The Ultimate Guide: Great Ocean Road in Australia
The Great Ocean Road is 243 kilometres of awesomeness situated between Torquay and Warnambool on Victoria’s South-West Coast! Beginning one hour outside of Melbourne, the drive attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year. An absolute highlight in Australia!
It is one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives. You will see why…!
This great drive leads you to the famous 12 Apostles, close to native wildlife, iconic surf breaks, pristine rainforest and misty waterfalls. The Great Ocean Drive has it all.
I will show you how to experience the highlights of this amazing drive as part of a 3 days road trip.
Pick the right Ride!
Following the coast for the majority of the drive, the Great Ocean Road is best seen in a hire campervan or car!
I choose a campervan from Spaceship Rentals for my trip and it was an excellent choice!
Since it was the first time driving a campervan, I didn’t want a bulky vehicle, but rather something small that yet provides all the facilities I need: a bed, cooking facilities and a comfortable drive. My “Spaceship” came with camping chair and table, mini-fridge, cooking utensils, gas cooker and bed linen. What else do you need?
Prices start from just $39 per day. Overall good value for money. Check the Spaceship Rentals website for their latest offers.
A few things to remember:Drive the Great Ocean Drive from Torquay and Warnambool (not the other way around), so that you drive on the side of the ocean (best for spontaneous stops). Its illegal to camp beside the road or in car parks as well as being potentially dangerous. Spaceship Rentals offers a free app that shows you all campsides on a map (free, mid-range and upscale). The minimum hire period is 5 days. I suggest to allocate 3 days for the Great Ocean Drive and another 2 days to explore Melbourne. Accommodation in Melbourne is quite expensive so staying at campgrounds is a great way to save some bucks.
Great Ocean Road Touring
Day One: Melbourne to Apollo Bay
187 km/116 miles, about 3 hours (driving time, without stops)
Ease into your roadtrip with a leisurely drive from Melbourne to Torquay, just over an hour’s drive.
Torquay is home to some of Australia’s best-known surf beaches and the official beginning of the Great Ocean Road.
The town offers some cute cafe’s and restaurants if you want to fuel up before heading further.
The town of Anglesea is your next stop. Take a detour to the golf course (Golf Links Road), famous for the kangaroos lounging under the trees surrounding the greens.
You will only be able to spot the kangaroos from the far, but for just AUD 10 you can join one of the kangaroo tours that are offered right at the golf club house.
Magnificent coastal views will dominate the next 30 kilometres. Literally every 1-2 km you will have a scenic view point so plan plenty of extra time for spontaneous stops.
Your next stop will be the beach town Lorne, the perfect spot for lunch by the beach.
Another twenty minutes winding along the coastal road will bring you to Kennett River and its most famous locals: koalas.
I wasn’t lucky to see any koalas on that day, but instead I saw many colourful parrots at the koala viewing spot.
Take some birdseed to feed them. They are so used to humans, they will even fly and sit on your head (if you let them).
As you make your way to Apollo Bay, you’ll travel up along cliff-tops offering incredible views and alongside wild beaches – take time to stop at the lookouts for photos, or beachside for a stroll.
From coastal town Apollo Bay, follow the Great Ocean Road into the lush Otway National Park, and turn off to the Cape Otway light station (about a 50-minute drive).
There is another Koala viewing spot half way to the light station visitor center (this time I was lucky to see some cuties :)).
Take a tour of the oldest surviving lighthouse in mainland Australia, climb to the top 90 metres above sea level and see where the Bass Strait meets the Southern Ocean.
The entrance to access the walk to the lighthouse is AUD 19.50.
Make your way back to Apollo Bay for the night. I recommend staying at the Apollo Bay Recreation Caravan Park at the end of town.
I paid AUD 25 for an unpowered site with hot shower facilities (off season).
Day two: Apollo Bay to Warrnambool
189 km/117 miles, about 3 hours (driving time, without stops)
From Apollo Bay get back to the Great Ocean Road. The first about 70 km will be inland, away from the ocean without many highlights (except for the Castle Cove Lookout).
Once you reach The Twelve Apostels, get your camera ready for some spectacular sights. The famous 12 Apostles, a group of magnificent rock stacks rising up from the Southern Ocean are best to be seen from one of the many viewpoints.
Also, decent all 86 of the Gibson Steps to walk down to the bach for a ground-level view of the 12 Apostels (unfortunately the access to the steps was closed due to construction work when I was there).
Continue driving along the coastline leading to Port Campbell and make stops at lookouts over the cliffs of Loch Ard Gorge, The Razorback, Port Campbell and the London Bridge. All stunning rock formations and perfect photo spots.
Continue along the Great Ocean Road west, to Warrnambool. Before getting into town, make a stop at the Allansford Cheese World, a local cheese shop where you can have a free cheese tasting and of course – buy some cheese and wine!
Then head to the viewing platforms at Logans Beach to spot its impressive winter visitors: southern right and blue whales. Catching a glimpse of these giants schooling their calves just offshore is truly awe-inspiring.
It is one of the very few places worldwide where you can spot whales from the land.
Spent the night in Warrnambool. My recommendation is the Discovery Parks Campground close to the sea. I paid AUD 30 for an unpowered site.
Day three: Warrnambool to Melbourne (inland route)
288 km/179 miles, about 3.5 hours (driving time, without stops)
From Warrnambool, drive towards Port Fairy and take the turn-off to Tower Hill State Game Reserve, an easy 15-minute drive. Take to the walking tracks, keeping an eye out for koalas, emus, kangaroos and waterbirds who roam freely among the hills and lake-filled craters of this extinct volcano.
Leaning the reserve continue along the easy inland route towards Colac (approximately 140 kilometres). Stop at the Red Rock viewing point right before getting into Colac for 360-degree views over the nearby lakes.
From here, it’s another 1.5 hours until you’ll be back in Melbourne.
I chose this inland route going back to Melbourne. You can certainly also trace your trip back along the Great Ocean Road, stopping to spend more time at your favourite spots. There might also be some “I wish I would have stopped there” points.