Stretching from Torquay to Allansford (near Warrnambool) on Victoria’s south-west coastline, the Great Ocean Road is a 243 km scenic drive and regarded as one of the most stunning in the world, an absolute must-see for anyone visiting Australia, in particular the Melbourne region.
A drive along the Great Ocean Road will let you experience a diverse range of landscapes and coastlines, from visiting word-class surf beaches to standing on the edge of wild, rugged and unforgettable cliffs or wandering through one of the worlds oldest rain forests to get up close and personal with giant trees, ancient ferns and plenty of wildlife.
When & why was the Great Ocean Road constructed
The Great Ocean Road is the worlds largest war memorial. Construction commenced in September 1919 by returned serviceman of the Great War. The Great Ocean Road officially opened in November 1932 and was dedicated to those who fought and lost their lives. You can read more about the history of the Great Ocean Road here or by scrolling to the bottom of this page.
Great Ocean Road Trip Itinerary
The Great Ocean Road starts about 1.5 hours to the west of Melbourne in the town of Torquay, Australia’s Surf Capital. It’s split into three main sections: The Surf Coast, the Otways & the Shipwreck Coast, all of which are completely different to one-another and breathtakingly beautiful in their own way.
First things first, decide how long you’d like to spend travelling on the Great Ocean Road. It’s possible to to complete the entire drive, starting from and returning to Melbourne all in the same day, although the longer that you can allow, the better! Typically, head straight to Torquay, follow the coast all of the way to the 12 Apostles, then return on the inland highway through Colac.
If time allows it, spend several days or even a week travelling along the Great Ocean Road. Anything from luxury hotels to budget backpacker accommodation and campgrounds can be found along the entire way. The best option is spend a night (or several) at Torquay or somewhere else along the Surf Coast, then stay in the rain forest and finish up with a night near the end of the Great Ocean Road at Port Campbell or somewhere near the Apostles and Port Campbell National Park.
Great Ocean Road Map
Start of the Great Ocean Road: The Surf Coast
Torquay is the starting point and the largest town/city on the Great Ocean Road. If it’s a hot day, it’s great to call in here and take a dip in one of the multiple beaches that wrap around the town, but don’t worry if it’s too early for the heat or a bit busy, as there are plenty of other great places to have a swim on the Great Ocean Road.
If you’re wanting to have a surf, there’s the option to rent a board and wetsuit from just behind the caravan park at the Torquay Surf Academy then walk to the Torquay Surf Beach and try your luck, it’s a great place for beginners. More advances surfers can head to Fishermans Beach or go down to the surf beach, follow the board walk across the river, head up to Rocky Point Lookout and over to Jan Juc Beach.
Surfers that are fearless, have a go at the nearby world famous Bells Beach and Southside Beach.
For those that don’t surf and want to have a swim, still head to the Surf Beach, although if you’re wanting to take it a bit easy and prefer somewhere a bit more family friendly with little swell, the Torquay Front Beach is usually the best option as it’s almost always calm. Front Beach is just to the left of the of the Surf Beach, which is separated by Point Danger Lookout.
On your way into Torquay make sure that you visit the Surf Factory Outlets before grabbing a drink or meal in town. There, you’ll find anything from clothing to surfboards, wetsuits and snorkelling gear on discount, as it’s the home of major brands, such as Rip Curl.
Jan Juc, Bells Beach & Southside
Once you’ve left Torquay and entered the Great Ocean Road, you’re well and truly onto the Surf Coast where you’re not only going to have loads of chances to stroll along the beach or take a swim, but see some incredible coastal views, even just from the car window.
Right after Torquay is the small township of Jan Juc, a cosy little town where the locals pride themselves on surfing. Either head down to the beach, get a view from Bird Rock or if you want to step things up a notch and see some huge waves and possibly a few pro surfers, turn off the Great Ocean Road following the signs to Bells Beach. There’s also a great chance of spotting some Kangaroo’s grazing in the paddocks behind Bells.
