When deciding where to visit in Australia, I knew that Sydney was an absolute must of course. However, we had an extra few days and I wanted to go somewhere else since Australia is so big. I debated between a few different places such as Cairns, Brisbane, and Perth, but ultimately decided on Melbourne. I didn’t necessarily choose the beautiful city of Melbourne because I wanted to see the famous graffitied alleyways or drink delicious coffee in the many cafés. I chose Melbourne because I wanted to experience the stunning Great Ocean Road. Sure, the highlight of the Great Ocean Road, the Twelve Apostles, is located about 160 miles West of Melbourne, but after reading how it was supposedly one of the greatest sights on Earth I didn’t think that a few hours drive was too far.
My mom and I quickly booked our flights to Melbourne and I started Googling to try and find a wheelchair accessible Melbourne camper hire, but didn’t have much luck with that. Instead, I started searching for wheelchair accessible Great Ocean Road tours. It took a little while of searching around, but I soon stumbled upon Ambleside Tours. They offer accessible day tours of Philip Island, the Great Ocean Road, and other places around Melbourne. They will customize the tour specifically for you, depending on what all you want to do. I told them that I wanted to go as far as the Twelve Apostles and they said that it would be a 10-12 hour day tour. Since I was on vacation, it didn’t really matter to me how long it lasted so I booked the tour with them a few months in advance.
Once the day finally arrived for us to explore the Great Ocean Road, our tour guides, Carol and Andrew, arrived at our Melbourne hotel to pick us up around 8am. We loaded up in their full size van, with a lift included for wheelchairs, and we were off! This was one of the days during my trip that I had been looking forward to the most so I was beyond excited.
Once we were about an hour to an hour and a half outside of Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road began. Out of nowhere, it was as if we went from a busy highway to a tropical oasis. The views to our left were beautiful. We could see the waves crashing upon the shore and this beauty continued for many more miles. At one point, we even saw a koala relaxing in a tree right by the road and a little while later we saw some kangaroos near a golf course. We saw these Aussie animals during our visit to Taronga Zoo in Sydney, but it seemed more authentic and special to see them in their natural environment away from the hoards of tourists and flashing cameras.
The road continued to twist and turn for a couple more hours, but the spectacular views rarely let up. Be aware though that the Great Ocean Road is extremely curvy so if you get motion sickness easily or have trouble staying up in your wheelchair around very sharp turns, you may want to take some medicine or extra seatbelts to strap in with. I have never gotten car-sick, but after over three hours of nonstop curvy roads even I was looking for a puke bag. As soon as I was about to… well, you know… We arrived at the Twelve Apostles Visitor Center. Hallelujah!!
As we made our way through the visitor center and down to the walkway toward the Twelve Apostles viewing area, a sense of excitement came over me. I had been looking forward to this moment for months and it was finally happening. Within a matter of minutes my eyes would be feasted upon the colossal Apostles (hey, that rhymed!). It was about a 5 minute walk to the viewing area, but it was completely paved so it was very easy to get there with my chair. One thing I didn’t like however, was the warning sign that said we may see snakes. Since snakes are by far my biggest fear I was on the lookout for them throughout the entire walk. I was not trying to get bitten and end up in an Australian hospital. I love ya Oz, but not that much.
Luckily, no snakes decided to come out and chase me that day so I proceeded to the viewing platform. When I finally saw the Twelve Apostles it was literally breathtaking. I know that’s a word that’s often overused, but it is true in this circumstance. The only other time that I’ve been equally amazed was when I saw Niagara Falls for the first time.
The Twelve Apostles are huge limestone stacks that were formed approximately twenty million years ago as the sea gradually eroded the limestone cliffs. They have continued to erode and now there are only eight apostles remaining. I only saw about six, but supposedly there are eight. If you want to see them then you better hurry before they are all gone. I mean, considering that only four have eroded in twenty million years then I’d say that they’ll be around for a long time probably, but you never really know… And now you have an excuse to go visit. 😉
After taking in the sights for a while and taking tons of pictures, we made our way back to the van for the long ride back to Melbourne. Our driver, Andrew, took us back a different way this time though so we didn’t have to endure the constant twists and turns of the Great Ocean Road again. Don’t get me wrong, I am very glad that we did the GOR route on the way there, but I just didn’t want to do it again yet. When we were about an hour away from Melbourne we made a stop in Geelong. Geelong is the second largest city in the state of Victoria, with Melbourne being the first, and was quite pretty. We got out and walked along the waterfront where there was a yacht club, a ferris wheel, and many wooden statues, known as bollards, depicting the history of Geelong. Some of these bollards were kind of weird, but it was fun to look at them all and learn what relevance they had to Geelong. We stayed in Geelong for only about thirty minutes, but it was a good way to break up that long drive and was a nice city to explore.
Twelve hours later than when we started, we were back to our hotel. We were absolutely exhausted, but loved every minute of our long day along the Great Ocean Road. It’s one of my favorite tours that I’ve ever done and I still reminisce about it frequently. If you’re trying to decide what to do while in Australia, the Great Ocean Road should be at the top of your list.