The Great Ocean Road, which zig-zags Victoria’s across southern coastline, has been recognised for its engineering heritage significance.

Construction on the 421-kilometre stretch of road began following the First World War. It was built as a war memorial to honour Australian servicemen who died during the conflict.

Around 3,000 returned First World War servicemen built the road between 1919 and 1932 in honour of fallen comrades, making it the world’s biggest war memorial. Equipped with only picks and shovels, clearing boulders from the cliffs along the coast involved intense manual labour.

Before it was built, most coastal townships were isolated, which meant travelling from Melbourne to Geelong took a day or more. The only way people could get in and out of town was by horse, which meant traversing the mountains, or by ship.

The road took 13 years to construct across challenging coastal terrain and was engineered to follow the line of the ocean and weave through national parks, allowing commuters to witness the rugged brilliance of Victoria’s scenic coastline and native bushland.

Carrying explosives into the area by hand due the rugged terrain and living in basic tent camps for months at a time, the returned soldiers triumphed over what The Age newspaper at the time described as “almost insurmountable odds.”

Australia Great Ocean Road - Aerial View

Australia Great Ocean Road – Aerial View

“The Great Ocean Road has retained much of its structural integrity demonstrating excellence in engineering; this is especially notable given most of its construction was conducted by manual labour without the assistance of modern machinery,” said Owen Peake, chair of Engineering Heritage Victoria.

“This famous coastal road is not only a significant engineering structure, but an Australian icon which commemorates the labour of more than 3,000 returned WWI servicemen. Today, the Great Ocean Road continues to act as a major draw-card for national and international tourists; having positive effects on the local Victorian economy.”

A ceremony, hosted by Engineers Australia’s national president, Dr Marlene Kanga, VicRoads chief executive Gary Liddle and Citywide managing director, Kerry Osborne, was held to celebrate the occasion.

The road was added to the Australian National Heritage List in 2011.