Melbourne is located at the top of the very large Port Phillip Bay. “The Bay”, as it’s also commonly referred to, is one of Australia’s busiest ports with ocean going vessels all having to navigate through its surprisingly close headlands – the navigable width being only about 1 km wide.
I’d seen the headlands a number of times when sailing through them on the Spirit of Tasmania and flagged doing the loop around The Bay as a trip that would be great to do.
We decided to widen the circle to take in two of what are recognised as Australia’s, and indeed the world’s, great drives – the Black Spur and Great Ocean Road drives.
This first blog will cover heading down to the Mornington Peninsular, crossing The Bay by ferry, and getting to the start of the Great Ocean Road just out of Geelong. Part two will be about the Great Ocean Road drive itself, with the Twelve Apostle’s a highlight, and the third post will take in Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges on the way back.
Coming from Sydney, we started the expanded loop by diverting from the Hume Highway at the town of Benalla. This enabled us to take in some picturesque countryside and arrive at Narbethong, the northern starting point of the fabulous Black Spur Drive.
At the southern end of the Black Spur Drive is the town of Healsville. We couldn’t get enough of the mountain ash trees and so turned left at Healsville to keep going through the beautiful Yarra Ranges and eventually the Dandenong Ranges. Plenty of curves to keep things interesting and it’s spectacular all the way – but you need to allow plenty of time.
The next day brought us into the Mornington Peninsular, with visits to the Coolart Wetlands, Cape Schanck, Arthurs Seat and eventually into the cosmopolitan Sorrento.
Shopping (well, window shopping for us!) and eating are the things to do around Sorrento, which has an interesting mix of old and new buildings. It was quite busy there on the weekend, particularly as we arrived when the annual “Around the Bay” bicycle event was on.
Put a visit to Point Nepean National Park (located past the last town on the peninsular, Portsea) on your itinerary. It’s free to enter, however you can only drive up to a certain point. After that it’s walking or catching the shuttle bus (small cost). A walk to the old Cattle Jetty let us meet up with this fellow in the Point Nepean cemetery:
We caught the shuttle out to Fort Nepean, which took us past Cheviot Beach and the monument to Harold Holt (a Prime Minister who, in 1967, disappeared whilst swimming at the beach – his body has never been found, one of Australia’s great mysteries).
Fort Nepean Barracks has an interesting history, well presented, so allow time for a visit there too.
The ferry to take us over to the western side of The Bay departs on the hour from Sorrento. Generally there’s no need to book ahead except, I’m told, maybe on a Saturday or when special events are on (such as the “Around the Bay” bicycle ride that we encountered). The 45 minute trip was a great experience and it was easy to drive on and off.
The town at the other end, Queenscliff, is a step back in time – not nearly as busy as Sorrento and a wonderful atmosphere with its old buildings.
It’s then only a 30 minute drive into Geelong, Victoria’s second largest city. Geelong is going through a tough time at the present due to manufacturing industry closures, however you wouldn’t know it down at its waterfront. Again some fantastic heritage buildings, a great looking pier, and wonderful coffee spots near the water!
The start of the Great Ocean Road is the town of Torquay, just 25 minutes drive south of Geelong. The trip so far had been a great experience with its mountain ash forests, shopping and heritage buildings; arriving in Torquay, we could tell that the next section of the trip, whilst being different, was going to be great!
Design Your Own Road Trip!
The trip map and itinerary is available for you to use as a basis for your own trip at Trip Plan Australia. Go ahead and change the Towns in the Route section, and add and remove Via towns. Places, events and attractions in common will be retained in the revised Itinerary. Browse events on during your trip timeframe, and add/remove attractions and overnight stops to the itinerary to suit.