I get pick up for The Great Ocean Road Tour in a minibus by Jason, the owner, of Melbourne Coastal Tours. I was able to transfer to the floor then transfer to the seat. Jason takes the wheels off my wheelchair then places the chair in the back of the bus. There are 7 people on the bus. This is the group of people on a tour so far during my travels. The group consists of couples Dave and Melissa, Juan and Nina, and friends Martha and Debra plus me. We start off in the city of Torquay, the home of surfing and surf giant Rip Curl. At Torquay Surf beach there is a very steep hill I need pushed up to get to the top overlooking the beach. I just ask a random guy walking down the hill for help. The view is amazing and I’m certain the day will only get better. I was able to go down the hill by myself but it was difficult. We have morning tea and coffee at a covered site near Torquay Beach. There are bathrooms but they are about halfway up the hill. Because of the terrain, I see no way to make this more accessible. There may be an accessible way to the beach but I don’t know where it is.
We stop at South Side Beach on our way to The Great Ocean Road. South Side Beach has an accessible walkway with packed gravel and a slight uphill slope. Next is the start of a great trip down The Great Ocean Road. The total length of the road is 290 miles and took 21 years to complete; we’ll only be traveling a portion of that. We start at The Memorial Arch which commemorates Australian soldiers and sailors from WWI. 3,000 returning soldiers and sailors built The Great Ocean Road. During WWI Australia sent 330,000 to war with 60,000 killed and 160,000 being wounded, more than 64% casualty rate higher than any other nation and Australia’s highest in any war.
We drive through Lorne to Teddy’s Lookout with the views getting better. To get to the lookout its hard parked gravel up a slight incline to get to the lookout then a very steep ramp down to the lookout. I can make it down myself but need pushed back up from Melissa. Because of the terrain, I see no way to make this more accessible.
Next is a stop is Kennett River to see wild Koalas. These Koalas are relaxing in the eucalyptus trees just off the car park.
After the Koalas we have lunch overlooking Apollo Bay. There is a ramp with a slight grade that goes down to the beach. Most of the area around Apollo Beach is flat. After lunch we go for a bush walk at Maits Rest in Great Otway National Park. No where close to being accessible. With the great help from Jason, Dave and Juan I was able to make through the entire bush walk. It has very steep up and down slopes on dirt with some places having wood decking. I’m very happy everyone helped out because I know it was not easy for them but it was well worth it. There is no way to make Maits Rest wheelchair accessible.
Our next stop is Gibson Steps. I can make it to the first lookout with no problems. I head down the hill as far as I can to where the steps start and need pushed back up the hill. Because of the terrain, I see no way to make this more accessible.
The next several stops are the highlights of The Great Ocean Road. The first is The Twelve Apostles. Several rock formations formed over thousands of years by the wind and the sea. It’s easy to go under the bridge to the top lookouts but I push on to see how far I can go. I wheel to the point where there’s a very steep hill, then an even steeper hill up. I make down the first hill but I had to use all my strength to keep control of my wheelchair. No chance to make it up the steep hill without help. Dave and Melissa are at the bottom of the first hill, they ask “you want to go up”, my response “yes”, Dave says “let’s go”. I don’t think anyone in a wheelchair could do this hill alone. It was worth the trouble getting to see the views. Dave has to hold the back of my chair going down and Juan pushes me up the next hill. Martha helps me a smaller hill just because my arms are pretty much dead from wheeling. Because of the terrain, I see no way to make this more accessible.
At our next stop there are 3 different viewing areas Loch Ard Gorge two viewing areas, Salt and Pepper and Razorback. I can make it to the top of the steps overlooking Loch Ard Gorge. There are steps that you can take to the beach and swim in the gorge. Because of the terrain, I see no way to make this more accessible. The second pathway to view Loch Ard Gorge has a couple steep sections but I can make it myself. This area looks back at the beach. The last pathway takes you to Salt and Pepper and Razorback. This is a very easy uphill wheel with just a slight grade. These three areas are hard packed gravel and easy to wheel on.
Our last stop on The Great Ocean Road is London Bridge. There use to be an arch connecting these two rock formations but it collapsed back in 2009. Two tourists were trapped and had to be rescued by a news helicopter. This is hard packed gravel, flat and easy to wheel on.
On the way back to Melbourne, we stop in Colac for a quick dinner at Noodle Canteen. It’s not accessible with a 5″ step to get to the restaurant; Martha helps me up the step. They do not have an accessible bathroom in the restaurant.
My tour with Melbourne Coastal Tours was exceptional. Not just the sites, but the information and help from Jason. Without his help and help from others on the tour there would have been several sites I would have missed. I would highly recommend Melbourne Coastal Tours for any able body person. This tour will not be suited for wheelchair users unless you are very fit. I needed a lot of help through the bush walk and would not have been able to do it without help from the guys. I’m trying to see and do as much as I can on my travels. A lot of independent wheelchair users don’t like asking for help but there’s no way to get through this tour without help. Everyone went beyond what they had to do to help me and I thank them very much. This is a very long day at 14-1/2 hours. Accessibility wise this tour would receive a 1.5/5 rating.