Great Ocean Road Drive Australia

Your Ultimate Great Ocean Road Guide with Top 23 things to Do

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The Great Ocean Road is one of those places you have to see to believe. Winding around the rugged shores of southwest Victoria, the route ranks among the world’s most scenic coastal drives. With lookouts featuring giant sea stacks, sandy beaches, craggy cliffs, and verdant rainforests, the Great Ocean Road holds some of Australia’s greatest natural wonders. 

We included the Great Ocean Road in our Australia road trip and spent four days driving the coastal route. It was easily one of our best adventures in Australia due to the sheer number of beautiful landmarks. Unlike other scenic drives in Australia, where you have to go hundreds or thousands of kilometers to see something new, the Great Ocean Road had spectacular sights around every turn. 

With this Great Ocean Road guide, you’ll have an extensive list of activities to stuff into your itinerary. Whether you’re pressed for time or have several days to explore the drive, we highlight the top places to include in your Great Ocean Road tour. So, buckle up and get ready to discover a classic Australia road trip.

Where is the Great Ocean Road?

The Great Ocean Road stretches for 243 km (151 miles) in the Australian state of Victoria. While the official Great Ocean Road starting point is Torquay, many visitors begin their travels from Melbourne. The entire route goes from Torquay to Allansford. So, to reach the start of the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne, add another 104 km (65 miles) to your journey. 

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How to get around?

The easiest way to travel along the Great Ocean Road is hitting the open road with a rental car. There are so many incredible sights on the route, and it’s worth having the freedom to drive wherever you want to go. 

Australia has lots of rental car options, but the one we prefer is Auto Europe. The company has several locations in Melbourne and offers a wide range of vehicle options such as fuel-efficient cars, large SUVs, and 4×4 vehicles.

Where to stay?

Although many tourists rush the Great Ocean Road on a day trip from Melbourne, we advise against it. There are too many amazing destinations to include in your itinerary, and it’s impossible for one day. Plus, there are plenty of places to spend the night for all types of budgets. From luxury resorts and quaint lodges to free campgrounds, there’s a spot for everyone. 

Just past Allansford, Warrnambool has lots of accommodation options. Portland, Cape Otway, Apollo Bay, Lorne, and Torquay are other popular areas on the Great Ocean Road to rest for the evening.

Tip: Book your stays with hotels.com and get a free night for every 10 nights you stay! 

Things to Do

1. Great Ocean Road memorial sign

  • Stop Time: 10-15 minutes 

No Great Ocean Road Tour is complete without taking a snapshot of its most famous sign. The memorial arch and accompanying sculpture commemorate the Australian soldiers who lost their lives during WWI. Marking the start of the Great Ocean Road, the wooden arch makes a memorable photo to start your road trip.

2. Twelve apostles

Stop Time: 1-1.5 hours 

Rising upwards of 50 meters (164 feet) above the Southern Ocean, the Twelve Apostles are the signature landmark of the Great Ocean Road. Once connected to the mainland cliffs, the forces of erosion have carved them into imposing sea stacks in the turquoise waters. Despite the name “Twelve” Apostles, there are only eight sea stacks left at this moment. The ferocious wind and waves continuously shape the limestone cliffs hugging the sandy shores.

3. Gibson steps

Stop Time: 1-1.5 hours 

Just up the road from the Twelve Apostles Lookout, the Gibson Steps are gigantic sea stacks that make you feel like a spec of sand. The Gibson Steps viewing platform places you amongst the craggy cliffs, and nearly 100 steps lead to the sandy shoreline. The immense sea stacks resemble towering skyscrapers and are an intimidating presence. For a fun cliffside walk, hike atop the rugged walls along the beach for 1 km (0.6 miles) from the Twelve Apostles car park to the Gibson Steps viewing platform. 

4. The Grotto

  • Stop Time: 1 hour

The Grotto might be the most enticing geologic formation you’ll see outside of the Twelve Apostles. Just west of Port Campbell, a wooden staircase meanders to an observation point of enchanting rock pools beneath the limestone cliff face. A rocky archway sits above the boulder-filled pools, and you can peek through the opening to see the ocean waves crashing against the cliffside. 

