Upon hearing about the Great Ocean Road my mind fills with great cliffs, famous surf beaches and sun. It is an iconic road trip in Australia and the road trip opportunity was there for the taking. Bells Beach, the Twelve Apostles and the Great Otway National Park are the major attractions I had heard of, however; the 243km road has so much more to offer. After packing up the little hatch back with minimal camping gear and our cameras, we set off from Melbourne, headed for Warrnambool.
Use this post to find out what we discovered along the Great Ocean Road, some of the less known gems we found, useful tips for the road trip and of course inspiration! At the end you will find a 3 day Itinerary suggestion.
How long do I need to see the Great Ocean Road?
A minimum of 2 days.
It is possible to do it in one day, however that will be extremely rushed and you will not have time for more than a picture at one destination before moving on. At least one night stay is needed to really enjoy the Great Ocean Road. Two nights will allow you time to explore many of the bush walks, afternoons at the beach and other relaxing highlights of the world famous road.
What is the best way to see the Great Ocean Road?
There are the tourists who take a bus from Melbourne, stop at the major attractions, get out their selfie sticks, get back on the bus tod post pics for the rest of the day without having really experienced the GOR to the fullest. There are also travellers who take a car (or Combi Van) because they know of the freedom that comes with this deal. Having a car is really a fantastic option for making your own adventure in the region. Have the freedom to do the hikes you want, spend as much time at the beach as you want and eat at which ever local café or fish & chip shop with the least number of hovering seagulls.
Which way should I drive the Great Ocean road?
We chose the drive departing from Melbourne, headed for Warrnambool simply because our route took us logically that direction. However; beginning the drive on the Eastern end actually worked rather perfectly. This way you are warmed up to the major attractions which are found approximately half way along the road, from the Otways and beyond. Straight up you will see small towns such as Anglesea and Lorne, multiple surf beaches and waterfalls if you dare walk off the road.
Where to stay along the Great Ocean Road?
In the middle; in a tent, hostel or hotel.
What is better than exploring the wilderness day and night while doing such an iconic road? Opting for camping along the Great Ocean Road is a fantastic way to fully experience the nature of the region. Some campsites (mostly the paid ones, from $37) are in fantastic locations with gorgeous landmarks and natural beauties surrounding them. Luckily, there are a handful of free camp sites along the Great Ocean Road, if you know where to look.
You may decide to spend a bit of money and stay in one of the various hostels, hotels or retreats along the way. That’s Okay! It is also not a bad destination for a luxurious getaway – if that is more your style. Stay the night somewhere between Apollo Bay and Port Campbell as this is where the majority of your time will likely be spent.
Taking a few days to do the Great Ocean Road.
Day 1: Surf Coast
- Bells Beach Visit the world famous surf beach just to take a walk or to join the many surfers.
- Surfing! Organise a surfing lesson in Torquay.
- Point Addis Marine National Park Point Addis is a gorgeous little cove to visit. The beach is cosy and a good place for a picnic or a rest.
- Anglesea for a morning coffee You will find multiple cute shops including surf shops and cafes in this small town. There is a decent waterfront area with a few facilities.
- Aireys Inlet Light House, Split Point – Round the twist Visit this lighthouse to revisit your Aussie childhood in the real Round the Twist lighthouse.
- Carisbrook waterfall Park in the car park next to the road and take the short walk to the waterfall in the bushland.
- Carisbrook Creek stacked rocks – Just after the sign to the waterfall, you will see on the left a beach which looks a bit like a different planet! People have been stacking the round, flat rocks up into small towers. Add your stack of rocks to the collection!
- Beach before Petticoat creek There is a small parking area with a 20m walk to the beach. Amazing rock formations which are tessellated and appear to make lines underneath the waves. Rather spectacular.
- Apollo bay Stop for a refresher at Apollo Bay
Day 2: Explore the Otways
- Cape Otway Light station Learn about how messages used to be sent at the signal station and visit one of Australia’s most popular light houses, situated at the base of the National Park.
- Great Ocean Walk Walk a section of the Great Ocean Walk. From the Light station, you can reach secluded beaches and gorgeous views of the coast line.
- Cray fish Bay (Beaches at point of cape Otway) Drive along some of the smaller roads headed towards the coast line within the National Park and see what you discover! There are some great beaches to be found and there is a high chance you may be the only ones there!
- Otway fly treetop adventures Fly through the tree tops on the zip-line or go for a walk on the air walk. Great adventure for the family. Address: 360 Phillips Track, Weeaproinah VIC 3250
- Beech Forest In the same direction as the Otway Fly, You will find a Californian Redwood Forest within the Otways. These trees are huge! Go for a short hike through the trails and admire the nature.
Day 3: Lime Stone Coast
- Great Ocean Road Wildlife Park At this wildlife park you can get close to the animals and even pat some of them! They have native Aussie animals and coffee. Address: 29 The Boulevarde, Gellibrand Lower Vic 3237
- Port Campbell National Park Port Campbell National Park has what most people come to the Great Ocean Road for. The beautiful sand stone cliffs encompassing the Twelve Apostles, London Bridge, Lorch Ard Gorge and other famous formations are found here. Don’t be scared off by the tourists, it is worth going to see these breath taking views.
- Twelve Apostles
- Loch Ard Gorge Take a picnic and your bathers (if summer) as you will want to stay at this amazing place for a while. It was like entering another world, secluded from well, everywhere.
- London Bridge
- Bay of Islands
- If you continue past the tourist sign for the Bay of Islands you will see a boat ramp sign. Take this exit and enjoy some peaceful snorkelling off the boat ramp, in the sandstone cliff-surrounded blue waters
- Tower Hill Nature Reserve Toward the end of the GOR you will find a nature reserve with multiple short walks (all less than 1 hour). Emus roam around on the grass while koalas sit up in the trees. Discover an extinct volcano on one of the hikes and some rather incredible landscapes.
Night 3: Warrnambool or your next destination!
This list includes places we came across accidentally as well as the major attractions which are not to missed. Don’t be afraid to go off the normal road and to turn in places which are not signed as major attractions. Sometimes, these less promoted places are the most magical, free from tourist, peaceful destinations along the way. We came across several incredible beaches and bays where we were the only people to be seen. I believe it is these moments of exploration and discovery which make a road trip magical.
If you are interested in doing the Great Ocean Road on the cheap, be sure to check out my guide to the only free camping spots along the entire road. There aren’t many – and here they are!
P.S. If you have any questions, join the conversation in the comment section, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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