Everything You Need to Know About Australia’s Great Ocean Road
One of Australia’s best experiences, driving the Great Ocean Road will offer you more sights and activities than you could imagine.
Whether you’re visiting Australia or you’ve lived here your whole life, this country is so huge that it would take multiple lifetimes to explore it all. As distances are so vast, if you’re pushed for time or want to make the most of your trip, it’s a good idea to head to places where you can pack a lot in.
The Great Ocean Road is a relatively short journey but it has so many things to do along the way that you could spend a few days or a whole week on it.
Ready to find out why the Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s best road trips? Read on to discover it in all its glory.
What Is the Great Ocean Road?
The Great Ocean Road is a 151 mile (243 kilometres) stretch of road that follows the South Australian coastline and passes through exceptionally beautiful places. It starts from Torquay just outside Melbourne and goes all the way to Allansford a little before Warrnambool.
While the official road travels from Torquay to Allansford, many road trippers continue on to Nelson to extend their adventure. There’s more than enough to see and do in the 151 miles of heritage road though.
You can complete the drive in a few hours but you’d be wasting some of Australia’s best activities. The glory of the Great Ocean Road is its accessibility to landscapes, beaches, and towns that are well worth visiting.
How Can You Travel Along the Great Ocean Road?
The easiest way to get the most out of the Great Ocean Road is to drive yourself. This gives you unrivalled freedom to stop wherever you like and for as long as you want.
Renting a car is easy from Melbourne and if you want to save money and time finding accommodation, hire a campervan instead. Travelling in a campervan not only means you choose your own timetable but you can park up and make a cup of coffee when you find a secluded clifftop view.
If you want to make Australian road trips a regular thing, maybe it’s time to get yourself an SUV tent. These tents give you the ultimate flexibility when it comes to road trips and you’ll find plenty of camping spots on your Great Ocean Road adventure.
You can catch buses along the Great Ocean Road and stop at different points along the way. While you’ll see beautiful sights from the window, you won’t be able to stop where you want and might have to wait a day or more for the next bus.
Places to Stop Along the Way
This stretch of coastline is filled with bays, cliffs and nature reserves. We wouldn’t blame you if you stopped every twenty minutes because there’s always something to see.
So you’ve packed your luggage in the car and you’re ready to set off. Uh, you don’t have to go very far yet. Just stop off at a Torquay car park.
Torquay is a cool place to explore with the National Surfing Museum, beaches and lookout points. It’s also filled with surf outlets selling boards, clothes and accessories so if you want to look the part for your trip, this is the place to update your wardrobe.
Just down the road from Torquay is Bell’s Beach, the famous surf spot which can have phenomenal waves if you’re lucky with the conditions. Grab your camera and watch the surfers shred.
A short drive along the Great Ocean Road from Bell’s Beach is Aireys Inlet. If you’re planning on travelling slowly and seeing everything, this is a charming place to stop for a walk.
A small town right on the clifftop, Aireys Inlet has an amazing lighthouse. The Split Point Lighthouse is subject to a lot of local ghost stories and you can take a tour inside for phenomenal views of the coastline. Did we mention it was also used in the 80s classic TV show Round the Twist?
Further along, on your Great Ocean Road drive, you’ll find Lorne. This pretty, beachside town has an epic surfing beach and the swimming is wonderful at Loutit Bay. Wander the main shopping street to discover Lorne’s boutiques and easy-going cafes too.
Well-known for its artistic roots, there’s usually something arty going on here from exhibitions to performances. This town isn’t just a nice beachside stop, it makes a fantastic based to head into the Otways National Park.
You can discover the history of this epic road in Lorne at the Great Ocean Road Heritage Centre. Built by returning WW1 servicemen, the road is the world’s largest war memorial.
Otways National Park
This magnificent rainforest is a huge tourist draw for the area and filled with lush forests and impressive waterfalls. It’s easily accessible from Lorne where you can walk between ten waterfalls and take day trips into the national park.
You can access different sights in Otways from many points along the Great Ocean Road including the Great Ocean Walk between Apollo Bay and the Twelve Apostles. Drive inland into the park to experience the Otway Fly Tree Top Walk and travel into the park just a short way from Apollo Bay to see the tree ferns at Maits Rest.
As the Otways is so huge, you can enter the park from wherever you are on the Great Ocean Road so pack your hiking poles and prepare to be amazed.
95 kilometres (59 miles) from Torquay, Apollo Bay is a popular place to spend the night when driving the Great Ocean Road. Unless you’ve fallen in love with Otways and spend the night in Lorne of course.
Apollo Bay is a brilliant place for water sport enthusiasts with its clear water and backdrop of rolling hills. You can snorkel, swim, kayak and even spot seals here. The town itself is well worth exploring, filled with boutique shops and cafes. Seafood is big business so look for seafood restaurants to try the freshest local food.
Using Apollo Bay as a base for a night or two gives you the opportunity to explore this area further. Drive up into the Otways to Lake Elizabeth and see if you can spot a duck-billed platypus or head to Kennett River to see koalas.
One last thing; the Apollo Bay Bakery is famous for its delicious pastries so be sure to stop there before you carry on.
If there’s one thing the Great Ocean Road is famous for, it’s the Twelve Apostles. Towering limestone sea stacks, the Twelve Apostles line the coast and make for phenomenal viewing. If you can catch them at sunrise or sunset, you’ll definitely be rewarded as the changing sun causes their colours to shift.
The Twelve Apostles Marine National Park and nearby Port Campbell and Peterborough are also fantastic places for scuba diving and snorkelling. There are various companies in the area that provide diving and snorkelling trips so if you want to explore the abundant marine environment, sign up for a tour.
As the sea conditions are changeable and can be dangerous, it’s best to go with a professional guide rather than by yourself.
A little further on from the Twelve Apostles is the beachside village of Port Campbell. Relaxing here is easy with its array of street cafes and restaurants. Food is a big deal in the town and you’ll find plenty of tasty treats and locally made produce.
Port Campbell is a good place to book onto a boat tour or even a helicopter tour. If you want to see the local surfers doing their thing, head to Two Mile Bay, famous for its big waves. There are no lifeguards here so unless you’re a pro, it’s best to watch from shore.
Allansford might be the official end of the Great Ocean Road but a few kilometres on will find you in Warrnambool. This beautiful city occupies an incredible position and you could easily spend a day or more here.
Go horseback riding through sand dunes, eat seafood in a promenade restaurant and visit Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village. This museum is a shrine to the hundreds of mariners who’ve lost their lives on this dangerous stretch of coastline and tells the history of the area.
Have the Time of Your Life on the Great Ocean Road
As you can see, the Great Ocean Road is so rich with sights and activities that you won’t want to drive it in a day. Three days is a popular amount of time but a week would allow you to really embrace this phenomenal area.
On this historic road, you’ll find towns providing exquisite seafood, beaches bringing in world-class surf and rainforests filled with waterfalls. It’s a road where your legs will never ache from driving because you’ll be stopping every twenty minutes to take a photo and explore a new place.
Once you’ve completed the Great Ocean Road, you’ll be ready for another adventure. Check out our guide to the top places in Tasmania to visit because this neighbouring island holds some of Australia’s most incredible sights!