The Sapphire Coast Road Trip To Sydney

We will come right out and say it: we preferred the East Coast Highway road trip between Melbourne and Sydney to the Great Ocean Road…..and we loved that drive. Maybe we started with lower expectations for the route between Melbourne and Sydney and were delighted with what we discovered; but on reflection there is more to it than that. The route took us through a series of gorgeous towns and villages, through stunning forests, beside pristine beaches and serene lakes all before the driving highlight of the section south of Sydney.

Given time constraints we didn’t head south east of Melbourne to Philip Island and Wilson’s Promontory, instead heading for the Gippsland Lakes area and our first stop on Raymond Island. We have to confess that when we booked our accommodation here we didn’t realise that it really was an Island (the clue was in the name), so it came as something of a surprise to pull up in Paynesville and find we had to take a ferry across the water to finish the first leg of our journey.

Koala Kottages Raymond Island

Awaiting us was a fabulous rustic AirBnB cabin, with the aroma of fresh bread inside and eucalyptus trees outside it was the perfect start to this leg of our trip. Raymond Island has beautiful waters but it’s famed for its prodigious Koala community who clearly enjoy the protection and isolation the Island provides. A Koala sat lazily in the tree above our home, and a short walk took us to the area they love to hang out in, snoozing on high and low branches affording us fantastic views of these gorgeous creatures.


As we wandered from one tree to the next checking the Koala’s out, we came across one who had decided to make a rare forage onto the ground…where there is food they will follow. This gave us the wonderful opportunity to have some close up (but not too close – they have fearsome claws) time with a Koala who seemed delightfully oblivious to our presence.



Onward and eastward we made a stop at Lakes Entrance the next morning to admire another gorgeous beach where crowds of sun-seekers (only about 10 – 15 people but we’ve discovered this constitutes a crowd on Aussie beaches) had made their way to yet another unspoilt sandy beach and a sea that was too good to miss!

Sea entrance at Lakes Entrance

The driving here continues to be sheer pleasure, quiet roads, with forests to your left and glimpses of sandy beaches and lagoons to your right. Passing famous names such as the Snowy River National Park, and more improbable/unpronounceable ones: Croajingolong National Park, on our way to what would be our final stop in Victoria, Mallacoota. Here we were greeted by a marvellous panorama from the balcony of our AirBnB:


A curiosity of many of the lakes and lagoons in this area are the sandbars that have built up to prevent the lakes escape into the sea, which in turn is causing the water to back up and flood low lying areas. Ironically, what is needed is a good downpour to flush the water over and through the sandbars to release the dammed (should that be damned?!) water. It must be one of the rare cases where rain is needed to reduce flood waters. Apparently one night a clandestine group of “tourists” tried taking on Mother Nature by digging a trench through a sandbar to release the water, but to no effect. Quite why tourists would do this isn’t clear, but we suspected they were the patsy.

Another morning another beach stop – this one at the appropriately named Eden after we had crossed the border into New South Wales.

Beach at Eden, NSW

In stark contrast to Eden we’d been told to check out the rugged coast at Bermagui, and in particular its “Blue Pool”. On arriving in Bermagui, it seemed like a nice town but being Sunday appeared to be closed. The main action was the tail end of a Dog Show (sorry) and the only restaurant we could find open was run by an Austrian who after a bit of cajoling came up with a few veggie options for us for lunch.  Feeling slightly deflated by Bermagui we got directions and found the Blue Pool – a remarkable sight.


With a bit of ingenuity and engineering in the 1930’s a rocky section of the coast was enclosed to create a natural salt water pool where waves crash over rocks into the pool to give you the sensation that you are swimming in the sea. Added to this, the floor and sides are uneven and undulating natural rock, covered in sea creatures, barnacles and the like making it a great spot for snorkelling.

Tilba Tilba (so good they named it twice) looked like a quaint Sussex village with old craft shops lining its only street. The shops have retained old fashioned frontages that point you to a very different era and there must have been a time when it was full of life.


Unfortunately Tilba Tilba has a Sunday Sunday kinda feel to it and a number of stores are up for sale adding to the sense that its best days are well and truly in the past.


We rolled into Narooma quite late so it wasn’t until the next day that we got to admire its lakes, craggy seafront including “Australia Rocks” and the seals that adorn a breakwater, which in turn shields a lovely beach and another morning swim.