5. London Bridge

  • Stop Time: 30-40 minutes. 

Located in Port Campbell National Park, London Bridge is a testament to the erosion continuously shaping Australia’s southern coastline. Before its arch, closest to the shoreline, collapsed in 1990, you could span the natural bridge from the mainland. The former double-arched landmark resembled its UK namesake and jutted from the rocky shoreline. Today, it goes by London Arch and is viewable from two platforms at different angles.

6. Go surfing in Torquay surfer village 

Stop Time: 2-2.5 hours 

Home to iconic surf beaches like Jan Juc Beach and Bells Beach, Torquay is the epicenter of Australian surf culture. The seaside village houses the headquarters of Quicksilver and Rip Curl and makes a great spot to take a crack at surfing. Just outside of Torquay, this sheltered beach in Anglesea has gentle waves for an enjoyable first surfing experience.

7. Otway Rainforest Waterfalls 

  • Stop Time: 30 – 45 minutes for each waterfall 

The temperate rainforests of Great Otway National Park are home to numerous enchanting waterfalls hidden amongst lush vegetation. Hopetoun Falls plunges into the Aire River, while Triplett Falls features three cascades trickling against a rocky staircase amidst moss and ferns. Sheoak Falls tumbles against a cliff face and into a sparkling pool, while Erskine Falls plummets 30 meters (98 feet) into a fertile gully. 

8. Otway Californian Redwood Forest

  • Stop Time: 30-40 minutes 

With the Beech Forest of Great Otway National Park, you’ll find towering California Redwoods. Planted in the 1930s, the mammoth trees are an awe-inspiring sight beside the Aire River. The thick trunks, peaceful river, and green ferns create a magical location for a stroll or picnic on your Great Ocean Road tour. 

9. Cape Otway Lighthouse

  • Stop Time: 50 minutes – 1 hour

Perched above a 90-meter (295 ft) rocky cliff, the Cape Otway Lighthouse is mainland Australia’s oldest and most culturally significant lighthouse. After countless shipwrecks along the coast, Cape Otway was built in the 19th-century to guide migrants ashore. It’s possible to climb the tower for breathtaking ocean views and imagine searching for sailing vessels across the deep-blue waters.

10. Kennett River Koala Walk

  • Stop Time: 1-1.5 hours

For wildlife enthusiasts, the Kennett River Koala Walk is your best chance to spot koalas. In the small town of Kennett River between Lorne and Apollo Bay, a dirt road surrounded by gum trees and eucalyptus forests has a flourishing koala population. Turn your gaze towards the tree branches to find the furry, adorable creatures. Keep your eyes peeled for parrots and other colorful birdlife in this area as well. 

11. Maits Rest Rainforest walk

  • Stop Time: 30-40 minutes 

Explore the fairytale rainforests of the Otway Ranges on this easy boardwalk trail. The path weaves through ancient forests and provides glimpses of beech trees hundreds of years old. Stand in awe of the fragile ecosystem of moss, tree ferns, and eucalyptus plants. The lush forests also house diverse wildlife that includes koalas, possums, and swamp wallabies.

12. Aireys inlet and the Split Point Lighthouse

  • Stop Time: 1-2 hours 

Aireys Inlet is a popular retreat for surfers, swimmers, and hikers enticed by sweeping coastal views. Split Point Lighthouse is the hamlet’s star attraction, but the Surf Coast Walk and Cliff Top Walk also offer stellar views. Ride the surf at Fairhaven Beach, explore rock pools at Step Beach, or practice your moves at the local skate park. 

Located in Aireys Inlet, the Split Point Lighthouse presents stunning 360° views of the Shipwreck Coast. Lighthouse tours let you climb to the top platform and teach you the seafaring history of this treacherous coast. You’ll see pictures of old shipwrecks, hear about the lives of lighthouse keepers, and learn its current operations. From the balcony, you have a jaw-dropping vista of sandy beaches, rocky headlands, and sea stacks. 

