It’s no wonder that the Great Ocean Road is considered one of Australia’s most scenic drives. Beginning just over an hour from Melbourne, this winding road runs alongside rugged cliffs and boasts spectacular ocean views. If you’re thinking of doing this famous road trip, we’ve put together this useful guide listing the best stops to add to your Great Ocean Road itinerary.
Tick off some of Australia’s most iconic landmarks on this road trip of a lifetime such as the Twelve Apostles, charming seaside towns, stunning beaches, plenty of cute wildlife and some of the best waterfalls in Victoria!
This detailed guide will provide you with all of the information you need to plan the very best Great Ocean Road self-drive itinerary. Rather than a precise itinerary, we’ve compiled a list all of the best stops that can’t be missed along the drive. Whether you only have a weekend or longer, read on to discover the best attractions on the Great Ocean Road!
Table of Contents
15 Must-See Stops For Your Great Ocean Road Itinerary
How Much Time Do You Need To Drive The Great Ocean Road?
The entire drive stretches out over 664km and takes around 9.5 hours return from Melbourne. The best way to plan your journey is stretching it out over a few days. If you’re in a rush then take a look at the recommended day tour below.
The good thing about driving the Great Ocean Road is that you can do it in as little or as much time as you want. You can easily see the stops listed below on a 2 day Great Ocean Road itinerary or you could stretch it out to 3 or 4 days.
This drive is truly stunning with so many unique things to see and do along the route. My recommendation would be to slow down and take as much time as you need. We included the Great Ocean Road on our lap around Australia and spent over a week completing this drive and camping in some of the most beautiful locations.
The Best Great Ocean Road Tours
Perhaps you are visiting Melbourne and short on time but still want to see some of the Great Ocean Road’s highlights. This will make for a very long day trip with many hours of driving, but it is still a popular way to see the Great Ocean Road. I would suggest booking an organized tour which means you’ll leave the long drives to someone else.
Great Ocean Road Day Tour From Melbourne – Get picked up from your accommodation in Melbourne first thing in the morning before beginning the drive toward the Great Ocean Road. This small group tour aims to show you the very best highlights of this famous drive in a 13 hour day trip.
The tour includes a stop at Kennett River to see koalas and parrots in their natural habitats followed by a scenic rainforest walk in the Great Otway National Park. You’ll also have the option to add on a 15 minute helicopter ride over the Shipwreck Coast.
Some of the highlights of your day will be stopping in Apollo Bay for lunch, walking the iconic Gibson Steps, taking photos at the Twelve Apostles, and marvelling at the rock formations at Loch Ard Gorge.
2-Day Great Ocean Road & Grampians Tour – If you still want to join a tour but prefer not to squeeze everything into one long day, this option will suit you better. After departing Melbourne on day one, enjoy the scenic drive along the Great Ocean Road stopping at all the most famous points of interest.
Take a walk through the stunning rainforests of Great Otways National Park and then spend the first night in Halls Gap. The second day of the tour will show you the sweeping mountain views and amazing waterfalls of Grampians National Park.
Enjoy two full days surrounded by nature and wildlife before returning to Melbourne by 5:30pm on day two. This tour includes entry to National Parks, one night of accommodation, tour guide/driver, breakfast and lunch.
When is The Best Time of Year To Drive the Great Ocean Road?
For good weather and minimal crowds, a drive along the Great Ocean Road is ideal during spring (September – November) or autumn (March – May).
Summer (December – February) is the most popular time of year to visit, with longer days and plenty of sunshine. This also means that there will be significantly more people doing the same road trip. Accommodation will also be more expensive and harder to find during this time of year.
Find a Car Rental in Melbourne Before Setting Off
No matter where in the world we travel, we always find it easy to do a quick search on Rentalcars.com to find the best deals on car rentals. With plenty of providers available and reasonable prices, this is definitely the most convenient way to book a rental car. Use the form below to browse prices and availability.
The Best Travel Insurance for Australian Road Trips
If you are travelling to Australia from overseas then make sure you have good travel insurance before hitting the road. We use Heymondo when we travel as it’s perfect for adventures such as hiking, surfing, road tripping etc.
