The great ocean road is one of the most scenic drives you will ever do. The 234-kilometer long route takes you along some of Australia’s most amazing scenery. Rugged cliffs, blue oceans, quaint little towns, lighthouses and lots of Australian wildlife are just some of the things you will encounter when taking this road trip.
In this blog post, I will show you all the hot spots of where to stop and what to see in an extensive Great ocean road itinerary. If you are planning to drive this route, or want to enjoy some of Australia’s best towns, beaches and attractions then keep on reading.
THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD | BASIC INFORMATION
|Great Ocean Road|
|Length||234 Kilometres or 151 Miles|
|Interesting fact||Built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932 and dedicated to soldiers killed during World War I, the road is the world’s largest war memorial.|
Some of the highlights that you will see along the drive are:
- London Bridge
- Loch Ard Gorge
- Twelve Apostles
- Spit point lighthouse
- Kenneth River | Lots of cute koala’s
- Memory Arch
- Gibson’s steps
Where is the Great Ocean Road?
The Great Ocean Road can be found in in the state of Victoria, in south-eastern Australia. The nearest large city is Melbourne.
The Great Ocean Road is 243 kilometers, or 151 miles, long. It starts in a small town called Torquay, which is 105km (65 miles) from Melbourne and continues along the coastline and finishes at Allansford.
You can also travel from Melbourne to Adelaide via the Great Ocean Road, but ideally, you will need about 7 day’s to complete it (If you also want to go to Kangaroo Island)
Great Ocean Road Tour vs Self Drive
I think both options are great. If you are after a bit more freedom, then I recommend driving yourself and spending at least two nights on the road. That way you can travel at your own pace, avoid the crowds, and have more time to enjoy the many Great Ocean Road attractions beyond the 2-3 major attractions.
But if you can’t drive our would like to sit back and enjoy an organized tour, then one of many tours could work for you as well. Underneath are just a couple of options for day tours to the Great Ocean Road.
- Bunyip | Great Ocean Road Sunset Tour $125
- Bunyip | Great Ocean Road Classic Tour $ 135
- Go West | Great Ocean Road Tour $135
- Extra Green Holidays | Great Ocean Road & 12 Apostles (Bilingual) $ 55
best time to drive great ocean road
I would suggest going outside the peak of the tourist season. The Great Ocean Road is a major attraction for Melbourne tourists, and it does get very busy from time to time. So February-March or October-November are the best times to visit Great Ocean Road. This is outside of peak season, but still offers lovely warm weather and relatively dry days.
WHERE TO STOP ALONG THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD?
Underneath I will show you where you should stop when driving down from Torque to Allansford. There are many great stops along the route, but for this Great Ocean Road itinerary, I have selected just some of my favorites.
SPIT POINT LIGHTHOUSE
Famous from the popular children’s television series Round the Twist. They used the area around the Split Lighthouse for many external scenes. Anyone born in the 80s will remember this TV program, what more can you ask for in life than to get to go and see it in real life.
You can visit the lighthouse by taking a tour. The tour is pretty cheap and you will be given heaps of informative facts about the coast and the lighthouse itself. The view from the top is amazing and will provide some great photo opportunities.
This memorial acknowledges the challenges faced by workers in the construction of the road.
The Great Ocean Road itself is a permanent memorial to those who died while fighting in World War I carved into rocks. Built by returned servicemen, it winds around the rugged southern coast and was a huge engineering feat ending decades of isolation for Lorne and other coastal communities.
The Memorial Arch showcases the servicemen working on the road. This archway is actually located 36kms after where the Great Ocean Road starts in Torquay. However, it is a must-stop for photo op signifying your road trip as well as to read on the history behind it.
KENNET RIVER KOALA WALK
Kennett River Koala Walk is actually just a road surrounded by gum trees and a significant population of wild Koalas. It is apparently home to hundreds of Koala colonies, with over a thousand Koalas. That being said, it doesn’t mean that you will see a bunch of koalas sitting in every tree just next to the road. However, the odds are pretty good that you will see a few.
Koalas are lazy animals and they spend most of the time sleeping, which makes it a bit difficult to spot them.
A very simple but yet effective tip: Follow the tourists (and especially the tourist with a tour guide) If you see a group around a tree pointing up, then it’s a good sign that there is a koala in that tree.
Around Kennett River, you will also see a bunch of Cockatoos and Lorikeets which is a fantastic picture opportunity.
At Gibsons steps, there are two magnificent offshore limestone stacks (Nicknamed: Gog and Magog) rising out of the sea and you can see them from either the viewing platform near the top of the cliff or at beach level. To wander down to the beach you have to make your way down the 86 steps that were carved by the beached namesake: Hugh Gibson.
I do advise you to be careful, I encountered a poisonous snake when descending the stairs. So keep your eyes open, you are not one of the Irwin family members, so it’s probably best to keep clear of these animals.
The beach itself is popular for fishing, and the shallow waters boast an abundance of colorful fish species and sea creatures. However, if you’re planning on taking a swim, you might want to rethink your decision as there are some ferocious reefs and rip holes that generate choppy waves.
