Building the Great Ocean Road
Recognized as one of the world’s most spectacular coastal drives, the Great Ocean Road is a ribbon following the coast of Victoria’s south-west.
A total of 300 kilometres from Torquay (south of Geelong) to the fishing town of Peterborough (east of Warrnambool) the road hugs cliff tops and the edge of beaches providing visitors with magnificent views of ocean, coast and sky at every turn.
For many people the stretch between Lorne and Apollo Bay, known as the Otway Coast, is considered to be the most picturesque section of the Great Ocean Road.
Here the road, which was opened in 1932, hugs clifftops that drop steeply away to the crashing waves of the ocean below.
It’s hard to image that until the Great Ocean Road opened in 1932 coastal towns like Lorne were just small isolated communities with the sea providing the link to the outside world.
The history of the road started after World War 1 when Howard Hitchcock, mayor of Geelong, saw the building of a road as a way to employ the many returned soldiers from the war who a bleak future of unemployment ahead of them.
The Great Ocean Road Trust was formed and began to raise money.
Thousands of soldiers flocked to the area and soon these diggers toiled with their blood and sweat using equipment we would see as basic today. Picks and shovels were used to dig and move mountains of earth along a rocky and dangerous coastline supported by horses and drays. As well as a magnificent engineering feat the road ended up a permanent memorial to those who died in the First World War.
Sections of work began as early as 1918 but the road wasn’t finished until 1932 due to the difficulty of the terrain and bad weather. On the day the road was finally opened by
Lieutenant Governor, Sir William Irvine there was a procession of 40 cars and school children lining parts of the route.
Today there is no toll just a memorial arch and sculpture celebrating that incredible feat.
November 2007 was the 75th birthday of the opening of the Great Ocean Road and 40 vintage cars from the Vintage Car Club made their way down the road to Apollo Bay commemorating the event.