The Great Ocean Road

Where: Torquay to Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia

Navigating hairpin turns on the edges of cliffs high above the sea is nothing short of exhilarating. Until 1932, when the Great Ocean Road was completed (built by returning World War I veterans), this stretch of earth was one of the most isolated in the world. Besides the fisherman who lived in nearby villages that were accessible only by boat, few humans had laid eyes on the juxtaposition of land and sea here. Set between Torquay and Warrnambool, the Great Ocean Road is an awe-inspiring feat of construction, and a tribute to Australia's rugged landscape. Even though the nearly 240km (150 miles) drive takes just 3½, allow at least three days for the journey. You'll want to stop and experience some off-the-road adventures too.

The most eastern portion of the drive, starting in Torquay, is called the Surf Coast and is home to the world-famous Bells Beach. If you brought your surfboard, stop your wheels and ride some waves. Even if you don't surf, plan to spend an hour or so watching other enthusiasts. Each April, the world's best surfers come here to compete in the Rip Curl Pro Surf and Music Festival.

In Aireys Inlet, take a horseback ride on the beach or in Angahook-Lorne State Park with Blazing Saddles (tel. 03/5289 7332; If you'd rather stretch your legs, there is a quick 30-minute stroll just past Apollo Bay.

The road then cuts inland past the Otway Lighthouse. This area is a great place to see some wildlife at the Cape Otway Centre for Conservation Ecology and perhaps spend the night. You'll want to be alert for the next part of the drive, as it spectacularly winds along 200-foot sea cliffs. Stop and see the Twelve Apostles, a world-renowned series of wave-chiseled rock formations; the London Bridge, which looked like the real thing until a portion crashed into the ocean in 1990; and the Loch Ard Gorge.

The Great Ocean Road officially ends in Warrnambool. If you want to try the curves going the other direction, turn around and head back toward Melbourne. If you've had enough adrenaline for one trip, take the inland route back and head an hour north into the rural Southern Grampians Ranges and stop for the night at a fully operating sheep station, the Royal Mail Hotel's Mt. Sturgeon Cottages (tel. 03/5577-2241;

Information: Great Ocean Road Visitors Centre (tel. 03/5275-5797;

When to Go: The summer and fall (Nov-May).

Getting There: Melbourne Airport.

Where to Stay: Great Ocean Eco-Lodge, Cape Otway (tel. 03/5237-9297; Sea Foam Villas, Port Cambell (tel. 03/5598-6413;