For peace of mind while abroad, Heymondo is one of the most reputable travel insurance companies that will provide you with simple and flexible coverage. Whether you are into adventurous activities or simply looking for trip cancellation and basic medical insurance, Heymondo has you covered.
As a reader of The Road Is Life, you get 5% off your Heymondo travel insurance by using the link below!
Great Ocean Road Trip Tips
- This is a very popular driving route for tourists visiting Australia, it’s essential to plan your route in advance. This means you should decide where you want to spend the night and book your accommodation online before you go. This is especially important when it’s busy during high season.
- Plan for every kind of weather! When driving the Great Ocean Road you should keep in mind that the weather can change quite quickly, even during summer. In this part of Australia, it’s pretty common to see all 4 seasons in a single day so don’t forget your umbrella and rain gear even if it’s sunny when you leave Melbourne.
- Avoid driving at dusk and early morning hours. Like anywhere in Australia, this is the time that you’re most likely to see a kangaroo or other wildlife crossing the road. The middle of the road is the only place that you don’t want to see a roo! Plan your drives during daylight hours and you should be fine.
Where to Stay on the Great Ocean Road
The following are some of the best towns and accommodation options to stop for the night and break up your Great Ocean Road driving itinerary.
If you’re planning a 2 day Great Ocean Road itinerary, Apollo Bay is a great place to base yourself for the night. With plenty of restaurant choices and accommodation options, this is a popular town to stop in for travellers driving on the Great Ocean Road.
Big4 Apollo Bay – If you’re camping or travelling by caravan, this holiday park will be your best choice. Featuring a heated outdoor pool and great views of the main beach, you can’t go wrong with this location! You’ll have the option of booking a campsite or choose from a selection of cabins.
The Apollo – Conveniently located only 1 minute from the beach, this highly reviewed property features comfortable rooms with fully equipped kitchens. It’s an easy 5 minute walk from the main street in town where you’ll find all the shops and restaurants located.
Plan to stay in Port Campbell on the second night if you’re going to be doing a 3 day Great Ocean Road itinerary.
This is the best place to stay for easy access to the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge and the Gibson Steps. If you’re keen to catch a sunrise or sunset at the Twelve Apostles, Port Campbell is the perfect location to base yourself.
NRMA Port Campbell Holiday Park – Only 10 minutes from the Twelve Apostles, this popular holiday park offers the option to book a campsite or a cabin/villa.
Campbell Parkview Motel & Apartments – If you’re looking to stay in a self-contained apartment, this one is perfectly located just off of the Great Ocean Road. Get up early and beat the crowds with only a 10 minute drive to the Twelve Apostles!
Otways National Park
If you’re like us and not in a rush to complete your Great Ocean Road trip, I would recommend spending some extra time exploring the stunning Otways National Park. There are so many beautiful walking trails and amazing waterfalls to discover here, we were glad that we chose to spend 2 nights in the Otways instead of rushing through it!
Beauchamp Falls Reserve – A beautiful free campground located in the national park with stunning forest views and toilet facilities. It is perfectly located near the walking trail that leads to the incredible Beauchamp Falls.
This campground is unpowered and located at the end of a steep, winding road so it’s not suitable for large caravans. We really enjoyed staying here for 2 nights on our road trip from Melbourne to Adelaide!
Bimbi Park – This campground in Cape Otway offers the unique experience to camp surrounded by trees full of wild koalas. It’s also well positioned for exploring the National Park. Choose from a selection of cottages or book a campsite.
Best Places to Stop On Your Great Ocean Road Itinerary
The seaside town of Torquay is known as the gateway to Great Ocean Road. It’s the perfect place to stop for a break to stretch your legs after the 1.5 hr drive from Melbourne. It’s also where you’ll find some of Australia’s most famous surfing beaches and a few other highlights to see while you’re there.
Torquay is home to some of the country’s most iconic surfing history, hosting the annual Rip Curl Pro surfing competition over Easter. To gain some insight into Australia’s surfing culture and history, pop into the Australian National Surfing Museum which is located in Torquay’s town centre.
The museum is full of fascinating history and showcases the evolution of the surf board over the decades. It also happens to be the largest surfing museum in the world! One of the highlights of your visit will be seeing the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame.
