The Great Ocean Road epitomizes the phrase ‘taking the scenic route’. Located just a short distance from Australia’s coolest city, Melbourne, a classic Great Ocean Road drive itinerary is hugged by some of Australia’s most grandiose landscapes.
You will never be at a loss for what to see on the Great Ocean Road. On a Great Ocean Road trip from Melbourne, you’ll weave along mountainsides, revel in striking seaside vistas and delve into Australia’s verdant green rainforest.
The towns that dot this Great Ocean Road itinerary are laid back, surfy and sophisticated. They offer everything that travelers would expect from this part of Australia including places to stay along the Great Ocean Road that are comfortable, clean, and provide the sea-side living you may be looking for.
But don’t even think about doing a Great Ocean Road tour in just one day. It may technically be about 5 hours from Torquay to Warrnambool. But you’ll be crawling along at a snail’s pace. There are just so many things to see on Great Ocean Road drives!
That’s why a Great Ocean Road trip has always made its way onto our list of the top 5 road trips to do in Australia.
Where Does the Great Ocean Road Start?
Torquay marks the start of the Great Ocean Road. The drive ends in Warrnambool.
However, some people chose to extend their road trip so it includes Melbourne to Adelaide via Great Ocean Road or Adelaide to Melbourne via Great Ocean Road.
However, starting from Melbourne on a Great Ocean Rd tour is the superior choice because when you are traveling from Melbourne on an Australia Great Ocean Road tour you will be on the side of the road closest to the ocean.
The start of the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne is about 1 hour and 20 minutes away. However, factor the traffic around the city into your drive time from Melbourne to Great Ocean Road.
Towns & Stops Along the Great Ocean Road
Torquay is oozing with surf culture. Thanks in part to Bells Beach (home of the annual Rip Curl surf comp), and other great surf breaks in the area, Torquay has been dubbed the surf capital of Australia.
It’s not out of ordinary to run into big name surfers grabbing a coffee at one of the town’s trendy cafes. Torquay marks the start of your Great Ocean Road-Melbourne tour.
Things to Do in Torquay
- Visit Front Beach: Located in the heart of Torquay this sandy beach is great for swimming and should be added to your Great Ocean Road trip planner.
- Learn to Surf: This 2-hour lesson will have you catching waves in no time!
- Surf at Point Danger: Or just watch! This reef break is located out front of Torquay Surf Beach and is suitable for intermediate to advanced surfers.
- Stroll the Surf Coast Walk: Follow the path onwards to Juan Jax Beach. You’ll start to notice the monolith yellow sand cliffs that the beaches are known for and which Great Ocean road tours are famous for.
- Go Cafe Hopping: Explore the maze of restaurants and cafes that line the Esplanade and innards of Torquay
- Visit Bells Beach: The be-all and end-all of surf beaches. Watch experienced surfers navigate the treacherous waters at Winki Pop surf break from the viewing platform. Then descend the staircase and take in all the glory of Bells Beach from the sand. But beware swimming as there are strong currents and a big undertow so it is not advised.
Places to Stay in Torquay:
- Deśa Retreat Ecovillas: Located just outside of Torquay in Jan Juc, the Desa Retreat offers a great place to stay on the Great Ocean Road. This Great Ocean Road accommodation is locally owned and offers self contained units set in a beautiful garden. They have a long list of sustainable practises in place, private yoga classes on offer, and communal features like the outdoor fire pit, BBQ, and a hot outdoor shower.
- TorquayToongahra BnB: This locally owned bed and breakfast is clean, modern and well equipped. It is situated in a quiet nook of Torquay amongst native bush, which visitors can enjoy from their private courtyard.
Torquay to Anglesea Drive (via Bells Beach): 24 kilometres // 24 minutes
The next stop on your Great Ocean Road map is Anglesea. Marvel at the town’s expansive sandy beach and if the mood strikes, take a dip!
This is one of the ‘lesser touristy’ spots along a Great Ocean Road tour but still remains one of the top things to see on the Great Ocean Road.
Things to do in Anglesea:
- Spot Roos at Anglesea Golf Course: Say hello to the population of eastern Grey Kangaroos who call this place home. You don’t need to golf either. Stop by the restaurant or take a “Roo Tour”.
