All photography by Studioist.
WOW. Simply, wow. There is no other way to describe this 250-km drive between Torquay and Warrnambool.
No two visits will be the same. Some days the ocean is turquoise and calm, other days massive swells white out the shore. Some days a light breeze, other days it feels like your car is going to blow away. Different seasons, different colors, changing landscapes, and changing experiences.
Whatever your experience is, the Great Ocean Road is sure to be a highlight of your adventure down unda’! It certainly was for us. LeBraun still can’t stop talking about it.
The road snakes and winds along the Southern coastline of Victoria, through rainforests, ranges, beaches, fields, and more. It’s world-renown for not only being the world’s largest war memorial but for one of the world’s most beautiful coastal drives.
It’s proximity to Melbourne, Victoria’s largest city, makes it an ideal long weekend or three-day getaway, though if you can swing it I would definitely recommend spending a least one more day venturing down this iconic drive. There are so many rainforest hikes, small roadside beaches, and waterfalls to explore along the way.
This itinerary is jam-packed! I want you to be able to get the most out of the few days you have along this road, with a little taste of everything from Jurassic Park-style rainforest plants, rocky shorelines, and historical sights to native wildlife and soft sandy beaches.
Having completed the drive several times I’ve put the itinerary below has everything you will need for a perfect three-day, long weekend Great Ocean Road(trip)!
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- Probably the most important—in Australia people drive on the left hand side of the road!
- The Great Ocean Road itself is quite narrow and winding, parts of it even go down to one lane. Be drive carefully and observe all road notices and speed limits.
- Take time to enjoy the journey! The drive is stunning and there are so many beautiful roadside beaches and small towns along the way. Stopping frequently is key!
- As always, please pick up after yourself, and respect the wildlife and residents of the area. I think the saying is “Take only memories + leave only footprints.” Observe that.
- Don’t forget to pack water, snacks, a bathing suit, a couple towels, your camera, phone, and both their chargers, as well as plenty of sunscreen.
- Some accommodations don’t have late check-in so call ahead and let them know you’ll be arriving later than the set check-in time. You don’t want to rush this journey just to make a hotel check-in time. Many will leave keys at the front desk for when you arrive.
Melbourne to Apollo Bay
8 A.M. — Good morning! Grab some brekky, pack, and load up the car.
8:30 A.M. — Time to hit the road. The first little leg is roughly an hour’s drive (depending where you’re staying in Melbourne).
9:35 A.M. — Welcome to Geelong! Geelong is a charming port town and Victoria’s second largest city. There is a bypass so you can skip Geelong and continue straight to the Great Ocean Road if you wish, but I’d recommend enjoying the journey more than the destination.
There’s plenty of parking at Eastern Beach Reserve (95 Eastern Beach Road, Geelong, City of Greater Geelong, Victoria 3220). We’re dipping those toes in the sand bright and early today. Enjoy the beach, sculptures, waterfront, and the pier, all the while breathing in that fresh ocean air!
10:30 A.M. — Head to Little Creatures Brewing (221 Swanston St, Geelong, Victoria 3220) for a true brewery village experience! Enjoy some delicious food and beer at Canteen. There’s always something happening at Little Creatures Geelong whether it be laneway music or seasonal markets.
The tour is fantastic (educational, fun + includes beer tasting) and runs throughout the day. Check times and pricing on their website if you’re interested.
Alternatively if beer’s not your thing, check out the National Wool Museum (26 Moorabool St, Geelong, Victoria 3220) and discover the history of Australian wool, fibre and textiles.
Whatever you decide to do, just make sure to grab a bite or pre-packed snack. It’s going to be a long, but awesome day!
12:15 P.M. — Ready to head out? The next stop is roughly 25 minutes away.
12:45 P.M. — Welcome to Torquay—home of Australian surfing! You’ve probably seen its famous surf beaches like Bells Beach as sites of world- renown surfing competitions. In fact many famous surf companies were founded in and still have a presence in Torquay, including Rip Curl and Quicksilver. Shop some authentic Aussie surf apparel and products in their stores here.
