FAMED as one the most beautiful and dramatic stretches of coastline in Australia, Victoria's Great Ocean Road has attracted millions of visitors over the years.
But it's a fair bet that few who travel the 243km road between Torquay and Allansford know its astonishing history, not least its genesis as the world's biggest war memorial.
September 19 marks 100 years since work began on the road, a scheme designed to both honour those who served in World War I and to make work for those who returned to a "land fit for heroes".
The road served another role, too: to open up the remote and windswept south coast to locals and tourists alike.
To celebrate the centenary, Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism is hosting a series of events, including screenings of the documentary The Story of the Road at pop-up cinemas; public art installations; and augmented reality experiences.
In the film, Jacqueline Tonks and Claire Falkiner unearth "lost" stories of returned ex-servicemen and civilians who built the road, and explore the industry, community and surf culture that makes it what it is today.
With original terrazzo floors, geometrical ceiling lines and 1930s fixtures the Lorne Theatre, along with the Apollo Bay Mechanics Hall, will house the first screenings from September 18.
Cinema-goers will be transported back to those early days, complete with a 1920s-inspired brew from Prickly Moses, recreation of the French 75 cocktail from Great Ocean Road Gin and appearances from Sugarfoot Ramblers Swing Band.
Pop-up cinemas in Torquay, Angelsea, Lorne, Wye River and Apollo Bay, meanwhile, will screen a series of free 10-minute films specific to each location. They will be shown in specially adapted shipping containers to 5-12 visitors at a time. Open daily from September 20-October 6.
Finally, the Great Ocean Road-Beacon Technology Project features a mix of augmented reality, film and written content to tell the stories of the road through beacons attached to park benches dotted along the route.
For more information or tickets to events and experiences visit visitgreatoceanroad.org.au/iam100
WHILE YOU'RE THERE...
Here are just some of places to visit along the road:
Torquay: Victoria's surf mecca and the home of world-famous Bells Beach, venue for the Rip Curl Pro, one of the most sought after titles on the World Championship Tour. Torquay is also home of the Surf World Surfing Museum and Point Danger Marine Sanctuary, a great place for snorkelling and to see the diversity of the area's underwater denizens.
Lorne: With its buzzing arts community and Mediterranean vibe, this is a great spot to indulge your aesthetic leanings. It is home to the Falls Music and Arts Festival, Qdos Arts, with its changing exhibits and outdoor sculpture park, and the Lorne Sculpture Biennale, when up to 40 works are exhibited along the foreshore.
Portland: The first European settlement in Victoria. Visit the Maritime Discovery Centre for an insight into Portland's long seafaring history, take a ride on the foreshore cable tram, spot seals at Cape Bridgewater, watch blue whales off Cape Nelson or traverse the Great South West Walk.
Warrnambool: Another town with a rich maritime history, Warrnambool is the place to visit Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, see historic lighthouses and check out the site of the infamous Loch Ard shipwreck of 1878. You might even be the first to catch a glimpse of a fluking southern right whale off Logans Beach.
AUSSIE RIVIERA: A FEW FACTS
- Howard Hitchock was mayor of Geelong in the early 1900s and the driving force behind the Great Ocean Road. His inspiration for it was a drive through the south-west of France, near Mentone
- Premier Harry Lawson fired the first explosive charge on the construction of the road at the St Georges River on September 19, 1919
- About 2400 ex-servicemen and 600 civilians used pick and shovel to dig into the cliff face. No heavy equipment was used
- Workers earned 10-and-six per eight-hour day as well as a half day on Saturdays
- During the Depression, many of the men worked for susso food vouchers that helped them and their families survive
- Road travellers paid a toll at Eastern View in the early years: two-and-six for drivers and one-and-six for passengers. The toll was abolished when the trust handed the road over to the government on October 2, 1936.
Read more: Take a walk on the wild (ocean) side