Conveniently, we located our Melbourne depot north of the city, so you won’t get caught up in the traffic as you head off on your trip. First port of call is Daylesford, a spa town at the foot of the Great Dividing Ranges. This town seems to be a haven for every artist in Melbourne, and many have established boutique art galleries for you to visit.
Gourmet and fine dining restaurants have popped up everywhere and you could easily spend a week here looking at galleries and trying a different restaurant every night.
Ballarat is aboriginal for “resting place” but it is actually renowned for its significance as a boom town during the gold rush of the 1850s. It is also the location of the Eureka Stockade, the only armed rebellion in Australia’s history.
There is plenty to see and do in Ballarat – Sovereign Hill is a great family tourist attraction and it is genuinely good. As one of the best outdoor museums in Australia, you really feel like you have been taken back to the 1850s gold rush, (but without the gold!).
You can catch a horse drawn coach around the town or engage with wheelwrights, candle makers and confectioners. The underground gold mine tour is not to be missed.
Geelong is the second biggest city in Victoria, the gateway to the Bellarine Peninsula and quite a different culture to the rest of the state! It is a city which has been heavily reliant on the car industry but has had to reinvent itself as it deals with life post Ford. There are plenty of very good eateries and creative hubs have opened up in old industrial buildings and the waterfront area is fantastic.
It is probably not worth staying here the night, but worth stopping off at a few places as you drive through.
This is stage 1 of your Great Ocean Road experience – the seaside village or Torquay and the gateway to the Surf Coast.
There is not much to do in Torquay, except sit on the beach with towering cliffs as the backdrop. We recommend parking as close as you can to the beach, pulling out the annexe, firing up the BBQ and opening a bottle of Mitchelton’s Marsanne before you hit the Great Ocean Road.
Of course there are really other things to do – a visit to the Surf World Surfing Museum should be on the cards and Point Danger Marine Sanctuary is a great place to go snorkelling.
It’s a very short trip from Torquay to Lorne, but don’t rush it because it is magnificent. Take your time and stop wherever you want – that’s why you are in a motorhome!
The surf beaches here are simply amazing – Torquay, Jan Juc, Point Addis, Aireys Inlet and the iconic Bells Beach – the home of the Rip Curl Pro each Easter, the longest running surfing contest in the world. You will need a wetsuit though, sometimes even in Summer. The waters here come straight from the south pole.
If you are into golf, play a round at the Anglesea Golf Course; it has amazing views but make sure you give the grazing kangaroos wide berth.
Lorne is becoming a bit of a cultural hub (well the cultured people of Geelong had to go somewhere!) with the Performing Arts Festival in September and the Film Festival in November.
Of course, all of this is just window dressing – the real prize on this trip are the magnificent views.
Just like the Torquay to Lorne stretch, there are plenty of places to stop off along the way here. Just stop and prop when you get the vibe of a place.
Wye River, Wongarra, Skenes Creek and Apollo Bay are all great places to stop and appreciate the views before you head inland through the Great Otway National Park on your way to Cape Otway.
The Otways has some of Australia's best rainforest scenery, with trees towering over lush giant tree ferns and flowing creeks. There are some amazing waterfalls – make sure you get to Triplet Falls – as well as smaller secluded ones flowing idyllically into fern fringed pools.
If you want to spend more time here, you should take the beach walks and see some of the most secluded wild beaches in Victoria, flanked by high cliffs and rainforest.
The must see on this stage of your journey is the Otway Fly, a tree top walk through the dense rain forest canopy. This walk is the longest (600m) and most elevated (30m) walk of its type in the world. At the end of it, there is a 45m lookout tower taking you above the tree line and a springboard cantilever takes you out over Young’s Creek.
For the more adventurous, try the Zip Line Tour, taking you from one tree platform (or cloud station) to another above the treetops.
Port Campbell is a great little seaside village, it has a strong sense of being a genuine haven from the wild waters beyond. However, the real highlight of this stage of the journey is the 12 Apostles, although there are only actually 8 left. Apparently no one has thought to change the name – maybe it would cost too much to change the signs!
The 8 remaining Apostles are a collection of limestone stacks which have been formed over hundreds of years as the harsh southern waters eroded the softer limestone, standing up to 50m high. They were initially known as the Sow (large stack) and Piglets (the smaller ones).
The ‘Bool as it is affectionately known, is the largest town in the region and you will encounter your first traffic light in quite a few days. It’s quite a funny experience sitting in your motorhome at a traffic light with no other cars even on the roads around you!
While it is a delightful town and there are plenty of smaller things to do and see, you should head out to the Allansford Cheese World. Dairy farming is a staple in the area and the sweet grass leads to the highest quality dairy products.
Tell them which bottles of Mitchelton’s you have left and they will be able to recommend the cheeses to go with them.
Portland was the oldest European settlement in Victoria and is the only deep sea port between Melbourne and Adelaide. It was for many years the home of the sealers and whalers who sought refuge there from the treacherous southern waters off Portland which were such good fishing grounds, although thankfully this fishing has now ceased.
The Great South West Walk is really a trip in itself at 250kms, but there are plenty of shorter day trip walks you can take as well.
And finally you are in South Australia!
Mount Gambier is the second biggest city in Adelaide, although to be fair, that’s not a high bar to clear. The city is based around an inactive volcano and is part of a series of old volcanoes in the region. Some of the craters formed by the volcanoes have become lakes, Blue Lake in particular is worth seeing – it is steel blue in winter and then turns into a magnificent cobalt blue in summer.
Each of the lakes in the region has wildlife parks, and other natural features like Umpherston Sinkhole, Cave Gardens and Engelbrechts cave (popular with cave divers).
You can take the direct route to Robe, or for something a bit different, and to stock up with supplies, we recommend that you detour via Penola and Coonawarra, which is renowned as one the finest wine growing regions in the land. Cab Sav is its speciality thanks to the rich red soil and pure water. There are plenty of small wineries to visit, you made need to take a few days to get through them all and still be able to drive!
Robe is one of the best towns on South Australia’s Limestone Coast. Established as a key trading port in the mid 1800s, Robe has now become just a quiet seaside village, but what a village!
There is an abundance of natural features to see in and around Robe and you should see them all:
Most of all, just enjoy the peace and quiet of this beautiful town and the long wide beaches.
This is the longest single stretch of road, so take your time and stop along the way, wherever the feeling takes you! The ocean views for most of the trip are unbelievable but as you approach Victor Harbour and Encounter Bay, you will head inland to Murray Bridge, which is a quaint little farming town.
The first thing to do is to jump on the horse drawn tram and get the lay of the land at a leisurely pace, then jump on one of the heritage Steam Ranger trains to pick up the pace. You should also get along to the South Australia Whale Centre and the take the penguin tour at the Granite Island Nature Park.
Another great adventure you can experience in Victor Harbour is the Murray Mouth Tour in a purpose built 4x4. The Murray is Australia’s longest river, running 2508kms from the Australian Alps along the NSW-Victorian border to Lake Alexandrina and the Mouth tour is a must see.
There are also plenty of walks or water based sports for you to try here.
When asked what time it is in Adelaide, most Victorians will answer “1980”. And when you get there, you will understand why. It is known as the City of Churches, which it is, but no one seems to go, in fact no one seems to go anywhere! Traffic jams are almost as non existent as the nightlife!
Before you drop your motorhome off, head down to Glenelg Beach, it is one of the truly great metropolitan beaches in any city in Australia and there is a really good caravan park just up the road from Glenelg.