If you’ve got plenty of time on your hands and enjoy a good bush walk, then consider taking a hike along part or all of the incredibly stunning Surf Coast Walk! The hiking trail goes past all of these places from Torquay to Fairhaven Beach, a 44km walk to the west.
Read more about the Surf Coast Walk or head here for more information about Bells Beach & Southside.
The Surf Coast Walk covers quite a few kilometres and would take a few days, so if you just want to get some of the best views, take the turn off to Point Addis and head on the trail to the east, make you’re way through the nature walk and up on top of the cliffs where you’ll get some of the most stunning views on the entire Great Ocean Road!
Next up in Anglesea, a beach paradise, another great surfing spot and a perfect chance to do some sea snorkelling in a safe, calm and fun place called Point Roadknight, right on the western point of the main beach in town.
Central to the town is the Anglesea River that offers plenty of water activities, including fishing, exploring the river on a canoe or stand-up paddle board (you can rent a SUP, canoe or kayak next to the river) where you head inland and work your way around a loop, otherwise cool off and take a swim at the river mouth.
Beginner surfers can rent a board next to the river and then walk to the main beach at the river mouth, otherwise walk to the west of the beach over to Soapy Rock, depending what way the waves are coming in. Surfers with a bit more experience can drive (..or walk) further to the west, once you’re around the point, there’s Guvvo’s Beach that stretches for miles. One of the most popular surfing spots in the area is down the very other end of Guvvo’s, at Urquhart Bluff.
From the Anglesea River mouth, the furtherst part of land that can be seen to the right is Point Roadknight, both a great place for a picnic as there’s a grass area with tables, chairs, amenities and shelters behind the beach, otherwise a good beginner friendly snorkelling spot!
The land rises and the cliffs get bigger as your enter Aireys Inlet, this when you’ll begin to experience the more rugged parts of the Great Ocean Road.
To best experience Aireys, turn off the Great Ocean Road and head a short distance to Split Point Lighthouse, you can’t miss it, the lighthouse can be seen from well before you come into town. Take a short walk around the lighthouse and get views over Castle Rock, you can even head down to Step Beach, which is just below the lighthouse and get even closer to the rock formations.
Going back in the north-west direction from the lighthouse will give you more chances to make the descent down the cliffs and explore some more beaches, with the most the interesting being Sunnymeade Beach & Sandy Gully Beach. At the very north-western tip of Sunnymeade Beach is incredible natural stone arch way where the swell barrels through the middle, an amazing photo opportunity!
If you’ve bought the fishing rod along, throw a line in at Painkalac Creek in the middle of Aireys Inlet where there’s plenty of Bream and Estuary Perch.
Here’s a bit of information about fishing at Painkalac Creek.
On the way out of Aireys Inlet, just past Painkalac Creek (that can often look more like a lake) is Fairhaven Beach, another popular surfing spot, although not well suited for beginners.
Here’s a bit more information about Fiarhaven Beach, including suggestions on some other spots for beginner surfers to consider instead.
Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch
The Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch in the township of Eastern View is where the original toll gate once stood. When the Great Ocean Road opened, back in 1932, travellers used to have to pay a small fee at different spots, and this was the first. It’s actually been rebuilt multiple times!
Eastern View is also where the first workers camp was set up, for the construction of the Great Ocean Road.
Read more about the history of the Memorial Arch here or for those more interested in reading about Eastern View, head over here.
Just behind the car park at the memorial arch is one of the longest beaches on the entire Great Ocean Road. Follow the very short track from the car park. On a hot day, it’s another nice place for a swim, otherwise a good spot for a stroll on the beach.
In the distance to the left (east), you can see Split Point Lighthouse at Aireys Inlet, to the right (west) is Lorne.
Lorne is one of the most beautiful surf towns in Victoria and a great place to find accommodation if you’re not keen on setting up the tents for the night. With the beach being the focal point of the town, it’s a good spot to grab a coffee with a view or rent some surfboards if you’re just passing through.
