National Heritage List inscription date 7 April 2011
Renowned for its rugged natural beauty, shipwreck stories, and surfing culture the Great Ocean Road and its frequently changing and dramatic landscapes and views make this 242 kilometre stretch of road Australia's most famous coastal journey.
Australia’s largest war memorial
Constructed by workers including more than 3000 returned servicemen as a utilitarian memorial to First World War servicemen, the Great Ocean Road is a significant reminder of the participation of Australian servicemen in the First World War, the Australian community's appreciation of their service, and the support provided for the continuing welfare of servicemen upon returning to Australia.
The project was envisaged to provide work for First World War returned servicemen, as a utilitarian memorial to all Australian First World War servicemen, and as a gift to residents and tourists to enable access to the spectacular coastal vistas and adjacent landscapes through construction of the serpentine route through diverse natural environments.
Completed in 1932, the Great Ocean Road was built as a memorial to Victoria's First World War servicemen and women, and it serves as a lasting reminder of their war service and sacrifice. Between 1919 and its completion, more than 3000 returned servicemen worked on the construction of the Great Ocean Road—an enormous undertaking often conducted under very difficult living and working conditions.
The Great Ocean Road has a special association with a number of people whose life or works have national importance, including William T B McCormack who designed and oversaw the difficult engineering and surveying works; Howard Hitchcock, Mayor of Geelong, advocated for the opportunity of providing employment for the returned servicemen; Edna Walling, one of the most influential early landscape designers in Australia frequented the Great Ocean Road for inspiration; and the more than three thousand returned servicemen involved in the construction of the road.
The Twelve Apostles
The Great Ocean Road runs through an area that is 150 million years old and which includes rare polar dinosaur fossil sites, the best-known being Dinosaur Cove. Fossils collected from sites along the coast continue to yield important scientific information, and more revelations are expected.
The Port Campbell Limestone coast is the definitive place in Australia to observe and study limestone geomorphology and coastal erosion processes on rocky coasts. This is in large part due to the rapid rate of erosion and spectacular, well-publicised stack collapses.
Rock formations found along the limestone coast which the Great Ocean Road follows include the world famous Twelve Apostles. This formation is a collection of limestone stacks 45 metres high that, due to erosion by waves, have been reduced to eight stacks. Other examples of the dynamic nature of this coast include London Arch, formerly known as the London Bridge until part of the structure collapsed unexpectedly in January 1990, and Island Arch, which collapsed in June 2009. The stacks are susceptible to further erosion from the waves
Iconic coastal journey
The frequently changing diverse landscapes and views from the Great Ocean Road have made it an exemplar route of scenic journey, and Australia's most famous coastal drive. The route was designed to follow the lines of nature and facilitate public access to this spectacular coastline, creating a flowing, serpentine journey that hugs the coast and provide views of coastal vistas and hinterland backdrops from the road. Its viewpoints, scenic lookouts and unobtrusively engineered roadworks allow a natural aesthetic to dominate.
The coastline from Lorne to Kennett River offers among the world’s most dramatic cliff and ocean scenery able to be viewed from a vehicle. Along the length of the Great Ocean Road, the pullover points and lookouts beside or nearby the road provide travellers with spectacular views of the coastline, hinterland, and Bass Strait seascape, framed only by cliffs, lighthouses and unencumbered by intrusive built structures.
The rolling rural landscape west of the Otway Ranges opens to the spectacular vista of the Twelve Apostles. The sea-carved rocky coast includes sheer cliff walls, island arches, blowholes, canyons and caves. Immediately inland along the rocky Port Campbell coast is coastal heath and scrub, swamp land and wetlands.
An iconic surfing location
The Great Ocean Road also traverses the iconic Bells Beach, an internationally-renowned surfing location.
Bells Beach has a prominent place in Australia's surfing history and is highly valued by the world's surfing community for the distinctive quality of its surf. It is the home of the world's longest-running surfing competition, first held in January 1961 and then at Easter every year. The Bells Beach Surfing Recreation Reserve, declared in 1973, was the first of its kind in Australia and the first specifically proclaimed surfing reserve in the world.
For many Australians, the Great Ocean Road is synonymous with tourism and holidays, with visitors attracted by the spectacular scenery and the accessibility to the many historic shipwrecks along the coast.