The world-famous Great Ocean Road touring route is must-do for both locals and visitors to the area. Carved into coastal cliffs, the road stretches 244km along the southern coastline from Torquay to Warrnambool. This iconic drive is home to the spectacular 12 Apostles, the world-class waves at Bells Beach, and the oldest lighthouse in Australia at Cape Otway. This is a journey that you need to tick off your bucket list!
A BIT OF HISTORY
The Great Ocean Road serves as a memorial to the lives lost during the First World War. Plans for the ocean road began in the 1880's, with the intention to connect isolated coastal communities as travelling through the dense bush land between towns was extremely difficult. The Country Roads Board paired with the State War Council to propose that the ocean road be built by returned soldiers as a means of reemployment and further income.
Thousands of soldiers started the back-breaking work of building the Great Ocean Road in 1918. In 1922, the section from Lorne to Eastern View was officially opened. The construction of the remainder of the road was an incredibly slow and difficult process due to the rough terrain. It was not until ten years later that the Great Ocean Road was completed. On the 16th of November 1932, the Great Ocean Road was officially opened to the public.
Although some tours can complete the trip in as little as a day, we definitely don't recommend it. You will miss out on so many interesting attractions along the way! Instead, hire out a van from Melbourne
and plan your drive for as long as you like. We think three to five days is the perfect amount of time! This is an easy drive as you’ll be staying on the same road for most of the time, unless you make detours to visit other attractions along the way.
Torquay to Lorne
The Great Ocean Road drive begins in Torquay
, a town just an hour outside of Melbourne. We recommend starting the drive from this direction as you’ll be in the lane that is closest to the ocean. Torquay is known as the surfing capital of Australia, being the birthplace of Rip Curl and Quicksilver. Spend the morning at the world-famous Bells Beach, where experienced surfers can tackle the waves and the beginners can try out surfing lessons from the best instructors in the area.
Afterwards, grab a coffee or a bite to eat at the picturesque Third Wave Kiosk
at the Torquay Foreshore, before setting off towards Lorne.
Along the way, you’ll pass the beautiful beaches of Anglesea, Aireys Inlet, Fairhaven, and Eastern View. You’ll notice the scenery evolving as you drive down the coastline. Take your pick from these beaches and stop to stretch your legs along the sand. You can view the coastal cliffs from the Surf Coast walk. Alternatively, if you’re an avid golfer, stop at Anglesea golf course for a round. Make sure you say hello to the kangaroos that you’ll find lounging under trees outside of the greens!
Continue driving to Lorne
, your last destination for today. Have dinner at the Lorne Beach Pavilion, before turning in for a good night’s rest.
There are many things to do in Lorne, so we recommend you spend an entire day here. Take the kids for a dip in the refreshing waters of the patrolled beach or explore the rock pools at Shelley Beach. If you’re into fishing, Lorne Pier is the perfect spot to cast a line.
For the nature lovers, the Great Otway National Park will be perfect for you! Trek through the dense forest and discover the popular Erskine Falls – one of ten waterfalls in the area – that flows into a luscious fern gully. This is likely to take a few hours.
Lorne is also a cultural hub, hosting the annual Festival of Performing Arts, as well as Falls Music and Arts Festival. Head to the main strip and indulge in the local restaurants, cellars, and galleries.
Spend one more night here before setting off for Apollo Bay early in the morning.
Lorne to Apollo Bay
Start your morning with a delicious breakfast at The Bottle of Milk cafe
at Lorne Beach. When you've had your coffee fix, take a short detour to Teddy’s Lookout for the remarkable views of the Great Ocean Road. If you’re feeling active, there's a walking track here that will take about 45 minutes to complete.
Next, drive to Kennett River, a small and quiet seaside town with a massive koala population. The best place to see wild koalas doing their thing (sleeping, mostly) in eucalyptus trees is near the Otway Coast and off Grey River Road.
As you continue travelling to Apollo Bay
, you’ll drive along the cliff tops and experience a remarkable view of the wild ocean. We recommend spending at least one night at Apollo Bay to explore the surrounding areas.
Apollo Bay is a picturesque town where the hills meet the sea. Have your cameras ready at Mariners Lookout, where you’ll witness a stunning panoramic view of the rolling hills, harbour, and coastline.
Consider taking a detour out of Apollo Bay to the Otway National Park and spend the remainder of your day exploring the rainforest. The Otway Fly Treetop Walk is a favourite among visitors. Set 25 metres high up in the canopy of the forest and stretching a further 600, the walk allows you to experience a magnificent view amongst the tree giants of the forest. If you’re a bit of a thrill-seeker, jump on the Otway Fly Zip Line Tour
for an exciting birds-eye view of the rainforest.
