Great Ocean Road, Grampians & Goldfields: a 7-day roadtrip

After a week in Melbourne, it was time for our first roadtrip! We rented a car and hit the road. We were amazed by the variety of nature along the way:  rainforests, waterfalls, sandstone cliffs and mountains all just a few hours driving from each other. This makes it the perfect region for a shorter roadtrip.

Since the weather was a bit cold and rainy, we rented a car and slept in cabins and apartments. We had just one week since we had a flight to Cairns to catch on day 7. We did see a lot of places however and never felt rushed. If you have more time to spend, we would recommend staying longer in Halls Gap.

Day 1: Melbourne – Cape Otway
After picking up our rental car, we drove (on the LEFT side of the road, very strange at first!) to the Great Ocean Road. Our first stop was at Airey’s Inlet, a lighthouse that offers wonderful views. Of course we had to get a photo with the Great Ocean Road sign, so we did a short stop there as well. We then drove to Erskine Falls, near Lorne, where we walked down to the waterfall. It was our first visit to a rainforest in Australia and we were amazed! The falls themselves were very pretty, but we were also impressed by the huge ferns and just how green everything was.

We then drove to Cape Otway where we had booked a cabin for the night. Just before arriving there, two koalas jumped on the road in front of our car. Luckily we were able to avoid them, and it was great to see our first koalas!

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We stayed at Bimbi Park, and from here you can do several walks. We did two walks that day: one in the afternoon, during which we saw more koalas, and one around sunset to a beach. Both walks were beautiful and we did not see any other people around.

Day 2: Cape Otway – Princetown
On the second day we drove to Princetown. On the way we first stopped at Maits Rest for a walk through the rainforest. This boardwalk trail has been designed beautifully, and you will see some huge, old trees. We then drove to Triplet Falls, where we did another walk – in the pouring rain. We basically ran the whole boardwalk (2 km or so) from tree to tree for some cover, took a few photos and then ran back to the car, but still were absolutely soaked. But that is part of the rainforest experience, right? =)

We then drove to our apartment near Princetown, changed into dry clothes and warmed up with a nice home-cooked dinner. Afterwards we went to the Twelve Apostles to watch the sunset. It had been a grey and rainy day, but around sunset the sky cleared a bit.

Day 3: Princetown – Halls Gap
After a quick breakfast we hit the road again. We drove the rest of the Great Ocean Road with stops at all the famous sights along the coast: the Grotto, London Bridge, Bay of Islands, etc. It was still raining a lot unfortunately, so we just ran from the car to the sights for a quick look. I didn’t want to use my camera in the rain, so we did not get many pictures.

We then drove to Halls Gap in the Grampians National Park, where the weather was SO much better, even though it was just 2 hours away! So we bought some groceries and had a nice barbecue on our terrace. Afterwards we hurried to the Balconies, and arrived just in time to catch the sunset. It was one of the highlights of our trip, truly magical!

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You might have seen pictures on Instagram of this spot, with people sitting casually at the edge of these rocks, but personally I felt a pretty picture was not worth risking our lives for. Same amazing views though!

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Day 4: Halls Gap
This day involved a lot of exercise! Right after breakfast, we walked to the Venus Baths, natural pools with crystal clear water that you can take a swim in. We did not swim, but found a nice spot to eat our lunch with the relaxing sound of water in the background. We then walked to the Pinnacle, the mountain top that you see from the town of Halls Gap. According to the information we received from our campsite, this walk would be easy to moderate, but it turned out to be pretty challenging! The path often was just a collection of slippery rocks, and it was quite steep in some places. We did make it to the top and the landscapes during the walk were amazing, with rocks in very strange shapes.

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During the Pinnacle walk – see the strangely formed rocks?

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Day 5: Halls Gap – Bendigo
After leaving our cabin, we drove to Boroka Lookout. The views were good, but not the best we had seen, so we continued to MacKenzie Falls. You can view these falls from several places, but to see the nicest spot, you have to take a walk that the signs say is dangerous and difficult. After having done the ‘easy to moderate’ walk at the Pinnacle the day before, we were a bit cautious: if thát was easy, how hard would a difficult walk be?! Turns out they just call it difficult because it involves A LOT of stairs. It was not that hard, and the falls really did look amazing, so don’t skip this one!

Afterwards we had a long drive ahead of us to Bendigo. We arrived there in the afternoon, and we went out to explore the town and get some groceries.

Day 6: Bendigo
Before our trip, I had already booked a tour I thought my husband would especially enjoy: the Underground Adventure at the Central Deborah Gold Mine. It turned out to be a private tour, just us and our guide. We were given boots, overalls and helmets with lights, and then it was time to descend into the mine. The special thing about this particular tour is that you visit the authentic mineshafts, descending partly via original ladders. The ‘standard’ tour does not go as deep, involves no climbing ladders and only visits a mine shaft that was created for the tours. We enjoyed all the stories our guide told us, and had the opportunity to try drilling with a gigantic drill! It actually was such a powerful drill that my body ached afterwards. We ended our tour with a traditional miners lunch down in the mine.

We then boarded the Vintage Talking Tram and rode it to the tram depot. We did a quick tour there and met the famous cat Birney (so cute!) and spent the rest of our afternoon exploring the town.

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The Vintage Tram
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The tram’s interior, featuring comfy chairs
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Birney! ❤

Day 7: Bendigo – Melbourne
Then it was time to head to the airport for our flight to Cairns. Unfortunately, the boarding time was delayed constantly and eventually our flight was cancelled. We took the train into Melbourne (having already returned our car), were lucky to  find one of the last hotel rooms available and spent the night at a rooftop bar. The next day we returned to the airport and flew to Cairns, on which you find a post here!


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