Test-driving a gutsy Volkswagen Eos convertible along Victoria's famous Great Ocean Road is a real treat. The treat comes not from the car itself, with its fine road-handling capabilities, but from the host of things to see and do along the way--from super-scenic seascapes and forest panoramas to classic pubs, top restaurants and quirky art galleries.
This trip begins in Geelong, the second biggest city in Victoria, Australia's second most populous state. But don't settle for second best--fly into the new Airport at Avalon, just 19 km north of Geelong's Central Business District. Avalon Airport has opened up access to the Bellarine Peninsula, the Otways and the world-famous Great Ocean Road as never before.
Geelong was settled largely by Scots, who emigrated from Scotland after the notorious "Clearances" of the early 1800s. Most of the migrants spoke only Gaelic, and even today Geelong has one of Australia's few Scots Gaelic pubs, the Commun Na Feine Hotel located at 209 Bellarine Street in East Geelong.
Geelong has some other intriguing attractions, including one of Australia's finest art galleries, the promenade at Eastern Beach with its colourful set of 107 ornamental bollards. Also in Geelong you'll find the National Wool Museum, the Ford Discovery Centre (Geelong is home to the Ford Motor factory), the extensive Botanical Gardens, and the grand adobe-style Villa Paloma Arts Centre, Geelong, formerly the Epicentre wine centre.
I spent my early days in Geelong, between the ages of one and five. That's a little early in life to appreciate the finer attractions of a city. But I do have fond memories of Eastern Beach, which even before its recent remake was a strand without peer.