There is no greater contrast in travel than moving directly from a developing to a first world country. It is easy to forget how predictable the world can be when transport works on schedule, the environment is respected and society is orderly. We took a drive on the Great Ocean Road in Australia, exploring the coast and visiting wineries following our visits to India and Nepal. Highlights of this itinerary include coastal serenity, wildlife, hiking and vineyards.
We flew into Melbourne from Delhi, utilizing Australia’s extremely quick and efficient Electronic Travel Authorization service which is available for US citizens. We rented a car from Melbourne to Adelaide and stayed in guesthouses along the way.You get what you pay for. The most accurate phrase comparing travel in Australia to our recent India trip. Pristine beaches, quiet streets and sparkling hygiene are a welcome change from the smoggy mayhem of India. But the cost is certainly a noticeable change from our last three months in Asia.
Total cost (in USD) of a one week December trip for a couple on the Great Ocean Road? Almost as much as our previous 40 days in India. These costs include a night in Melbourne upon arrival and a night in Adelaide before departure.
- Australian ETA Visas: $31 for both.
- Flights from Delhi: $601, two people one way.
- Car rental: $477 for six days one way, Melbourne to Adelaide. There are significant fees added for a one way rental.
- Accommodations: $266, mostly Airbnb private rooms with kitchen facilities.
- Food: $327, with one or two meals self prepared daily.
- SIM Card: $23 for two 30 day data only plans through Optus, ten gigs each.
Total: $1,725, excluding our sizable wine budget.
Day 1: Melbourne to Sugarloaf
Distance: 172 km / 107 miles
Direct driving time: 2:30 hours
Activities: Beaches and surfer towns
Early departure from Melbourne to start the Great Ocean Road trip. We stopped in the town of Geelong which has lots of restaurants with views of the marina. Then visited towns of Torquay and Belles Beach to watch the surfers before stopping for lunch in Lorne.
We stayed the night at Seacroft Guesthouse in Sugarloaf, 15 minutes before Apollo Bay. This is a very peaceful area with almost no development. It is just off of the ocean with incredible sunrise and sunset views, and a very well stocked kitchen which we used to cook our meals.
Day 2: Sugarloaf to Warrnambool
Distance: 177 km / 110 miles
Direct driving time: 2:30 hours
Activities: Great Otway National Park, Hiking, Maits Rest Rainforest Walk, Koala sighting, Twelve Apostles
We got an early start to drive through Great Otway National Park for some hiking on the Elliot River Loop. This trail starts from the Shelley Beach parking lot and snakes through the eucalyptus forests and by the rocky shores. We spotted several koalas in the gum trees along the trail after exploring the unique rock formations by the ocean. We then stopped at Maits Rest to walk through the rainforest and see the native plant species on the way to the Twelve Apostles.
The afternoon was spent visiting the Twelve Apostles and the many other amazing natural viewpoints along the coast such as Loch Ard, London Bridge and the Bay of Islands.
Overnight in the town of Warrnambool.
Day 3: Warrnambool to Robe
Distance: 408 km / 253 miles
Direct driving time: 4:30 hours
Activities: Blue Lake, Fossil Caves, Coonawarra wine region
This is the longest drive of the trip. We first stopped at Mount Gambier to see the Blue Lake, which looks unnaturally blue against the surroundings. The route goes through the Coonawarra wine region around Penola where several wineries dot the landscape with cellar doors open for tasting. We then proceeded to Naracoorte to visit the World Heritage listed Naracoorte Fossil Caves where sink holes trapped animals for hundreds of thousands of years and now represents an impressive archeological dig site.
The day finished at the coast where we spent the night around Robe.
Day 4: Robe to McLaren Vale
Distance: 352 km / 219 miles
Direct driving time: 3:50 hours
Activities: Meningie Pink Lake, Adelaide Hills wine region, McLaren Vale wine region
This is an inland drive with less scenery than previous days. We left early to ensure we had plenty of time in wine country in the afternoon, but stumbled on the Meningie Pink Lake along the way. The lake was partially dried in the summer heat, making the pink color even more intense.
The drive takes you through the Adelaide Hills wine region en route to McLaren Vale, the former being higher in elevation which produces some different cooler climate varietals. There are some nice wineries which are worth a visit.
Overnight was spent around McLaren Vale.
Day 5: McLaren Vale
Direct driving time: N/A
Activities: McLaren Vale wine region
A full day devoted to wine tasting in the McLaren Vale wine region. We were fortunate enough to have an Airbnb host who did not drink wine and volunteered to drive us around (for the second consecutive day). This allowed us plenty of time for sampling a wide variety of vineyards in the area. Some of our favorite wineries from the region included:
- d’Arenberg – well crafted traditional style vintages.
- Alpha Box and Dice – edgy and experimental winery resembling a brewery in atmosphere.
- Battle of Bosworth – all around easy to drink with lots of variety.
Overnight was spent around McLaren Vale for the second day.
We spent the last night in Adelaide before a late flight to Tasmania to embark on our first ever camper vancation.
Another option for structuring this trip itinerary could include a longer focus on the section between Torquay and Port Fairy, where the scenery is the most surreal. This may include a round trip from Melbourne if wine country is not your cup of, well, wine. This would focus on the natural aspects of the drive and allow more time for hiking and nature, plus cut out the hefty repositioning fees for a one way car rental.Make sure to stay tuned for upcoming posts from Australia, and check out our previous posts from India and Nepal including our controversially popular Finding Ways to Like India and the crowd favorite, Trekking the Annapurna Circuit. Also take a look at our planning page to find information to help prepare for your own world trip!