A quick visit to the Australian National Surfing Museum (77 Beach Rd, Torquay VIC 3228, Australia), also known as Surf World Museum, will allow you to experience the history and significance of Australia’s most popular pastimes. It’s the world’s largest surfing and beach culture museum, brimming with surfing artifacts, memorabilia, and culture.
Just south of Torquay you’ll find Bells Beach, feel free to stop if you fee so inclined too.
Optional short detours: Point Roadknight Beach (66 Melba Parade, Anglesea VIC 3230) in Angelsea + The Angelsea Golf Club (1 Golf Links Rd, Anglesea VIC 3230), where you may see kangaroos hopping around on the golf course.
2:30 P.M. — As you leave Torquay you’ll get your first official roadside sign showing The Great Ocean Road, an awesome photo op.
Optional short detour: The Split Point Light House (13 Federal St, Aireys Inlet VIC 3231).
Make sure to look right just after leaving Aireys’s Inlet to catch a glimpse of The Pole House, a modern treehouse - if you will - suspended 40-meters above Fairhaven Beach. It’s definitely an iconic Australian home and is available for home rental, though it doesn’t come cheap and is booked several weeks if not months in advance.
3 P.M. — Quick stop at the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch (689/721 Great Ocean Rd, Eastern View VIC 3231), you can’t miss it as you’ll drive right under it. There is a carpark next to the arch. PLEASE do not park on the road as it’s already narrow and dangerous.
Construction of the road began in September of 1919 by approximately 3,000 returned World War One servicemen as a tribute to fellow servicemen who had been killed in battle. That’s right, the Great Ocean Ocean Road is itself is the world’s largest war memorial!
Soldiers were paid 10 shillings and sixpence for eight hours per day, and construction was done by hand, using explosives, picks, shovels, and wheel barrows. Think about that as you wind along the coastline. It’s very impressive.
The Memorial Arch is a tribute to the servicemen who built the road. The current arch is actually the third arch to stand here, the first two having been destroyed during terrible forest/brush fires in the area.
3:15 P.M. — Hop back in the car.
3:30 P.M. — Now you’re in Lorne, a laid-back seaside town. Stretch your legs as walk around the street-lined shops of Mountjoy Parade. There are cute bakeries, boutiques, restaurants, and general stores.
If you’re hungry, we had some delicious - and affordable - burgers at The Bottle of Milk (52 Mountjoy Parade, Lorne VIC 3232). They have beef, chicken, and vegetarian options (gf buns too).
When we were there, Anzac Memorial Park across the street from the shops was buzzing with Sulfur-Crested Cockatoos looking to snag some snacks from tourists. Don’t feed them but they will come right up to you, another great photo op.
And if you decide to spend more time here, there is a long walking path along the entire waterfront.
Another great stop is to hike (though it’s on steps) to Erskine Falls (Erskine Falls Access Rd, Lorne VIC 3232). There are two scenic lookout points with a 30-meter waterfall at the end.
5 P.M. — Just around the corner from Lorne is Teddy’s Lookout (George St, Lorne VIC 3232, Australia). Don’t miss this stop! The view platforms allows you to take in the coastal views from a higher vantage point. It’s simply stunning!
5:50 P.M. — After another 30 minute-isa stint in the car you’ll find yourself in Kennett River, home to a wild Koala colony. Yes, you heard me right—WILD KOALAS!!! Park and walk up the hill looking up in the Eucalyptus trees for dark, furry lumps. Those are the koalas.
Koalas can only live in Australia and they only eat Eucalyptus leaves (although not all varieties). Eucalyptus leaves are very fibrous and low in nutrition therefore koalas often eat 2.5 pounds of food per day simply to replenish the energy it takes them to digest these leaves. Then they spend roughly 18 hours a day sleeping to conserve energy. Koalas have strong cartilage at the end of the curve of their spines which allows them to sit for extended periods of time and opposable digits to secure themselves in their tree habitats.
