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Great Ocean Road Gray Line Tour & Exploring Melbourne CBD

Tall stone walls open a narrow bay to a sandy beach at Loch Ard Gorge in Australia

Beyond the city of Melbourne is a chance to enjoy some of Victoria’s beautiful coastline. One of the best ways to get out is to take the Great Ocean Road Gray Line Tour from Melbourne CBD, stopping at key viewpoints along the way. See how this hassle-free day trip is the perfect escape from city life!

Before diving into the Great Ocean Road Gray Line tour, I spent a few days recovering from jetlag and making the most of some gorgeous Aussie sunshine in the city. Most of my time spent exploring Melbourne to get my bearings involved lots of walking, lots of getting lost, and lots of gardens. Melbourne has many really beautiful (and surprisingly big) gardens across the city. In the midst of a bustling CBD it’s a refreshing break to sit among the flowers and trees with a fountain in the background.

Exploring Melbourne CBD

Just a short walk from my Franklin Street hostel, I visited the Victoria State Library, which along with its vast collection of books and historical exhibitions, is a fantastic piece of architecture with its memorable domed ceiling. You only get the real feeling of what it’s like once inside the spacious 6 storey structure, and of course being a library the hushed quiet made for a peaceful visit.

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Inside Victoria State Library

Unfortunately my camera broke the day before, so I found a great place to get a replacement, and luckily all my photos are safe. It’s annoying when these things happen, but I’m glad it did at the beginning of the trip. I then made my way to the north of the my hostel, where Queen Victoria Market was a treat to look around. It’s very well known in Melbourne, and it seems often people do their general food shop there rather than at supermarkets, something I find quite charming and quaint for a bustling urban city, and a great way to support local businesses instead of larger chains.

The aim of these few days was to cover as much ground as possible across the city, and I definitely think I succeeded as I went to an array of parks including Flagstaff Gardens, Carlton Gardens (which is home to the magnificent Exhibition Building), Treasury Gardens and Fitzroy Gardens. Each park has its own style and features, it’s easy to get completely lost in each one and forget you’re even in the city. I ended the day by meeting the most wonderful Aussie for a drink at a rooftop bar overlooking Parliament Building. She gave me some really useful tips for the rest of my travels, and we chatted so easily and for so long I definitely was grateful for such an interesting person to talk to after spending so long in my own company.

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Exhibition Building, Carlton Gardens

Small redbrick cottage hidden amongst trees and garden

Cook’s Cottage in Fitzroy Gardens

Gothic style St Patrick's cathedral in Melbournewith dark stone brickwork and blue skies behind

St Patrick’s Cathedral – nestled in grassy parks

The next couple of days saw me meeting my soon-to-be-host family prior to staying with them for an initial meeting, they were an incredibly kind couple who were lovely enough to allow me to stay with them for a week in Melbourne. It was great to meet them before completely invading their home, and it was certainly a more unusual activity for a first meeting.

The activity for the day, along with a couple of their neighbours, was to do the Kokoda Memorial Walk, otherwise known as 1000 Steps. Now, it sounds fairly daunting, but I was not nearly prepared enough for how steep some of those steps were going to be. Some of them hardly qualified as steps, I swear some might even call a few of them low walls. Nonetheless, we made it to the top of One Tree Hill, where a well deserved rest and picnic was in order while we sat in the sunshine watching the kookaburras diving for scraps of food. The walk down seemed to fly by compared to going up, and I certainly slept well that night!

Great Ocean Road Gray Line Tour

I was up bright and early to catch another Gray Line tour bus taking me along the Great Ocean Road. Using the same tour company as for my Phillip Island day trip, we were treated to a sassy tour guide who was absolutely the king of rhetorical questions, coming out with such gems as ‘Some of you may be wondering when we’ll reach our destination, but my questions is: is there ever really a destination?’. The philosopher in me was loving it.

