“I wanted to see this famous place and spend some money,” he said. “And we find it is not possible.”
Mr Thakkar and his wife were driven along the Great Ocean Road by brother-in-law Jackey Desai, who lives in Melbourne. Mr Desai said he had consulted Google, and there had been no advice about the closure.
Mr and Mrs Thakkar had come to Australia on holiday from their home in Gujarat, India. They said they had no idea whether, or even how, they would be able to leave Australia as planned on April 4.
Another extended family also had their holiday plans disrupted by both the spread of coronavirus and the closure of the Twelve Apostles.
Debbi Ng and her husband, Andrew Dawson, of Trentham, had taken extended leave for a touring holiday with Ms Ng’s family from Malaysia and Mr Dawson’s family from England.
When COVID-19 meant none of the family could travel from overseas, the couple decided to go ahead and visit the Great Ocean Road attractions anyway.
“But here we are and we find the Twelve Apostles are closed,” said Ms Ng.
Travelling with them were her brother Peter Ng; his wife, Kate Zhong; and their son Enzo, 6, of Endeavour Hills. They all decided to continue to other attractions along the coast and to stay at Peterborough.
The spectacular Twelve Apostles formation is the most-visited of all natural attractions on the Great Ocean Road, along which 6.1 million international and domestic tourists travelled in 2019.
Up to 15,000 visitors regularly cause traffic jams and spill far beyond the Twelve Apostles carpark on the most popular days during summer periods.
Sign up to our Coronavirus Update newsletter
However, traffic along the famous road was spookily sparse at the weekend, and there was plenty of space at the Apostles car park, which remained open.
Tourism along the road generates about $1.4 billion a year, but traders are bracing for a bleak 2020.
Tony Wright is the associate editor and special writer for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.