Lifestyle: Ever wanted to cycle along picturesque costal scenery, pristine beaches and timber rainforest trails? The Great Ocean Road in South East Australia offers all of this, as well as a challenging bike ride of over 243 kilometres for keen cyclists. The terrain of the route consists mostly of undulating coastal bitumen roads, with a few hills that are suitable for road or hybrid bikes.
The scenic stretch of Australian Heritage listed road spans the south-eastern coastline of Australia between the Victorian cities of Torquay and Allansford, and offers cyclists not only breathtaking panoramic ocean views of sheer limestone cliffs and rolling surf, but also glimpses of lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls, stunning lakes, sand dunes and even volcanic craters.
The route has also become quite popular among cyclists following the introduction of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in 2015, now a 1.HC race on the UCI Oceania Tour calendar, which includes segments of the iconic road in its parcours.
However, there are routes along the road that cater to cyclists of varying abilities, be it the 60 kilometre Bells Beach ride, which takes in the home of the World Surfing Championships, or the Shipwreck Coast route that leads to the magnificent Otway National Park, which offers climbs through the forest up to the renowned Lavers Hill. But perhaps one of the most iconic routes stretches past the famous 12 Apostles, which have been carved out of the headland by the Southern Ocean (although there are currently only 8 of the famous limestone stacks remaining). If you’d prefer, you can also park your bike and descend all 86 Gibson Steps to make your way down to the beach for a ground-level view of the limestone stacks, one of the most photographed natural locations in Australia.
To witness some of the region’s fauna, lying 70 kilometres to the northwest is Logan’s Beach, where you might be able to catch a glimpse of the southern right and blue whales schooling their calves just offshore before they migrate back to Antarctica. Or for something slightly different, you can also take a detour further inland to the picturesque town of Colac and explore the world’s third-largest volcanic plain, which is abundant with craters and pristine lakes.
If you prefer the company of other riders, then perhaps one of the several cycling tours offered within the region might be of interest. Many of these tours, such as those organised by AllTrails and First Light Travel, cater to both moderate and advanced cyclists, and offer a variety of distances to suit different levels of experience. These tours range in length from short day trips to ten-day bicycle adventures, which both allow ample amounts of time for sightseeing and enjoying the attractions along the Great Ocean Road. There are also several cyclist-friendly guesthouses and hotels in the region, such as the Lightkeepers Inn at Aireys Inlet or the Otways Retreat in Forrest, to make multi-day tours more convenient.
Travelling to and within Australia with a bike is also relatively easy, as the majority of airlines, coaches and trains are usually able to accommodate bike riders and their equipment. However, as an alternative to travelling with your own bike, many towns along the Great Ocean Road offer facilities that rent out decent quality bikes for a fairly inexpensive price, for both short and long durations.
To avoid the very hot summer months from November to March, as well as the heavy holiday traffic, the best time to ride the Great Ocean Road is between April and October. It’s certainly a worthwhile route to consider when travelling Down Under.