Great Ocean Road

Start of the Great Ocean Road

The long drive took us through many wonderful places, with familiar names such as Anglesea (where the driver treated us to Bush Billy Tea, Vegemite and Lamington cakes), Aireys Inlet (where the lighthouse from the kid’s TV show Round the Twist was filmed!) and many, many others. A few key points were the Memorial Arch, showing the start of the GOR which was constructed by ex-servicemen from the war to commemorate those who made the long journey to fight but never returned. The road itself was built in the 1930s, so was much younger than I had expected. We then took the winding road around Mount Defiance, beyond which the road had only recently reopened as this has been the site of some truly devastating bushfires recently, meaning the surroundings were bare and black, and any trees that did remain somehow looked out of place standing alone.

Sandy bay with soft waves of the sea along the Great Ocean Road

Just one of the beautiful bays along the Great Ocean Road

Apollo Bay & The 12 Apostles

We stopped for lunch in the popular holiday resort of Apollo Bay which was my first chance to sit in some sand on the beach, and what a beautiful day it was too. After yet more driving through rainforest and along the coastline, we reached Port Campbell National Park which is where we found the main attraction of the day. The 12 Apostles are certainly glorious to behold, I felt so in awe to see such magnificent natural pillars standing amongst the violent waves, it was easy to see how a few of the Apostles had succumbed to collapsing in the end.


Sandstone towers stretch across the beach at the 12 Apostles in Victoria

A few of the remaining 12 Apostles

Tall stone walls open a narrow bay to a sandy beach at Loch Ard Gorge

Loch Ard Gorge


Onwards along the coast line we reached Loch Ard Gorge which is the site of a famous shipwreck, where just two people of the entire crew survived and sheltered in the caves. The beautiful blue ocean and bright yellow stone of the rocks in the area are so stunning, and each peak of rock seems to carry its own story making it hard to choose where to take yourself next! I chose to take a look at London Arch out of curiosity for how it could have gained its name after my home city. previously known as London Bridge the rock connected to the mainland had once collapsed leaving some shocked tourists stranded awaiting a helicopter rescue… I didn’t want to linger too long after reading that!

Sandstone pillars stick out amongst the blue ocean on the Great Ocean Road

The Razorback and views across Port Campbell National Park

Sandstone arch separate from the mainland as part of Port Campbell National Park

London Arch

After a final stop off at Port Campbell I think everyone was sufficiently exhausted from the day, and we began the long journey home, and arrived back in Melbourne in the early evening.

Have you driven the Great Ocean Road? What’s your favourite spot in Melbourne? Let me know!

Text overlay of Loch Ard Gorge on the Great Ocean Road

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  • Reply
    03/03/2018 at 2:58 pm

    It’s incredible how Australia has so many absolutely stunning placed with almost no one there! We did a road trip through East Coast and it was easy to find bays and beaches absolutely free of people so you would have your own private beach. <3 Australia so much.

    • Reply
      03/03/2018 at 5:11 pm

      That’s so true! I love that you can find bustling CBD’s and remote open roads so easily. Me too, there’s so much to see and do in Australia I don’t think I’m anywhere near seeing everything I want to!

  • Reply
    Anita Sane (@thesanetravel)
    03/03/2018 at 6:22 pm

    I loved this part of my Australia trip very much. My camera suffered unexpected rapid rainfall at 12 Apostles, so I have to go back to take pictures one more time. Loved your post. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      03/03/2018 at 7:39 pm

      Thank you so much! What a shame about your camera, the same happened to me on Phillip Island! A great excuse to re-visit 🙂

  • Reply
    03/03/2018 at 8:17 pm

    I loved the great ocean road. My highlight was seeing the koals at cape otoway! They were so so close!

    • Reply
      03/03/2018 at 9:03 pm

      Oh that’s amazing! We were told to keep an eye out but weren’t so lucky. Glad you enjoyed your trip!

  • Reply
    03/04/2018 at 4:34 am

    So glad I read this post, we head to Melbourne next month!! Will definitely make the 12 apostles a must see!

    • Reply
      03/04/2018 at 8:15 am

      Oh wonderful! I’m glad it could help! Hope you have an awesome time 🙂

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