Australia Rock….. sans Tassie

From Narooma we headed up to our final stop before Sydney, Vincentia in Jervis Bay, famed for its soft white sandy beaches. It certainly delivers on this boast and we enjoyed crashing out on the beach at 5.00pm with the temperature still in the 80’s. So many idyllic beaches, so few people – it’s a wonderful cocktail that we will miss terribly when we leave Australia.

Greenfield Beach, Jervis Bay

The final run toward Sydney takes you through a strange mix of mundane development and Grand Pacific Drive that is every good as the best driving stretches of the Great Ocean Road. We caught this stretch on a day that gradually got greyer until drizzle set in to spoil what would have been great views – a shame but we had seen enough of this coast run to compare it favourably to its country cousin down in Victoria.

The curse of road trips and the heart-warming places we visited, is leaving them too soon. Much as we’d like to sign up to the nomadic spirit of the lyric “I never seen a sight that didn’t look better looking back” it’s simply not possible when you stumble upon these communities where life seems so simple, healthy and friendly.  ps – top marks if you can name that song without google!


Our arrival in Sydney saw a real downturn in the weather, with cloud and drizzly rain setting in. Unlike Melbourne it didn’t clear up quickly, so our first impressions of the City were not as bright as we would have hoped. Our mood wasn’t improved when we arrived at our AirBnB which was grim – only the second time we’ve been really disappointed with a booking. Note to self: when a host describes their home as “bohemian” with “vintage” fixtures/fittings/cutlery etc expect to find a bit of a squalid dump! As we were in Sydney for a week we decided to abandon ship and at incredibly short notice secured a lovely alternative apartment close to the Harbour at McMahon’s Point. This turned out to be a wonderful spot as it was a five minute walk to the ferry and we spent the week travelling around the city using ferries as you would a bus – definitely the best and most picturesque way to see Sydney.

The Opera House from Kirribilli

We had toyed with the idea of doing the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb, but with the weather putting us off we visited the museum and viewing points that are housed in the south east pylon, a much cheaper and less stressful way of getting close up with the Bridge and learning about its history and construction.

A View From a Bridge….of a Bridge

Close to the Bridge we stumbled on a conserved set of terraces in The Rocks area which provide a time capsule of how colonial settlers and former convicts made their homes in what became a particularly rough docks area of the City. Following a bout of the plague many of the homes were demolished but this small terrace was saved, it even overcome the voracious appetite of developers seeking to cash in on the gentrification of the neighbourhood. It’s an excellent tour around the buildings providing a glimpse into the lives and generations who lived cheek by jowl with the Harbour and must have watched in awe when the bridge was constructed.

On the list of Sydney must sees was a trip to Manly Beach, an enjoyable 30 minutes on the ferry through some quite choppy waters to this lovely seaside setting. With the weather still overcast we didn’t get to swim, although it takes a lot more than a bit of cloud to put off the surfers.

Manly Surf

Instead we walked the bay and the local hills coming across an illiterate lizard….


and rather too many spiders…



…before the rain really set in and we scurried back to the bustling centre of Manly for tea and cake. Returning to Manly in the sun and making it to Bondi is a good excuse for a return trip to Sydney.

Marvellous as Melbourne is it doesn’t really have the “wow” factor of a truly iconic building. Whereas Sydney has two stunners – the Opera House and the Bridge – located in a third wonder, the Harbour. The Opera House is one of the defining landmarks of Australia, although in the flesh it was smaller than expected. This might be because of the truly magnificent structure that is the Sydney Harbour Bridge that dominates the skyline. From the neighbouring Botanical Gardens the view of the Opera House and the backdrop of the Bridge is something really quite special, as is the view from McMahon’s Point.

