My rating is for the tour and not the sites. The Twelve Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge are spectacular. They are truly breathtaking so see them even if you don't take this tour. Now, to my wife's and my experience on the tour:
This was a 13-hour trip – starting at 6:30 in the morning and ending at 7:30 at night. This was primarily a trip to see the 12 Apostles rock formation and the Great Ocean Road.
We did visit several sites on a very tight schedule. This being said, the tour schedule was so tight, sometimes only a few minutes were spent at each site. Also, even though the trip was advertised to start at 7:00 in the morning, the day before the trip, we received a text telling us to show up 30 minutes earlier than advertised, at 6:30 in the morning. Since we were tourists to Melbourne, and no restaurants or coffee shops were found that were open at 6 a.m., it meant that we had no coffee/tea/food/water supplies available to us by the time we boarded at 6:30 a.m.
It's only fair to note that around 3 to 3-1/2 hours (approximate) into the trip, the driver stopped at a public rest area and we were allowed to make a quick walk to look at the water. At that stop, the driver handed out a commercial packet of a slice of banana bread and a small box of apple juice (6 oz?). Unfortunately, my wife is allergic to bananas and couldn’t have the piece of bread. The small box of juice did not quench the thirst, and coffee in the morning is important to us.
Food/Water/Bathroom Accommodations: We had no stops for procuring food or water until 4 or 5 hours into the trip. Even then, when we stopped, the tour guide told us that the café close by to where we were stopping had terrible coffee and that they were very slow and told us not to get any. My wife stopped anyway and missed out on the 10-minute walk to see Koalas. (The café proved to have great coffee and quick service. My wife was so thirsty, and so glad that she made the decision to get coffee and a cup of water.
The rest of the day was the same. We were allowed to stop for 40 minutes for lunch and had to compete with a lot of tourist buses to get our food, eat it, and get back on the bus. To say the least, the opportunity to have food and water was minimum. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the opportunity to eat lunch by the time the tour bus was ready to leave. We did manage to buy two small bottles of water though.
While ww were very thirsty all day, we didn’t get really upset about the lack of food or water until late afternoon. The trip had been advertised as having a dinner stop. But the driver told us we only had one option for dinner because of the lack of available restaurants: either we could stop at a McDonalds or just drive straight back to be dropped off in Melbourne. He even let us vote on it. No one wanted to stop at McDonalds (surprise). Let me just say, we passed by many, many open restaurants. McDonalds was NOT the only restaurant available.
The real clincher for us getting upset about the lack of water was when the tour guide promised that even though we wouldn’t stop for dinner, we would stop at a public bathroom and we would also be able to get water. Thirst was our primary concern and had been assured that this issue would be seen to.
However, when we got to the public bathroom, we were informed that the only water available was from the sink in the lavatory. To say that we felt lied to and disappointed is a terrible understatement. OK, maybe we're picky, but we can promise you that the public bathroom was not clean, and we did not feel comfortable getting drinking water from the dirty sink in that dirty room. Also, the sink was so small, one couldn’t a water bottle to fit into the sink and get any substantial amounts of water into it. we were terribly thirsty at this point and were only able to get about ½ cup of water into a water bottle. The driver told us not to worry about the lack of water (11 hours into the trip). One-half cup of water should last us until we got back to Melbourne, which, we were informed, was only another hour away.
Within a few minutes, we passed by a very nice and open convenience store where we could have procured water, and, of course, we were way more than the promised hour away.
Even though the 12 Apostles site was well-worth seeing, comfort-wise, this was the trip from hell.
Our suggestions for Improvement:
Due to the time involved, only three stops were worthwhile during the trip, Maits Rainforest Walk, the Twelve Apostles, and Loch Ard Gorge. After picking up all the passengers, there should be an immediate explanation of the day’s itinerary, indicating the length of the drive involved before arriving at the destinations. An initial stop should be made to allow passengers to acquire food and beverages for the drive. Bypass the stops for the view of the beach, the short walk up a gravel road to look under gum trees for a koala, the sign introducing the Great Ocean Road, and the Apollo Bay 40-minute lunch. (These could be included and expanded into a separate tour for a surf and sand outing.) Take a more direct route to the three primary sites. Provide a picnic lunch box, and allow individuals to actually enjoy the three sites instead of having to engage in a foot race to quickly observe them.