A JOURNEY to Melbourne would not be complete without driving down the Great Ocean Road, my husband and I thought. But we had a six-month-old baby girl, so the idea of a road trip was daunting.
Think cranky baby in the car seat; changing nappies; breastfeeding on the go; messing up nap and milk schedules.
But it was actually fun in the cool autumn weather and we lived to tell the tale.
Take it slow
With an infant in tow, our main consideration was to avoid long drives.
Although we could get to The 12 Apostles (a must-visit attraction that would be the highlight of our drive) in four hours from the centre of Melbourne without stopping, we chose not to as we did not want Saffie, our daughter to be strapped in the car seat for too long.
We booked two nights at a hotel in Apollo Bay, 200km from Melbourne’s city centre, and stretched our Great Ocean Road trip over three days. This allowed us to stop as often as we wanted and get enough rest.
We started our drive west from our Airbnb rental in the city at around 10am.
We hit the nap jackpot. Although she initially cried and fussed as she wasn’t used to being in a car seat, Saffie soon fell asleep — for two solid hours. We drove in peace along the coastline and, in the passenger seat, I admired rolling waves crashing into glorious beaches.
Just as we arrived at Lorne, a bustling town with restaurants and shops, the baby woke up. I nursed her in the privacy of the car before we headed for a filling lunch of burgers and milkshakes at Milk in a Bottle. We then drove up to Teddy’s Lookout for some magnificent views before heading southeast to Apollo Bay.
We stopped twice for coffee at the Wye River General Store and at Kennett River, an area for wild koala sightings. We were in luck as we saw a wild koala descend a tree and climb up another.
Prepare for the outdoors
On the second day, we set off for a day in nature. Our destination: The 12 Apostles, a cluster of limestone formations off the coast and its surrounding sights.
We made sure to pack water, snacks, sunscreen (for baby and adults), warm clothing and other baby essentials in the car as the weather could get hot and dry.
The baby carrier was a godsend, as many of the steps and paths we took were not suitable for prams (or wheelchairs and mobility scooters).
With Saffie in the carrier, we walked down the 86-step Gibson Steps to the beach to see the 70m-high naturally sculpted cliffs and two offshore rock stacks. She took her first nap under the carrier’s cover, which shielded her from the harsh sunrays and winds.
From the steps, we could have walked the 1.1km to The 12 Apostles along a narrow gravel path, but we chose to drive instead. There is parking at each tourist attraction so it was easy to drive from spot to spot.
The 12 Apostles were stately, each standing along the coastline next to statuesque sculpted cliffs. Despite its name, there were only ever nine limestone stacks. Today, only eight remain, one having collapsed from erosion.
Of all the sights we saw, our favourite was the Grotto. Natural erosions of the limestone have formed a window-like arch through which you can look out into the deep blue Southern Ocean. Also, as it is further west, it was peaceful and less crowded.
We ate our packed lunch in the car but also stopped for cakes and tea at 12 Rocks Beach Bar at Port Campbell, a quiet coastal town.
With most of the sightseeing done, our last day was a leisurely drive back to Melbourne.
We slept in and had Apollo Bay Bakery’s well-known scallop pies for brunch. Be warned — eating it will be a messy, if yummy, affair.
The delightful meal fuelled our uphill walk to see the picturesque Sheok Falls. On the easy 15-minute walk, you can see the Great Ocean Road below, dwarfed by the sea and the mountains.
Although the falls were reduced to a small flow at that time of the year, the enclave was still a delightfully tranquil spot for a break.
After that workout, we stopped at Lorne again for some chunky beef pies at Grandma Shield’s Bakery to round off our road trip.
All in all, we found that we needn’t have worried about logistics and disrupting the baby’s routine.
Generally, she napped more or less to schedule while being strapped into a car seat or carrier. I was able to nurse or change her diaper in the privacy of the car anytime.
Armed with this road-trip experience, we can’t wait to take her on more adventures.
The official start of the 244km-long Great Ocean Road is 103km or an hour’s drive from Melbourne’s city centre, at the town of Torquay. It ends at the city of Allansford.
- What are Australia’s car seat laws?
Children from six months to four years must be in a rearward-facing or forward-facing child safety seat. Babies under six months will require an approved rearward-facing child restraint designed for newborns. Most rental car companies provide it with a fee.
- When is the best time to travel?
The temperatures during autumn (March to May) and spring (September to November) are cool and pleasant. As the beachside towns along the Great Ocean Road are popular among locals as well, avoid public holidays as there will be traffic jams.
- How do I bathe the baby?
Even if your accommodation comes with a bathtub, its size may not be suitable for bathing babies in. You can take your baby into the shower with warm water running and carefully wash her down. Do wipe her dry in the warm shower booth before taking her out as the drop in temperature might cause a cold. Or, bring travel bathtubs that are compact and foldable.
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