Great Ocean Road

Our guide to theGreat Ocean Road

From start to finish, there’s adventure, intrigue and beauty along the Great Ocean Road. One of the world’s most scenic coastal drives, the Great Ocean Road winds along the Southern Ocean on the south-west coast of Victoria, starting at Torquay and finishing in Allansford. It was built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932, and at 255 km, it’s the world’s longest war memorial. Along the route, there is plenty to see and do, from charming villages to the famous 12 Apostles.

Knowing the Road Ahead

It may sound like it’s a far distance to travel in the car, but with so much to see and do, you’ll have ample opportunity to stretch your legs along the way.

Top Things to Do

Spectacular coastal wilderness contrasted against native wildlife, there’s nature, adventure, landscapes and beaches to explore. Highlights include the Great Ocean Walk from Apollo Bay to the 12 Apostles, Bells Beach and the Otways.

Helicopter Flights and Skydiving

One of the best ways to view the magnificent coast and scenery is from the air. There are helicopter, seaplane and even old Tiger Moth options giving you the opportunity for a bird’s eye view of the southwest coastline. As you fly, you’ll be rewarded with fabulous views of the 12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge and the Bay of Islands. Keep an eye out for the sea life – blue wales frequent the coast of Portland during breeding season which falls between June and October.

For the more adventurous out there, why not partake in a bit of skydiving? Tandem skydiving really is a unique way to experience the region, as you surf the air currents above Bells Beach, and view the coastal bush and farmland all as you drop from around 15,000 feet in the air.

Natural Landscapes and Wildlife

The beauty of the Great Ocean Road is most definitely inspired by the natural landscapes. One of, if not the, most well-known highlights of the Great Ocean Road is the Twelve Apostles. The massive limestone structures call the Port Campbell National Park home, and their imposing 45-metre structure often leaves visitors completely in awe. Unfortunately, five stacks have fallen since the discovery, however the eight remaining are truly incredible, especially with the magical cliffs as their backdrop. While they’re breathtaking at any time of day, dusk and dawn tend to be the most popular times.

Stretching from Toquay to Princetown and up towards Colac, the Great Otway National Park has everything a visitor could possibly want. From rugged coastlines to heathland and everything in between, the park is an excellent place to explore. It’s truly a bushwalker’s paradise with dozens of trail options – you can even take a trail that includes cliff tops, coastal portions, rainforests and bush all at once.

The Great Ocean Walk hugs the coastline for more than 100km with plants, animals and scenery to discover along the way. Passing through some of the most remote places, you’ll feel like civilisation is worlds away. From the highest coastal cliffs on mainland Australia at Moonlight Head to seeing shipwreck anchors embedded in rocks at Wreck Beach, there’s so much to take in, you’ll never want to leave.

If it’s meeting the local wildlife you’re after, head to Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve where you’ll be able to meet koalas, kangaroos and several species of water birds roaming freely. The Reserve was declared Victoria’s first national park in 1892 and provides visitors with the opportunity to experience the Australian bush, enjoy the scenery and the landscapes, all while getting up close and personal with some of Australia’s favourite furry friends.

Beaches and Surf Culture

If there’s one thing Australia does well, it’s beaches and surfing, and Victoria’s coastline definitely doesn’t disappoint. There are literally hundreds of bay and ocean beaches to choose from along the Great Ocean Road. Just remember though, always look for the red and yellow flags to make sure it’s safe to hop into the water.

The famed Bells Beach is a much-loved icon of Australian surfers, and the Rip Curl Pro is held here every Easter. Located near Torquay, the high cliffs are a dramatic backdrop to the large Southern Ocean swells. Even for the non-surfers among us, Bells Beach is a popular spot for sightseeing due to the exceptional vantage points along the cliff.

For those who prefer a swimming beach, Anglesea is a great option. The sand dunes tend to protect the beach and lifesavers are on hand in the summer months. There’s also Lorne which is one of the most popular resort towns along the route. The gentle surf is great for swimming and the beach is very family friendly. Towards the end of the Great Ocean Road, the best and most popular options are Port Campbell beach and Port Fairy East Beach.

Best Places to Stay on the Great Ocean Road

The best way to experience the Great Ocean Road is to drive the route over a number of days. That way you can stop and really experience the towns, scenery and natural bushland along the way. So, you’ll need somewhere to stay.

Luxury Accommodation and Hotels

Most of the luxury accommodation options are cottages that dot the shoreline along the Great Ocean Road Route.