- Visit the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery: Located just before Angelsea, this interesting attraction has free chocolate tastings. You can’t say you have had the best Great Ocean Road tour unless you have stopped here.
- Hire a Canoe or Kayak: Meander down the Anglesea River, it’s a great way to take in the natural surroundings.
- Learn to Surf: The shallow waters at Anglesea make this the ideal place to catch some waves for the first time.
- Hit the Beach: Anglesea Beach is one of the quieter beaches to go for a swim along the Great Ocean Road route.
Places to Stay in Anglesea:
- Great Ocean Road Resort: This modern and stylish hotel has rooms of various sizes and is located on the Anglesea River just 5 minutes from the beach. There is a bar and restaurant, spa, tennis courts, fitness centre, and childrens playground on site.
- Melba Beach Bunker: This self contained cottage style accommodation along the Great Ocean Road, has lots of quirky coastal details, a great patio, and is located 800 metres from Anglesea Beach. It has one large double bed and 1 bunk bed which can sleep up to 4 people.
Anglesea to Aireys Inlet Drive: 10 kilometres // 10 minutes
The darling little town of Aireys Inlet is not far from Anglesea and is the next stop on your Great Ocean Road drive.
Things to Do in Aireys Inlet:
- Visit Split Point Lighthouse: Once in Aireys Inlet follow the signs for Split Point Lighthouse. You’ll have to climb a steep trail to the base of the lighthouse, but the views are definitely worthwhile. Weather permitting, daily guided tours of the Split Point Lighthouse are available.
- The Great Ocean Road Gin Distillery: Visit the tasting room to discover what this award winning craft distiller has on offer en route to the Great Ocean Road 12 Apostles.
- Eagles Nest Art Gallery: Located in the center of town, this gallery has a rotating collection of pieces from local and international artists. It should not be missed on a Melbourne Great Ocean Road tour.
Where to Stay in Aireys Inlet:
- Aireys Inlet Holiday Park: This no-fuss holiday park has a wide range of accommodation and lots of amenities. From self-contained cabins, RV spots, and campsites there is something for everyone.
- A River Bed Cottage: This lovely, self contained cottage is stylishly decorated and perfect for a couple. There is a great outdoor area and it is only a 5 minute walk to the beach.
Drive through the Great Ocean Road Sign
Aireys Inlet to Great Ocean Road Sign Drive: 6 kilometres // 6 minutes
Picture time! Get your iconic Great Ocean Road photo here. The hordes of tourists and parked cars will alert you that you are nearby.
Great Ocean Road Sign to Lorne Drive: 13 kilometres // 15 minutes
The small town of Lorne has long been a favourite of Great Ocean Road tours from Melbourne. Lorne is best known for its picturesque sandy beach and relaxing but social atmosphere.
Things to Do in Lorne:
- Picnic on the Foreshore: Laying directly across from Louitt Bay, there is everything you need for a picnic at the Lorne Beach foreshore. Any day of the week you’ll find families picnicking along the shore.
- Visit Lorne Beach: This beach appeases surfers, swimmers, and sunbathers. You can’t miss it on a map of Great Ocean Road.
- Stroll Lorne Pier: Located on the edge of town, the Lorne pier is a popular fishing spot. Plus, sometimes migrating whales can be spotted from its vantage point on a Great Ocean Road tour from Melbourne.
- Attend Falls Festival: If you time your Great Ocean Road trip just right you may be able to attend one of Australia’s biggest music festivals.
- Go Shopping: Lorne is known for its boutique shops located on the towns main strip
- Wine and Dine: Bottle of Milk is famous for their awesome selection of burgers and brunch items (veggie options available too!).
- Watch the Sunset from the Lorne Hotel: If you get a chance, try to take in the views from the Lorne Hotel rooftop patio. It is an institution amongst places to visit in Great Ocean Road itineraries. This rooftop patio has expansive views of shimmering Louitt Bay.
Where to Stay in Lorne:
- La Perouse Lorne: This bed and breakfast is one of the prettiest Great Ocean Road hotels. It is a 5 minute walk from the beach and comes highly rated. Each room has its own balcony and is suitable for 2 people.