The view from our ferry stop at McMahon’s Point

In contrast to the metropolitan delights of Sydney, a two hour drive takes you to the Blue Mountains. Our day trip started well, on collecting our hire car a harassed man at the rental place told us he didn’t have our car but would upgrade us “great” we replied. Then he didn’t have the car he was upgrading us to, so he was going to double upgrade us – “fantastic” we said. Five minutes later we found ourselves sitting in a brand new sporty Mercedes number trying to work out how to start the car and work out where the hand break was. The only thing I recognised as I sat in the drivers seat was the steering wheel, with a bank of buttons, paddles and lights blinking at me expectantly. I swallowed my pride and nipped back to the counter to ask how to start the car! Soon we were off heading west, nervously making our way through the Sydney traffic probably using about 20% of the Mercs capabilities. “I wonder where the indicators are?” I said to Sam as I promptly turned on the windscreen wipers. I don’t suppose “slow and steady wins the race” is going to be used by Mercedes in their next advertising campaign, but that maxim got us to the Blue Mountains and back safely …more importantly the car was returned in one piece!


As for our destination, it offers one stunning view after another and with the weather changing constantly overhead, different shades, colours and atmospheres. The early morning mist started to lift like a magicians grand reveal and the Mountains came into view, vast, rugged and yes, a hue of blue as the sun shines down.

There are walks and routes galore in the National Park area – you could easily spend a few days here – and at the centre in Katoomba cable car rides that takes you across vertiginous gorges….


…and a  funicular to the valley floor for a walk through rainforest and beside waterfalls



The Three Sisters serenely sit at this part of the Park, making it the focal point for visitors, especially day trippers. However, like so many National Parks in Australia it doesn’t take long to get off the beaten track if you make an effort and you can find a viewing point with next to nobody there.

Blue Mountain Panorama

Sam followed up on her success in getting “Lady In The Van” tickets in Melbourne by bagging a couple of tickets to a one-man John Lennon show in Sydney Opera House. The thought of seeing and more importantly hearing Lennon songs live in the Opera House thrilled us. It was a great show, especially hearing so many of his early solo songs that with the exception of “Imagine” rarely get played – Isolation, God, Working Class Hero, Mother – belted out with real Lennonesque fury and vulnerability. Tremendous and very moving. Surprisingly less impressive was the auditorium we were in which reminded us of The Hawth Theatre in Crawley……a rather unexpected and unpleasant memory.


As luck would have it Sam’s former boss Chris and his partner Julianne were in Sydney at the same time as us. Remarkably they were staying just a 20 minute walk up the road from us in North Sydney. It was great to meet up for a pint in a local pub before enjoying a lovely Thai meal and discussing the delights of Sydney and making the inevitable comparisons with Melbourne. Julianne summed it up nicely: “you go out with Sydney but marry Melbourne”.  I think the jury is still out for us, and it’s a wonderful thing to have the experience of visiting these two great cities. Both fabulous with a distinctly different feel to them – maybe that’s the ideal arrangement, switching favourites as the mood takes you.

Next Up: Brissie and a Dog Called Sprocket.

Magical Memories Made In Melbourne

We were really excited to reach Melbourne, described as Australia’s most European city, by many of the people we had met travelling. Our first task was to get into our home for the week, a city centre AirBnB. Rather than meet us at the apartment our hosts had left a set of complex instructions that felt like they had come from an episode of Mission Impossible. On arriving at Little Collins Street, right in the centre of the city, we were to locate a row of small trees with protective iron rails around them. On one of the rails we would find a key safe padlock. Armed with the combination for the padlock we would then be able to access the key to the apartment. Remarkably this all went to plan and within 20 minutes of arriving we had got in, unloaded all of our stuff into the apartment and were on our way to drop off our hire car and admire the magnificent cityscape.

A View From A Bridge

Returning to the city centre we took the opportunity to jump on a tram, our first of many tram rides and one of the many features we came to love about Melbourne. The public transport system is superb; cheap, easy to use, frequent and in the case of the trams a wonderfully evocative sight. Sadly we didn’t get to dine on the Restaurant Tram…


Our apartment was smack bang in the middle of the city, a two minute walk from Flinders Street Station and the main thoroughfares of Bourke and Elizabeth Streets, a great base to explore the city centre, a classic Victorian grid system with plenty of old colonial buildings to give it real character.

Flinders Street Station

The main streets are complemented and connected by a network of thriving lanes full of shops, bars and street art creating a buzzing character on a scale that we haven’t seen elsewhere in Oz.



