Australian Adventures Part 2 – Car Camping the Great Ocean Road

Car camping is something I’ve always wanted to do.   The thought of going on a road trip and stopping wherever and whenever to explore during the day, and sleeping wherever we find ourselves at night, is just so exciting to me.   That was exactly what Paul and I did the past few days for our Great Ocean Road (GOR) road trip.

The Great Ocean Road is a stretch of highway running from Portland to Torquay (about 1.5 hrs from Melbourne) in South Australia.   The road takes you around limestone rock formations, coastal routes and lush green rainforest and valleys.  In a nutshell, the Great Ocean Road is one of the most scenic drives in the world.   Some people sign up for day tours, and some others do the drive over 2 days.   In order to give ourselves time to explore all the sights we wanted to see, Paul and I decided on 3.5 days (Melbourne to Port Campbell, roundtrip), which in my opinion, was just barely enough time.

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For our adventure, Paul and I rented a Toyota Rav 4, which was both our car and home for 4 days and 3 nights.   We originally wanted to book a campervan but couldn’t find a reasonably priced one at the last minute. The next best option was renting an SUV with foldable backseats and sleep there during the night.   (At $44/day, the SUV option was MUCH MUCH cheaper than renting a car (~30/day) and paying for 4 nights hostel).

The views along the GOR are so beautiful I can’t think of any non-cheesy adjectives to describe it.   Every time we felt tired from the drive, all we needed to do was pull over and breathe in the fresh ocean air to feel re-energized again.    Despite the numerous stops, Paul and I both agreed that our favourite sight were the rusted anchors sitting on the shores of Wreck Beach.   They serve as tombstones for the hundreds of sunken vessels off the Shipwreck Coast.    With the sun peeking out from thick clouds, the tides coming back in, and the isolation of the anchors, the whole experience was both eerie and peaceful at the same time.  Of course, the 12 Apostles and Lord Ard Gorge are sights not to be missed as well!

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If you’re interested or considering doing this road trip via “Car Camping”, here are some tips you might find useful:

  1. Fill up on gas!   Gas stations can be far and few in between.   We filled up in Lorne and Port Campbell
  2. Bring a sleeping bag or blanket (we had to buy a blanket in Apollo Bay).   It gets VERY cold at night and the surface you sleep on can be very hard.  I had trouble sleeping the first night because it was freezing and my shoulders and hip hones hurt from sleeping on what felt like concrete.    A sleeping bag will act as both a blanket and a sleeping mat.
  3. Bring Snacks!    Food in the little towns along the way can be very expensive!    We bought fruits and snacks at Coles and IGA along the way.   Muffins and apples make a good breakfast.  For dinner, we made good use of the free BBQs located at parks and picnic areas.
  4. Public Showers.    This was a pleasant surprise.    There are showers available in the public bathrooms in Geelong and Lorne.   The one in Lorne had HOT water.
  5. Technically, car camping is illegal in Australia and you will see signs that read “No sleeping in cars” at almost all the tourist sights.   To avoid trouble, Paul and I parked at lookouts and lots that are off the main highway.    We’ve always found other campervans doing the same so we weren’t too worried about getting fined.    I also wanted to see the 12 Apostle at sunrise and we just ended up parking at the 12 Apostles lot (one of the MAJOR sites along the GOR) overnight and didn’t get into any trouble.
  6. Finally, give yourself time to explore.   We spent more time than we anticipated at Geelong (which was enroute but not part of GOR).   The rusted anchors at Wreck Beach took a little while to find but TOTALLY worth the time and effort.   All in all, there a lot of hidden gems along the GOR and it would be a total waste to just drive the highway and not have enough time to enjoy the sights.

Tonight will be our last night of car camping, and we’ve got ourselves a room with a view!

Good night!

PS:   Great Ocean Road pics will be uploaded soon!

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