As well as being one of the great coastal drives anywhere on the planet, the Great Ocean Road also stands as the world's largest war memorial. The national icon and significant marker of Australian military sacrifice is this year celebrating the centenary of the commencement of its construction.
This September Great Ocean Road Tourism will embark on celebrations to mark 100 years since construction began on the National Heritage-listed project. According to the Lorne Historical Society (lornehistoricalsociety.org.au), more than 3000 returned Australian soldiers commenced building the Great Ocean Road on September 19, 1919.
Working eight-hour days and using mostly hand tools and explosives, the men braved rugged terrain, dangerous weather and steep cliffs to carve a path along the coastline. Less than three years later, the first section of road was officially opened, from Eastern View (the Anzac soldier sculpture) to Lorne, on March 18, 1922.
A toll was put in place to recoup construction costs and 13 years and two months later the road was finally completed when the stretch from Lorne to Apollo Bay was officially opened. Unfortunately, the records of the WWI ex-servicemen and civilians that built the road were lost to fire so there is no way to account for all those who contributed.
Now the road is a major destination for Australian and international tourists, while at the same time connecting communities along one of the most iconic and beautiful coastlines in Australia.
Documenting lost stories
There will be a number of ways this year's anniversary will be marked, the most prominent of which is a new documentary, The Story of the Road.
For the past year, Jacqueline Tonks and Claire Falkiner from Clothesline Content have been on the hunt for some of the lost names to uncover the untold stories of the road.
The film explores the rich history of the coastline - exploring the industry, community and surf culture that makes the Great Ocean Road what it is today - and uncovers the harsh reality of life for those constructing the road. The Story of the Road will be screened from Torquay to Apollo Bay, beginning on September 18 and running until October 6.
The Lorne Theatre (September 18) and Apollo Bay Mechanics Hall (September 19) will house the first screenings, which will include a 1920s inspired brew, recreation of the French 75 cocktail and appearances live music.
There will also be pop-up cinema experiences in Torquay, Angelsea, Lorne, Wye River and Apollo Bay, daily from September 20 to October 6. Set in modern shipping containers catering for up to 12 visitors at a time, these free 10-minute screenings will feature stories of the road, connecting visitors with the surroundings and celebrating the significance of each area.
A project combining artistically designed seating and augmented reality experiences will also dot the coastline from Torquay to Apollo Bay.
Each will provide a space for people to sit and immerse themselves in the environment, and perhaps learn more about their surrounds.
The bespoke, circular design of the seats is said to represent the cyclical nature that sees many return to the region for enjoyment, lifestyle, growth or to simply take it all in.
For more information about events to commemorate the centenary of the Great Ocean Road, visit visitgreatoceanroad.org.au/iam100.
This article is from the new spring edition of Out & About. Click here to read the entire magazine online.