Armed with a shiny, new Tesla Model S, Dave and I took the luxury electric car for a test drive down The Great Ocean Road to visit some of Victoria’s most picturesque locations.
We started with a weekend in Melbourne city, staying at the gorgeous Alto Hotel, making our way through some of the inner city’s popular vegan and vegetarian eateries. Melbourne is a mecca for amazing vegan food and we stuffed ourselves silly!
I like Melbourne but I need a solid dose of nature daily so when it was time to hop in our electric chariot, I was excited to leave the city behind and begin our driving adventure down The Great Ocean Road.
The Alto is a hidden gem situated right in the heart of Melbourne on Bourke Street. They’re Australia’s first carbon neutral hotel which runs off 100% renewable energy. They also have rooftop beehives, Fair Trade coffee, plastic free toiletries and an EV charging station.
The hotel felt luxurious but not imposing. The small size (only 50 rooms) lend Alto it’s old world charm. The rooms are spacious, the food was delicious (try the breakfast buffet!) and the people who work there are warm and friendly.
Hotels like the Alto show you don’t have to sacrifice luxury or comfort to be eco-friendly!
Pebble Point Glamping
I found this adorable glamping tent on Airnb. I was looking for something low key and close to the Apostles as we had a 6am wake up call for sunrise photos and this fit the bill. Pebble Point is just outside Princetown and only a ten minute drive to the Apostles.
There are six tents on the private property and far enough away from any towns that you feel as though you’re in the middle of the bush. Each tent has their own detached bathroom complete with huge showers (the water pressure was amazing) with spectacular views of Princetown.
Despite being ten degrees and windy, our tent was cosy. The bed came with an electric blanket and was very comfortable. After a big day of driving, we slept like babies!
Use this link to receive $25 off your first Airbnb stay: www.airbnb.com.au/c/ksimpson37
Great Ocean Eco Lodge
Our final stop was The Great Ocean Eco Lodge in Cape Otway where we spent three days. They’re a social enterprise, established and operated by the on site Conservation Ecology Centre. All the profits from the lodge are put back into the conservation centre and the research they do.
The lodge is gorgeous. It’s made from mud brick and reclaimed timber and feels less hotel and more like staying at a friends house for the weekend.
The first night, Dave and I were the only guests (a very rare occurrence as they’re almost always booked solid) so we set up camp in the dining room with our laptops, cheese and a bottle of red. Combined with the cosiness of the lodge fire crackling in the background, it made for a fantastic first evening.
The lodge is run by Karlijn and Stephan Ras who are incredibly warm and welcoming and knowledgeable about the region. Nothing is too much trouble. Stephen even came into Apollo Bay to pick us up when we ran into a problem with charging the car (details at the end).
They cook everything in the lodge, using fresh ingredients from their own garden and the local region. Your stay includes an amazing spread for breakfast, afternoon tea (Karlijn’s cake is to die for!) and guided walk around the grounds with one of the ecologists from the conservation centre. We learnt about the work being done at the conservation centre (story here), saw dozens of Eastern Grey Kangaroos and even spotted a few sleepy koalas in the treetops.
Dinner was a three course affair cooked by Karlijn and served in the lodges main dining room. We had vegetable soup to start, followed by gnocchi with spinach and creamy capsicum sauce finishing up with a mouth wateringly good panna cotta. We shared the table with a lovely French couple the first night then relaxed by the fire with a delicious glass of pinot noir.
The Great Ocean Eco Lodge is a really special experience which Dave and I both loved. We will definitely be returning.
We were on a tight schedule with a lot of ground to cover, so we drove straight through Lorne and unfortunately missed out on seeing all the tiny towns along The Great Ocean Road. We stopped only in Apollo Bay for lunch and charging the car. The remainder of the trip was spent in Princetown and exploring the Cape Otway region.
Apollo Bay is a beautiful coastal town about two hours from Melbourne and a popular stopping point for day trips to the Apostles.
For us, it meant a lunch break while the Tesla charged up. The Apollo Bay Brewhouse has two charging stations which are part of Tesla’s Destination Charging Map, so we stopped there for what we hoped would be a relaxing lunch only to be turned away. It’s worth noting Apollo Bay eateries have strict meal times. 12pm to 2pm and not a minute later. We found a cafe serving sandwiches so all was not lost.
The Brewhouse has a ‘Tastes Of The Region’ store out back which is worth a visit. They offer local cheeses, chocolates and a huge selection of wine and beer. Food wise there’s a RAWR Bar serving vegan light meals, coffee and raw desserts. A few regular cafes, two Chinese eateries, a noodle bar, a fish and chip shop and for something more substantial, the Apollo Bay Hotel. Leave room for dessert, Dooley’s have the most delicious ice-cream in so many amazing flavours. Steer clear of the Vegemite flavour, it’s disgusting.
The Twelve Apostles
The Twelve Apostles are currently eight due to erosion and time but still no less awe inspiring.
