There are few scenic roads more impressive in the world than right here in our home state of Victoria on the famous Great Ocean Road. A bucket list tick-off for many around Australia, we’ve driven this stretch of coastline countless times through the years hence we know a thing or two about it.
We created the most comprehensive Guide to the Great Ocean Road itinerary to give you a few different scenarios for how to tackle this goliath of a road trip.
If you’re looking at attempting this drive as a day trip out of Melbourne there’s a few things you should know before driving the Great Ocean Road.
If you’re pressed for time and can only manage a day or two you can condense everything into a few days, but we highly recommend setting time aside for at least 1 week to really get a feel for all the amazing things to see and do along the Great Ocean Road.
Having your own car is highly recommended if you want to cut costs and stay on the road instead of hotels and accommodation, or you can hire a rental car for a little extra space.
Some of the Best Things to do on the Great Ocean Road are best done when you have enough time as there’s plenty of different experiences and tours to jump on board!
If you need more information you can use our Guide to plan all the best things to see along the Great Ocean Road
Great Ocean Road Itinerary 2021
Most people seem to forget that in between tours and activities and driving, you also need to sleep, eat and rest along the way.
This comprehensive guide gives you a couple of options to decide on:
- 2 day Itinerary
- 4 day Itinerary
- 7 day itinerary
You can obviously pick and choose how you want to spend your time and ultimately it depends on how much time you want to spend driving.
Your 2 day itinerary can include driving from Melbourne as far as either Lorne or Port Campbell national park and returning home the following day.
If you’re really pressed for time you can theoretically achieve this but you will be stuck in the car for very long periods of time.
If you’ve never been to the Great Ocean Road and are feeling a little lost on what to see and do then we recommend purchasing the Great Ocean Road and rainforest trip as it will give you access to some of the most popular places to see at a fantastic price!
And if doing a self drive isn’t an option for you there are plenty of fantastic tours like this one that do all the hard work for you.
Driving along the great ocean road for 4 days is a little more practical than 2 and means you can plan a few more spots to stop along the way. You only have to book accommodation for 2 nights so it does also become cheaper.
Your full week itinerary is the most ideal time to spend exploring. No need to rush this one, just sit back and enjoy the ride, ticking off all the best spots on the great ocean road!
Where is the Great Ocean Road?
The Great Ocean Road starts in the surf side town of Torquay, a chilled surfing town 1 hour and 23 minutes from Melbourne and the first of many Great Ocean Road attractions.
It officially ends in Allansford in Port Campbell national park before it extends into the city of Warrnambool, known for pods of Humpback whales in the winter seasons.
How long does it take to drive the Great Ocean Road?
The Great Ocean Road drive takes roughly 8 hours (just under) return without stopping, and stretches for 243km winding along the mountainside and hills of the Great Otway National Park and Port Campbell National Park in Victoria’s South West Barwon region.
You could accomplish this in one day entirely but you will be knackered (very tired) so we don’t recommend attempting this.
There is one alternative to driving this route as a day trip from Melbourne however, you can drive through to Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula and take the SeaRoad ferry through to Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula; which eliminates driving through Melbourne CBD and takes you straight across “the heads’ into Queenscliff.
Need a car? We go through Get a 10% discount on campervan hire in Australia ” target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener nofollow”>Spaceships car rentals to rent our ride everytime we go on adventures.
Day 1 -Melbourne to Torquay
Time: 1 hour 20
Recommended: 1 hour 20
Start your Great Ocean Road itinerary drive from the city straight into Torquay. We’ve kept the recommended time as the drive time because there aren’t too many places to stop along the way, it’s mostly highway.
If you feel like stopping for lunch and a coffee then we recommend heading into Ocean Grove before you head down to Torquay at Garage, they have a nice outdoor seating area and plenty of room inside as well.
Continue on over to Torquay and take a surf lesson down at the foreshore, a staple of Australian culture.
Torquay is home to the World Surf Museum which has the entire surfing hall of fame that includes a long list of aussie surfers who have conquered the next-door neighbour of Bells beaches Rip Curl pro surfing competition.
If you prefer hiking on the great ocean road then check out the Surf Coast Walk, 44km of hike that connects Torquay to Anglesea.
Need a place to stay in Torquay? There’s a bunch of inexpensive, incredible accommodation all along the coast worth checking out.
