Got a craving for some incredible mountain views or a rugged coastal landscape?! Well have I got the road trip for you!
Earlier this Autumn I decided to escape the tropical heat and explore a very different type of wilderness. I planned myself a road trip of Victoria to check out The Grampians and The Great Ocean Road. It was to be an epic adventure from the mountains to the coast and I was going to do it all solo.
Yes solo…. just me, loads of gorgeous scenery and a big green JUCY Van! What could go wrong?
So I eagerly rocked up at the JUCY HQ to pick up my new wheels, where I was greeted by a friendly crew who gave me a full run down of the JUCY crib. Hiring was a breeze and I found myself behind the wheel of my very funky green and purple van in no time.
Things started to get a little hairy once I left the depot however. And wow! Let me tell you, what followed was an hour spent in my own personal version of hell.
The reasons for which;
1. I am a self proclaimed ‘shit’ driver!
2. I have very limited experience driving anything larger than a small hatchback!
3. I was in no way mentally prepared for the onslaught of Melbourne traffic!
So after a whole lot of screaming, loads of cursing (mostly at me from other drivers) and way too many wrong turns I got out of the city and on the open road towards Geelong. How I LOVE the open road!
The first thing I did, pull over, get a cheeseburger and called my mum to let her know I was never living in a big city – that craziness just isn’t for me!
Apart from this initial stress, solo road trips are right up my alley. You can sing till your throat is hoarse and no one is around to comment on how out of tune you are. Every move is on your time, every stop is your decision and there is no rushing to get to the next place.
I came across way too many beautiful locations to mention and I don’t want this to bore you all to death so instead enjoy my top 6 favourite experiences from 9 days road tripping through south-western Victoria.
1. Reeds Lookout
The Grampians were the first stop on my itinerary and after only a few hours of driving from Geelong I found myself in the friendly little town of Halls Gap. My home base for the next 4 days.
If you have never been to The Grampians, then picture Aussie bushland coupled with imposing mountain landscapes. It’s a seriously picturesque spot to get up close with nature. With so much to see and do, particularly some incredible bush walking tracks, there’s no wonder it’s such a popular holiday destination at this time of year.
My favourite attraction very quickly became Reeds Lookout and the Balconies. I loved it so much that I returned 3 times to watch the sun kiss the distant mountains good night.
It’s an easy commute to get here, around a 20 min drive from Halls Gap and with a large car park at Reeds Lookout, you won’t have to go far for the view!
The Balconies is another stunning spot accessed via an easy 1km walk, where you will find rocky outcrops and sheer drop offs to the bush below.
Whilst I have heard Reeds is also amazing on a foggy morning at sunrise, it is definitely the spot to be for sunset. Think mountain layers blanketed in afternoon sunshine! And what’s best, if you have a camper van like me, park it up and enjoy your tucker whilst you take it all in. This is my kind of dinner with a view!
Keep your eyes peeled for wild life as well, although you won’t have to look far to spot the cheeky resident fox. This little dude is cute as and loves having his picture taken but be warned he will try and snatch your food, go pro or even have a nibble at your jeans!
2. Boroka Lookout
Boroka Lookout is one for the earlier risers and it is definitely worth setting the alarm for!
With views looking out across The Eastern Grampians and Lake Bellfield. It sure is one hell of a place to take in the vast Victorian landscape at any time of the day, however I promise you, it’s jaw-droppingly good when everything is bathed in a warm honey glow.
Boroka is also around 20 mins from Halls Gap, with the turn off only a few km’s before Reeds Lookout. Again there is a large carpark at the lookout itself with easy access to all viewing points. There is a little track off to the left which takes you down past some rocky overhangs that gives equally as impressive views and is very handy if the platform is a little busy. Just be careful and of course don’t get too close to the edge.
3. Hopetoun Falls and The RedWoods
Driving through The Ottway’s is like teleporting to Jurrasic Park. Think lush, green forest towering high above, with giant ferns covering the undergrowth and sprawling out onto the road. Whilst I made a major error with my itinerary planning and stupidly didn’t leave myself enough time to see all the attractions that make this mysterious place so inviting, I had some spots picked out that I just couldn’t pass up.
Hopetoun Falls was first on my list, particularly as it was likely to be the only waterfall flowing at this time of the year. The road down to the falls is a bit precarious, with very narrow bends and little room to pass oncoming cars. There was definitely an interesting moment or two for me and my big green van.
It is well worth it however as the scenery is straight off a post card. There are two spots to view the falls. With one at the top requiring almost no walking and giving a view that is mediocre at best and the second which is down a relatively short but steep track that will have you ducking under ferns and winding your way through the lush undergrowth. I much preferred the later.