As an avid cricket fan a visit to the Melbourne Cricket Ground was a bit of a trip to Mecca. After Lords it’s probably the most famous cricket ground in the world and an absolute “must see” for us. We made our way through an environmental fair on the banks of the Yarra River and on route discovered the stadiums that host the Australian Tennis Open including the Rod Over Arena looking strangely deserted just a few weeks after the Open had finished. We booked ourselves onto the MCG Tour and were treated to a behind the scenes view of this fantastic and historic cricket ground.

The greatest fast bowler: DK Lillee

Despite our best efforts we failed to find where it is the Aussie Test Team store their sandpaper but it was wonderful seeing the changing rooms, views from ground level, sky-high seats, the press boxes and the Long Room. One aspect of the tour that was slightly disappointing was the amount of time discussing the Aussie (no) Rules Football that is played on the ground. Having spent several months in the country and having seen some match footage I am none the wiser about either the laws or the attraction of the game. A bit like baseball in the US, it seems to be an acquired local taste.

Stars v Sixers at the MCG

Having seen the MCG empty we took the opportunity to return the next day to watch the Melbourne Stars play the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash League – Australia’s Twenty 20 tournament that goes on for months and months… We duly went full Aussie and donned our bucket hats and enjoyed a cracking game of crash bang wallop cricket, cheering the Stars on to a crushing win over their bitter Sydney rivals.

If you want to get ahead get a…..bucket hat

The MCG hosted the 1956 Olympics and it was interesting to see some of the history of that event commemorated around the ground.


A Bit of Culture

Sam played an absolute blinder by getting two tickets for the “sold out” theatre production of Lady in The Van featuring the unique Miriam Margolyes.  We were over the moon to have the chance to see the potty-mouthed national/Aussie treasure that is Miriam on stage in Melbourne in this great Alan Bennett play. We were extra excited as this was our first trip to the theatre since we left the UK. Before the curtain went up, the Director addressed the audience telling us, somewhat sombrely, that a cast member was unwell and there was no under-study to take his place. We braced ourselves for the news that the play was off, when much to the audiences delight he declared that in the spirit of ‘The Show Must Go On’  he would take on the role. This was met with huge applause. He did a great job despite admitting he didn’t know the lines for this character so had to read off a script. As expected the play was hugely entertaining, although it did remind us of some of the horrors we have both encountered in our past professional lives dealing with the reality of hoarders and their “homes”. Unbeknown to us when we got the tickets the show was followed by a Q&A with the cast which gave us the chance to see and listen to Miriam close up as many of the audience chose not to stay for this bonus. As expected she was amusing, but her answers also revealed someone who is very serious and thoughtful about her craft – it’s not all “bollocks” and farting.

Marvellous Miriam 

We continued our habit of attending open air cinemas – it’s such a wonderful novelty! On this occasion we found a rooftop cinema where we celebrated Valentine’s Day 24 hours early by watching Amelie – the ideal chance to put to the test our ongoing attempts to learn French……happily English subtitles were included. Lounging on deckchairs, under blankets with a couple of beers looking at the night sky and skyscrapers was a very pleasant way to watch this wonderfully uplifting film. No matter how many times we watch it, it always makes us happy.

Rooftop Cinema Views

As luck would have it there was an Escher Exhibition on in Melbourne during our stay with a vast collection of his remarkable work on display. Given the hugely changeable Melbourne weather (it is a cliche but it really is four seasons in a day in this City) we chose a rainy day to check it out, and we weren’t disappointed….and it is so refreshing to be encouraged to take photos in a gallery!


Although his illogical / impossible drawings are the most famous and popular, it was the less seen self portraits and detail drawings that really caught the eye….especially his eye close ups where the detail is astonishing.


Fascinating, fun and constantly playing tricks on your mind, the exhibition was superb and was a really interesting and thought-provoking diversion from our traditional sight-seeing routes.


Good Old Sussex By The Sea

Through the wonders of web social connectivity and the Seagulls Down Under Facebook Page in particular I was contacted by a former work colleague and avid Albion fan Jan and her partner Paul. We promptly arranged to meet up for afternoon drinkies and food at Melbourne’s snazzy Southbank in the city centre. Once again catching up with friendly familiar faces on our travels was a wonderful tonic, talking over old times and new, and finding out how Jan and Paul have made the transition from Hove to settle in Melbourne. If you are going to do it, Melbourne is a fabulous place to choose! Jan recommended we check out Melbourne’s Brighton Beach (our third after the Perth and Adelaide versions) and the beach huts…..especially the Seagulls themed. Taking Jan’s advise we set off later in the week to combine a visit to Brighton Beach and St Kilda.