If surfing is something you’ve always wanted to try, there truly is no better place for it. If you have enough time on your Great Ocean Road itinerary, why not book in a 2-hour surfing lesson while you’re in the surfing capital of Australia!
You can’t drive passed Bells Beach without stopping at one of the most famous surf beaches in all of Australia! Once you leave Torquay, it’s only a 10 minute drive away. Take in the amazing coastal views from the clifftop boardwalk or stay a little longer and watch the surfers catching a wave below.
If you want to get closer to the action, follow the steep wooden steps that lead down to the beach. Feel like catching a wave yourself? Bells Beach is more suitable for experienced surfers. For beginners, it’s best to book a surfing lesson at one of the more protected beaches nearby.
Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch
A Great Ocean Road trip itinerary simply isn’t complete without stopping to snap a photo at the official sign! After driving for 30 minutes from Torquay, you’ll arrive at the famous Memorial Arch.
There is a parking area to the side where you can pull in and stop to pose for a memorable photo under the arch. This is one of the most popular stops on the Great Ocean Road so don’t be surprised to find a ton of other people doing the exact same thing!
The Memorial Arch was originally constructed in 1939 to commemorate the 3,000 soldiers who built the Great Ocean Road during WWI. You’ll notice a statue next to it which shows 2 soldiers working on the arch. This was commissioned to mark the 75th anniversary of the Great Ocean Road.
It’s also worth mentioning that the entire Great Ocean Road was built as a memorial for the soldiers who lost their lives fighting in the war. This makes it the largest war memorial in the world!
By the time you reach Lorne, you will be ready to stop for a lunch break. Lorne is a small town on the Great Ocean Road, not too far from the Memorial Arch. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants to choose from in town as well as a super market if you need to stock up on groceries.
Before moving on to Apollo Bay, there are a few key highlights that you don’t want to miss near Lorne.
Teddy’s Lookout – Take a short drive up to this lookout for a spectacular view over the winding Great Ocean Road below. This is an easy and quick detour that you shouldn’t miss.
Erskine Falls – A 15 minute drive inland from Lorne will take you to the most impressive waterfall you’ve ever seen. Erskine Falls were a huge highlight of our Great Ocean Road itinerary. I’d even go as far as saying that they were my favourite waterfalls in Victoria!
There is a viewing platform at the top and also a steep staircase that leads to the base of the falls. It doesn’t take long to reach the bottom and you won’t regret making the effort to do so.
Kennet River Koala Walk
For those who would like the opportunity to see wild koalas in the trees, you’ll have the option to include the Kennet River Koala Walk on your road trip itinerary. This stop is optional because if you’ve already seen koalas, you may just want to continue the drive to Apollo Bay.
With large numbers of koalas living in the eucalyptus trees, this is one of the best places in Australia to see them in the wild. Just over a 30 minute drive from Lorne will bring you to the start of the koala walk. The best way to get there is to make your way to Kafe Koala and leave your car nearby.
Not far from the cafe, you’ll find the beginning of the koala walk on Grey River Road. Take a leisurely stroll keeping your eyes focused upward in the trees for koalas. You’ll see a variety of other native wildlife in this area such as wallabies, cockatoos and kookaburras.
If you want to catch the koalas while they’re most active, the best time of day for this is early morning or late afternoon. You will still have a good chance to see them during the day but they will probably be asleep.
As I mentioned above, Apollo Bay is the ideal place to stop for the night if you’re driving the Great Ocean Road in 2 days. The town is located roughly on the halfway point on the Great Ocean Road and it also marks the beginning of the Great Otway National Park.
Before continuing your road trip, take a drive up to the Marriner’s Lookout for a panoramic view of the town and coastline. From the Marriner’s Lookout carpark, follow a steep trail for 10 minutes to arrive at the viewpoint.
If you’re lucky enough to have a clear day, you’ll be blown away by this stunning view!
Great Otway National Park
Next up on your Great Ocean Road itinerary is the beautiful Great Otway National Park. This fantastic national park offers a lovely contrast to the coastal scenery of the Great Ocean Road.
As you make your way inland through the lush forests of the Otways, you’ll discover the prettiest waterfalls, fern lined walking trails and magical rainforests filled with towering trees.