- Lemonade Creek Cottages: Nestled into the native forest, this is another place to stay if you want to get close to nature on a Great Ocean tour Melbourne. Native birds, kangaroos, and koalas frequent the property. There are 6 self contained Victorian units known for their homey details.
Lorne to Teddy’s Lookout Drive: 2.4 kilometres // 4 minutes
If views are what you are in for then look no further than Teddy’s Lookout. Located just minutes from Lorne, you’ll find sweeping vistas of the Saint George River draining into the Pacific Ocean. It is a short walk from the carpark to the viewing platforms and sometimes you can spot koalas along the way.
Teddy’s Lookout to Phantom Falls Drive: 5.2 kilometres // 12 minutes
Head 12 minutes inland from Teddy’s Lookout to Phantom Falls. This impressive waterfall can be reached via a 800 metre walk from the car park. You can cool off in the waters at the foot of the waterfall however there are no facilities onsite.
Detour: Sheoak Falls and Swallow Cave Trail
Phantom Falls to Sheoak Falls Car Park Drive: 9.4 kilometres // 16 minutes
This 2.8 km walk is a great way to get amongst nature at Otway National Park. The trail culminates at Sheoak Falls and Swallow Cave where birds can be seen nesting from spring to fall. It is a fairly easy walk that should take no more than 1 hour.
Sheoak Falls Car Park to Kennett River Drive: 17 kilometres // 22 minutes
Blink and you might miss the quaint town of Kennett River. It’s made up of a small collection of sea facing holiday homes, a holiday park, and a cafe that services the area. However, what really makes this section of the Great Ocean Road special is the Kennett River koalas.
Leave your car at the Kafe Koala parking lot and follow Grey River Road upwards. In our experience, it won’t take you long to spot a koala or two in the heights of the eucalyptus trees. However, it will likely be encircled by a crowd of gawking, ground-dwelling tourists. For a more personal encounter continue further up Grey River Road. Once we were away from the crowds we were lucky enough to spot a koala, up close, on the ground running from tree to tree.
Koalas aside, Grey River Road affords a great opportunity to stretch your legs and take in some amazing hilltop views. You’ll notice tourists feeding and posing with swathes of wild birds at the entrance to Grey River Road on this section of your Great Ocean Road itinerary.
While we wholeheartedly agree that it is great to see these incredible King Parrots, Cockatoos, and Rainbow Lorikeets up close, we wouldn’t recommend feeding them out of hand. These are wild animals, so it’s simply not great for their welfare to be touching them.
Places to Stay in Kennett River
We recommend passing through Kenneth River, but if you wanted to spend a night in this small town, consider staying at one of these spots.
- Wye Escape: This lovely holiday home is 6 km from Kennett River. It has incredible ocean views, a great patio, and can fit up to 6 people in 3 bedrooms.
- BIG4 Wye River Holiday Park: This holiday park has basic and upgraded self contained units and villas as well as standard campsites and rv sites. There are great communal areas like the kids playground, games room, and BBQ area.
Kennett River to Apollo Bay Drive: 23 kilometres // 27 minutes
Apollo Bay is next up on your Great Ocean Road itinerary. This lovely seaside town is all yellow sand and laid back vibes.
Things to Do in Apollo Bay:
- Check out Mariners Lookout: This is a highlight of any one day Great Ocean Road tour. The expansive views of Apollo Bay and the waters which flank it are stunning. From the Mariners Lookout parking lot there is a short but steep 0.5 km climb to the top. You might even spot hang gliders jumping from its height.
- Go to Apollo Bay Beach: This 3km calm beach is located in-town. It is a great place for sunbathing or swimming.
- Visit Apollo Bay Harbour: Watch working fishermen coming in with the day’s catch and try to spot stingrays and fish in the waters beside the dock.
- Indulge in a Craft Beer: The Great Ocean Road Brewhouse has the largest selection of craft beer along the Great Ocean Road.
- Experience Fine Dining with a View: Chris’ at Beacon Point is Apollo Bay’s go-to for high-quality food with an even higher quality view!
Places to Stay in Apollo Bay:
- Apollo Bay Eco YHA: YHA is our favourite hostel chain in Australia for their commitment to sustainability. The Apollo Bay YHA is no exception, so in our opinion it is one of the best accommodation Great Ocean Road has to offer. It is eco-certified and has clean private rooms, dorms, and great communal areas like the rooftop patio.