13. Visit Lorne

With golden beaches, plunging waterfalls, and seaside cafés, Lorne makes a fantastic place to rest for the evening. As a gateway to Great Otway National Park, you’re minutes from temperate rainforests, fern gullies, and rocky coastlines. Wander the Surf Coast Walk for epic cliffside views, ride the waves at Lorne Point, or grab a coffee at the famous Swing Bridge Café. 

With lots of great cafés and restaurants, Lorne is also a favorite place for lunch. The town sits right on the Great Ocean Road and makes a natural place to grab a bite to eat with seaside views. Mountjoy Parade is part of the Great Ocean Road and the main thoroughfare of Lorne. Some of the best places to eat are the IPSOS Restaurant & Bar, Lorne Central, and The Bottle of Milk.

14. Wreck beach

Stop Time: 1.5 hours 

The ship remains scattered on this sandy beach serve as an eerie reminder of Mother Nature’s power. After a steep descent down 366 steps, you’ll find the anchors of the Marie Gabrielle and Fiji onshore. But don’t attempt to find the anchors at high tide due to higher sea levels.

15. Eat fish and chips at Apollo Bay Seafood Cafe (Really the best!! Tried and tasted ourselves!) 

  • Stop Time: 30 minutes – 1 hour 

We swear that this seafood joint will serve some of the tastiest fish and chips you’ve ever tasted. Apollo Bay sits around 1 hour from Lorne, and the Apollo Bay Seafood Café offers the freshest seafood on the Great Ocean Road. Other local favorites include Gummy sharks, mussels, scallops, and crayfish. 

16. Teddy’s lookout

  • Stop Time: 20-30 minutes 

Just outside of Lorne, Teddy’s Lookout has some of the most spectacular coastal views on the Great Ocean Road. From the platform, you’ll spot the ocean waves crashing into the mouth of the Saint George River. The panoramic view also shows the river winding through a verdant valley before emptying into the Bass Strait. 

17. Watch the sunset at one of the many beaches

  • Stop Time: 1-2 hours

The Great Ocean Road has an endless supply of sandy beaches to watch the Australian sun dip below the horizon. From dramatic cliffs to verdant forests, many beaches have unbelievable backdrops. Some of our favorite sunset spots include Apollo Bay Beach, Loch Ard Gorge, and Johanna Beach.

18. Go skydiving

  • Stop Time: 3-4 hours

How about a break from the road for some death-defying thrills? This tandem skydiving tour soars 15,000 ft (4,572 meters) into the sky and sends you freefalling at 200km/hr for 60 seconds. While racing to Earth, you’ll get harrowing views above Torquay, Bells Beach, and Geelong.

19. Explore Portland

  • Stop Time: 2-3 hours

Portland is Victoria’s first permanent European settlement and boasts a rich maritime history. Ride around the city on old cable trams and view its distinguished bluestone buildings. Smell radiant flowers at the Portland Botanical Gardens or head to the coastline for spectacular cliffside vistas. From the Maritime Discovery Centre, check out seafaring exhibits or watch for whale migrations.

20. Nelson (official end of the Great Ocean Road)

  • Stop Time: 2-4 hours 

Nelson sits on the western edge of Victoria, and its sandy shoreline signals the end of the Great Ocean Road. Tackle the untouched coastal terrain by kayaking the waterways of Lower Glenelg National Park, wandering sand dunes at Discovery Bay, or view the underground beauty of Princess Margaret Rose Cave.

21. Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery

  • Stop Time: 30-40 minutes 

If you have a sweet tooth, this is Victoria’s premier spot to indulge in chocolatey delights. Step into their showroom filled with freshly made pastries, artisan ice creams, and thousands of chocolates. The staff offers free samples, and you can watch the Chocolatiers in action. For a little energy kick, grab a hot chocolate or coffee to go with some snacks. 

22. Watch penguins get ashore

  • Stop Time: 45 minutes – 1 hour 

This was the biggest surprise of the Great Ocean Road around the Twelve Apostles beach location. Penguins are visible from the viewing platform of the iconic sea stacks, but you won’t have up-close encounters. To view the little guys nesting in their burrows, rent a pair of binoculars for free at the Port Campbell Visitors Centre. Make sure to arrive 15-20 minutes before sunrise or sunset, otherwise you’ll miss them. 

