Paradise on the Great Ocean Road
45 kilometres into the Great Ocean Road, around half way from Torquay to Cape Otway on the Surf Coast, right on the ocean’s edge of the Otways Forest is the unforgettable beach town of Lorne.
Lorne is stunning, it attracts international visitors as they tour the coastline then due to the beauty of this place and it being a relatively short distance from Melbourne and Geelong, people living in those two places flock to this holiday destination in huge numbers.
There are loads of really nice cafes, bars, restaurants and up-market places to stay in the town that stretches along a pristine beach which is perfect for swimming. The waves that roll-in on the south-west end of the beach attract a lot of surfers and create a decent focal point for when sipping on a drink, sitting on a balcony.
Annual events in Lorne or nearby
Over summer, Lorne is much busier than the colder months as people typically come here to enjoy the beach and stunning surrounding area. The busiest period is around Christmas and the new year, although Lorne sees a steady flow of both international and domestic tourists all year round due to the many, greatly popular annual events that are held in or around Lorne throughout the year.
Here are the main ones that are worth spectating if you’re ever in the area at the right time of the year:
Pier to Pub Swimming Race
The end of the Lorne Pier is over 1km from Lorne main beach, then it’s about 50 metres up to the Lorne Hotel. Thousands of people race from the pier to the beach below the pub each year and it’s known as the Lorne ‘Pier to Pub’.
There are loads of funny stories about how the race first started. The most common being that:
Two German tourists were drinking beer at the end of the pier. One of the drunk men fell off the pier into the water and when his friend offered some assistance, he replied “I’m wet now, I may as well swim back to town”, so the other man jumped into the ocean and they both raced to shore.
Upon the men making it to dry land, the very impressed pub owner that earlier denied them entry due to being too drunk, called out to the men from the balcony and invited them into the pub. The pub owner then shouted them each to a free beer and explained that for many years people have spoken about attempting the swim but no-one had ever tried.
It’s such a good story but a great furphy, the truth is a bit more bland and realistic. According to some locals we spoke to at the pub, what really happened behind the Pier to Pub swim is that in 1981, two local Life Guards made the swim. They realised that if they used the oceans currents, swell and waves that they could body surf in without exerting massive amounts of energy, so really, any decent swimmer would have a good chance at making the distance.
A few weeks later, a whole lot of Life Guards got together and they raced. This race turned into an annual event and in 1998, it became the holder of Guinness World Records Largest Open Water Swim.
The race still continues each year, usually in the second week of January.
Over “new years” (December 29th to January 1st) is a huge music and arts festival behind Lorne, back towards Deans Marsh.
This huge festival attracts over 10,000 people in their late teens and twenties to party hard for a few days. ‘Falls Festival’ is held around the country on the same dates, although Lorne is the original birth place of the festival that was first named ‘Rock Above The Falls’.
If you’re planning on heading along the Great Ocean Road or Surf Coast while this festival is on, expect delays of up to several hours on the way to Lorne. Once you’re past Lorne, it’s smooth sailing ahead.
Great Ocean Road Marathon
The Great Ocean Road Marathon is known as one of the most scenic in the world. It starts at Lorne then follows the winding road west for 44kms (bit longer than a usual marathon) to Apollo Bay.
You just need to be 18 years old on the day of the race and shorter race distances are an option. The full 44kms is known as one of the toughest marathons in the world.
If cycling is more you thing, then you’re in luck:
Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race
Cadel Evans is an Australian sporting star that won Tour de France in 2011.
Inspired by Tour de France and ending in Geelong (to the east of Lorne, back towards Melbourne), in 2015, the first Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race was held to honour Cadel Evans and mark his final ever professional cycling race. Huge numbers of people came out to see him ride and since then, the race has quickly become a much loved classic in the local area.
The course changes each year and covers a large area around Lorne, along the Great Ocean Road and in the Great Otway National Park.
Great Otway Classic
The Great Otway Classic is held in April and is one of Australia’s best known and most scenic cycling races that attracts enthusiasts from all over the world.
