Who built the Great Ocean Road?

Who built the Great Ocean Road?

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 02/06/2019

Reading time: 3 mins

Find out the fascinating history of Victoria’s favourite road!

Spanning a whopping 243km of road, the Great Ocean Road is both a vital resource and a popular tourist destination. The stretch of road begins at the east end of the coast in the town Torquay and spans along the Victorian Coast until the small town of Allansford. Weaving around jagged cliff tops and crashing waves, the Great Ocean Road is listed as one of the best coastal road trips in the entire world.

Before the Road

Before the Great Ocean Road was built, the coastal area was covered in thick bushland and giant rocks. Travelling to the coastal towns was far from easy, taking weeks of laborious journeying through the thick bush along the coach track. For some time, the ocean was the link to the outside world.

The Reason Behind its Development

Although there were plans previously, it was the Geelong Mayor, Alderman Howard Hitchcock to start this project. Forming a Great Ocean Road Trust which was in charge of raising money for the development. There were three main reasons of the road; The first was a way to employ the returning soldiers from World War I, as well as creating a monument to those who had sacrificed themselves for their country. The second was to create an easier route for both those entering and exiting the coastal communities. The third reason was to produce a new tourist attraction, promoting the coast and wildlife region with an easy to drive road.

It’s Construction

Most tourists won’t think of the labour this smooth wide concrete road would have taken to create, but the construction of this road is truly fascinating. Out of the 3000 men who worked on the road, around 2300 of them were returning soldiers from World War I, with only 700 work for the dole participants. These hard workers honoured their fallen mates who sacrificed themselves during the war. The road was carved through back-breaking work to mould the hard-stone cliff tops until a narrow ledge was created. There was no heavy machinery to help, with only picks, shovels and horse-drawn carts used. The work began in 1918 and took over a decade to completely construct the entire road, opening on 26 November 1932.

How to see the history

After completing the road, a Memorial Arch was built as a tribute to the World War I servicemen. The arch you can see these days is actually the third one that has been built, with the most recent replacing the second one that was destroyed in bushfires on Ash Wednesday. The arch is constructed with a timber log archway that has cement and stone supporting it on either side of the road. There is also a plaque that was set up in 1939, commemorating both the World War I soldiers who built the road as well as those who sacrificed their lives during the war. The plaques also commemorates the three arches and the 75th Anniversary of the opening of the road.

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.