Lorne is home to lots of large events, such as bike races, marathons, festivals and the famous ‘Pier to Pub’ race, where contestants swim from the Lorne Pier to the main beach, just below the pub. Most of these events are in summer, so it’s a good idea to avoid the place around Christmas and at the very start of the year, as it’s unbearably busy.
Other than grabbing a drink at one of the many bars or eating fish and chips on the beach, there’s plenty to see out the back of Lorne in the forest.
Start by heading up the hill behind town to Teddy’s Lookout to get a coastal view, then you can continue further to visit about half a dozen different waterfalls, most of which are connected by hiking trails. You can even follow a hiking trail from Teddy’s Lookout into the forest to a Allenvale Mill Campground on an extension of the Teddy’s Lookout Loop.
If you’re planning on camping around this area of the Great Ocean Road, there are multiple caravan parks at Lorne and plenty in the forest behind it, although somewhere that should sit right at the top of the list is Cumberland River Holiday Park. To find Cumberland River, continue past Lorne on the Great Ocean Road and you’ll see it on your right, about 10 minutes after exiting the town.
The most beautiful part to drive on Great Ocean Road
The section of the Great Ocean Road following Lorne is one of the most beautiful. Throughout the world, it’s known as one of the most scenic and stunning coastal drives on the planet. This is where the road is quite literally carved into the cliffs. There’s the ocean on one side and steep forest covered hills on the other.
While you’re driving along this section, keep an eye out for Dolphins and at the right time of the year (May to September), big Southern Right Whales!
There are plenty of places to pull over on the side of the road and get a view out to the ocean, with the most popular being Cape Patton (then there’s multiple towns such as Wye River & Seperation Creek that are also great places to get a view or spend the night), but just before Cape Patton, make sure you stop at Kennett River to spot some wildlife in the trees!
Spotting Koalas at Kennet River
One of the most certain places to see Koalas on the Great Ocean Road is at Kennet River, a bit over 20 kms past Lorne.
Pull off the road and park next to the caravan park near the Koala Cafe. Running behind the caravan park is a group of 3-4 large Eucalyptus trees where several Koalas can often be found. Walk up to the trees and look in the forks of the branches for the best chance of spotting one.
If you don’t get much luck here or there’s loads of other people (as there often is), drive up the dirt road and go around the sharp bend then slowly look through the trees, & you’re be almost sure to find one or many. (The most we’ve seen in one day here is about 30 or so, but that’s not often and a bit luck was on our side).
The above photos were taken by our good friend and wildlife photographer Darren Donlen from Donlen Media on our way to Apollo Bay to celebrate the 100th anniversary of when construction commenced of Great Ocean Road in 1919.
Although we don’t condone anyone else doing it at all, after observing some Koalas we also went and found a cave nearby, somewhere below Cape Patton, but please don’t go and try to find it and certainly don’t scale down the cliffs from Cape Patton Lookout as it’s far too dangerous and probably not allowed.
See the full blog past here: The Search For Ramsden Cave, Great Ocean Road
Drive a bit further from Cape Patton and you’ll reach Apollo Bay, where the beach has been made it into the top 5 of Australia’s best! For those completing the Great Ocean Road over multiple days, Apollo Bay could be a good option for a place to spend the night. There’s plenty of hotels, holiday homes and other accommodation options that are close to the beach with a bunch of shops, restaurants and cafe’s in town.
Apollo Bay marks the end of the first section of the Great Ocean Road, then it’s into the rain forest!
As you’re exiting town and see the footy oval on your right, another kilometres or so on your left, look out past the beach to ‘Seal Rocks’, as you may have guessed, it’s usually covered in Seals. You’ll need to squint or look through some binoculars, but they’re almost always there!