The Otways were an unexpected highlight of our Great Ocean Road trip so we decided to spend a bit longer there soaking up the peaceful atmosphere of the forest. If you have the time to spare, I would highly recommend taking your time to explore this special place.
If you don’t have more than a day to spend here, check out the main highlights listed below.
Californian Redwood Forest/Beech Forest
Enjoy a relaxing walk surrounded by the massive Californian Redwood trees of Beech Forest. This is an unusual gem you wouldn’t expect to find in the rainforests of Victoria. The Redwood forest started as a trial back in the 1930’s when seedlings were planted and left to grow over the decades.
As you will see on your walk, this forest is now thriving and creates a unique and beautiful place for all to enjoy. There is a also little creek nearby adding to the magical atmosphere. With plenty of picnic tables, this is a nice spot to have some lunch before or after your walk.
After finishing up at the Redwoods, make your way less than 5 minutes down the road to reach the start of the trail that leads to the enchanting Hopetoun Falls. Tucked away in a particularly scenic part of the National Park, these falls are not to be missed.
For the best view, follow a 1km return trail from the carpark that leads you to the base of the falls. The trail descends quite steep in areas, for those who prefer an easier option, you can also see the falls from the upper platform which is an easy 20m walk from the car park.
Surrounded by ferns and moss covered rocks, this epic 20m waterfall is a breathtaking sight. To reach Beauchamp Falls, follow a 3km return trail from the carpark which is mostly downhill. The hike isn’t challenging and takes around 1.5hrs to complete.
Once you reach the bottom of the falls you can either take in the view from the designated platform or continue down a steep path to the creek to get closer. We couldn’t resist getting up close to capture the magical scene of the waterfall and forest surrounding it.
A scenic trail leading to an equally beautiful set of waterfalls. The Triplet Falls are some of the most popular falls to see in the Otways and can be reached by following a 1.8km path that winds through the dense rainforest.
The trail is fairly easy with a few steep sections and eventually opens up to a series of viewing platforms where you’ll find the best views of the three cascading falls. Allow for an hour to complete the walk and spend time viewing the falls.
The Otway Fly Treetop Adventures
A short drive from Triplet Falls will bring you to The Otway Fly Treetop Adventures. You’ll have the choice of swinging through the trees on a zipline tour or exploring the rainforest canopy on the treetop walk.
We decided to do the treetop walk which took just over an hour to complete and gives you an epic view of the treetops and rainforest below. At 25 metres high, this is the world’s tallest treetop walk and definitely the best one that we’ve ever done!
If you have time, the zipline tour is an exhilarating way to experience the beauty of this rainforest. The tour lasts for 2.5 hours and also includes admission to the treetop walk. Make sure to get a discounted ticket by booking ahead online.
Treetop Walk – $23.40
Zipline Tours – $108
Opening Times – 10am – 5pm
One of Australia’s most well-known landmarks and the most famous stop on the Great Ocean Road, the Twelve Apostles is a spectacular sight no matter the time of day. Seeing as it’s the most poplar stop on everyone’s Great Ocean Road itinerary, you will likely find tour buses and crowds when you visit.
The best time of day to see them without crowds is during sunrise or early morning hours. Visiting during sunset is a particularly impressive time to capture the rock formations lit up in a beautiful sunset glow. However, sunset is also a busy time at the Twelve Apostles viewing platform.
One thing you might notice is that there are only 8 remaining limestone stacks. Once upon a time, 12 Apostles did exist here however due to crashing waves and saltwater erosion over the years, only 8 can be seen today. At one point in history, all 12 of them were once connected to the mainland.
Starting off at the Port Campbell Visitor Centre, follow an easy 5 minute path to reach the Twelve Apostles viewing platforms. Take your time on the walk stopping to read the informative signposts as you go.
For those who want the chance to get a bird’s eye view over this incredible coastline, check out this Twelve Apostles Helicopter Tour. This tour also flies over some of the other famous spots on the Great Ocean Road such as the Bay of Islands, London Bridge, Loch Ard Gorge and more.
You can’t visit the Twelve Apostles without stopping at the Gibson Steps for a scenic walk along the beach. You’ll find this stop less than 5 minutes down the road from the Twelve Apostles. You might even choose to walk the 1km clifftop path that connects the Twelve Apostles to the Gibson Steps.
