It’s right there in the name. Come to think of it, the name is somewhat of an understatement. Victoria’s Great Ocean Road is not just great, it’s one of the country’s most spectacular road trips. Keep reading for the best Great Ocean Road trip itinerary.
From Torquay to Allansford, a small town on the doorstep of Warrnambool, the 243-kilometre coastal road is a highlight reel of dramatic cliffs, windswept beaches, lush rainforest, abundant wildlife and, of course, almighty views over the Southern Ocean.
Here’s an itinerary to further whet your appetite.
Day 1: Torquay to Apollo Bay
1 hour, 50 minutes/92 kilometres
A touch over 100 kilometres from Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport, Torquay marks the Great Ocean Road’s official launch point. But no need to rush.
First, fuel up at Café Moby, a converted weatherboard house full of character and with foreshore views to boot. Coffee fix sorted, it would be remiss to leave without indulging in Torquay’s star attraction – its beaches. For a dip, hit up Front Beach or Jan Juc, or for a glimpse of an aquatic icon, head south for Bells Beach, host of the annual Rip Curl Pro.
Stretching 44 kilometres from Torquay to Aireys Inlet, the Surf Coast Walk is another way to take in this spectacular region. The multi-use trail has 12 sections for those not in the mood for a literal marathon effort. This map will help you find your preferred route.
For lunch, you’re in for a treat, but there’s a crucial decision to be made: seafood or Spanish cuisine. In Anglesea, a leisurely 12-minute drive from Bells, Fish by Moonlite, inspired by Chef Matt Germanchis’ time in Greece, offers the freshest seafood you can find. Alternatively, tack on an extra 30-minute drive to reach Lorne, another picturesque seaside town (of course!) and home to acclaimed chef Frank Camorra’s most recent MoVida iteration.
The drive to Apollo Bay is a particularly impressive stretch of this famous road with wild beaches rollicking below your clifftop route.
If you’d prefer a more casual (yet entirely quintessential) lunch, grab fish ‘n’ chips and enjoy beachside in Lorne.
Perched 40 metres above Fairhaven Beach, about 15 minutes south of Anglesea, Pole House is an architectural wonder. Pull over for a cheeky look or, better still, add another day to your itinerary and stay the night.
Where to stay
Seafearers Getaway – Stylish studios, units and lodges with a mesmerising beachfront location.
Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant and Villas – A sophisticated, not to mention convenient, choice after dining in the acclaimed restaurant.
Day 2: Apollo Bay to Port Campbell
2 hours, 5 minutes/123 kilometres (including detour to Cape Otway)
Grab breakfast in Apollo Bay before starting Day 2 on a high with a visit to the lush Otway National Park and the Cape Otway Lightstation. Built in 1848, the lighthouse is the oldest on mainland Australia and, on the other side of a 90-metre climb, offers commanding views of the Bass Strait and Southern Ocean.
Back on the Great Ocean Road, and it’s showtime as the Twelve Apostles come into view. These craggy limestones stacks, dramatically piercing the ocean, are a geological marvel, shaped by 20 million years of wind and waves. There are only seven apostles today, but the sight is still striking. There are numerous lookouts from which to snare a vantage point while the Gibson Steps will put you on the sand and under the towering formations.
Just a few minutes west, Loch Ard Gorge offers a network of walking trails to help further explore the coastal wilderness.
Debrief over dinner and drinks at Forage on the Foreshore in nearby Port Campbell.
Impressive at any time of day, the 12 Apostles is particularly magic at sunrise or sunset.
Where to stay
Anchors – Three self-contained villas combining the tranquillity of a rural getaway with five-star touches.
Sea Foam Villas – Light and comfortable apartment-style accommodation a stone’s throw from the water.
Day 3: Port Campbell to Warrnambool
What is a road trip without a banging playlist? And what’s a banging playlist without a little Beyoncé? We recommend Queen Bey’s hit Formation as fitting preparation for Day 3, which starts with more of Mother Nature’s grand rock monuments: The Arch, London Bridge and The Grotto.
Then it is on to the Bay of Islands Coastal Park, a 32-kilometre-long beauty starting just beyond Port Campbell at Peterborough. Although overshadowed by their famous neighbour, the Bay of Islands and Bay of Martyrs are also inspiring displays of towering limestone stacks.
The Great Ocean Road officially ends at Allansford, but extend the drive by just 12 minutes for the brighter lights of Warrnambool. If you’re travelling between June and September, be sure to head to the viewing platforms at Logans Beach for the chance to spot the migrating southern right and blue whales.
With views to write home about (or, let’s be honest, brag about via Instagram), it’s got to be Simon’s Waterfront for dinner, and a toast to this unforgettable coastline.
Modern Australian cuisine and daytime cafe food served in a boutique distillery with deck seating.
Where to stay
Lady Bay Resort – Contemporary accommodation on the picturesque bay.
Quest Warnambool – Comfortable apartment-style hotel conveniently located on Warnambool’s main street.