Take the road only a km further on from Hopetoun Falls and you will find yourself at The Redwoods. This is an impressive plantation of californian redwood trees which were planted here in 1939. Go for a wander beneath the towering giants before making your way down to the stream that runs along beside them.
This is such an enchanting place that I found delighted the senses and refreshed the mind. It was the perfect spot for a picnic lunch and had me gazing skyward the whole time.
4. Melba’s Gully
So I really like the colour green…like REALLY like it!
And because of this I have a pretty serious weakness for forests and anything that’s living and green. There is just something about the perfect symmetry of fern leaves that makes me feel content. I could go on about it all day, but I’m not going to.
Instead I want to tell you about a place that sent my lust for greenery into overdrive.
Melba’s Gully was a surprising little find that had me grinning from ear to ear the moment I jumped out of the car. As I was crusing along en route for the Ottway Fly I drove past a vague sign indicating the turn off to the Gully. I have no idea why I turned around but it was the best U-turn decision of the trip.
This little pocket of paradise is found near the town of Beech Forest and is only a short distance from Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road.
The gully it’self is equipped with a lovely tranquil picnic area at the entrance and beyond that you will find winding pathways, that take you across wooden bridges, over bubbling broooks and up moss covered stairways, leading further and further into the greenery.
If Melbourne traffic is my hell then this place was my heaven.
Imagine fern gully meets a magical fairy garden. For me it was a vision straight out of my dreams and the best part was it was soo quiet. There was the odd friendly walker who nodded as they passed by but there was no flood of tourists like I had experienced on other legs of my trip. I spent hours here, soaking it all up and letting my imagine run wild.
Tip: Make the effort to stay nearby as if you return at night during wetter periods then you will be able to spot glow worms amongst the forest. It was my biggest regret that I didn’t have more time to spend in this beautiful place.
6. Lorne & Teddy’s Lookout
The busy little seaside town of Lorne is an ultimate getaway destination, with everything you could need at your fingertips. There’s an amazing surfing scene on offer, yet still places for a relaxing paddle as well. You will find epic scenery around every bend (literally) and walking trails to boot, not to mention shops and cafes galore!
It’s one of those places that just screams ‘HOLIDAY’ and whilst spending my last two nights here, I couldn’t help but wind down and relax. I even caught a sleep-in for once, as the sunsets were more than enough to feed my desire for colourful skies!
Foodies can rejoice with loads of cafes lining the main strip and offering up some scrumptious options at all times of the day. Or if it’s scenery you’re chasing then take a drive up to Teddy’s Lookout where you will be greeted with sweeping coastal views of the surf break below as it joins with the mouth of the St George River.
Fancy trying your hand at surfing, well hire a surf board and wetsuit from the local surf shop and have a crack! There are a number of surf schools who would be more than happy to help you get started for those with no experience. Or if you’ve already got the skills down pat then head out and enjoy the ride. There’s plenty of friendly locals around who can give you a few tips on where’s best to go as well.
6. Port Campbell
So, I’ve saved the best for last!
I was fortunate enough to have a very talented photographer @KieranStoneAU join me for this leg of the trip and thanks to his local knowledge it was one of the highlights of my adventure. Kieran showed me his fave spots around Port Campbell and they did not disappoint.
If you are coming from Melbourne and you think the scenery has been amazing up till now well prepare to have your mind blown. There is definitely a reason this drive is considered to be one of the most scenic in the world and I have a feeling Port Campbell has a lot to do with it. This coastal landscape had me gasping at every stop as I took in the sheer limestone cliff faces and monsterous roar of the ocean below.
It is an imposing place that’s for sure. The way the waves twist and crash against one another like the inside of giant angry washing machine had me mesmerised! It’s not hard to see why the 12 Apostles are now only 8. This soft limestone coastline doesn’t stand a chance against the fierce Southern Ocean.
Port Campbell itself is a funky little coastal town boasting some cute boutiques, a well stocked IGA, a number of cafes and a lovely restaurant that does a yummy chicken parmie. The 4 landmarks we visited nearby were London Bridge (this one literally did fall down), Loch Ard Gorge, the 12 Apostles and Gibson’s Steps. I know that might seem like alot of site seeing for one afternoon but they are all within 10-15 mins drive of one another other and if you can handle the crowds they are a spectacle well worth checking out.
The 12 Apostles was by far my favourite and whilst we didn’t get the most colourful sunset I have ever seen, we were lucky enough to have clear skies, no moon and no tourists later that night to shoot the heavens! This place had my creative side in over drive and as a result it’s my top pick of the road trip.
Want to go on your own JUCY adventure? Head over to https://www.jucy.com.au and find out just how easy it is to get on the road and start exploring!