Location: Sydney, New South Wales
After completing the drive along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road a few months back, and recently finishing the Grand Pacific Drive here in New South Wales, I’ve had a lot of people tell me that the Grand Pacific Drive is far better than the Great Ocean Road and vice versa. Usually, I don’t like to compare places I’ve visited or sights I’ve seen because it’s never really apples for apples, and you miss out on the unique qualities that makes the place or sight so special (can you really compare New York with Tokyo? I don’t think so); however, being well aware of the competitiveness between two of Australia’s popular States, New South Wales and Victoria, I feel that as a Western Australian with no loyalty to either State or biased coming from the West, and having driven along both great drives, I felt I could be the one to settle this.
The Grand Pacific Drive
At only an hour south of Sydney below the Royal National Park and extending 140 kms to Nowra, New South Wale’s premier drive hardly feels like a scenic tourist drive, as you’re pretty much driving your way through busy towns and congestion. A lot of the time I found it really hard to navigate the roads as the drive isn’t always signposted clearly (plus it doesn’t appear in the GPS, which makes it even harder to follow), so I did get lost quite a few times in a maze of coastal suburbs.
There are some nice beaches along the way, and many shops and places to eat and drink which makes it a tough budget drive with so many spendy distractions, however it wasn’t until I got closer to Berry that I really started to feel like I was out on a leisurely Sunday drive, well, that’s if I could ignore the huge amount of road construction going on. I’m not sounding convincing am I. Although I did enjoy some parts of the Grand Pacific Drive (GPD), I felt like I was in just another coastal suburb of Sydney most of the time, and the drive was lacking in any real natural wonders, as after you’ve seen so many beaches they all look the same after awhile. The GPD feels more like a tourism NSW manufactured ‘sight’ to give New South Wales’s city population a chance to get away to slightly less busy and congested coastal suburbs, and to compete with Victoria’s Great Ocean Road.
The Great Ocean Road
Situated south along the Victorian coast, the Great Ocean Road (GOR) officially starts in Torquay and runs 243 kms all the way to Port Fairy, not too far from the South Australian boarder. The GOR is marked by a few small towns and the road hugs the coast giving you some great windy turns and beautiful ocean views. It’s a great drive to do if you’re on a budget as the temptation to spend is minimal with the few towns dotted along the way (although Lorne and Torquay do have a lot of very fancy stores IF you wanted to shop and have some fancy eats).
The best thing about the GOR, and in my honest opinion is what really makes this drive so worthwhile, are the stunning natural wonders and lovely beaches that are popular with holiday makers and locals. The top three of the natural wonders that draws the big crowds (and coaches) are the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, and London Bridge and all are incredible to sights to see; couple these sights with stops in Lorne and Apollo Bay (the most popular spots for a late brunch or late lunch), and you’ll have an incredible day or two days exploring a stunning stretch of coastline that makes you feel like the city is just a distant memory. The best thing about the GOR is that it genuinely does feel like it was created with a purpose, not only as a public works project to help resettle war veterans back after their duty, but to allow anyone the opportunity to see a spectacular Victorian coastline.
So which is better?
Personally, I don’t think you can really go past the GOR for it’s simple and unobstructed sea views, with stops in quaint towns and amazing natural sights. The GOR is an easy and a fun drive to undertake, and it’s very well signposted making it simple to follow unlike the GPD. Even though the GPD is an easy day trip out of Sydney, I did prefer the Great Ocean Road and it’s many stops along the way providing cheap accommodation options close to the ocean make it a great value for money and weekend away from the city. Sorry New South Wales, but I’m going to have to side with Victoria on this one!
Photography by Jelena Stipanicev.