This week’s Wanderlust Wednesday excursion: A stop at Loch Ard Gorge along Australia's famous Great Ocean Road
I’m officially obsessed with TimeHop. My sister turned me on to the app, and for someone like me who is A) a giant sap and B) tends to take a million pictures and videos everywhere I go, it’s basically the best invention ever because each day it pulls old photos and videos from your camera roll and social media platforms and puts together a little album of memories. It makes me happy to look back on beautiful places I’ve been or delicious things I’ve had to eat or drink or special times I’ve shared with family and friends, so it’s as though TimeHop was created just for me. Every day I take a brief little walk down memory lane, and it always puts a smile on my face.
This time last year I was traveling solo through southern Australia, so lately my TimeHop has been full of memories from my time there. A major highlight of that trip was my journey along the Great Ocean Road, which was actually the reason for my entire Aussie adventure. After visiting New Zealand for the first time, I started following a bunch of photographers on social media based in various places throughout the South Pacific. It’s through their photos that I first discovered the Great Ocean Road, and I instantly became enamored with this far away dreamland. The skies. The ocean views. The incredible rock formations. The place was calling my name! So when it came time to put together my itinerary for my first trip Down Under, a drive along this famous road was my number one priority.
Spanning roughly 151 miles (243 kilometers), the Great Ocean Road is an Australian National Heritage-listed stretch of road that runs through the state of Victoria along the southern Australian border. The most popular route on this dramatic coastline takes you east to west, and starts about an hour and a half outside of Melbourne. There’s an incredible range of scenery to explore along the way, so the time you allot to it depends on how many of the sights you want to see and how long you want or have to spend at each place. There are all sorts of tours offered from Melbourne – from day trips that include only brief stops at the most popular sights to multi-day trips that are more comprehensive – so if you’re short on time or simply don’t want to do the driving yourself, there are options available that will provide the experience you’re looking for. But if you’re driving yourself and have a bit of time to work with as I did, I highly recommend allowing at least a few days to drive it as every stop along the way is well worth the time!
Personally, I like the freedom to be in the moment and to spend as much or as little time as I want in any given place, so I tend to put together itineraries for myself that allow for that. I’ve traveled on my own enough to know what I enjoy and what feeds my soul, so if I have the choice, I’ll always opt to spend longer stints of time in fewer places over shorter bits of time in lots of places. Which is why I chose to dedicate an entire week to the Great Ocean Road. And it’s one of the best travel decisions I’ve ever made.
Between how I was feeling both mentally and emotionally during that time and my own desire to be fully in the moment, I needed every second of those seven days to really experience that stretch of road in the way I had dreamed of experiencing it. Add to the mix my passion for photography (which I can get lost in for hours upon hours at a time), some weather issues, a few stops to explore cute little beach towns I discovered along the way, and several return trips to a handful of stops that I didn’t get enough of the first time, and my Great Ocean Road experience ended up involving far more than I ever could have planned for.
I’ve loved reliving that journey via TimeHop, and am excited to now share it bit by bit with you! Our first stop: Loch Ard Gorge, where I first visited at dusk to watch the sun set behind the cliffs and then returned to the next afternoon in order to appreciate its beauty in the bright light of day.
There have been many tragic shipwrecks in Australia’s history, but few have been worse than the Loch Ard Shipwreck of 1878. A 263-foot iron clipper with masts reaching nearly 150 feet tall, the Loch Ard was en route from England to Australia, and after 17 weeks on the water, drifted 100 miles off course during a night of bad weather and crashed into the jagged cliffs of Australia’s aptly named ‘Shipwreck Coast.’ The clipper sunk in only 15 minutes and of the 37 people on board, only two survived: Thomas (Tom) Pierce and Evelyn (Eva) Carmichael. The small bay surrounding the cliffs where the two came ashore was named Loch Ard Gorge after the sunken ship, while a nearby viewpoint was named ‘Tom and Eva’ in honor of the two sole survivors.
The ocean views at Loch Ard Gorge are to die for, and some time on the beach looking out over the bay is an absolute must. While I’m a sucker for a pretty sunset, I recommend this stop during daylight in order to take advantage of the surrounding trails, to watch the powerful ocean converge into incredible blowholes, and to really see the intricate details that make this place so beautiful.