- Apollo Panorama Guesthouse: Offering ocean views and an expansive outdoor patio, Apollo Panorama Guesthouse is great for couples or groups of 3 looking for places to stay on the Great Ocean Road. The open concept living area and kitchen are perfect for meeting other travelers.
Apollo Bay to Beauchamp Falls Drive: 39.7 kilometres // 56 minutes
Another couple of spectacular waterfalls are Beauchamp Falls and Hopetoun Falls. If you are chasing waterfalls don’t miss these two.
Beauchamp Falls is a 20 metre high waterfall which can be reached via a half hour walk. There are picnic facilities at the entrance of the track and a viewing platform once you get there. However, there is no access to the waterfall itself, or its pool.
Beauchamp Falls to Hopetoun Falls Drive: 7.5 kilometres // 18 minutes
Hopetoun is located just 7.5 kilometres down the road from Beauchamp Falls. Nestled in the Beechwood Forest, Hopetoun Falls has an impressive 30 metre drop. There are a couple of viewing platforms and steps available to descend to the bottom of the falls. However, they can get quite slippery so be careful and wear sturdy shoes.
Cape Otway Lightstation
Hopetoun Falls to Cape Otway Lightstation Drive: 64.5 kilometres // 1 hour 5 minutes
Cape Otway Lighthouse is located about 14 km off of the Great Ocean Road. It is Australia’s oldest mainland lighthouse and recently celebrated its 170th birthday.
Things to Do at the Cape Otway Lighthouse:
- Explore the Grounds: They are open from 9am-5pm each day and admission is $20. Learn about the lighthouses’ history, its keepers, shipwrecks, and the history of the aboriginals that originally occupied this land.
- Take a Hike: There are a number of great trails that spring from the light station grounds. If you have the time we recommend that you do the 8-hour loop to Blanket Bay. Not only is Blanket Bay both beautiful and secluded, but the trail towards Blanket Bay is a great way to catch whales just off-shore.
Places to Stay at the Cape Otway Lighthouse:
- Cape Otway Lighthouse: You can stay onsite at the Cape Otway Lighthouse. They offer unique cottages which can accommodate 2-9 people which include the option of luxury accommodation Great Ocean Road in one of their upgraded cottages.
- Bimbi Park: Located just 5km from the Lightstation, Bimbi Park has a range of accommodation including their solar powered eco-cabins, camping pods, caravans for rent, and more. This eco-friendly accommodation also has e-bikes for rent, a fire pit, and hosts lots of activities. It’s one of the most eco friendly options for accomodation along the Great Ocean Road.\
Cape Otway Lightstation to Castle Cove Drive: 25 kilometres // 27 minutes
Castle Cove is an expansive sandy beach which is popular for surfing, sunbathing, or just to stretch your legs. However, it is unsuitable for swimming due to the powerful rip that dominates the waters out front of the beach.
Castle Cove is one of the few places where the Great Ocean Road and the Great Ocean Walk converge. This is an off the beaten track stop which most sightseeing tours companies miss.
Castle Cove to Johannas Beach Drive: 5.5 kilometres // 8 minutes
Johannas Beach was named after a ship that was wrecked on its shores. Like Castle Cove, it is known for its powerful surf and convergence with the Great Ocean Walk.
In previous years, the Bells Beach surf competition has moved to Johannas Beach because the swell has been better and bigger at Johannas Beach than at Bells.
Port Campbell National Park
Johannas Beach to the 12 Apostles Drive: 52 kilometres // 50 minutes
The 12 Apostles are what really put the Great Ocean Road on the map. When people are traveling on the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne, 12 Apostles are what are on most people’s minds. These massive wind-sculpted formations which stand out of the Southern Ocean are truly impressive however there are some close runner ups in Port Campbell National Park.
Things to Do in Port Campbell National Park:
- See the 12 Apostles: Spend some time getting to know Port Campbell National Park by traversing the parks countless cliff-top boardwalks to take in the views of the 8 Apostles still standing.You will have to park on the side of the road opposite the shore and take the short pathway to the viewing platforms. Most people head to the 12 Apostles at sunset, which is a spectacular time to see them. However, keep in mind it can just be quite busy at that time.
