History Of The Great Ocean Road

Starting in Torquay, Victoria and stretching 243km towards the South Australian border, the Great Ocean Road was built by soldiers who returned from World War 1 in memory of those soldiers who served and lost their lives. 

The road was originally titled "South Coast Road" and designed to start in Barwon Heads, follow the coast along Cape Otway and end near Warrnambool. 

Geelong Mayor Alderman Howard Hitchcock formed the "Great Ocean Road Trust" and set out to raise the money to finance the project.  He saw the road as a long lasting monument to those that died in World War 1 but also as the famous tourist attraction we know it as today.

Survey work began in August 1918 and construction of the road began in September 1919.  Carving the route along the rocky cliff faces, dense wilderness and steep coastal mountains was all done by hand using explosives, picks, shovels, wheel barrows and some small machinery.  

The first stage of the road was opened in early 1922 that linked Lorne to Eastern view, then closed again in May that same year for further work.  Opening again in December 1922.  It took another decade but finally the road was finished and officially opened by Lieutenant Governor, Sir William Irvine on 26 November 1932. 

A toll was originally established at Eastern View where the memorial Arch was erected to recoup the costs of the construction but was later abolished when the road was handed over as a gift to the state government in October 1936.

Mayor Alderman Howard Hitchcock died in August 1932 before the road was completed.  You will see a memorial at Mt Defiance in honour of the "Father of the Road"


Maritime History & Heritage

Much of the region's maritime history and heritage is still visible in the lighthouses that dominate the landscape at various points along the road. Torquay's position as the capital of the international surf industry makes the local museum 'Surfworld' ideally placed to deliver a historic look at the origins of surfing and the phenomenon it has become. Across the broader region, there are several National Trust properties such as Barwon Park open to the public that give an indication of early life in the region.  There are also a range of interpretive historic sites, such as the old mill site at Triplet Falls and self guided heritage walks in towns such as Port Fairy.

The Great Ocean Road Heritage Centre

Since its official opening in 1932, The Great Ocean Road has become an iconic International destination – offering spectacular experiences for millions of visitors every year.  But did you know that the Great Ocean Road is recognised at the world's longest war memorial and has been named on Australia's National Heritage list for its extraordinary historic and cultural significance?

In September 1919, more than 3000 returned Australian soldiers commenced building the Great Ocean Road. Through rugged terrain, dangerous weather and steep rocky cliffs, the soldiers worked for eight hours per day, constructing the road predominately using hand explosives, picks, shovels and wheelbarrows. Can you imagine?

Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch

The famous memorial arch and 'The Diggers' statue at Eastern View is well worth a closer look. Erected to commemorate the returned serviceman who built the Great Ocean Road from 1918 to 1932, it is a chance to reflect on the sacrifice of the young men and women who lost their lives in the First World War. 2014 marked 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War - a poignant memorial to visit. 

A series of bronze plaques located along the Great Ocean Road helps tell the story of the men who built the road by bare hand.