Where to eat and drink?
Recommended to us by a local, Pholklore is a great place to get some Vietnamese into you…and once you’re done here head over to Blackman’s Brewery for a cheeky beer afterwards.
Home of the world famous Rip Curl surf competition and a short 10 minutes from Torquay, the beaches here are not for the faint of heart.
One of the best Great Ocean Road stops as you continue south, the next stop you can make is venturing out to Point Addis Beach where you’ll find a car park that leads down to the edge of the limestone cliffs that jut out towards the southern ocean peninsula.
Just 30 minutes outside of Torquay is Memorial Arch, a favourite for many tourists that drive through here that also has significant historical meaning.
The Memorial Arch is included in your tour of the Great Ocean road and Rainforest
It was built by returned soldiers of WW1 to honour the 3000 men and women who died serving their country. It now doubles as the most photographed attraction on the Great Ocean Road.
Where to stay?
Seeing as this is only day 1 of your Great Ocean Road itinerary we recommend staying in Aireys Inlet for the night because Day 2 is going to be jam packed full of sightseeing and tours.
Check out these places to stay in Aireys Inlet for a good night’s rest before an early morning.
Day 2 – Aireys Inlet to Lorne
Time: 21 minutes
Recommended: 21 minutes
Spend the day in Lorne, the most popular town on the Great Ocean Road (you will need it) checking out all the beautiful waterfalls of the Great Ocean Road, spend an hour or two shopping on main street for retail therapy and grab a bottle of milk for a mid morning snack.
Related Article >> Plan a longer stay in Lorne using this guide right here
If you didn’t get the chance earlier on you can take a surf lesson from the Lorne foreshore before you start your day!
There’s a great cafe right on Lorne Beach called Hah which we loved sitting at, admiring the water and enjoying a beautiful big breakfast and coffee.
Your drive on the Great Ocean Road should include stopping at a handful of the best waterfalls out of Lorne, including Erskine Falls only 12 minutes outside of Lorne town, Phantom falls and Upper/Lower Kalimna Falls.
We recommend checking out our article on the best waterfalls on the Great Ocean Road if chasing waterfalls are really your thing!
One of the more popular lookouts in Lorne is Teddy’s Lookout which sits at the southernmost end of the town on top of the hill that looks out onto the foreshore and the Queenscliff-Lorne coastal reserve.
Lorne will take you a full day to really explore and get a feel for so finding accommodation for the night is recommended.
There’s a bunch of great deals for different types of budget friendly and more luxurious accommodation all throughout town.
Day 3 – Lorne to Apollo Bay
Time: 57 minutes
Recommended: 1.5 hours
The next leg of your Great Ocean Road itinerary will be the second longest drive of the trip but also the most popular and enjoyable.
The longest stop on this section is in Kennett River, a small town in the middle known for a huge population of wild koalas.
This town loves their Koalas, so much so you need to stop at Kafe Koala, perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
There’s even a famous tree called Koala Sleeping Tree where you can see a group of regular Koalas sleeping.
The best times to see the Koalas are early morning or late in the afternoon in the Eucalyptus trees..make sure you park behind the cafe and walk down Grey River Rd where you’re most likely to find them.
Driving this section of the Great Ocean Road is the most beautiful as it hugs the corners taking you a foot away from the edge of the cliffs, admiring the beautiful southern ocean below.
Just remember to drive on the left hand side along here to avoid accidents.
Driving to Apollo Bay you will pass towns like Skenes Creek & Petticoat Creek until you reach Apollo Bay, and we wouldn’t suggest stopping at these places as there’s not a whole lot of things to see or do.
Apollo Bay is the largest of the towns on the Great Ocean road this far south and offers a wide range of shopping, hiking tracks and great places to stay in Apollo Bay. We choose to stay in this place every time we come down to Apollo Bay.
Apollo Bay is the home of the Gadubanud people, the traditional custodians of the land who have lived here for thousands of years before European settlement.
It is now a popular tourist destination and a fantastic addition to your Great Ocean Road itinerary, seeing places like Marriners Lookout, Lake Elizabeth and your gateway to the incredible Great Otway national park.
Day 4: Apollo Bay to the Great Otway national park
Time: 57 minutes (Hopetoun falls)
Recommended: 3-4 hours
This one will definitely take a whole day!