23. Great Ocean Walk

Stop Time: 6-8 days to hike the entire route

If you have time to spare, the Great Ocean Walk is a more intimate way to explore the area. Stretching from Apollo Bay to Glenample Homestead right before the Twelve Apostles, the multi-day hike unlocks patches of coastline not visible from the roadway. The walking path spans 104 km (65 miles) and has campgrounds spread across the trail. From the rainforests and waterfalls of Great Otway National Park to the windswept coastline of Port Campbell National Park, it’s a hiker’s paradise. It’s also possible to go on a day-hike and walk one leg of the Great Ocean Walk. 

Great Ocean Road Itinerary

To help you plan an awesome Great Ocean Road tour, we’ve organized a 2-day itinerary with some of our top sights. You can always play around with the specific destinations you wish to visit, but we think this a solid plan to work around. 

Day 1:

  • Early breakfast and depart from Melbourne
  • Surf lesson at Anglesea
  • Check out the views from Aireys Inlet and Split Point Lighthouse
  • Snap a picture of the Great Ocean Road Memorial Sign
  • Stop for lunch in Lorne and enjoy the views at Teddy’s Lookout
  • Pit stop in Kennett River to search for koalas
  • Stroll through the Otway California Redwood Forest 
  • Check out Hopetoun and Triplet Falls
  • Sunset at Twelve Apostles and Gibson Steps
  • Watch for penguins while at Twelve Apostles Beach
  • Dinner and spend the night at Port Campbell 

Recommended stays

Day 2:

  • Early breakfast and depart from Port Campbell
  • Stop by The Grotto and London Bridge 
  • Pit stop in Portland for lunch and whale watching from the Maritime Discovery Centre
  • Check out the anchors on Wreck Beach
  • Enjoy the sensational views at the Cape Otway Lighthouse
  • Wander along the Maits Rest Rainforest Walk
  • Early dinner at the Apollo Bay Seafood Café 
  • Chase waterfalls at Sheoak Falls and Erskine Falls 
  • Pick up sweet treats at Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery
  • Watch the sunset at Bells Beach in Torquay
  • Evening drive back to Melbourne

Explore the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne with a Tour

If you don’t have a car or rather not drive yourself, there are several Great Ocean Road tours available. Tours range from 1-3 days and let you experience the journey without having to concentrate on the road. 

1-Day Great Ocean Road

Start your day with morning tea on a secluded beach followed by visits to the coastal towns of Lorne and Apollo Bay. After lunch in Apollo Bay and a stroll through the Otway rainforests, behold the Twelve Apostles and the adjacent geologic wonders dotting the coastline. 

Book your tour

2-Day Great Ocean Road

Grab some chocolates for the trip by stopping at Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery, then continue to Split Point Lighthouse. Snap a photo of the Memorial Sign and witness the serene beauty of Erskine Falls before spending the night in Apollo Bay. Day 2 wanders through temperate rainforests before marveling at the Twelve Apostles, London Bridge, and Loch Ard Gorge on Shipwreck Coast. 

Book your tour

3-Day Great Ocean Road

Day 1 of this epic adventure lets you wander sandy beaches, charming villages, and fairytale rainforests on the Great Ocean Road. Spend time searching for koalas, explore Great Otway National Park, and behold the Twelve Apostles, London Bridge, and Loch Ard Gorge. 

Day 2 starts in Warrnambool and ventures to cliffside vistas, an extinct volcano, and waterfalls of Grampians National Park. After eating a traditional Aussie dinner the night before, day 3 includes wildlife encounters and heart-racing lookouts of Grampians before returning to Melbourne.

What happens at day 3? Haha

Book your tour

These were our picks for the best things to do on Australia’s Great Ocean Road. If you have questions or if you have other suggestions, please leave a comment below. And if you are ready to explore more of Australia, don’t forget to check out our Australia page for more tips, things to do, and more in this beautiful country!

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