Like all of the other Brighton beaches (and unlike “our” one back home) there is plenty of sand, a sea that looks warm and welcoming and the sun beating down. In Melbourne it’s great to see the line of beach huts so reminiscent of the seafront in Hove.

Brighton Beach Huts

St Kilda comes with a bit of an edgy reputation and as we made our way it revealed its contrasting character; a strange cocktail of prostitutes, penguins, tourist, rats, druggies and kite surfers.

St Kilda Pier

The latter were putting on a stunning show where we could view them from the Pier, gliding across the water and through the air at breathtaking speed with the city centre sitting in the background – tremendous.


As evening falls small Penguins return to the rocks at the end of St Kilda Pier and we found one or two already bedded in for the night as we strolled around.


A local guide told us that they arrived in big numbers after sunset and preceding them the water rats would come ashore……cue our departure. We like penguins as much as the next person, but when their support act is an aquatic rodent it’s time to call it a day. It turned out to be a good decision – as we headed back home along the pier hordes of penguin seekers were heading in the opposite direction….good luck with the rats folks!

Our week in Melbourne had flown by; we felt as though we had done and seen a lot, but that there was so much more to experience….which is exactly how a great city should make you feel.

Top Travelling Tips

This one is Melbourne specific: don’t take the river boat trip from the city to the interesting historic suburb of Williamstown……..unless you have an unhealthy interest in container shipping. Enough said.

Next: The Pacific Highway Road Trip To Sydney

The Great Ocean Road Trip

Originally our travel plan for Australia was to hire out a camper van and travel around the coast – with the probable exception of parts of the Northern Territories. (Given Sams’ fear of this area after watching the movie Wolf Creek too many times!!) The romantic idea of life on the road was quickly jettisoned for a number of reasons. The thought of spending hours in a small metal box in temperatures regularly over 30 degrees wasn’t hugely appealing. We both don’t have the greatest backs in the world and figured sleeping on a camper van mattress for several weeks might result in a lot of pain and a large and prolonged chiropractors bill.  Finding the right places to park up, especially in the cities, also felt like another hassle that could spoil our time in Melbourne and Sydney. The likelihood being we’d be stuck on the outskirts in a trailer park when we wanted to be in the hustle and bustle of these amazing cities. Being 50+ flash-packers, not backpackers, means we just aren’t cut out to rough it very much anymore. Instead, the combination of house sitting, AirBnB and a decent rental car proved to be far more appealing.

We picked up our car in Adelaide and headed south on the first leg of our drive that would see us motoring along the coast all the way to Sydney over the course of the next few weeks.

The Great Ocean Road is one of, if not the highlight of any Ozzie road trip. It’s quite a drive from Adelaide before you reach it but these less heralded strips of coast offer a great deal of pleasure, beautiful small towns, wonderful hospitality, wildlife and cracking coastline scenery – hence the barrage of photos in this blog.

Driving south from Adelaide we reached the Coorong National Park – a seemingly endless stretch of quiet sandbars, lagoons, and dry salt lake beds creating wide open barren spaces and a strange isolated atmosphere. It has a Hollywood claim to fame being  the setting for the film “Storm Boy”.


Although there was very little traffic and few people around to share the Coorong experience, we weren’t alone, with large gatherings of pelicans on the waters.


Seeing them so close up makes you realise what a bizarre bird they are with their giant bills dominating their features. However, they glide with such grace, with an astonishing wingspan. With rather less grace, Sam managed to capture me with a rather unfortunate pelican appendage while I was adopting a pelican pose…

The Pelican Briefs

Our first stop was the lovely town of Robe on what has become dubbed Australia’s “Limestone Coast” – it seems the tourist marketing people just can’t help themselves when it comes to branding and badging. With the school holidays over and the first signs of summer waning, Robe was very quiet and extraordinarily windy. The beaches looked great but it was far too blustery for a dip.

