Considered as one of the most beautiful roads in the world, the winding Great Ocean Road stretches from Torquay to Warrnambool, occupying the southwestern part of the state of Victoria. Here is our recommended Great Ocean Road itinerary. Along this 250km stretch of road, there are charming small coastal towns, breathtaking rock formations, including the famous Twelve Apostles, and beautiful beaches with turquoise waters. The part of the coast spanning from Princetown to Port Fairy is nicknamed the Shipwreck Coast because of the number of shipwrecks its sharp cliffs caused.
This incredible route is worth visiting for about 2 to 3 days. We give you the must-see sights of this legendary road and our practical recommendations for a unique experience.
How to get to the Great Ocean Road?
The Great Ocean Road stretches from Torquay to Warrnambool for nearly 250km. You can go there from Melbourne or Adelaide. The ideal is to travel with your vehicle and plan 2 or 3 days to explore it. You can also rent a vehicle (campervan or car) from Melbourne or Adelaide for a few days to discover the region. For those who don’t have much time, you can still get an overview in 1 day from Melbourne.
The ideal season to visit this region is from September to February. Remember that during the school holidays there are many tourists, which can sometimes spoil the visit a little. For those who wish to make the round trip from Melbourne, it is not so inconvenient to make the same trip twice. Because when you have worse weather conditions you can go faster and hope to have better on the way back. Otherwise, be aware that there is another road inland allowing you to visit other points of interest (forests, waterfalls, etc.) fro your way back.
From Torquay to Apollo Bay
Marking the beginning of the Great Ocean Road, Torquay is a well-known surf spot. Visit the Surfworld Australia Surfing Museum in the center of town ($10 / pers.) and the surrounding beaches. The renowned surfing beach Bells Beach (one of the film locations for Point Break), located a few miles from town, is a must-stop when visiting Torquay.
At Bells beach, you can discover magnificent views from the heights, through landscaped paths, which allow you to walk and access different beaches. It is not surprising that this place faces the Rip Curl Pro stages, the waves are huge and perfect for any experienced surfer.
Aireys Inlet, Lighthouse
A little past Torquay is Aireys Inlet. The walk to access the lighthouse begins with a pretty river that opens onto the sea. It is possible to go canoeing there, the place is very peaceful. A few meters higher, we reach the lighthouse with other paths available to admire the ocean view from different heights. There is an isolated rock in the middle of the water, the Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary.
It is a small coastal town, popular among surfers and Melbournians that go there for a weekend getaway. Lorne Forest Park is great for hiking through eucalyptus forests. North of the town, a short walk from the car park brings you to Erskine Falls. Right next to the city, Teddy’s Lookout offers a great view of the bay.
Cumberland River Trail (20.5 km)
Very close to Lorne and with a departure from the Cumberland River Holiday Park, this walk takes about 6h30 return. Even if it is on a tourist route, this hike is very pleasant. The path follows the winding river which is interrupted around the first 3 kilometers by a natural swimming pool (Jebb’s Pool). A few more kilometers further you can admire the source of a waterfall. The hike then continues along a long path dotted with rivers, natural pools, flowers and trees of all kinds. Many animals can be seen in the wild; kangaroos, snakes and birds in particular.
Kennet River is a must on the Great Ocean Road for the animals found there. Cockatoos, parrots and koalas live there in harmony and seem accustomed to the presence of man. You can see koalas napping above your heads or multicolored parrots on tall eucalyptus trees along Gray River Road.
From Apollo Bay to Port Campbell
Your itinerary starts from Apollo Bay, the Great Ocean Road leaves the coast to meander through the forest. Despite large crowds of tourist during the holidays, this small town has retained its charm and is full of small cafes and nice restaurants.
About 1km from town, Mariner’s Lookout offers spectacular views.
Great Otway National Park
Johanna is a tiny town but its beach is definitely worth a visit! A little further, the Cape Otway National Park offers beautiful landscapes with walks amongst giant trees.
The Otway Fly Tree Top Walk is 600m long and 25m high, leading through temperate forests. At the end you arrive at a lookout 45m above the ground, which lets you rise above the treetops. You can also slide down the Fly Zip Line, moving from while tree to tree attached to a cable 30m above the forest floor (walk-up price $ 120/ person – duration 3 hours – Tree Top Walk $ 26).
A short detour (15km) from the Great Ocean Road takes you to the Cape Otway Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in Victoria ($ 19.50/ person).
Port Campbell National Park
This is the next stop on our Great Ocean Road itinerary. The Twelve Apostles are the most famous rock formations on the Great Ocean Road. These limestone towers, some of which are more than 45m high, seem to watch over the coast, constantly changing with the breaking waves coming from Antarctica. Forces of winds and tides have been shaping these rocks for centuries and have gradually eroded the smallest rock formations. Today there are only 8 out of the 12 limestone towers left. You can admire them from one of the observation platforms accessible from the car parks. You can even go down to the beach to see the rocks from below, a different and amazing view.
There are also other ways to observe the Twelve Apostles, it is quite possible to fly over them in a helicopter!
East of the Twelve Apostles, Wreck Beach marks the beginning of a walking track that takes you to the anchors of two ships stranded there at the end of the 19th century.
A little further down the road, Loch Ard Gorge is a place filled with history. The ship of the same name left England in 1878 with 54 passengers. Three months later, it sank, leaving only two 18 year-old survivors. They were washed up on the beach now called Loch Ard Gorge. Take a walk to discover the story of the survivors and visit the cemetery of the crew members.
At the Bay of Martyrs, a group of small islands separated from shore by less than 100m, another tragedy occurred. A long time ago, white farmers settled in this area, taking land from the traditional landowners. No longer able to hunt on their land, the Aborigines began to kill farm animals. Subsequently, war broke out, which led farmers to tragically capture aborigines and throw them off the cliffs.
From Port Campbell to Warrnambool
Port Campbell is a very pretty village, however quite touristy. This is a prefect place to stop for refueling, shopping, or even having a picnic on the beach. The Discovery Walk is a great opportunity to enjoy the view of the bay from high up.
West of the town, the next stop is London Bridge. After a series of storms in 1990, a rock separated from the main land and formed this natural bridge.
Largest town on the Great Ocean Road, Warrnamboll has shopping malls, hotels, and even a nursery for whales! The town’s beach, Logans Beach, is the playground of the Southern Right Whales, which pass by every year between June and October.
The Great Ocean Walk
Doing this hike is a great way to be closer to nature than just as a spectator and to experience this stunning coastline differently. It stretches over 104km from Apollo Bay to the Twelve Apostles. Crossing beautiful parks and deserted beaches, it is possible to start and stop the walk wherever you want. It is strongly recommended to be used to hiking and in a good physical condition. If you want to do this unique walk, find more information on the Great Ocean Walk website. This is also the last stop on our Great Ocean Road itinerary.
Great Ocean Road: Travel Information
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