This week will see the 2019 Formula 1 season start in spectacular style in Melbourne, Australia. With its part track, part road circuit, racing down under is always sure to excite. But there’s more to be seen than just the F1. One of the most magnificent roads on this Earth starts just outside of Melbourne’s hustle and bustle.
The Great Ocean Road
Heading west from Melbourne’s city centre you’ll find the town of Geelong. Here is where your adventure starts. Take the B100 in Torquay, up ahead you’ll find 151 miles of the most scenic, twisty roads in the southern hemisphere. Along the way, you’ll pass some of the most rugged scenery this planet has to offer, including wild kangaroos, the tallest trees on Earth, sea stacks of towering rocks and surfers carving through waves.
The road is actually the largest war memorial every constructed. It was built by the returning soldiers of the first world war between 1982 and 1932, and it’s dedicated to the many soldiers killed during the war.
Your first stop should be at Bells Beach – here you’ll be able to watch surfers battle with gigantic waves that are whipped up over the 2,000 miles of unimpeded water from the Antarctic.
Moving west, you’ll find the silky smooth tarmac of the Great Ocean Road winding between green coastal hills, transporting you far from the dusty, barren image that you may have of Australia.
The route is littered with various national parks, allowing you to indulge in nature at your will. You’ll also find numerous plaques and memorials to the wildlife and men who built this road. One of the must-see stops is the Maits Rest Rainforest Walk. A quick detour here will have you thinking you’re deep in the Amazon.
Another is Otway Lighthouse where eucalyptus trees providing shelter and food for koala surround you. This reserve is massively overpopulated due to pressures on their natural environment, so you’re sure to be able to spot some if you’ve missed them in the wild.
Further west and near to the end of the road you’ll come across the 12 Apostles, a name that was never really true as there have only ever been 9, due to the constant torment of the sea. Even the ninth one collapsed in 2005. Alas, there are now 8, with some towering 15 stories high. These limestone monoliths have been carved out over thousands of years.
Ending at Allansford, the sea section of the route has been completed; next, it’s a dive inland to the Grampians National Park. This drive will take you about two hours, though the towns of Penhurst and Dunkeld. The extra distance is worth it though – on the horizon, the majestic Grampians rise from the Western Plains.
Stop-offs at Reeds and Boroka give you spectacular views over the MacKenzie Falls, an area rich in Aboriginal history and home to many artistic rock sites. There are numerous walking and cycling trails through this incredible wildlife dotted wilderness, with the nearby Royal Mail Hotel offering an exquisite touch of modern to the landscape.
How to best enjoy your journey
To take it all in you’re best off stopping halfway along the Great Ocean Road. While it is drivable in a day, it’s hard to average 50 the whole way. You’ll also be stopping off to take in the breathtaking vistas that meet you at every corner.
Plan a stop off around Apollo Bay, where there are some charming hotels and apartments for rent.
Tagging on the Grampians is well worth it, but allow a further two days or so to explore. From there you can either head back to Melbourne along the same route. You’ll be able to tick off anything missed during the first pass or you can head back inland on the A8 through Beaufort and then on to the M8 past Ballarat. Keep heading east and you can’t miss Melbourne.
In terms of what car to choose there are plenty of supercar hire companies based in Melbourne. The best in the business are Unique Car Rentals. They offer everything from BMW M4 cabriolets, Lamborghini Huracans and even a McLaren 570S.
So if you’re heading to the Formula 1, make sure you hire something suitably raucous, put the top down and meander your way down the B100 – it’s one of, if not the most picturesque driving route our world has to offer.