The most famous drive in all of Australia is called the Great Ocean Road and runs about 285 kilometers (178 miles) from Torquay, southwest of Melbourne, to a town called Warrnambool. It is often compared to the Pacific Coast Highway in California where it runs through Big Sur, and while the similarities are limited, there is no question of the difficulty of construction in both cases. Remembering that the vegetation you see in the following photo is dense rainforest, follow the thin line across the distant hill and you can begin to grasp how it would take thirteen years to complete.

Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

To give you some idea of the density of the rainforest, here is a look at the fern trees on the Maits Rest Rainforest Trail, along the highway and running out to the ocean itself.

Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia_2

Also to be found are dozens of koalas living in the trees on the road through the Great Otway National Park which also stands between the highway and the sea. They were everywhere

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and sometimes even asleep hugging each other.

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Once on the coastal section of the Great Ocean Road one encounters one beach after another, each viewed from the cliffs high above. If you want to descend it is usually down a steep stairway, in this case of 89 steps!

Great Ocean Road, Victoria Australia_2

The most famous of these views are of what are called the Twelve Apostles, huge rock formations standing in the water apart from the cliff face itself, and the product of harder rock which simply did not erode away as quickly as the cliff itself. Unfortunately there are only seven remaining and those in turn seem destined to disintegrate as the sea continues to wear away at them.

Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia_4

Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia_3

An example of this sort of disintegration surrounds the story of London Bridge, a giant extension of the cliff face arching out into the sea. One sunny afternoon in January of 1997 the bridge simply collapsed, leaving another giant rock in the ocean unconnected to shore.

London Bridge (collapsed in 1990), Great Ocean Road, Victoria, AUS

The collapse had significant consequences as well for the couple that were left stranded on the rock in the sea. After being rescued by helicopter they quickly disappeared. Turns out they were a pair of married lovers here for a romantic weekend away from their mates!

There is one other interesting story about this part of the coast, usually called the Shipwreck Coast for the over one hundred ships which were lost along this section. This one involves a 263 foot three masted sailing ship called the Loch Ard. In June of 1878 it ran aground on a reef close to the cliffs, sank in ten minutes, and all but two of the 57 aboard were lost in the tossing seas. One passenger, Eva Carmichael, held to a piece of spar for five hours; an apprentice and cabin boy named Thomas Pearce clung to an overturned lifeboat. He came ashore first but hearing her cries reentered the water and brought her into what is now called Loch Ard Gorge as well. He left her sheltered in a cave and was able to climb the walls of the gorge and seek help.

Here is a look at the gorge itself. In this first picture you can see the narrow opening to the sea with the waves crashing against the cliff face.

Loch Ard Gorge, Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia_2

And in the furthest reach of sand in the back of the gorge is the cave in which Eva found shelter until help arrived.

Loch Ard Gorge, Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

In the aftermath, Eva returned to Scotland and raised a family of children.  Thomas rose to captain his own ship and died years later when that ship was wrecked as well.  They never saw each other again.