If planning a drive on Australia’s Great Ocean Road, give yourself plenty of time to see it properly — preferably a week. We had just over two days to traverse this famed coastal road linking Portland to Geelong, and that wasn’t nearly enough.

Construction on the Great Ocean Road (henceforth the G.O.R. in this report) started in 1919 as a way to provide work for servicemen returning from World War I. They built it as a memorial to their fallen comrades. Today, tourists from across the world visit this area with the main intention of viewing the Twelve Apostles, but there is so much more to this region, including countless windswept beaches, coastal hikes, mossy forests and abundant wildlife. Most tourists begin the journey in Geelong and drive west toward Portland, but we came from Adelaide and stopped first at Cape Bridgewater, a 20-kilometer detour from Portland on C193.

“Wow!” we exclaimed as our rental crested a hill and we caught our first glimpse of the shimmering turquoise water off Cape Bridgewater Beach. Aside from a handful of people dining al fresco at the solitary cafe and two kite surfers taking advantage of the brisk wind, the beach was empty.

Continuing along the two-lane country road, we drove toward a cluster of wind turbines on the horizon, passing cow pastures and hay fields along the way. The massive whirring propellers seemed otherworldly, like giants in a children’s fantasy book. In reality, the 69-meter structures make up the Cape Bridgewater Wind Farm and provide power to an estimated 35,000 Victorian homes every year.

Just past the windmills, Discovery Bay Coastal Park offered a handful of hikes along the basalt cliffs, including one through a “petrified forest.” Having visited Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park as a child, I smugly briefed Him as we walked toward the cliffs, describing the colorful, fossilized trees he was about to see. Instead of multi-hued rocks, however, we found ourselves staring at a series of dull sandy columns of varying heights, like the pipes of a church organ.

The park signage might as well have read “Psyche! We fooled you!” The “petrified forest” before us wasn’t a forest at all but the site of an unusual phenomenon involving sand cemented in place by a mineral solution to create trunk-like hollows. The current Discovery Bay formations are between 1 and 3 meters in height, but they have been known to “grow” as high as 20 meters!

So I was wrong, but I didn’t feel cheated. The combination of wind turbines, odd sandy tubes and limestone cliffs kept the camera and I occupied for quite some time.

Continuing toward Port Campbell, our intended stop for the night, we paused to view Deen Maar (also known as Lady Julian’s Island), an island off the coast. The name “Deen Maar” means “the man” to Aborigines, who traditionally visited the island for ceremonial purposes. At one time, every Aborigine was buried with the head pointing toward the island to direct the spirit.

Deen Mar is also notable for its seal population. Prior to 1798, an estimated 200,000 Australian fur seals producing up to 50,000 pups a year lived there. But records indicate traders exported about 200,000 fur seal skins from the Bass Strait to Sydney between 1798 and 1825. The fur seals are now protected, however, and Deen Maar is home to the single largest seal colony in the world — 30,000 seals or 30 percent of the global seal population.

We reached Port Campbell, a popular gateway town to the Twelve Apostles, and settled into a Port Campbell Holiday Park cabin with time to spare for a quick view of the hyped rocks.

“It’s like Disney World,” Him said as we pulled into the parking lot across the street from the lookout.

It did resemble a mini theme park. Swarms of tourists were emerging from economy rentals and camper vans, cameras of all shapes and sizes swinging from necks. We joined the pack, admittedly eager to capture the exact same, tired photographs that sparked the rocks’ iconic status.

Park signage indicated the colorful stacks are remnants of a retreating limestone coastline formed from a mixture of sand and shells. This matter was deposited in an ancient seabed and compressed millions of years ago. The tumultuous sea claims about 2 centimeters of rock each year, making the formations quite unstable.

The Twelve Apostles are undeniably impressive but not more so than the many other offshore rock formations along the G.O.R., including Razorback, London Bridge and the Grotto. Each rock has a quaint name selected to appeal to the masses. In the early 20th century, in fact, the apostles were commonly known as “The Sow and Piglets.” If you, like us, happen to visit the Twelve Apostles in the early evening, when the sun is behind the more iconic rocks to the west of the lookout, shrug off the crowds and drive 1km east to Gibson’s Steps, 84 wooden planks leading to the beach on the east side of the lookout. With your back to the sun — and most of the tourists — your photos and memories will be all the better.