The Great Ocean Road is an icon of Australia, marked by the world-class surf and endless views. This one road takes you through rainforest, national parks, farms, beaches carved out of limestone, and seaside towns.
This road trip can take anywhere from one day to three days, depending on how many stops you make along the way, how many detours you choose to indulge, and the rate at which you can maneuver through each stop. There are many tour companies that take you along this route; many start early in the morning, and you are obviously limited to the stops they choose. Another option would be to rent a car and go at your own rate- maybe even spend a night at a quaint town along the way. The advantage to doing it at your own rate is going to the less touristy spots and arriving at the touristy spots before the tour buses come through.
The Great Ocean Road begins in the lovely city of Melbourne, which is worth sticking around for a few days before beginning your journey along the coast.
I began my journey as I do all of my other journeys…with exercise. It is important for me to stretch my legs and exhaust some energy before I am sitting for extended periods of time. Next crucial part of my trip is starting with a hearty breakfast, so I checked out a new spot in Melbourne, Short Straw. The key was to start early to miss the crowds and not feel rushed.
Although you could stop in Geelong, I recommend beginning in Torquay (pronounced TOR-KEY), because it is smaller, less industrialized, and more beautiful. Points of interest includes the Surf Museum which opens at 9 am. There is a cafe directly next door called Sticks and Stones, if you wanted to grab an extra coffee or second brekkie. Torquay’s note-worthy beach is called Bells Beach.
First stop in Anglesea is the golf club where you can see hundreds of kangaroos. The only downside is you must either play a round of golf or take a guided tour. You are not allowed to walk around on your own. Tours begin at 10 am costing $12.50 per adult, $5 per kid, or $30 per family.
Another point of interest is the Split Point Lighthouse in Aireys Inlet. It is approximately a 15-minute walk from the parking lot to the lighthouse but well worth it.
Welcoming you to Lorne is the Swing Bridge Cafe & Boathouse. Even if you are still full from breakfast, this is a great spot to stretch your legs. The quaint cafe is tucked away right where the Erskine River connects to the bay. You can choose to walk along the beach, or go to another lookout point called Teddy’s Lookout.
After the beach, head inland to Erskine Falls. This is a quick but steep hike consisting of mostly stairs.
Stop Five…Kennett River
Kennett River is where you can see koalas! The best place to do this is at the Kennett River Caravan Park.
Stop Six…Great Otways State Park
After driving along the coast, it is time to head inland through the forest. Points of interest along the way include the Redwoods Otways, Triplet Falls, Melba Gully State Park, and Johanna’s Beach.
Johanna is a lovely town, great area to grab an AirBnb for the night! At this point, you are halfway done, and this puts you in a great spot to reach Port Campbell for sunrise.
Stop Seven…Port Campbell National Park
Port Campbell is, by far, the most touristy spot along the Great Ocean Road. Points of interest include Gibson Steps, Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, Thunder Cave, The Arch, London Bridge, The Grotto, Bay of Martyrs, and Bay of Islands.
Most of these iconic spots require a short walk (5-15 minutes), and many of them are saturated with tourists. All for good reason!
Stop Eight…Warrnambool and Port Fairy
Although many end their trek at Port Campbell, I found Port Fairy to be my favorite spot! It is also a great place to spend a night at an AirBnb. Port Fairy is famous for its annual folk festival at the beginning of March.
But before I get ahead of myself, Warrnambool is home to Logan’s Beach Whale Watching Platform. Whale season is May through October. Just a stone’s throw from Warrnambool is Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve and Killarney Beach.
Port Fairy is also a good base for Grampians National Park day trips!