Eastern View Memorial Arch & the gateway to the Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch was originally built in 1939 in memory of W.T. McConnack, who was an engineer and played a major role in construction of the Great Ocean Road. It’s also a place where tourists can stop near the start of their journey along the road and learn a little about those who built it, so it’s also place to remember the 3,000 returned soldiers that built the Great Ocean Road around 100 years ago.
The arch at Eastern View isn't a war memorial
The Great Ocean Road is the worlds largest war memorial and the archway at Eastern View was created in memory of those that built and contributed to the road.
Although it’s commonly thought that the arch is the war memorial and the start of the Great Ocean Road, it actual begins a bit over 30 kms to east in Torquay.
The drive along the coast to get to the Eastern View Memorial arch is stunning, but once you’re past the archway, the road is then carved into the hills that rise from the ocean. From here, the road gets more beautiful and becomes increasingly unique the further you travel.
Make sure you pull into take a look at the Memorial Arch, you’ll get a chance to learn a little bit about the road and one of the longest and most beautiful beaches in the area is only a 10 metre walk from the Memorial Arch car park.
Looking east/back towards Melbourne, you’ll be able to see Split Point Lighthouse in the distance. Turning the other way, on a clear day you’ll be able to see Lorne, which is about a 15 minute drive further along the Great Ocean Road.
Originally a toll gate and then rebuilt as memorial arch to the Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road construction began in 1919. The first part of the road was a gravel track from Torquay, through Anglesea to Eastern View. This part of the road was used to get the workers to Eastern View where much harder work began.
In 1922, the Great Ocean Road was opened from Eastern View to Lorne. Cars were allowed to travel along the road but had to pay a toll which was used to fund further construction of the road.
The first toll gate was in Eastern View, where the current memorial arch stands. In 1936, ownership of the Great Ocean Road was passed to the Victorian Government so that they could maintain the road. The Government pulled down the toll gate, making the Great Ocean Road free of charge and in 1929, they built an arch.
Disaster strikes the beloved memorial arch in the form of a truck
The archway was only built to allow one vehicle to pass through it at a time. It was a huge 50 ton stone archway and when it was built, the Great Ocean Road was only a one-way road. Some days, cars could travel west from Torquay to Allansford and on other days, the traffic would go east.
In 1973, the local council at Eastern View put forward plans to knock-down the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch and rebuild it to be much wider, allowing two cars to travel through at a time, one from each direction. The locals hated the idea, the arch was important to them and they loudly voiced their opinion. It’s said that the people of Eastern View threatened to vote out the local council leaders in the next election if they rebuilt the arch, so the council quickly reconsidered.
Tragically and ‘accidentally‘, a truck that was not suppose to drive down the Great Ocean Road crashed into the archway and it collapsed. In 1974, the council rebuilt the arch out of timber and hung a little ‘Great Ocean Road’ sign on it. The locals weren’t impressed.
Disaster strikes the beloved memorial arch in the form of a fire in 1983
Australia is prone to terrible bush fires and the Great Ocean Road is no exception.
In 1983, a huge bush fire burned down the memorial arch. Luckily, the sign that read ‘Great Ocean Road’ fell down and was unharmed, other than a few small charred parts.
The fires in 1983 were devastating, but at least the locals at Eastern View could look forward to a nice new arch way. Seeing as the ‘Great Ocean Road’ sign was still intact, the council rebuilt the arch to look almost identical to how it was prior to burning down.
Disaster strikes the beloved memorial arch in the form of a storm in the 1990s
About a decade after the memorial arch was destroyed by a fire and the locals were just coming to terms that it was rebuilt to look the same, it was destroyed in strong winds described as a “mini tornado” and again, a glimmer of hope was held for it’s redesign.
Much to the luck of the local council, the charred ‘Great Ocean Road’ sign was found yet again and the archway was rebuilt to look the same as it did before, again.
If you’re to visit the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch at Eastern View, you can see that some of the corners of the sign are still burnt as it’s still the original sign from 1974.
Plans to rebuild the Eastern View Memorial Arch, again
As the Great Ocean Road is now Australia’s most visited tourist attraction, plans are being made to pull down the current memorial arch and rebuild something more grand. Now, some of the locals are threatening to vote the current leaders out of council if they go ahead with these plans.