Gorge for photos and a chance to walk along the trails around the coastline, the next stop is just a short drive away to Gibson Steps.
At Gibson Steps there is a stop for around fifteen minutes, however it’s sufficient time to climb the 86 steps to the beach and finally have a chance to make contact with the Pacific Ocean. The beach is stunning to see and a welcome break from the long drive.
Janner had explained that we’d have a long drive ahead through the rainforest (approximately 1.5 hours) to our lunch stop at Cape Otway.
The drive presents a good opportunity to ask questions about the country or simply to discuss various aspects of travel around the world as I did (including being inspired by Janner to try a driving holiday around Europe).
As we drove to lunch, we noticed smoke in the distance which Janner explained was part of a planned burn off takes place in the bush to prevent uncontrolled bush fires.
Cape Otway Lightstation is the oldest surviving lighthouse in Australia that was built after the largest loss of life via a ship wreck.
It’s referred to as the ‘Beacon of Hope’ as when it was built, it pinpointed the final two days remaining of voyage to travellers (particularly from Europe) that had already spent several weeks or months at sea.
After a BBQ lunch, there’s a chance to climb the tower of the lighthouse which offers a good view down to the coast.
The drive then continues to Apollo Bay, the second largest town along Great Ocean Road before a stop at Kennett River.
This is a good place to see koalas but also a chance to feed the birds. We spent around an hour here to stretch our legs, feed the animals and enjoy ice cream from the onsite café facilities.
The final stop of the day is at Memorial Archway, the main identifier of the Great Ocean Road, but not before passing through Lorne, the biggest town along road and home to the 1km pier to pub race that takes place on an annual basis in January.
The tour concludes with an evening drive back to Melbourne. It’s a fun and interesting day that was very well constructed to make the most of the time on the road.
Janner explained that Bunyip Tours do not always run in the same order. Drivers are entrusted to use their experience of the route to modify the order of events, therefore whilst all tours cover the same attractions, the order may vary to the experiences that I had. I found that this was an excellent way to construct the tour as at no point did we experience any delays or have much waiting time to see an attraction. This clearly showed the wealth of experience that the drivers have, improving the likelihood of a positive experience of all elements within the control of Bunyip Tours.
Have you travelled along the Great Ocean Road? Share you experience in the comments below.
Many thanks to Bunyip Tours for providing me with the chance to explore the Great Ocean Road.