- Visit Gibson Steps: To feel really tiny, descend the steps at Gibson Steps and stand at the foot of Port Campbell National Park’s mammoth cliffs.
- Loch ard Gorge: This stunning gorge has an interesting history which you can read about on the plaques surrounding the attraction. Loch ard Gorge is one of the most beautiful sights along the Great Ocean Road.
12 Apostles to Port Campbell Drive: 11 kilometres // 10 minutes
Port Campbell itself is a tiny gem of a town. It is mainly a place to base yourself while you explore the area rather than a destination in and of itself. However, there is an attractive beach for the days you don’t want to go far.
Things to Do in Port Campbell:
- Visit the Beach: There is a small beach and a great foreshore which makes the perfect picnic spot. As one of the few swimmable beaches in the area, Port Campbell beach can get very busy during the summer months.
- Eat and Drink: Visit the Grassroots Cafe for tasty loose leaf tea or Sow and Piglets micro-brewery for a craft beer. While you’re there ask for the story behind the Sow and Piglets name (hint: it was the original name of the 12 Apostles).
Places to Stay in Port Campbell:
- Eastern Reef Cottages: This rural option offers individual cottages which were crafted with sustainability in mind with materials like reclaimed timbers. Each cottage is clean, has its own kitchen and personal touches like fresh flowers on arrival. It’s a great place to lay your head on a Great Ocean Road Itinerary, 2 days long.
- Port O’ Call Motel: Located in the center of Port Campbell, this stylish boutique motel has comfy beds, is steps from the beach and close to restaurants and shops.
Port Campbell to the Arch Drive: 7 kilometres // 7 minutes
This interesting natural attraction was formed like most other rock formations along the shipwreck coast. Simply, by waves persistently crashing into the cliffside. The Arch, Great Ocean Road, is a reminder of the power of the sea.
To reach the viewing platform at the Great Ocean Road the Arch, follow the short path from the carpark. It is about 300 metres return.
The Arch to London Bridge Drive: 1.5 kilometres // 4 minutes
London Bridge, Great Ocean Road, got its name because it was originally connected to the mainland. Visitors to the area would often drive their vehicles onto the top of the Great Ocean Road London Bridge or walk. However, in 1990 the connecting piece collapsed. No one was injured but the few tourists who were on top of the bridge had to be rescued by helicopter.
Today, visitors come to see the rock formation and the stunning beach which fringes the coastline. There are two viewing platforms which can be reached via a short walk from the car park.
London Bridge to the Grotto Drive: 2 kilometres // 5 minutes
The Grotto, Great Ocean Road, is another unique natural attraction. The sinkhole naturally frames the ocean beyond it and can be reached via a set of stairs. It is a popular spot to snap a pic! The trip from the carpark can take 40 minutes return.
The Bay of Islands
The Grotto Drive to the Bay of Islands: 10 kilometres // 10 minutes
En route to your final stop you’ll pass the gorgeous (highly underrated) Bay of Islands. Along this 32 kilometre stretch of coastal reserve, you’ll find plenty of clifftop viewing platforms to pull off to. Like the 12 Apostles, the Bay of Islands is known for its interesting limestone stacks which are located just off shore. If you want to put your feet in the sand then stop at Three Mile Beach or Childers Cove.
The Bay of Islands to Warrnambool: 48 kilometres // 40 minutes
Your final stop on the Great Ocean Road itinerary is the town of Warrnambool.
Things to Do in Warrnambool:
- Visit the Logan Whale Watching Platform: From May to October you’ll likely spot Southern Right Whales just off shore. They come to the area to give birth on their way south.
- Head to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village: Here you’ll learn all about the coastlines dramatic history of shipwrecks, sailors and folklore.
- Visit Allansford Cheese Factory: On a visit you’ll be able see how the cheese making process unfolds in their onsite museum and you’ll be treated to a free cheese tasting. There is also a cafe onsite and lots of cheese to choose from if you want to support a local vendor and take home a tasty souvenir from your Great Ocean Road Adelaide to Melbourne road trip.
- Visit Hopkins Falls: This 90 metre wide waterfall is a popular picnic spot. In the winter months you may be able to spot baby eels in its waters.