The Great Otway national park is home to the region’s most scenic waterfalls including Hopetoun Falls, Beauchamp falls and of course the spectacular Californian Redwood Forest, one of the most fascinating places to visit on the great ocean road.
The Great Otway National Park is included in your guided rainforest and Great Ocean Road tour so make sure you purchase yours here today
Few of the many highlights in this region are lumped closely together, literally 12-15 minutes between Hopetoun falls, Beauchamp falls and the Redwood forest so we recommend tackling this group on the same day.
Hopetoun falls ended up being our most favourite waterfall on the Great Ocean Road and is easily accessible from the car park down the steps through the fern gully walk to the viewpoint.
Your itinerary on the Great Ocean road should always include a stop at Hopetoun falls!
Beauchamp falls at the time was closed due to logging and tree clearing in the area so access was not allowed, however we have been here previously and we still recommend getting down here when you can. You can check the local visitor information centre to see road closures and access points.
The redwood forest is an old Sequoia plantation dating back to the early 1900’s that has become a popular tourist destination in the Otways region.
Other popular great ocean road attractions are just around the corner like Triplet Falls, Stevensons falls and Little Aire Falls, named after the Aire River that runs through the region.
One of the best activities on the great ocean road might just be walking 30m high in the tree canopy of the Great Otway national park at Otway Fly TreeTop Adventures, tickets start from $25/adult.
You can choose to stay at accommodation in either Apollo Bay or continue onwards towards Port Campbell national park, you can find the right accommodation here.
Day 5: Apollo Bay to Port Campbell National Park
Time: 1 hour 23
Recommended: 2-2.5 hours
Driving along the southern coastline of Victoria not far from the famed Shipwreck coast, aptly named so for the myriad of ships that have come to find a home at the bottom of the ocean here will form the final leg of your great ocean road itinerary as well as your final destination; the viewpoint of the 12 Apostles.
Visiting the Shipwreck coast and the 12 Apostles is included in your Great Ocean Road and Rainforest tour
Before you get here, if you’re driving from Apollo Bay you have two options
Option A) Drive through beech Forest and Lavers Hill through the middle of the otways, this will take 1 hour and 45 minutes…OR
Option B) Take the great ocean road stopping at Cape Otway lighthouse station on lighthouse road.
It is worth noting that on this section after Lighthouse Road, the Great Ocean Road does detour inland naturally and you will lose sight of the coastline.
So don’t get too nervous if you think you’ve taken a wrong turn because you can’t see the ocean, it will pop back out after Princetown.
Cape Otway Lighthouse (closed at the time of writing) is Victoria’s oldest functioning lighthouse and serves as a warning for ships coming close to the cliffs and reefs of the southern ocean. The journey from the Great Ocean road to the Lighthouse is 16 minutes due south where you can explore around the lighthouse, go whale watching in the winter months and stay at Bimbi park cottages.
Other points of interest in the region include Shelly Beach and Blanket Bay off the eastern side of the coast. Access to these points is via walking tracks off the main road, each named after the destination (i.e. Blanket bay rd..)
Port Campbell National Park
One of the best things to do on the Great Ocean Road is ending up at the iconic Australian landmark of the 12 Apostles, the gem of port campbell park. To dispel the myths surrounding these limestone formations, only 8 have ever been in existence and now less still stand strong due to the erosion and crashing waves of the ocean.
The best place to start is by visiting the Apostles information centre and grab yourself a guide to begin your journey down the walkway to the viewpoint, where you’ll be able to see both the apostles and Gog and Magog to the east. There’s also toilets and a kiosk here before the 5 minute walk to the viewpoint.
Conversely, why not take a helicopter ride to get the best photograph of the Great Ocean Road.
The 8 day Great Ocean walk ends here in Port Campbell having started its journey back in Torquay, something we have yet to accomplish.
To get here early for sunrise or stay out late for sunset, stay super close to the apostles at the 3 star 12 Apostles motel and country retreat and beat the crowds early morning!
The best part about a self-drive on the great ocean road is that you can top wherever and whenever you feel like it.
Before you head off west along the coast there’s one stop on this part of the great ocean road you need to check out. Gibson Steps are a series of steps that lead down to Gibson beach where from here you will be able to see Gog and Magog.
Just don’t get confused with these two goliath cliffs, they are NOT part of the 12 Apostles but look EXACTLY the same!