The Otways is a cool climate temperate rain forest and one of the oldest on the planet. Here, you’ll find giant trees and ancient ferns, some that are thousands of years old! It’s even said that even some of the creators of Jurassic Park visited the Otways to gain inspiration for what to base their forest on!
Far different to the rest of the Great Ocean Road, you’ll be twisting and turning where the road weaves around huge trees, up and down the hills.
You can drive straight through the Otways relatively fast, but the more time spent here, the better! There are dozens of waterfalls, hiking trails along creeks and around lakes and just so much to see.
On the Great Ocean Road itself, make sure you stop for a short walk at Maites Rest, then again at Melba Gully. If you happen to be in the area at night, glow worms light up Melba Gully!
In between these two very special places is Cape Otway. You’ll need to drive for a little while to get out to Cape Otway, and while you’re on the way, there’s a Koala colony with a high population, giving you another great chance to spot some more!
If you’ve got more time and want to head off the Great Ocean Road, Lake Elizabeth is a must see, where’s there’s both a walking trail (the Lake Elizabeth Loop) and the beautiful Lake Elizabeth Campground.
Camping in the Otways
There are loads of campgrounds in the Otways to choose from and most campsites can’t be reserved, so it’s best to head in there, set up and then go exploring for the day.
Lake Elizabeth Campground is hard to beat, although it can get pretty busy and is a long way off the Great Ocean Road. For a quiet and secluded bush campground just near Aire River, try Aire Crossing Campground. You can also set up at Aire River East or Aire River West Campground that are also on the river, a fair way from Aire Crossing and great a great spot for fishing, although it’s not in the rain forest.
Two of the best beach campgrounds are Blanket Bay, just near Cape Otway or Johanna Beach, much further west on the Shipwreck Coast.
The Shipwreck Coast
The final section of the Great Ocean Road and possibly the most well known is the infamous Shipwreck Coast where the sandstone & limestone cliffs stand tall. The often huge swell rolls in from the west, hitching a ride in the roaring forties and smashes against them, forming coves, gorges, sink holes and spectacular rock formations, such as the 12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge & Thunder Cave in the Port Campbell National Park.
The Shipwreck Coast begins at Cape Otway, although for the sake of splitting up the Great Ocean Road, this section starts once you’re well past Johanna Beach and out of the forest.
If you’re just planning on heading to the Shipwreck Coast, here’s a guide to the Shipwreck Coast & if all you’re planning on doing is heading to the 12 Apostles and surrounding area, take a read of this guide to the Port Campbell National Park.
For most people, the 12 Apostles are the main attraction of the Great Ocean Road, for others, this section is what they actually believe to be is the Great Ocean Road and aren’t aware that it begins almost 200 kilometres to the east, back at Torquay. The Apostles are pretty special, although there’s a lot more to take a look at.
Early into the Shipwreck Coast, when coming from the east, you’ll call past Princetown on the Gellibrand River. If you’re coming into the area late and leaving exploring for the following day, Princetown is a good place to set up camp as it’s very close to the Apostles and has two campgrounds. The Apostles Camping Park is legitimate place to set up a tent or park the caravan that has views over the wetlands, otherwise there’s the Princetown Recreation Reserve, a better option for those on a tight option. Otherwise, head about 10 minutes past the Apostles and stay at Port Campbell, where its beauty is hard to beat!
Read more about Princetown & if you’re planning on spending the night, here’s some information about the Apostles Camping Park & Princetown Rec Reserve.
Gog & Magog
Less than 10 kms to the west of Princetown are the 12 Apostles, but before you head straight there, stop at Gog & Magog first!
Gog and Magog look much the same as the Apostles, although they’re a different group of rock formations a few hundred metres to the east and there’s only two of them. The best thing about Gog & Magog is that you can head down an old staircase that’s carved into the cliffs to make your way onto the beach for a view from below!
The 12 Apostles
Next up are the incredibly famous 12 Apostles!
