Today the Great Ocean Road is a spectacular journey along the ocean.
It takes you through ranges and fabulous countryside.
You can breathe fresh ocean air and feel the warmth of the glorious Australian sun.
It’s hard to believe it was built purely for functionality, being such a picturesque road that now draws millions of visitors per year.
Although the road was officially opened on the 26th November 1932, the plans were published in 1917.
The concept for building a road by the ocean originally came about in 1880 but never surmounted to anything. An idea was proposed by the war council to develop schemes for returning world war soldiers wanting employment. Not only would it show respect for their efforts by not forcing them into unemployment, but would also help them amalgamate back into their home country. When this plan was approved, the next step was to find appropriate positions for them to fill. The chairman of the country roads board communicated with the war council and reached an agreement for the soldiers to work on building roads in rural areas.
So, the Great Ocean Road is in fact Victoria’s largest war memorial!
More than just a project to occupy the returned soldiers, it was a memorial for all the soldiers who died in the war. This concept drove the men to work hard, and the opportunity to spend time with those who had been through similar experiences to them was a chance for emotional healing. Any soldier who fought in World War I for Australia was considered a mate, so every man working on that road had a special bond that they never could have found going straight back into roles from before the war. At this stage it was going to be called the South Coast Road, and the first stage was funded by 1918 and would be 28.9km (18 miles) in length.
The first job was that of the surveyors, and it certainly wasn’t an easy one! The rugged landscape, unpredictable ocean weather and unexpected extra distance for the road meant surveyors who began in 1918 took over thirteen months to complete their task. The final mapped length of the road would be 57.6km (36 miles), and went from a town named Cape Patton to a town named Eastern View. Thousands of returned servicemen were hired for the job, and the project was officially initiated on the 19th September 1919 (9.19.1919) with a bang, as the Victorian premier had the honor of detonating the first explosive near the coastal town of Lorne in Victoria.
It took three years for the first stage of the road to be completed which led from Lorne to Eastern View.
Delays were due to a shortage of funding and environmental factors.
The country roads board joined the task force in 1922, building a different section to that organized by the war trust.
The Great Ocean Road had a toll from 1932 to 1936, and cars had to pay twenty five cents to use it or fifteen cents for passengers (two shillings and sixpence and one shilling and sixpence).
The road changed hands from being owned by the Great War Trust, and the State Government abolished the toll entirely since then.
The Great Ocean Road is a beautiful road and should definitely be part of your journey when visiting Melbourne. Driving that long, windy road yourself is the best way to experience it. And it is definitely the best way to realise how much effort those World War I soldiers had to go through in building the Great Ocean Road !
Great Ocean Road
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