Although little known compared with the classic coastal drives of the Great Ocean Road between Melbourne and Adelaide, the 750 mile long drive offers equally dramatic coastal scenery, with miles of deserted beaches broken by headlands and occasionally interrupted by low key seaside settlements. Wherever the road turns its back on the sea it passes through magnificent canopies of gums, beside forested mountain slopes and over rolling green hills, the air perfumed by the tantalizing scents of the Australian bush, the land populated by indigenous wildlife.
The point about this remarkable drive is that it’s not just an alternative way to travel between Australia’s two most iconic of cities but it is a complete showcase of rich and diverse Australian experiences in between. With the two cities as bookends, the drive makes an excellent, stand alone two week holiday.
The highlights are many, from sailing a yacht on the sheltered waters of the Gippsland Lakes national park, to enjoying the most succulent Honeymoon Bay oysters at Moroya, from a trip down a still-working mine in the historic gold rush town of Walhalla, to a bush walk on top of a sacred Aboriginal mountain in Central Tilba. And in between you can enjoy several fantastic walks along beaches crashing with spectacular surf – and yours will be the only footprints.
But my most both bizarre and beautiful moment took place at Gipsy Point in the heart of the Croajinolong national park, roughly half way between Sydney and Melbourne. Just after breakfast Tom, the owner of the excellent Lakeside Luxury Apartments, took me out in a very small boat on a very large stretch of water. He put the engine into neutral, picked up a hypodermic syringe and stuck the needle straight into the bellies of four dead pilchards lying on a breadboard. As you do.
After pumping air into their innards, Tom cast one of the bloated fish onto the water where it bobbed on the surface, scales glinting in the morning sunshine. Seconds later a majestic fish eagle swooped down from the heavens, snatched the pilchard in its talons, flew up into the canopy of gum trees and settled on a branch to feast.
A six day Coastal Drives itinerary would cost from £315 pp including all-inclusive car hire and five nights’ accommodation (at Dolphin Sands in Jervis Bay, Green Gables in Tilba Tilba, Gipsy Point Lakeside apartments at the Croajinolong, The Moorings at Metung and the Star Hotel in Walhalla).