If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m not a big planner when it comes to my travel. I like to have the ticket and accommodation booked and maybe a vague idea of one thing I HAVE to do when I go, but other than that, I like to let my trip take me where it wants to. Mostly, I love to go places that locals suggest because I like to get a feel for how people really live.
Before heading to Australia, I asked two friends who have lived down under for suggestions of restaurants/bars/tourist attractions to go to and let me tell you, they did not disappoint.
The one thing that we knew we wanted to do in Melbourne was to get to the Great Ocean Road, so when it popped up on my friend’s lists, I felt good. We planned to rent a car and drive it ourselves over two days so that we could stop and see everything that we wanted to, but one day in Melbourne turned into 5 and suddenly we had 2 days left before flying to Sydney and rental cars were really expensive so we booked a one day tour through Sightseeing Tours Australia.
I have to admit to you, I was not happy about it. I didn’t want to be packed onto a bus with other tourists – I don’t like crowds and I usually don’t like tours where I can’t decide what I want to do or what I want to see, but we were quickly running out of options so I went along with it.
We chose to take this day-long tour that would take us to see all of the big sites along the scenic highway on New Year’s Eve. I was really skeptical about taking this tour because of a negative review on TripAdvisor that was left semi-recently but I ended up being pleasantly surprised.
The day started out gray and windy and as I waited for the bus to pick us up, I was a little nervous, not only because of that review, but I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to see anything good because of the weather and that the whole day would be a waste. But, our tour guide got us on the road quickly and was very sweet, telling us lots of stories, jokes, and information about the various things we were passing and he included lots of interesting Australian history, which I appreciated. At a certain point, he told a story about a shipwreck at Loch Ard Gorge and I found myself shouting “what happened next?” at the end because I wanted to hear more. History nerd. It is worth noting here that the entire tour was in English, so a solid level of English might be helpful if you want to understand and appreciate a lot of the history that you’re being given.
We stopped in a beachside park for a morning tea in Anglesea. Boyfriend and I chose not to stick around at the picnic tables, but instead, we took our coffee and walked along the beach, which was pretty, despite being completely gray. We piled back on to the bus for a little while longer until we arrived at the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch for a photo op. I probably could have done without this stop, but I understand why it was made – and I did get a photo or two.
After this, we piled back into the van and soldiered on. The view out of the left side of the bus was incredible. If you can sit on the left side, you should. We were sitting on the right side, and while I could still kind of see across the aisle to the fantastic view, I was more than a little jealous of the 8-year-old sleeping with his face pressed against the window.
Our next stop was in Kennett River where we got to take around 45 minutes to try and spot some koalas out in their natural habitat. I was literally so excited about this, I could have died. I don’t like zoos and all of the animal sanctuaries were too far from where we were staying to make it worth it to go, so this was my first (and only) koala spotting and I couldn’t have been happier. We saw 3 koalas sleeping in trees in the park and we were lucky enough to have one wake up and move around a little bit when we got there. My heart. His ears were so fluffy. He looked so sleepy. I love him.
There was also a tree full of parrots that you could feed but I gave that a miss because birds freak me out.
While checking out the koalas and taking some pictures of the lovely coastline, a local on a hike advised us to hike a little bit further up for an even better view and that was the best advice we took all day. It was incredible. Judge for yourself.
After koala heaven, we went to Apollo Bay for lunch (included in the price of the tour). You could eat in the restaurant or take away a pizza. Pro tip: take away a pizza. We sat in the lovely park and got to enjoy the sunshine, and we had enough time afterward to get an ice cream from the award-winning ice-creamery on the main strip. Is ice-creamery a word?
We got back onto the bus and drove to the Maits Rest Rainforest where we went on a semi-guided tour. I wished I had been wearing actual shoes instead of my Birkenstocks because some sort of bug bit my foot and it got kind of swollen and I was immediately thinking about how Martyn would have to tell my parents that I died in Australia and they would be mad at him and at me for not wearing real shoes in the rainforest. I didn’t die, my foot is back to normal size and all is well, so, it really ended up fine and the hike was very cool.
With the rainforest behind us, the next stop was Port Campbell to see the 12 Apostles (of which, there are actually only 9). I had seen photos of these before, and despite the absolute throngs of people with selfie sticks and seemingly no regard for other people (don’t be this person), nothing could compare to being there and seeing these with my eyes. Nature is incredible, my friends.
We ended our day at Loch Ard Gorge which was arguably more beautiful than the 12 Apostles. I got to stick my feet in the water, take some incredible photos and then Martyn lost his phone. Win some, lose some.
We were back in Melbourne by 7:30 and back to our apartment by 8, with plenty of time to watch the New Years Eve fireworks over the city in our pajamas. It was perfect.
Overall, I would 100% recommend the trip that we took and the company that we took it with. It wasn’t the fanciest trip and it was a long day, but for the price we paid, we saw quite a bit, learned a lot, had a nice lunch, and had the added convenience of someone ELSE driving (I haven’t driven since last August and it’s been even longer for boyfriend so it might have gone poorly if we drove it ourselves).
Moral of this story: don’t always believe every angry French woman on TripAdvisor.
Take the tour.