The most comprehensive guide to the Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road spans for 243 kms packed with dozens of amazing and diverse places to visit. Split into 3 main sections that are all completely different from another: 1 – Surf Coast, 2 – Otways National Park, 3 – Shipwreck Coast.
The entire Surf Coast is made up of both world class beaches and beach towns. Not matter the weather, whether camping along here or staying in one of hundreds of accommodation options, the Surf Coast will provide a true Australian coastal experience.
Between the Surf Coast and the Shipwreck Coast is the Great Otways National Park. The Otways is home to a unique cool-climate rainforest. A short 30min walk through Maits Rest or Melba Gully is mandatory – it’s incredible with ancient tree ferns and giant trees.
Here you’ll find plenty of camping spots right in the forest among the ferns and trees. There also a few beach-side campsite options too, if you’d rather camp somewhere that you can swim or surf.
Once you’re west of the forest, if you were to swim south there would no longer be Tasmania, in about 3,000 kms you’d reach the coolest place on Earth, Antarctica. Between Antarctica and Australia lies nothing but the Southern Ocean. With the cold of the Antarctic and the heat from the Australian outback, this ocean is one of the most treacherous on Earth and of course, this coastline is the Shipwreck Coast. This is where you’ll find the 12 Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge.
You could spend a full day or several on each part of the Great Ocean Road, yet many people do one day Melbourne to Melbourne circuit. The road starts about 1.5 hours west of Melbourne and you can drive from the end of the Great Ocean road back to the city via an inland route that takes about 3 hours.
Best Places To Visit On Your Great Ocean Road Trip
Victoria’s surf capital and the birth-place of both Rip Curl and Quicksilver, also marking the start of the Great Ocean Road. Torquay is one busy place in summer, but book in early and you’ll be set for a hot holiday with plenty of time spent on some of the best surf beaches in the world!
If you’re just passing through, this is a great spot to get a good feel for the next few hundred kilometers of coast line ahead, while full of luxuries with cafe’s, restaurants and shops.
Anglesea is the next beach town along the Great Ocean Road, sitting on the other side of Bells Beach. It hosts some of the best places to surf in the country.
If you’re eager to get straight into your Great Ocean Road trip, try skipping Torquay and having a quick stretch of the legs in Anglesea. A good place to stop is on the main road through town, next to the river you’ll see a public picnic area with a bbq & toilets (next closest public toilets are in Lorne – about 40 minutes away & much busier).
With a rugged cliffs and rocky coastline, split up by beautiful and quiet swimming spots and way less tourists than other places on the Great Ocean Road, Aireys Inlet is the ideal place to stop, swim and explore!
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.
Once you’re out of the bay Melbourne sits in, the coastline is pretty much all sand until you get to Lorne, then the Great Ocean Road is carved into the mountains for most of the next 60 kilometers or so.
With one of the largest Koala populations along the Great Ocean Road, Kennett River is the perfect spot to see them up-close and in the wild.
50 metres off the Great Ocean Road, turn left into Grey River Road – instead of looking at the Koalas there where there’s loads of tourists, drive up the road for a couple of minutes then start searching in the forks of Eucalyptus trees. You’re bound to see a Koala or a few if you look hard enough – the first one is the hardest to spot, then you get an eye for it!
For Great Ocean Road Day Trips, Apollo Bay is the ideal place for lunch. It sets the end of the Surf Coast and the start of a completely different terrain when the road turns inland taking you through dense rain forest and steep mountain ranges where some parts have remained relatively similar for thousands of years.
You’ll be spoiled with options when it comes to lunch because Apollo Bay is packed with restaurants and cafe’s, although we recommended fish ‘n’ chips on the beach!
Rain Forest Walk
This is where you’ll get up close to a completely different environment than along the surfcoast. Maites Rest rainforest walk takes about 25 minutes and you get to see hundreds of huge ferns, some of the tallest trees in the world and man-eating black snails!
A few minutes into the walk, you’ll come across a 350 year old tree on the left of the track that has a large archway at the bottom – it’s said that Aboriginals used this as shelter a long time ago.
Rain Forest Walk
If you want to see some more damn impressive trees and small waterfall, head into Melba Gully.
It’s an incredible 10 minute walk through the rain forest to the small waterfall. From here, walk straight back to the car park and be on your way or do the full circuit which only takes about 5 minutes longer,
If you haven’t yet seen a Kangaroo and it’s in the morning or not long before the sun goes down, pull into the Princetown Recreational Reserve/the old Cricket oval and you’re set to see dozens of them out in the wild!
It’s a beautiful place with a boardwalk through the reids and a and river to the ocean. Princetown is about the closest place to the 12 Apostles that you can go camping – we recommend the Apostles Camping Park. You can even walk to the Apostles along the coast with-in a couple of hours!
The heart of this place is a beach right in the middle of town that’s protected by a port. There are plenty of great shops, restaurants and accommodation that makes the place even more comfortable.
A great time at Port Campbell would include spending a load of time on the beach and then exploring the nearby coastline by foot. On a wild day, expect to see surfers around the corner of the port riding 20 foot waves.
Allansford & beyond!
Allansford marks the end of the Great Ocean Road and the worlds longest war memorial!
From here, you can head inland and cut across to Melbourne which will take about 3 hours, although we recommend heading 5 minutes down the road to Warnambool for the night. The next day, follow the coastline for another few hours until you Mount Gambier where you can spend days exploring the region. Afterwards, about half way to Melbourne (2.5-3 hrs) are the Grampians be sure to visit here – you’ve then got the full southern Australia experience!
Best Campsites Along The Great Ocean Road
Getting the full experience of the Great Ocean Road requires more than just a day trip and if you’re lucky enough to be taking the tents and sleeping bags, here are some of the best places to go camping along the Great Ocean Road!
Cumberland River Holiday Park
As far as private camping spots go, Cumberland River has to be one of the best.
Just after Lorne, between the mountains, next to a river and a very short walk to the beach makes the location amazing and convenient, yet the views from each campsite is what makes this such a good place to set up the tents or chock the caravan!
Aire Crossing has a pretty remote feel to it if you’re coming the back way through the forest, otherwise it’s not too far off the Great Ocean Road.
It’s small with facilities, next to the rive and has nearby waterfalls and day hiking trails.
Sitting down by the river and watching the stars among huge and ancient trees is a tough experience to beat!
Pet Friendly Johanna Beach is one of the most spectacular places to go camping along the Great Ocean Road.
The campsite sits just behind the large and incredible surf beach, with a short walk to where Dinosaurs were first discovered in Australia at Dinosaur Cove.
Aire River East Campsite
Aire River West
More people, more campsites, about a 1-2km walk to the beach down a sand 4wd track, right next to the river and bridge to fish from – unlike Aire River East which is about 500 metres away, fires are allowed here in pits provided by Parks Victoria.
More to come soon!
History of The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road began construction on September 19, 1919, since then, we’ve been exploring it! If you come back in the next few days, we’ll have a few more paragraphs up!
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