My advice to you, and I hope you take it, is not to visit the Apostles in the middle of the day. Imagine throngs of tourists descending from the many large tour buses, all jostling for an inch of space trying to take a selfie. I’ve been there and it’s an experience I will never repeat.
Instead stay somewhere local, Princetown or Port Campbell are close, and wake up at dawn. You’ll be rewarded with serenity, very few people and the most spectacular colours displayed across the morning sky. If you’re not a morning person, sunsets here are also spectacular.
Loch Ard Gorge
In 1878, the English clipper ship Loch Ard shipwrecked on Muttonbird Island nearby. Unfortunately of the fifty-four passengers onboard, only two survived. Tom Pearce and Eva Carmichael, whom the two rock pillars are named after.
There’s a lookout at the top of Loch Ard Gorge, but make the effort to walk down the stairs onto the beach. It’s the best way to really experience the gorges grandeur. You feel so tiny standing at the base looking up.
If you don’t mind being interrupted with busloads of tourists stopping by for a quick snap, it’s a beautiful place to stop and have a beach picnic.
A little bit of a mission to get to, but worth it. There’s a viewing platform twenty meters from the car park or you can walk down the stairs to the base of the waterfall. Which you should if you can!
The walk down the stairs is about one kilometre and takes around fifteen minutes. Wear sturdy shoes because the stairs can be slippery after rain or fog. The walk back up was a slight struggle, but I figured it worked off the pastries I consumed at breakfast!
California Redwood Forest
By far my favourite place to visit during our Great Ocean adventure. You don’t even need to be a hiker to see these magnificent trees. The Redwoods are less than five meters from the car park. Walking inside you feel the quiet envelop you. It’s cool and still, the air feels crisp and smells fresh. There’s something magical about this forest, we lost so many hours just walking around and taking photos.
Logging in Victoria has become a huge problem.
The Victorian forests are home to thousands of plant and animals species including the threatened Greater Glider. The Mountain Ash forests of Victoria’s Central Highlands are some of the best in the world at storing carbon. The region also attracts over three million visitors each year. If logging in Victoria continues on its currently trajectory, the impacts on the environment will be devastating.
The proposed Great Forest National Park Project hopes to change this. The Great Forest would connect up existing parks and conservation areas by adding 355,000 hectares of new protected forest. Read more about it here and what you can do to help.
David Attenborough is on board!
“The maintenance of an intact ecological system is the only way to ensure the continued existence of biodiversity, safeguard water supplies and provide spiritual nourishment for ourselves and future generations. It is for these reasons, and for the survival of the critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum, that’s why I support the creation of the Great Forest National Park for Victoria.” – Sir David Attenborough
Cape Otway Lighthouse
The Cape Otway Lighthouse has an interesting history. Built in 1848, it’s the oldest surviving lighthouse on mainland Australia and known as the ‘Beacon of Hope’. During the 19th century when people spent months migrating to Australia by ship, it was their first sight of land after leaving their homes.
Come prepared with warm clothing, it was so windy! Granted we were there at 6am for sunrise photos but I imagine due to the location, it’s likely to be breezy all day.
It’s a fantastic cultural experience. You meet your guide at the Aboriginal Talking Hut where you learn about the local history then take a guided tour to learn about the indigenous history and people of the region. Cape Otway is Gadubanud country, the home of five celebrated Gundidjs’ (Clans) which are part of the Gundidjmara Language group of south-west Victoria. There’s also a bush tucker tasting, which you shouldn’t miss!
EV’s on The Great Ocean Road
If you’re driving along The Great Ocean Road sticking to the main towns, there are enough charging bays to get you from A to B with no issues. There are chargers in Torqauy, Apollo Bay, Wanambool, Port Fairy and Portland.
Unfortunately EV chargers are not common in the Otway region where we spent the majority of our time. The nearest charging bay is in Apollo Bay which meant doubling back twice to leave it on charge while we sat at a cafe to do some work.
With the Destination Chargers, you need to be plugged in for 3-4 hours to get up to 60%. In additon to the two short day charges, we also had to leave the car for an overnight stay in Apollo Bay to ensure we had enough charge to explore the region for the remaining two days and get back to Melbourne.
The Tesla Superchargers, which are on their way, will eliminate this problem. The idea is that you can plug in for about 30 minutes and grab some lunch or a coffee while you charge almost up to 100%.
The Great Ocean Road spans the southern coast from Torquay and travels 244 kilometres westward to finish at Allansford. It’s long so we only got to experience a very small part of it.
Dave and I plan to return again soon to explore every inch, so stay tuned for part two.
Tesla kindly loaned us this car for the trip. I’ll be sharing more about Tesla in another post shortly.
Kira Simpson is an environmentalist and sustainability expert. She started The Green Hub as a blog in 2015, which has since grown to become one of Australia’s largest education sites dedicated to helping people live a more sustainable lifestyle.