One of the standouts is Alkina Lodge, a collection of three four-bedroom lodges with huge glass ceilings for some in-bed stargazing. Just 15 minutes from the 12 Apostles and surrounded by bush and kangaroos Alkina is a firm favourite for those looking for some serious relaxation and indulgence.

If it’s a hotel you’re looking for though, RACV Torquay Resort is an excellent family-friendly option, with dining, golf and other recreational activities and a spa on the premises. It’s located at Torquay, so either the beginning or the end of your route, depending on which direction you’re driving, and it’s the perfect way to start or end your Great Ocean Road experience.

At the other end is Drift House, a beachy boutique hotel in Port Fairy featuring pops of colour, salvaged reclaimed timber and personality to the max. A small hotel with only four rooms, Drift House is an adult’s only retreat with delicious breakfast hampers delivered to your door and a guest library to satisfy the readers. In the middle, there’s the Great Ocean Road Resort and Great Ocean Road Escapes which both offer accommodation options for whole families if required.

Glamping and Camping

For those who want to stay in the great outdoors, there are plenty of options to camp or glamp along the route. Of course, for the campsites that dot the Great Ocean Road, you’ll need to be prepared with your own tents, accessories and cooking utensils. Note though that some campsites are fuel stove only and have limited tent pads. You’ll need to obtain camping permits as well so be prepared before you head off.

In terms of glamping, there are a couple of options. Pebble Point is an exclusive bush retreat with safari style tents situated at the end of the Great Ocean Walk. It’s close to three national parks and the retreat is exceptionally conscious of ensuring the environmental footprint of each visitor is kept low. Water is collected and treated on site and sustainable building materials were used during construction. For those wanting the pop-up glamping experience, Twilight Glamping offers bell tents that are set up for you. All you need to do is choose your site and your dates and the company will do the rest for you.

Top Foodie Experiences

The Great Ocean Road doesn’t disappoint when it comes to dining options. Whether it’s fine dining, café culture or sweet treats, there are hundreds of options to suit any and all taste buds.

Fine Dining Adventures

Ever wanted to try a pickled pig? Award-winning chef Brenton Banner’s menu at Pickled Pig is simple but it sure packs a punch. The menu is seasonal, playing off what’s available locally in terms of produce, meaning everything you get is the freshest of the fresh. Of course, the signature dish is the pork belly. No matter what time of year you go, it will be on the menu, albeit served with different flavours and sides. The food may sound fancy, but the restaurant is casual and personable, the perfect mix.

Beautifully positioned between Melbourne and the Twelve Apostles, the town of Aireys Inlet is also home to A La Grecque which serves seafood and Greek food. It’s fresh, seasonal and simple, and has an excellent reputation so it’s advised to book ahead.

A fixture of the Lorne dining scene, Marks Restaurant keeps things local while still creating dishes influenced by the world around us. It’s consistent and delicious, what more could you want?

Sweet Finds

Whether it’s dessert or a snack, there are plenty of options to pick up a sweet treat along the Great Ocean Road. The Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery offers free chocolate and ice cream tasting which really is a dream come true. You can also see how they hand-craft their chocolates and explore the showroom which is jam packed with chocolatey options. The ice creamery is surrounded by beautiful lawns and a native garden to explore. There’s also a lavender field and sand play area – the perfect pit stop.

Another ice cream shop that definitely needs to be on the list is Dooley’s Premium Ice Cream. It’s never too cold for ice cream, so no matter what the season, Dooley’s is open and ready to serve everyone who comes in. Plus, they’ve received dozens of well-deserved awards.

Family favourites

If you’re after a place to eat with the family that won’t break the bank, you can’t go past a night at the incredible Clovelly Restaurant, which is attached to the Best Western Maritime Motor Inne in Warrnambool. Owner, Raj will no doubt take a seat next to you and entertain you throughout your meal, as you tuck in to sumptuous favourites like Surf ‘n’ Turf and the best sticky date pudding on the coast. As you begin your drive along the Great Ocean Road, be sure to stop in at Apollo Bay Bakery and feed the family for the road trip. They’re famous for their scallop pie!

The Great Ocean Road delights at every twist and turn with breathtaking scenery, incredible wildlife and adventure galore. Added to the Australian National Heritage List in 2011, the Great Ocean Road definitely deserves its status as one of the most scenic coastal drives in the world.

Secrets of the Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road may be one of the most visited destinations in Australia, but there are a few lesser known and secret places and experiences to be had. We have created an entire series dedicated to finding the Secrets of the Great Ocean Road.