Robe, South Australia

After an overnight stop in probably the best AirBnB we have ever stayed in (not often you arrive to be greeted with wine and chocolates!), we headed off the next day immediately taking a detour to the even smaller town of Beachport. One of the pleasures of a leisurely road trip is looking at the map and picking random places to pop in and take a look at just because you like its name. Beachport has a huge jetty that provided us with a bracing morning walk that blew away the cobwebs and had us struggling to remember the searing heat of Adelaide.

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Sam drinking in the morning sun on Beachport Jetty

Mount Gambier was our next port of call, partly because it was the largest town on this stretch of the route, but also due to its famous Blue Lake, which the blurb assured us was bright blue. It’s easy to be cynical about these boasts, the biggest, best, tallest, oldest etc.  but for my money Mount Gambier really isn’t doing its Blue Lake justice – it really is the brightest blue lake we’ve ever seen. The lake sits in a volcanic crater and it apparently turns a bright turquoise blue overnight during November and stays that colour until March. It’s one of those sights that is so remarkable it looks slightly unreal, and you have to keep looking to convince yourself it really is that blue. After some double takes a smile creeps across you face and you think “yep, that’s worth boasting about – that is the bluest blue lake ever”. A road with several viewing points circles the lake and every time you jump out and take another look it repeats the trick of astonishing you.

Mount Gambier’s Blue Lake….no filter needed!

On the second night of our trip we stayed just outside the improbably named Port Fairy, close to Tower Hill Nature Reserve. Our AirBnB hosts advised that we would probably see a few Koala’s in the reserve – which filled us with excitement – but the first encounter we had was with a couple of Emu’s that were roaming around oblivious to our attentions.


After wandering around various trails in the reserve we hadn’t seen any Koala’s and were resigning ourselves to having to wait longer to see some of these adorable creatures in the wild – which is of course when we finally found two, snoozing away in Eucalyptus treetops. Almost as evocative as the Kangaroo, the Koala just looks like it needs to be hugged – although with the claws they have, that probably isn’t the best idea. Unlike many Kangaroo’s, Koala’s are great subjects to photograph, rarely moving a muscle.

Koala action shot…..

Our third day would see the start of the Great Ocean Road proper, making our way out of South Australia into Victoria. We started the day by visiting another recommendation off the tourist trail (an advantage of AirBnB – getting locals top tips), a rocky secluded beach tucked away just beyond the western end of the Great Ocean Road – Childers Cove, which we had all to ourselves – the only time we were going to experience that feeling all day as most tourists heading from the east in Melbourne don’t stray much beyond the Twelve Apostles and its neighbouring sites.

Childers Cove – not easy to find, but worth the effort

We headed west and started making the obligatory stops at what are the crown jewels of the Great Ocean Road: Loch Ard Gorge, London Arch, and the highlight, Twelve Apostles. You know you are nearing these attractions as helicopters buzz into view, whizzing passengers along the cliff line for what must be a tremendous view. The other tell-tale sign was the growing traffic and heaving car parks that left us wistfully thinking about the solitude we had left at Childers Cove.

Erosion in action – London Arch,

There is no question that the scenery is ruggedly beautiful, showcasing the power of erosion that is reshaping the coastline and ultimately has and will continue to wear away these iconic rocks.

Loch Ard Gorge

We had a feeling of deja vu as our visit coincided with the Chinese New Year, and hundreds of holidaying Chinese tourists making their way along the Great Ocean Road in fleets of coaches and mini-buses.

Twelve Apostles

Having travelled from the west we reached Twelve Apostles reasonably early in the day and before the day-trippers from Melbourne could get there. Nevertheless it was very busy and by the time we had wandered around, taken in the awesome views and slipped out of the car park it was starting to feel a bit over-run.

Looking West From the Twelve Apostles

Our last stop along this section of coast was a winding drive through the forests Great Otway National Park to its lighthouse – one of the most southerly points of mainland Australia. This is a bleak unforgiving spot, and the gale force winds that hit you as you step out on to the balcony of the lighthouse feel a million miles from the heat on the beaches of W.A. and Adelaide.


