Travel Blog - Two MUST Do Road Trips-Great Ocean Drive And PCH - US #1

15th May 2019
Photo of Travel Blog - Two MUST Do Road Trips-Great Ocean Drive And PCH - US #1 1/7 by Salil Datar

Two of the must do road trips from across the world are the Great Ocean Drive from Melbourne to the Twelve Apostles in Australia and The Pacific Hwy (PCH) - US#1 which runs parallel to the Route 101 in California, USA which hugs the Pacific coast along the way. Fortunately for me, in 2019, I managed to do both.

First in Feb we extended our trip to Manila for a wedding in her family to fly down to Sydney and Melbourne. In Melbourne, we hired a car and did the Great Ocean Drive round trip. The Great Ocean Drive is an Australian National Heritage listed 400-kilometre stretch of road along the south-eastern coast of Australia between the Victorian cities of Torquay and Allansford. This route is renowned for its rugged natural beauty, shipwreck stories, and surfing culture and it's frequently changing and dramatic landscape views. (Click here to know more: One of the most well-known highlights of the Great Ocean Road is The Twelve Apostles which is situated in the Port Campbell National Park. It has massive limestone structures (five have fallen since their discovery) that tower 45 metres above the tempestuous Southern Ocean. These leave its visitors awe-struck in wonder at their size and beauty. Behind the eight remaining stacks are majestic cliffs, around 70 metres high. The best time to visit is when they look majestic and glorious at both dusk and dawn. Cliffs around the Twelve Apostles have gradually eroded the softer limestone by the forces of nature, forming caves in the cliffs which became arches and when they collapsed leaving rock islands as high as 45 metres were left isolated from the shore.

To enjoy the route, one ideally needs to opt out of day tours which rush you up so that they can return you to base before the end of day. The best way to enjoy this stretch is to go for a self drive which allows you to slow down and take breaks to soak in the scenery. You need to give this anywhere between 7-8 hours one way and stay overnight at Port Campbell near the Twelve Apostles and then drive back. The drive back can be done in 4-5 hours as on the return you can opt for the faster route which also allows you time for a break at Phillip Island to watch the Penguin Parade which happens around sunset.

Photo of Travel Blog - Two MUST Do Road Trips-Great Ocean Drive And PCH - US #1 2/7 by Salil Datar

Australia being a British Colony, just like India, also follows Right hand Drive which encouraged us to go for the self drive option. Besides allowing us to enjoy the trip, hiring the car also gave us a unique glimpse into Melbourne's city traffic and its quaint rules like the Hook Turn" which is unique to Melbourne.

Photo of Travel Blog - Two MUST Do Road Trips-Great Ocean Drive And PCH - US #1 3/7 by Salil Datar
Photo of Travel Blog - Two MUST Do Road Trips-Great Ocean Drive And PCH - US #1 4/7 by Salil Datar

Next on our international bucket list was our US trip in May to attend another wedding. This one was from my side of the family. Since my son, in his final year engineering, had got an opportunity to intern at Caltech, Pasadena, he invited me over around mid May to join him on a 5 day road trip on the PCH Route 101. The backstory to this trip goes like this. When he was a kid, he had a Jumpstart Toddler series of CDs with story / games around Little Critter who was the central character. One of our favourite stories was Me and my Dad ( click on this link to know more) in which Little Critter goes camping with his Dad. So I suspect his keenness might have been partly influenced by fond childhood memories of his favourite Little Critter stories. He wanted just me and him to go on a circular route on California's Pacific coastal route which is perhaps America's most-loved driving destination. We drove the route from south to north with the ocean side of the road the entire way allowing unobstructed views of the jagged coastline below with overnight stops on camping sites overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

He planned the entire route with enroute bookings including overnight stays at camping sites. Since my son was just a student the insurance charges for us to get him added to the drivers were too steep. So it was decided that I will drive the entire stretch with him as the navigator. We planned to drive approx. 300-400 miles per day taking approx 6-7 hours with pit stops for lunch and soaking in the route.

We hit the road starting from and then routed via Santa Barbara to San Jose via the Bixby Creek Bridge, on the Big Sur coast of California. This bridge is one of the most photographed bridges in California due to its aesthetic design, "graceful architecture and magnificent setting". Day 1 we camped at Kirk Creek Camp ground, Los Parades National Park on the .

Some exciting aspects of this leg of the journey included pitching our tent after a day-long drive on reaching the campsite, getting the barbeque fire going for dinner and then both sleeping in a tent cooped up inside our sleeping bags with a steep drop in night temperatures. An interesting aspect I was introduced to during this trip was the unique honour system which is followed at the camping grounds. Since these sites are manned by volunteers, once you pre-book the site on line, you are expected to drive in to your pre-allotted slot, set up your tent and then while leaving ensure you clean up and leave the site as was handed over to you.

Photo of Travel Blog - Two MUST Do Road Trips-Great Ocean Drive And PCH - US #1 5/7 by Salil Datar

For the first time, I came across surfers Kitesurfing on the Big Sur, and luxurious camping sites (a.k.a. 'glamping') with cafes facing the Pacific where visitors can sit hoping to be able to do whale spotting far out in the ocean during whale migration.

Day 2 on enroute to San Jose we drove past Monterey and Carmel on Sea. Monterey is known for the famous Pebble Beach ATP Golf Course famous for Tiger Woods golfing exploits. Our overnight was in San Jose with some of our folks. Then as we drove onward to we had lunch followed by a walk around pit stop on the outskirts of San Jose at UC Berkeley where my son's batchmate was interning. Here, we goofed around the Mark Twain's statute outside the Library and I also got my first glimpse of a delivery robo.

Photo of Travel Blog - Two MUST Do Road Trips-Great Ocean Drive And PCH - US #1 6/7 by Salil Datar
Photo of Travel Blog - Two MUST Do Road Trips-Great Ocean Drive And PCH - US #1 7/7 by Salil Datar

Day 3-4 was at Lake Tahoe where we crossed the snow line and enjoyed a hot water open pool with temperature dropping to 7-8 degree outside the pool.

Then camping overnight on Day 4 at Sequoia National park we drove through the Tunnel Tree, a toppled tree cut to accommodate the road and stopped to visit the General Sherman , which is by volume the largest known living single-stem tree on earth before taking the road back to Los Angles via Kings Canyons. As we approached LA, on the outskirts, we did a stop over to pick up some fresh of the farm sunkissed Californian oranges.

Just like the Little Critter and his exploits, on this trip I enjoyed camping with my son. I got to know more about the likes and tastes of millennials. One thing about him being a millennial that helped us during our trip was that they being digitally native, are very much on the ball when it comes to maximising the use of tech. Since he was our navigator, he helped optimising our trip. Google maps was his north star to not only plan our departure timings, lunch and enroute nap breaks but also to leverage smart tips wrt dynamic gasoline prices across enroute petrol pumps displayed on google maps. The realisation dawned on me that this leg of the tour was such an endearing experience not only because of the sites and locales but because it had further cemented our familial bonds.

I will encourage everyone who loves long rides to add these two routes to your travel bucket list, Cheers !

Acknowledgements- My Friend Ashish Parulekar and Sheetal Nagle for being a solid member of my blog support team.

P.S To read my other blogs on Cricketing / Corporate Tales, Start up stories, Covid Times, Friends, Family and Marriages go to the Home Page