Cyclists can chose between three different distances that go on and off the Great Ocean Road and into the Great Otway National Park. The Classic Race is 145kms.
Wiggle Amy’s Gran Fondo
Wiggle Amy’s Gran Fondo is yet another cycling event held in November each year. The ride is along the incredible Great Ocean Road, although the roads are fully closed.
This cycling race is for riders of all abilities and its purpose is to create awareness of the danger that cars can have on cyclists.
Amy Gillet was a professional cyclist and rower. In 2005, her and her squad were cycling when a car crashed into them, killing Amy. The race is dedicated to her.
At the peak of the hills that sit behind Lorne is Teddy’s Lookout, which is one of the most amazing lookouts on the entire Great Ocean Road, or at least in Lorne.
The view of the hills covered in dense Eucalyptus forest meeting the ocean is unforgettable and unmissable. It can be a bit difficult to take large vehicles up there, but make sure you take a look at more info about the best way to get up to Teddy’s, here.
There’s also a walk from the lookout down to the Great Ocean Road and Lorne Scenic Beach.
Getting to Lorne: Direct or scenic route
There are two main routes that you can take to drive to Lorne when heading there from Geelong/Melbourne. Either the inland route or via the coast.
By far, the most beautiful way to go is along the coast on the Great Ocean Road. Either head directly to Torquay or Anglesea, then follow the coast until you reach Lorne.
The official start to the Great Ocean Road is in Torquay, but there’s not a lot to see until you reach Anglsea and can save around 15-20 minutes by avoiding Torquay. On the other hand, if you’re not short on time, then Torquay is an incredible surf town to stop in at. It’s full of surf factory outlets and the World Surfing Museum.
Going by the coast is a fair bit shorter in distance, so it seems faster, but keep two things in mind:
1. The road twists and turns, so you have to drive pretty slow
2. It’s along the Great Ocean Road, which is Australia’s most visited tourist attraction, so it’s really busy most of the time
3. If there’s an event on in Lorne or nearby, this can add huge delays
The second option is to not head to the start of the Great Ocean Road, but when passing Geelong from Melbourne, keep following the ring road towards Colac to Winchelsea. From Winchelsea, the road takes you a back way through an incredible dry Eucalyptus Forest to Lorne via Deans Marsh. It is a few more kilometres than the Great Ocean route, but can end up being much quicker at times.
Via the Great Ocean Road
Direct route through Winchelsea & Deans Marsh
Accommodation & Camping in and around Lorne
This is one of the regions most popular tourist destinations. You’ll find loads of places to stay or go camping in Lorne or the surrounding area.
It’s best to decide what type of accommodation you’re wanting before you start your search as pretty much any type of accommodation is found here. If you’d like to stay somewhere luxurious, you have the options of luxury hotel accommodation and villas in town by the shore or on the hills behind Lorne. If you’d rather something more affordable, there’s a backpackers hostel in town or cheap cabins in the hills behind. If you’d like to camp or set-up the caravan, again, there are options with full facilities in town or near by.
The Lorne Caravan Park or Lorne Foreshore Caravan Park are both super central. They’re operated by the same people, so you can give them a call and chat about the best options for you. You’ll camp just near the river, ocean and shops. If you would like somewhere with full facilities but a little out of town, try Cumberland River Holiday Park, it’s incredibly stunning and not far from Lorne, further west along the Great Ocean Road.
A really cosy and beautiful place to stay that just by the beach, has a bar and live music is the Lorne Hotel. This has to be high on the list if you’re looking for somewhere really nice to spend the night.
Above the shops in the centre of town is the Cumberland Lorne Resort, which is pretty luxurious on the inside. Something more boutique and in an amazing location, also above the shops on the main strip is the Anchorage Hotel (opposite the tourist information centre). There’s a large Mantra on the foreshore, also right in town.
If you’re after something very special, try renting a villa in the hills behind Lorne where you’ll have gorgeous ocean views and most likely wake up to loads of Kangaroos grazing in your front yard.