There are also usually beautiful, exotic birds hanging around the campsite. So grab your camera, but as always please be respectful to the environment and the creatures who live there.
6:45 P.M. — When you’re almost to Apollo Bay you’ll come across Wongarra/Carisbrook Creek Beach (not 100% certain of the name), noticeable by the stacked rock formations covering the area. Like other visitors, add a rock to a tower to commemorate your journey.
7:45 P.M. — Hooray! You made it to Apollo Bay, the coastal town at the end of the first day leg. Check in to your hotel and freshen up.
There are several hotels, motels, and Airbnbs in the area. We’ve enjoyed our stays at the following:
Apollo Bay Waterfront Motor Inn
Website | Address: 173 Great Ocean Rd, Apollo Bay, Victoria 3233, Australia
Seaview Motel & Apartments
Address: 6 Thomson St, Apollo Bay, Victoria 3233, Australia
8 P.M. — Fill up on delicious Chinese fare at Dragon Bay Inn Chinese Restaurant (4A Hardy St, Apollo Bay, Victoria 3233).
9:15 P.M. — Whew, what a day! Relax you deserve it.
Apollo Bay to Warrnambool
9 A.M. — Grab some brekky. Both Apollo Bay Bakery (125 Great Ocean Rd, Apollo Bay, Victoria 3233) and Hello Coffee (16 Oak Ave, Apollo Bay, Victoria 3233) offer a selection of coffee, cakes, pastries, and tasty treats.
If you prefer, get your brekky takeaway and stroll along the beachfront enjoying the peaceful morning.
You may want to grab a snack for later too.
10 A.M. — On the road again! You’ll have to backtrack a bit for the quickest route to Otway, and be careful as the road is winding - at times even more windy than the GOR. It’s roughly an hour drive from Apollo Bay to Otway, and despite driving inland is still very beautiful.
11 A.M. — Make sure you’ve got your walking shoes on to explore Otway Fly Treetop Adventures (360 Phillips Track Beech Forest, Weeaproinah, VIC 3237). Grab a map inside and walk through lush rainforest. Seriously y’all this place looks and feels like you’re in Jurassic Park, minus the dinosaurs of course. There are trees that touch the sky and ferns that are bigger than your car. Enjoy walking next to these gorgeous giants, then enter the Treetop Walk and walk among them.
If you’re so inclined book a biplane tour in advance and spend the morning zipping through the trees.
Tickets are available for purchase in the visitor’s center and Otway is included with your Merlin Pass if you opted for one (NOTE FROM OTHER ARTICLE!!)
If you’re hungry make sure to grab a snack from the shop or enjoy the one you may have gotten in Apollo Bay this morning.
1 P.M. — Time to get back on the road. Take the quickest route (clocking in at a little less than 1 hour) on Colac-Lavers Hill Road back down to the GOR. You will end up missing Cape Otway, otherwise you’d have to backtrack the route from this morning and driving near Cape Otway is mostly inland.
2 P.M. — Alright guys, this is it! You’ve made it to the iconic rock formations that are definitely a highlight of The Great Ocean Road—the Twelve Apostles. At this point in the trip the drive is just over an hour to the final destination of the day so take your time and enjoy all the limestone formations and coastline beauty.
By far the most popular tourist attraction on the road, the Twelve Apostles were formed by erosion. The soft limestone of the cliffs were gradually eroded away by the Southern Ocean, forming caves into cliffs, cliffs into arches, which then collapsed leaving rock pillars up to 50-meters high.
The formation became known as the Twelve Apostles, despite there only ever being nine. The rate of erosion at the base of each limestone stack is approximately 2-cm per year, which caused the collapse of the ninth apostle in 2005.
If the Gibson Steps are open, TAKE THEM! Walk along the beach admiring Mother Nature’s work, enjoying the soft sand, and a better perspective of the share size of each pillar. Just don’t get stuck down there when the tide comes in.