This is where you can follow 86 steep steps down the side of a vertical 70m cliff to arrive at Gibson Beach. This section of beach is truly an amazing place to walk and gives you a different perspective of the towering cliffs and limestone stacks rising up from the ocean.
Loch Ard Gorge
Another absolute must-see on the Great Ocean Road, Loch Ard Gorge is only a short drive from the Twelve Apostles. Named after a shipwreck from the 19th century, these dramatic cliffs open up to the ocean from a sheltered bay which can be accessed from a walkway leading down to the beach.
Take in the views of this awe-inspiring rock formation from one of lookouts in the area. If you feel up for a walk, there are a number of coastal walking trails to choose from. When you arrive at the Loch Ard Gorge carpark, you’ll see a map featuring all of the walks. If you don’t have the time, simply strolling down to the beach is the perfect way to experience this natural wonder.
This lovely seaside town is a great place to base yourself for a night while travelling along the Great Ocean Road. Staying here provides easy access to all of the famous cliffs and rock formations. There is a great selection of restaurants and cafes in town and even a wildlife park.
The Great Ocean Road Wildlife Park is a small family run park which allows you to get up close to some Australian icons. If you’re visiting from overseas, this might be a great addition to your Great Ocean Road itinerary.
The wildlife park is home to kangaroos, wombats, dingoes, emus, cockatoos and much more. You’ll get the unique opportunity to pet and feed some of the animals.
Opening Hours: Sunday – Friday 10am – 5pm
Tickets: $25 Adult/$13 Child/$20 Concession
The highlights of the Great Ocean Road don’t stop once you reach Port Campbell, just 8km west of the town is yet another impressive formation. London Bridge is a natural rock arch that was shaped by the force of the ocean over centuries.
It was once completely attached to the mainland giving it the appearance of the actual London Bridge. Unfortunately, a large piece of the structure collapsed into the ocean in 1990. It’s still an impressive sight and worthy of a quick stop to enjoy the scenery and snap a photo.
Continue driving for 5 minutes from London Bridge and you’ll come across The Grotto which is another unique landmark. This fascinating formation combines a cave, sink hole, rock arch all in one and is surrounded by limestone cliffs.
You can either take the wooden pathway and stairs from the carpark to the see The Grotto up close or enjoy the view from the upper platforms. Either way, this is yet another amazing Great Ocean Road stop that you shouldn’t miss!
Bay of Islands
Hop back in the car for another short drive to finally arrive at the Bay of Islands. Similar to the Twelve Apostles, this collection of limestone stacks rising from the water makes for an awesome photo opportunity.
For some, this may be the final stop on your Great Ocean Road itinerary before returning to Melbourne. A great way to end the trip is by visiting the Bay of Islands at sunset. Take in the spectacular coastal scenery from two lookouts which are easy to reach from the carpark.
If you’re looking for somewhere to grab a meal in this area, Peterborough is a small town with a choice of restaurants and pubs to dine in. Conveniently located between The Grotto and Bay of Islands, you can easily stop here to break up the sightseeing.
At this point in the road trip, some people might choose to begin the drive back to Melbourne. If you’re planning to continue the trip to Warrnambool, there are still some great sights to be seen.
We spent a few days in Warrnambool and found it to be a great way to begin or end the drive across the Great Ocean Road. The city has several attractions worthy of checking out.
The Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village is a fun and interactive way to learn the history behind the Shipwreck Coast. Wander through the re-created village to experience history first hand by exploring the little shops and learning the fascinating stories. You’ll even see volunteers dressed up in costume which makes this a great experience for the kids.
We hope you have found this Great Ocean Road Trip guide useful while planning your own epic road trip itinerary. Whether you plan to continue the drive to Adelaide or return to Melbourne, make sure to check out more of our Australian road trips and travel guides below!
Finished Your Great Ocean Road Trip, What’s Next?
- 4 Day Melbourne to Grampians Road Trip Itinerary
- 30 Essential Australian Road Trip Tips
- 8 Day Melbourne to Adelaide Road Trip Itinerary
- Best Stops for Your Perth to Adelaide Road Trip
- An Epic 10 Day Tasmania Road Trip Itinerary
- The Best Waterfalls in Victoria
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