We have to let you in on a little secret... Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary. Not many visitors know that here you will find a fur seal colony lazing around on the rocky beach. You can jump aboard a boat or kayak tour to visit these little fellas up close!
After a full day of exploring, head back to Apollo Bay for a dinner overlooking the ocean at Chris’s at Beacon Point. If you’re travelling during February, be sure to visit the Apollo Bay Seafood Festival!
Apollo Bay to Port Campbell
Begin your day with a delicious breakfast from Hello Coffee
, located in the backstreets of Apollo Bay. When you’re well-fed, start your drive towards Cape Otway. Here you can take a tour of the oldest standing lighthouse on Australia's mainland. Climb the full 90 metres to the top for stunning views of the Bass Strait and Southern Ocean.
Enjoy the breathtaking views of the Shipwreck Coast as you travel toward Port Campbell
. It’s not rocket science figuring out how Shipwreck Coast got its name. In good weather, the coastline is a beautiful place, but it can quickly turn sour for those in the waters. The estimated number of ships wrecked varies but the general consensus is that it's in the hundreds (some people say a whopping 700 ships have been lost here).
Along the Shipwreck Coast, you will discover the world-famous tourist attractions of the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, the London Bridge, and the Grotto. View these attractions from lookouts on the cliffs or book a helicopter tour to experience a birds-eye view. If you’re travelling between May and October, it’s likely you’ll see whales migrating in this part of the ocean.
The Twelve Apostles
You can't miss these famous limestone formations as they tower 45 metres above the crashing waves of the Antarctic Ocean. Previously, visitors could view eight of the sea stacks from the lookout, however after a collapse, only seven can be seen now.
Erosion from the relentless wind and sea will eventually result in the collapse of more stacks. The race against time makes this attraction particularly popular as visitors want to see it now while it still stands. Visitors can view the 12 Apostles from ground level by taking the Gibson Steps down to the shoreline, although be careful as they can be slippery!
Loch Ard Gorge
Perhaps the most famous ship that was wrecked was the Loch Ard, which was lost in 1878 on its voyage from England to Melbourne. The ship was engulfed in a massive, disorienting fog that led the captain to believe he was at least 50 miles from the coastline. The ship struck Mutton Bird Island and went down with 52 of the 54 people onboard. The two survivors – Eva Carmichael and Tom Pearce – were washed into the cove and survived the night in a cave. Eventually, Tom climbed the cliffs of the gorge to find help. The cove is now known as the Loch Ard Gorge.
The London Bridge
Further along the coastline you’ll find the rock formations known as the London Bridge. Named after its resemblance to England’s London Bridge, this sea stack was previously connected to the mainland. In 1990, the arch connected to the mainland collapsed and stranded two tourists on the remaining stack. They were rescued by helicopter and the London Bridge is now sometimes referred to as the London Arch.
The Grotto is one of the most enchanting rock formations in the area as it is partly a blowhole, archway and cave all in one! You can view the formation from above at the lookout or follow the boardwalk down to view it from eye-level.
We recommend you stay a night at Port Campbell, being the closest town to these attractions. After a full day of exploring and walking through the national park, you’ll want to have a good night’s rest close by. Plus, it will give the avid photographers a chance to capture these attractions at sunrise or sunset, when they are at their best.
Port Campbell to Warrnambool
Now, just because you’ve seen the 12 Apostles it doesn’t mean your Great Ocean Road adventure has come to an end! Continue west along the Shipwreck Coast, past the London Bridge and the Grotto. Take in the spectacular scenery of the coastline. Make a stop at the Bay of Islands, and view the sheer cliffs and the rock formations scattered across the bay. In spring, the park will be flourishing with vibrant wildflowers. You can view the Bay of Islands from the lookout or follow the path down to the beach to view it from ground level.
Continue towards Warrnambool
– the maritime capital of the region. Explore the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and Village, which tells the stories of the hundreds of ships and the souls aboard them that have been claimed by the Shipwreck Coast.
If you’re visiting during winter, you’ll need to make a stop at Logan Beach. From May to October each year, Southern Right and Blue whales school their calves just offshore. This is truly a remarkable and memorable experience that you can’t miss out on.
There you have it – our suggested itinerary for your journey along the Great Ocean Road! Now, you don’t have to strictly follow this plan. We’re certainly not going to stop you if you want to head inland and sample the wine and cheese produce at Timboon, or continue to Port Fairy
after Warrnambool. The best thing about a self-drive tour in your hired van is that where you go is entirely up to you!
Thanks to Campstay
for providing this itinerary content!
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