Our AirBnB experiences on our Oz trip had been excellent up to this point, however, that was about to change. The omens were not good as we drove through the popular resort of Apollo Bay and the rains came down. Nowhere looks great in the drizzle and Apollo Bay reminded us of Blackpool on a cold grey wet February afternoon – thoroughly grim! Our accommodation was a few miles further on in Wye River in what was described as a former monastery set right on the coast road – it sounded great and had an appealing name “Seacroft”. It wasn’t!!  As we entered our hearts sank at the sight of portacabin type accommodation and communal mixed sex toilet blocks. “OMG, we’ve been banged up” I said to Sam. We walked along a grim concrete pathway to our “cell” and I couldn’t help repeating the opening lines of Porridge: “Norman Stanley Fletcher, you have pleaded guilty to the charges brought by this court. You are an habitual criminal, who accepts arrest as an occupational hazard, and presumably accepts imprisonment in the same casual manner. We therefore feel constrained to commit you to the maximum term allowed for these offences: you will go to prison for five years.”

Thankfully our sentence was only to be one night – the punishment handed down for the crime of gullibility: believing rave reviews on AirBnB from previous guests who presumably had subterranean expectations compounded by acute myopia. We glumly surveyed our room and its generous helpings of dust and peeling paintwork. The mattress had clearly seen better days and as soon as we hopped on it from either side we both rolled to the middle as it sagged under our moderate weight.

At first light we tried to complete discrete ablutions in the toilet block and promptly hit the road. Mercifully the sun was back out and we started the next stretch of the Great Ocean Road, our mood lifted by the wild gorgeous beaches…


This is where the road hugs the cliffs alongside superb beaches and crashing surf – stunning views combined with rally-like bends as you weave your way along the hillside, with one “wow” moment after another. This felt like the heart of the road trip and it’s difficult to recall a more impressive scenic drive.

The Great Ocean Road approaching Lorne.

This tremendous drive was made even better by pulling up at Lorne – a place that is everything Apollo Bay isn’t (think Brighton vs Blackpool). Stylish, great shops and restaurants, quaint buildings and a buzzing beach filled with children learning to surf – a thoroughly wholesome place where we had a lovely healthy breakfast followed by bit of retail therapy and a dip in the sea.

A well kept Lorne

A short drive inland took us to Erskine Falls – another beautiful detour that further endeared Lorne to us. We really wished we had stayed here rather than at HMP Seacroft, but you occasionally have to take the rough to cherish the smooth.

Erskine Falls near Lorne

All too soon we were rolling into Angelsea and the official start/end point of the Great Ocean Road. Here we made a quick detour to see the famous local golf course that is inhabited by kangaroos..

Angelsea golf roos

After a final night in Queenscliff, part of the promontory of Port Phillip Bay, we started to make our way to Melbourne. This is another pretty and relatively un-touristed part of Victoria that was recently featured in the TV series “The Cry”, – a neat journey bookend to “Storm Boy” in Coorong.  Before reaching Victoria’s capital we stopped off to check out Geelong (still don’t know how to pronounce it) which was the largest place we had seen since Adelaide. Geelong has a potentially lovely pier part of which is inexplicably used as a car park – which is a real shame as the front is picturesque with a nice mix of old and new. Geelong is famous for its colourful wooden statues which can be seen all along the front that hark back to its seaside and seafaring past which adds to its sense of fun and frivolity.

Geelong Lifeguards

After five days driving and four nights we had completed a leisurely drive from Adelaide to Melbourne, including the Great Ocean Road itself. It’s certainly a trip we would recommend, and if you have time investigating the western end into South Australia is worth it. The Great Ocean Road itself feels as though it has two quite distinct characters. You can’t fail to be impressed by the coastal scenery of the Twelve Apostles area, it is striking and it lives up to the hype. However, be prepared to share this experience with hundreds of other sightseers slowly shuffling around the viewing points and searching for a space in rammed carparks. The drive in this section doesn’t routinely offer sea-views, although the forests of Great Otway National Park does compensate for that. The drive just north of Apollo Bay to Angelsea is superb. There isn’t a single iconic scene to pick out here, but it delivers sheer driving / sight-seeing joy with the added bonus of delightful Lorne – do stop here if you have the time.

Top Travelling Tips

Despite our one mishap on this part of our journey, for us AirBnB remains a far better experience than hotels. Warm greetings, the personal touch, great insider tips on what to see, where to eat, and of course great value for money. We’ve stayed in some beautiful homes in fabulous locations. Once in a while things go a bit pear-shaped, but that’s usually down to not spending enough time researching options.

Next Up: Melbun & Miriam Margolyes