There’s no doubt that the Great Ocean Road is Australia’s most iconic road trip destination. Here’s how to make the most of your journey.
Home to soaring ancient rainforests, unique rock formations and some of Australia’s best surf, this stretch of road is brimming with pit-stop-worthy towns and natural wonders.
The Great Ocean Road follows the coastline from Torquay to Allansford and is a veritable hub for nature lovers, adventurers and foodies alike.
Just over an hour’s drive from Melbourne, the 243-kilometre road boasts National Heritage status and links the towns of Torquay, Anglesea, Port Campbell, Portland, Warrnambool, Lorne, Apollo Bay, Aireys Inlet and Port Fairy.
You could easily spend days exploring from Torquay to Budj Bim, so here is our ultimate guide to the region’s highlights.
Explore Torquay: The birthplace of Aussie surfing
Begin your Great Ocean Road journey in seaside Torquay with breakfast at Little Things Big Things Café. Devour veggie-fuelled jaffles and refreshing smoothie bowls, or enjoy vegan donuts, coffee and cold-pressed juices.
As the birthplace of celebrated surf brands like Ripcurl and Quiksilver, Torquay is rife with outlet stores. Bag a bargain at the factory outlet stores, or shop for gear at Surf City Plaza before heading to Bells Beach.
This beautiful stretch of sand is heralded as the surfing capital of Australia, and for good reason. Wind, tides and swell combine to create the ideal surf conditions for everyone from absolute beginners to Rip Curl Pro competitors.
Before setting off, grab a ready-to-go gourmet picnic hamper from the Surfcoast Picnic Co. These artisan hampers are a great way to sample treats from award-winning bakers and makers along the Great Ocean Road. And you’ll be needing it later.
Amazing Anglesea: Always in bloom
Just a short drive down the road, Anglesea Heath is a haven for flora, home to around a quarter of Victoria’s plant species. Rare and delicate orchids thrive here, with over 100 varieties blooming in spring. Embark on a wildflower walk to discover these tiny floral treasures.
Loveridge Lookout is the top spot on the reserve to take in views of Anglesea, the river and Aireys Inlet. As are the spectacular views at Split Point Lighthouse. Be sure to visit the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery for a post-walk chocolate tasting and workshop.
If you’re in Anglesea in the evening, drop in to the The Coast Restaurant to sample the best of local and native ingredients, inspired by bush tucker. Try the Goeem (kangaroo) with native spinach and bush tomato jus.
Discover the Otways: From rugged coasts to enchanting rainforests
Drive two hours south of Anglesea to reach a location at the top of bucket lists everywhere. Cape Otway and the Great Otways National Park hold some of Victoria’s most stunning landscapes, from rugged coastal cliffs to enchanting rainforests.
Don’t miss the Cape Otway Lightstation, built in 1848 and considered to be Australia’s most significant lighthouse. Climb the stairs to the balcony for whale-watching and soaring ocean views. You can even stay overnight in the historic lightkeeper’s cottage.
Nature’s drama unfolds with every step as you traverse the Great Ocean Walk. The entire walk extends over 100km from Apollo Bay to the 12 Apostles, taking around eight days to complete. If you’re short on time, following the track from Cape Otway to Aire River is a delightful teaser. Book a shuttle service to get back to your car after the 10km walk.
Hopetoun Falls and the Redwoods
Then, visit the fern-fringed Hopetoun Falls. Surrounded by lush gullies and towering rainforest, these falls are among Australia’s most beautiful. You’ll be refreshed by the misty water as it cascades 30 metres into the rocky pools below.
Check out the nearby Redwoods before picnicking in the shadows of these arboreal giants. That gourmet hamper from Surfcoast Picnic Co. might come in handy.
Just off the Great Ocean Road you’ll find Maits Rest – a short circuit walk through towering Mountain Ash and Myrtle Beech trees. Visit at night to see hundreds of glow worms glimmering along the 800-metre boardwalk.
12 Apostles: The jewels of the south
The 12 Apostles are a must-visit destination on any Great Ocean Road itinerary. Located just over an hour’s drive from Cape Otway, these stunning limestone stacks are the jewels in the crown of the Great Ocean Road.