Where to Stay in Warrnambool:
- Quest Warrnambool: Located in the heart of Warrnambool, Quest is a family run location. They have moden, well equipped rooms and a solar-heated swimming pool.
- Elm Tree Motel: This motel is known for its clean, bright rooms. There is plenty of parking on site and the staff are generous with check-in and check-out times.
If you’re in Melbourne (or Australia as a whole) then the Great Ocean Road drive should definitely be added to your Australian itinerary. From Warrnambool, most people continue onwards to Adelaide, or up towards the incredible Grampians National Park. Enjoy the ride!
The Best Time to Visit the Great Ocean Road
There are four seasons along the Great Ocean Road: summer, spring, fall, and winter. Summer takes place from December to February. It is the most popular time to complete the Great Ocean Road map of attractions because the hot weather means visitors can take advantage of the beautiful beaches dotted along the way. However, peak season means that attractions can sometimes get crowded and prices are at their highest.
Spring is from September to November and Fall is from March to May. In our opinion, this is the most pleasant time to visit the Great Ocean Road. The weather is still warm and crowds have largely dispersed.
A winter Great Ocean Road itinerary has its perks as well. From June to August, the weather can be blustery but prices are at their lowest and you will likely have the majority of Great Ocean Road attractions to yourself. It also coincides with the whale migration. From June to October Southern Right Whales can often be spotted from the shore.
Great Ocean Road Drive Time & Distance:
If you are wondering how long is the Great Ocean Road, it can be completed within the following distance and drive time.
Total Distance: 281 kms.
Total Drive Time: 5 hours
However, keep in mind these are the durations for the most direct route of the Great Ocean Road on map. Detours inland will add kilometres and time to your overall Great Ocean Road road trip.
Great Ocean Road Drive Itinerary
You could really spend days getting to know each of these towns but if you really want to just see the main sights and attractions without rushing too much we suggest to give 5 nights, 5 days to your Great Ocean Road itinerary.
That means spending one night in Torquay in order to start your Great Ocean Road tour itinerary early in the morning. Then spend your next night in Lorne, Apollo Bay, and Port Campbell before finishing in Warrnambool.
On the other hand if you only have time for a Great Ocean Road day trip, then you can start in Melbourne and make it to 12 Apostles for sunset with lunch in Apollo Bay without too many other Great Ocean Road stops on your Great Ocean Road day tour.
Don’t feel like driving? The Best Great Ocean Road Tours Melbourne
If you are coming from overseas and don’t feel comfortable driving on the opposite side of the road, if you don’t have a car, or if you simply want the freedom to watch the scenery then why not take a Great Ocean Road tour?
This Great Ocean Road 1 day tour is perfect for the travelers who are short on time. You’ll start your day in Melbourne, stop at the Great Ocean Road sign, stroll through the Otways and some of the most popular attractions like Apollo Bay and the 12 Apostles before heading back to Melbourne that evening to conclude your 1 day Great Ocean Road tour.
However, if you want more flexibility then consider a private Great Ocean Road one day tour.
This 2 day Great Ocean Road Tour from Melbourne could be considered a “cheap” Great Ocean Road tour. It is geared towards a younger crowd and includes sleeping in a communal teepee.
If you have even more time then consider a 3 day the Great Ocean Road tour. Not only does this 3 day Great Ocean Road itinerary include the Great Ocean Road highlights but it also includes a stop in the Grampians.
Short on time?
Don’t fret, you can still experience this Great Ocean Road itinerary even if you don’t have the luxury of 5 days or more. Here is our advice when choosing what to see on the Great Ocean Road:
- Pick and choose the Great Ocean Road attractions that interest you the most. Don’t try to squeeze in all the things to do on Great Ocean Road itineraries. It’s not an episode of the Amazing Race.
- Consider waking up early to get the most out of your day and the things to do in Great Ocean Road itineraries like this one.
- End your Great Ocean Road drive in Port Campbell rather than Warrnambool. Especially if you are taking a Great Ocean Road day trip from Melbourne. Ending in Port Campbell, you’ll be able to see the most famous attraction along the Great Ocean Road – the twelve apostles in Australia. A shorter trip will also help you save money on places to stay along the Great Ocean Road.