Just like Gog & Magog, the 12 Apostles are huge rock formations that were created from the Southern Ocean and powerful winds slowly eroding the stone for thousands of years. Although there isn’t 12 of them and never was, you’ll get views from east to west across them, the only one that you can’t see from the 12 Apostles Viewing Area can be seen at the next place to visit, Loch Ard Gorge.
If you look back to the east from the viewing platform, you’ll get another chance to see Gog & Magog.
We’ve got lots more to tell you about the 12 Apostles, including further details on how they were formed, where the name came from and the best place to take a photo. You can read and see plenty more here, in our guide to visiting the 12 Apostles.
Loch Ard Gorge
In the late 1870’s a ship heading for Melbourne from England wrecked on the cliffs and there were just two survivors, Tom & Eva. Tom and Eva found themselves in the gorge now known as Loch Ard Gorge and made there way to a nearby homestead, close to where Princetown was eventually settled. It’s an incredible story and you can read all about it here.
Loch Ard Gorge is one of the most exciting and interesting places to explore on the entire Great Ocean Road & it’s also where you can get views back to the east, over the Razorback (another rock formation) to see the one Apostle that can’t be seen from the 12 Apostles viewing area.
You could spend an entire day here, venturing down the stairs to the beach inside the gorge, then also checking out Thunder Cave, Island Arch, Mutton Bird Island, Broken Head & Sherbrook River mouth that are all next to one-another.
Just like the 12 Apostles, we’ve got lots to tell you about Loch Ard Gorge, including the hard to believe story of Tom & Eva. Please head over here for all of the details in our guide to visiting Loch Ard Gogre.
If you’re on a day tour, almost all of them will head back to Melbourne or Geelong from here, driving towards Princetown and then taking an inland route past Colac and Winchelsea, although the Great Ocean Road continues!
Port Campbell is just a short distance past the Apostles & Loch Ard Gorge to the east and it’s possibly one of the most beautiful towns on the Great Ocean Road. It’s only a small place, but here, you’ll find anything from luxury hotels to backpacker accommodation and campgrounds, then of course, some restaurants, cafes and shops. It’s pretty much exists for tourism and has just about everything you need, including a stunning beach.
Once you’ve made it past Port Campbell, there’s still plenty more to see between there and Warrnambool, which is a further 60 kms to the west (just after Allansford where the Great Ocean Road ends).
Call into to as many places as you have time for, there are a lots of signs on the side of the road letting you know where to visit or what you’re missing out on. A few places that shouldn’t be missed are London Bridge, The Grotto and Bay of Islands.
..& for those that are interested, here’s
A brief history of the Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road is the worlds largest war memorial. On September 19, 1919 construction commenced and the entire road was built by returned servicemen. On the 26th of November, 1932, the Great Ocean Road officially opened and it was dedicated to those who fought and lost their lives in the Great War.
Since the 1800’s, the Great Ocean Road had been dreamt about and discussed by people traveling along the coastline by sea on their way to Melbourne where they’d have views of the stunning and completely diverse stretch of coastline, talking about how incredible it’d be to drive along it, if it was ever possible.
It wasn’t until Howard Hitchcock, the mayor of Geelong and a philanthropist raised money and donated a lot of his own to the Great Ocean Road Trust, not just to build a tourist drive, but as a way to employ returned serviceman that were struggling to find employment during the post-war Great Depression. Unfortunately, Howard Hitchcock passed away on August 22nd 1932, shortly before the road officially opened in November that year.
Around 3,000 workers spent over 12 years building the Great Ocean Road. They’d set up camps and built the road bit by bit, using pickaxes, often supported by dynamite to make way through the rocky cliffs.
When you’re travelling along the Great Ocean Road, there are many monuments and information boards that provide lots of details about the construction of this incredible engineering feat so that when you’re enjoying the stunning views, you can also learn about, remember and pay respect to both those who served and lost their lives in the Great War, as well as those that returned and built the Great Ocean Road.