Head to the windswept viewing platform just a short drive away to see London Bridge. This rock formation was once connected to the mainland, before collapsing into the sea in 1990. It’s also one of two points in the Port Campbell National Park where visitors can see the colony of little penguins that inhabit the area.
Or take to the sky with 12 Apostles Helicopters for a breathtaking flight over the imposing landmarks.
After sightseeing, visit the Schulz Organic Creamery and Café. Helmed by pastry chef Hila Perry, you’ll savour gourmet cheese platters and scones served with farm-fresh cream. Or spend a day following the 12 Apostles Gourmet Trail to discover the best local artisans.
Hike Tower Hill: Victoria’s volcanic landscape
Stock up on Great Ocean Road delicacies for the one-hour drive to Tower Hill. Halfway between Port Fairy and Warrnambool, it’s hard to drive past this intriguing ash-covered landscape. Road access leads you right into the crater of the nested maar volcano rising from the surrounding plains.
Luckily, Tower Hill hasn’t erupted for over 30,000 years. Alongside being one of Victoria’s most significant geological formations, the crater is now a haven for native flora and fauna. Take some time to explore the extensive network of wetlands in search of birdlife.
Tackle the hiking trails on the reserve, or trek the 11-kilometre rim and be rewarded with views of cone-shaped hills protruding from the crater’s lake. Then, discover Tower Hill’s Indigenous heritage by booking a tour with Worn Gundidj Aboriginal Cooperative.
Budj Bim: Watery wonders of UNESCO status
Budj Bim is another dormant volcano. With its serene crater lake, lava caves and picturesque bushland, the park is the ideal spot for hiking, camping and picnicking. The Budj Bim National Park features the earliest living example of aquaculture in the world and recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage.
Experience Budj Bim’s heritage on an immersive tour with Budj Bim Cultural Landscape Tourism. Led by Gunditjmara guides, you’ll learn all about the national park’s cultural significance. Then head to the Tae Rak Aquaculture Centre in Breakaway Creek. This state-of-the-art aquaculture centre showcases ancient freshwater kooyang (eel) farming techniques. Plus you can enjoy kooyang tasting plates and bush tucker at their cafe.
Take a break
After exploring this incredible area, visit Macarthur General Store for a pick-me-up coffee and chat with friendly locals. Its old world charm feels like stepping back in time. Cap off your Great Ocean Road journey with a visit to Suffoir, a family-owned and -operated winery and distillery. Savour a Ploughman’s Platter, gin tasting or craft brew and toast to a road trip that is sure to leave you revived and inspired.
Scenic sleepovers: Accommodation along the Great Ocean Road
Great Ocean Road Resort, Anglesea
Relax and recharge after all that driving at the stunning Lux Spa & Wellness resort within the Great Ocean Road Resort in the heart of Anglesea. Offering treatments from facials and body wraps to Shirodhara, infrared sauna and a Vichy shower. This tranquility continues into the waterfront guestrooms with their light and airy designs.
Anchors, Port Campbell
This 4.5-star rural retreat is the perfect base to explore the 12 Apostles and surrounds. Just 12 kilometres from the landmark, these luxe one-bedroom villas come with a log fire, spa bath and private outdoor barbecue set on a picturesque coastal farm.
Deep Blue Hotel & Hot Springs, Warrnambool
An award-winning Hot Springs Sanctuary within an array of rockpools, sensory caves and cleansing waterfalls, The Deep Blue provides an idyllic setting to rest after your adventures along the Great Ocean Road. Rooms are inspired by its coastal location with many boasting ocean views. Walking distance to the beaches, walking trails and seaside attractions of Warrnambool, its central and scenic. In-house chefs rustle up casual dining in the restaurant and with an indoor bath house, swimming pool, day spa for massages or facials, sauna, and salt therapy, rest and relaxation has never been so serene.
But this is just some of the highlights. Make the most of your Great Ocean Road journey and discover all there is to see, eat and explore at…
Tourism Greater Geelong and The Bellarine and Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism are giving away two unforgettable Victorian escapes.
Looking for more inspiring Vacations & Travel stories? Try these…