Now you’re in Port Campbell National Park, and every couple minutes there will be another sign for another rock formation. I loved them all so stop and spend some time at whichever ones you choose. There are coastal walking trails to and between several of the formations. Just remember where you parked your car. :)
Personally my favorite two formations were Loch Ard Gorge and The Grotto, both just past the Port Cambell township.
Optional small detour: Childers Cove (608 Childers Cove Rd, Mepunga VIC 3277).
Again, take your time! There’s no rush.
6:30 P.M. — Check in to your hotel, refresh and relax for a bit.
7 P.M. — Head out into the city and grab some dinner. We enjoyed a lovely dinner at Clovelly Restaurant and Bar (116 Merri Street, Warrnambool, Victoria 3280) during one of our stays in Warrnambool if you need a rec.
8:30 P.M. — Head back to relax in the hotel, walk around the streets of the city, or enjoy a pint at the local hotel. Day 2 is done!
Warrnambool to Melbourne
9:30 A.M. — Rise n’ shine! Enjoy breakfast at local favorites either Bohemia Cafe and Bar (127 Kepler St, Warrnambool, Victoria 3280) or Brightbird Espresso (157 Liebig St, Warrnambool, VIC 3280).
10:30 A.M. — Spend the morning exploring Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village (89 Merri St, Warrnambool, VIC 3280) discovering how the Shipwreck Coast - the 130-km stretch from Otway to Port Fairy where approximately 638 known shipwrecks have occurred - got its name, and admire Australia’s richest collection of salvaged shipwreck artifacts before experiencing what life was like for the first European settlers in Warrnambool. Lastly make sure to climb the hill (hence the museum’s name) for fabulous views over Warnnambool and its coastline. Sidenote, only 240 of those 638 shipwrecks have been discovered!
Don’t miss the famous Loch Ard Peacock statue. It’s valued over $4 million! Or the Maremma sheepdogs that protect the Little Penguin colony on Middle Island, just up the road.
We joined a 40-minute tour complete with period garbed guide and it was fantastic. Then enjoyed a self-guided tour during the rest of our stay.
Note: They have scavengers hunts, costumed volunteers, and working exhibits so there’s something for the whole family.
12:45 P.M. — Take a 5-minute drive to Middle Island. Remember those giant white sheepdogs from Flagstaff Hill well this is the island where they take turns guarding the Little Penguins that call this rocky island home.
Since the island is so close to the coast during low tide predators such as foxes are able to reach the island, and as a result the penguin colony declined to an all time low in the area in 2005. Maremma sheepdogs are trained to protect the penguins, deterring predators from making their way to the island. There are displays on-site that explain the project. DO NOT STEP ON MIDDLE ISLAND! It’s the penguins home and therefore visitors are not allowed.
The Maremma Project became the inspiration for the 2015 Australian family movie Oddball.
1:15 P.M. — Take some time and enjoy a sit-down meal at Images Restaurant (60 Liebig Street (Seaside End), Warrnambool, Victoria 3280). The friendly staff will take care of you.
After lunch stroll down Liebig Street and check out local boutiques, cafes, and retailers.
TBD — You can drive from Warrnambool back to Melbourne in about 3 hours via ??? or drive back along the GOR which will take about 5 1/2 hours, your choice. Hope you enjoyed the quick adventure down one of the most beautiful roads in the world!
By exploring Otway and venturing more in-land, this itinerary missing part of the drive. This section of the drive from Apollo Bay to Princetown is scenic, but not the same scenic coastal that the first day’s leg of the trip is. It’s more in-land.
You’ll miss Cape Otway at the southern tip of Victoria’s western coast where the Southern Ocean meets Bass Straight, including the Cape Otway lighthouse.
This rainforest region is abundant in koalas (although they are quite tricky to find) for those wishing to view this marsupials in the wild.
If you go by Wattle Hill, check out Wreck Beach (Gellibrand, Lower VIC 3237)