Loch Ard Gorge
No Great Ocean Road Itinerary is complete without including this tragic tale of shipwreck survivors turned regional attraction.
This naturally formed limestone cliff collapsed more than a decade ago and was named after the two survivors of am ironclad clipper named Loch Ard that sank right off the shores of Port Campbell after running into shallow reef; the two survivors, wealthy teenager Eva Charmichael whose plan was to start a new life in the colonies and Tom Peare, the ships apprentice.
Visiting Loch Ard Gorge is included in your Great Ocean Road and rainforest tour
The two cliff faces were named after these two survivors and is truly a remarkable and mildly intimidating natural landscape to be in the presence of and a truly amazing attraction along the great ocean road.
This partial sinkhole turned cave turned blowhole is one of the more impressive attractions on the great ocean road and a highlight.
Located a little further up from the Apostles, 19 minutes to be exact it is a fantastic stop on your way through to Warrnambool.
The only way to end the day in Port Campbell is to catch a sunset at the 12 Apostles. Literally any weather you encounter here gives you something awesome to look forward too.
Day 6: Optional Food trail in Port Campbell
Before you head out of Port Campbell national park if you have time why not go all out and spend a day exploring the 12 Apostles Gourmet Food trail, all conveniently located within Port Campbell shire.
An 88km loop that will take you approximately 5 hours in total including stops that takes you to a number of restaurants, distilleries and factories that produce some of the finest local produce this side of the state.
The list of gourmet foodie stops include
- A’becketts Creek Beef
- Apostle Whey Cheers
- Berry World
- Dairylicious farm fudge
- GORGE chocolates
- Schulz Organic Dairy
- Sow and Piglets
- Timboon Cheesery
- Timboon Fine Ice Cream
- Timboon Railway Shed Distillery
Day 7: Port Campbell return to Melbourne
Now there’s a couple of options from here and to make it easier we’ve broken them down into 3 options
Option A If you choose to return back to Melbourne and you’re pressed for time you can definitely take the inland route that goes via Cobden-Port Campbell road and turns into Colac-Timboon road right through the regional Victorian town of Colac.
Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Recommended: 3-4 hours
Inevitably you will want to stop for food, re-fuel and stretch your legs which is why we recommend taking slightly longer to help break up the day.
Option B is to take the long way back and travel along the great ocean road via all the stops we previously mentioned in this article and complete your itinerary for driving along the great ocean road.
This means literally tracking back along the route you took to get here, not foregoing the fact that this is still one of the most beautiful drives from Melbourne and a fantastic way to tick off even more on the way back.
Time: 4 hours 8 minutes
Kms: 273km (due to winding roads)
Recommend: 5+ hours
Option C is to continue onwards in the complete opposite direction and continue West and extend your Great Ocean Road itinerary towards the Whale city of Warrnambool.
See our guide here to exploring Warrnambool during the winter whale tail
Warrnambool sits 55 minutes north west of Port Campbell and is a much larger city than most along here and is known for hosting a migrating pod of southern right whales and humpback whales during the winter months of Australia’s cooler season.
We pass through Warrnambool everytime we head up this way and love the atmosphere of the town, making sure we always grab a coffee from Pavillion Cafe that sits right next to the breakwater rock pier.
Another great attraction in Warrnambool is the story of Middle Island; a small island that sits just off the coast that’s home to a large colony of Little Penguins, whose numbers dramatically declined after foxes decimated the colony some years ago.
A local farmer decided to trial using the Italian sheepdog Maremma to guard the pack at night keeping vigil over the colony.
The trial was a success,and the little penguins number’s thrive in 2021. Coincidentally a movie was named after the story called ‘Oddball’
An extension of this option is to continue onwards towards the border of South Australia where the last town in Victoria is Nelson, stopping through Glenelg national park before you make your way into South Australia.
Read Next >> Our EPIC Guide to exploring South Australia
Once in South Australia you will drive right through port MacDonell and into Mount Gambier, home to hundreds of fresh water sinkholes and caves systems, famous for freshwater scuba diving and freediving.
This part of town is known as the Limestone coast and forms the first part of your journey through South Australia heading towards the capital city of Adelaide.
We were only just here earlier this year and had an incredible time exploring the entire state of South Australia, making our way through the Fleurieu Peninsula, the Eyre Peninsula and the Yorke Peninsula.