Stretching for 242 kilometres along the south-west coast of Victoria, the Great Ocean Road is an outstanding coastal journey. Its rugged natural beauty, shipwreck stories, and surfing culture make the Great Ocean Road a popular tourist destination, with more than 7.5 million visits to the area in 2009–10. Constructed as a memorial to First World War servicemen and women, the Great Ocean Road is a constant reminder of their war service and sacrifice.
A memorial to servicemen
In the early 20th century the rugged south-west coast of Victoria was accessible only by sea or rough bush track.
By the end of the First World War, a road was planned to connect the area's isolated settlements and simultaneously provide work for returned servicemen. The proponents of the project insisted that the fresh coastal air and camp life with opportunities for swimming, fishing and hunting would help restore those jaded by war.
Work began in 1919 and lasted to 1932. More than 3000 returned servicemen worked on the Great Ocean Road—an enormous undertaking often conducted under very difficult living and working conditions. Construction was done by hand, using explosives, pick and shovel, wheel barrows, and some small machinery.
An ancient landscape
The frequently changing landscapes and views from the Great Ocean Road have made it Australia's most famous coastal drive.
Formed 150 million years ago when the great southern land mass known as Gondwana began to break up, the area today includes rare polar dinosaur fossil sites, the best-known one being Dinosaur Cove. Fossils collected from numerous sites along the coast continue to yield important scientific information and with natural erosion, further discoveries are expected.
A changing landscape
Rock formations found along the dynamic Port Campbell limestone coast include the world famous Twelve Apostles, a collection of limestone stacks 45 metres high. Originally 12 structures, the stacks are susceptible to further erosion from the waves. In 2005, a 50 metre tall stack collapsed, leaving eight remaining.
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 that collapsed in June 2009.
The iconic 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.
Other values of the place include the views from the Great Ocean Walk as well as those from the Great Ocean Road; geomorphological monitoring sites; and its association with people such as William McCormack and Howard Hitchcock, the main driving forces behind the construction of the road, Edna Walling, one of Australia's most influential early landscape designers, and the more than three thousand returned servicemen who worked on construction of the road.
Due to its extraordinary historic and natural significance, the Great Ocean and Scenic Environs is considered to have outstanding heritage value to the nation and has been included in the Australian National Heritage List.
The National Heritage List recognises and protects our most valued natural, Indigenous and historic heritage sites. Places listed in the National Heritage List are protected under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
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