A sight that must be witnessed – The famous 12 Apostles. These magnificent rocks rise up majestically from the Southern Ocean.
They were created by constant erosion of the limestone cliffs of the mainland beginning 10–20 million years ago, the stormy Southern Ocean and blasting winds gradually eroded the softer limestone, forming caves in the cliffs. The caves eventually became arches and when they collapsed rock stacks up to 45 meters high were left isolated from the shore.
Good time to go is early in the morning before all the tourists come in with their selfie sticks. It is the main attraction of a lot of the tours so try to beat them. It gets very crowded. Also seeing the apostle during sunrise is absolutely amazing.
Interesting fact | When they were named the 12 Apostles by Victorian tourism in the 1920s, there were only Nine rock formations. Now there’s Eight. And with the rapid rate of erosion, it is forecast that this number will reduce even further. So come and see them while they are still standing.
TAKE FLIGHT – SEE THE TWELVE APOSTLES FROM ABOVE
Whilst you are at the apostles considering taking a helicopter flight. I was lucky enough to take a free trip when I was working as a tour operator in Melbourne. But I think it is so worth it doing it, cause it was absolutely AMAZING.
It is about a 15-minute flight, taking you over the twelve apostles as well as all the way to London arch/bridge and back. For more information and prices check out 12 Apostles Helicopters.
This is one of the top sights that tourists scramble to see in this area. Why? Well, for starters it’s an absolutely incredible sight to see and, secondly, this also has an interesting history.
The sight has not always looked like it does now. Before 1990 this sight was called ‘London bridge’. Because it used to be a bridge that connected the arch of land to the mainland. It got its name from its likeness to its namesake, the bridge in London ha.
But in 1990, rock tragedy struck and part of the bridge collapsed into the ocean, leaving a chunk of land isolated in the ocean. The tragedy is that there where two tourists sightseeing the bridge at the time, cutting them off from the mainland. Now there are some wild stories about the two tourists, but they never got confirmed. (They were having an affair, allegedly) What are the chances that you go meet up with your secret lover and the London Bridge collapses, getting you stuck on the arch? That’s some freaky voodoo crap going on there haha
The beach also has a small number of penguins that come ashore after dark but this is not accessible for us humans booooo!
LOCH ARD GORGE
The Loch Ard Gorge is located at about three minutes’ drive west of The Twelve Apostles.
Behind the beauty of Loch Ard Gorge hides a dark and tragic story of shipwreck, heroism, and survival.
”Tom Pearce was nineteen when he was an apprentice of Loch Ard, a clipper ship that was bound for Melbourne from England (2 March 1878) After a three-month journey, the cargo ship that was in full capacity reached the waters of Port Campbell and ran aground. It was dark and misty. When the captain realized the ship was in a shallow water, it was too late. The clipper collided with a rocky reef.
Tom jumped off the ship and swam to the shore. Upon reaching land, he heard a woman crying for help. He jumped into the water and rescued 19-year old Eva Carmichael.
Of the 54 people including 17 passengers and 17 crew members, they were the only two too survived the shipwreck.”
This is a glorious inlet cutting deep into the mainland and surrounded by towering limestone cliffs. Picturesque and dramatic. You do have to walk down a few stairs to get to the inlet beach, so do be aware it’s a bit of a walk back up them. The view from the top is incredible but at the base is even better.
Awesome photo opportunity there.
As you walk around the corner there is a cave at the end. Well worth the visit.
If you are staying the night near the great ocean road then I advise you to go to the hinterland or backcountry if you are from the states or Canada haha. I drove this route with a campervan and stayed at a campsite hinterland. We went for a walk during the sunset and witnessed one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen in my life.
ADDITIONAL STOPS AND SIGHTS YOU COULD SEE ALONG THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
- Erskine falls | One of the most popular waterfalls in the Otways, the Erskine Falls plunges 30 meters into the lush tree-fern gully of the Erskine River.
Erskine Falls is a nine-kilometer drive from Lorne.
- Teddy’s Lookout | A fantastic place to drive up or hike up to and take pictures – amazing views of the bay! Highly recommended.
- Sheoak Falls | Situated about 5 km kilometer drive from Lorne these falls provide a spectacular side trip while traveling down the Great Ocean Road. The walk alongside the river is just over a km through the bush. The Falls can also be reached from the Sheoak picnic ground with a longer but pleasant hike
- Bay of islands | The view out at the Bay of Islands is one of the best of the Great Ocean Road. It’s incredible to look out on all of the islands and the powerful waves crashing against them.
- The Grotto | This is an interesting limestone coastal sinkhole just along from the 12 Apostles. It’s not huge and doesn’t take long to visit but has a surreal, fantasy-like quality about it. Well worth a look.
Have you driven the Great Ocean Road? what did you think? Let me know in the comments below.
Additional Melbourne resources
- 3-day Itinerary for Melbourne
- city guide to Melbourne
- Melbourne to Adelaide | 7-day road trip itinerary
PLANNING TO GO TO AUSTRALIA? THEN CHECK OUT SOME MORE TRAVEL TIPS HERE:
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