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Licence to thrill... on the road to Oz; Lindsay Sutton lets his wife do the driving on one of the world's great highways.

Byline: Lindsay Sutton

NEVER mind James Bond's blockbuster film Skyfall - my wife still prefers the swift vengeance of the equally iconic Licence To Kill.

So when I mislaid my licence to drive while en route to Australia, my wife's licence to get ratty with me kicked in.

She suddenly became the sole driver of our hired campervan, with hundreds of miles of touring ahead of us.

A baptism of fire, beginning in busy Melbourne, had her high on the Richter scale for starters. This was quickly following by a volcanic eruption when I tentatively suggested she was in the wrong lane.

But once she got used to singing truckers' songs, eating Yorkie bars, holding her knife and fork like weapons in roadside diners, even toying with the idea of having a Love-Hate tattoo on her forearm, she was as happy as a bouncing kangaroo.

Well, nearly. So that was how we started our new-to-us life on the open Aussie road in a top-notch Maui campervan.

They certainly have it all taped when it comes to sorting you out with a mobile home and a base for meals on wheels.

And they're used to sorting out fractious British couples who've travelled all this way to have a relaxing holiday of bliss and contentment.

Off we set on Victoria's Great Ocean Road, one of the most celebrated motor journeys in the world, with some of the most magnificent views - and some wonderful twists and turns for Mrs Sutton to negotiate.

I was really proud of her, and she soon began enjoying life behind the wheel.

So, we put on the campervan music and enjoyed the majestic, sweeping curves along this amazing, coast-hugging highway that was only completed 80 years ago.

Clifftop vistas of delight, with raging seas below; waves conjured up in Antarctica crashing against the soft limestone rock of Australia's southern coast; rock stacks the size of small islands - like the Twelve Apostles, now reduced to eight after "London Bridge" came falling down, along with three of its neighbours.

Around every corner waited wonder. The Great Ocean Road is truly an awesome experience, and one we'll always remember.

To reach it, you drive an hour or so west from Melbourne to Geelong and on to Torquay - sadly, no Devon cream teas - and then you're off.

The GOR (Aussies love to condense everything, you'll soon discover) is around 175 miles long, with distinctly different townships and experiences along the way. At Anglesea, you can see scores of kangeroos grazing on the golf course.

In Lorne, where we stayed the night on a site overlooking the ocean, you can savour the feel of a middle-class holiday resort that was built back in the 1930s, as soon as the Ocean Road allowed Melbourners the chance to leave the city for weekend breaks.

Apollo Bay is another tourist favourite, but for us, Great Otway National Park was a preferable highlight. Its 53,000 acres are a delight as you drive through a tree-canopied road to the isolated Cape Otway Lighthouse.

You can climb the stairs to the top and reflect on the need for vital illumination as you survey the razor reefs just off the shore. Little wonder it's called the "Shipwreck Coast", with many tragic stories of would-be British immigrants going to a watery grave, almost within sight of their new life.

You can stay overnight in the nearby Great Ocean Ecolodge, run by Brit Lizzie Corke and her partner Shayne Neal. It's a conservation haven and you not only see lots of koalas and wallabies in the wild, but also find out all about Lizzie and Shayne's efforts to protect Victoria's wildlife and its habitat.

But we were booked into another novel type of near-to-nature accommodation, in the form of a luxurious permanent "tent" at Pebble Point, just outside Princetown, near Port Campbell, an hour or so along the route.

There are five luxury "tents" in this exclusive "bush camp" with a difference. Each comes with raised-up deck flooring, a king-size bed with a deep mattress, a private en-suite bathroom with shower and hot water, a fridge, and a shared barbecue area.

You do feel in touch with nature, as with the call of the "Les Dawson Bird" which woke us up with its magnificent off-key rendition.

Just along the road is another major highlight, the free-standing stacks of rock that are called the Twelve Apostles, best seen from a helicopter.

It's well worth the PS100 to take the 15-minute, 45-kilometres flight with 12 Apostles Helicopters and soar above the Loch Ard Gorge, the Sentinel, the Arch and London Bridge.

Talk of drama! When it came falling down in 1990, a couple had just walked over it and were left stranded on the resulting stack. Yes, you've guessed it: they needed a helicopter to get them off.

Finally, it's on to the wonderfully-named Port Fairy, a charming little town with its privately owned shops and restaurants and its marina full of yachts and small cruising vessels. It feels as though time has stood still since the days when the Irish and Welsh immigrants set it up.

The River Moyne flows through it; the newspaper - the Moyne Gazette - has a four-leafed clover motif; while on the Welsh side, Captain John Griffiths set up a shipbuilding and whaling company here.

The nearby Griffith Island Nature Reserve is fascinating, giving you close-up encounters with the burrows of shearwater seabirds that fly from the northern hemisphere to mate and rear their young, then reverse the journey.

We, too, were now ready for the long flight back home.

It's funny how everyone loves being away, but when the time approaches to return, your thoughts begin to focus on dear old Britain, whatever its faults.

Travelling by British Airways adds to that homeward-bound feeling of comfort, with the true Brit accents of the flight attendants particularly welcome. And, other than BA, not an acronym in sight.

FACTFILE ? LINDSAY SUTTON flew with British Airways from Manchester to London, then Heathrow to Melbourne, with an airport break in Singapore. Daily flights are available from PS860 return - see ? His Maui campervan was a two-berth, luxury Mercedes Sprinter, costing around PS916 for eight days - visit ? He stayed at the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins - Accor Group's five-star luxury hotel in the heart of the city (, at the Great Ocean Ecolodge on Cape Otway ( and at Pebble Point Luxury Tents, near Twelve Apostles (

For general tourism advice see


The Twelve Apostles

"London Bridge", one of the Twelve Apostles and right the Great Ocean Road. Below, Mrs Sutton with the Maui campervan.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Feb 8, 2014
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