Lined with lush green fern forests, a giant Sequoia plantation, stunning coastal beaches and a foodies delight, the Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s most revered destinations for anyone who loves scenic road trips.
We’ve said it once and we will say it again, the Great Ocean Road is a Victorian favourite and most definitely one of the best things you can do on your travels through Victoria.
With so many things to do on the Great Ocean road; walk through magical lush green old growth temperate rainforests of Beech Forest, explore the hidden waterfalls sprinkled throughout the Great Otway National park, enjoy world class surf breaks at Bells and as always a great cup of coffee!
Being from Melbourne, it is super accessible for us to skip the drive through Melbourne and take the ferry across from Sorrento to Queenscliff, avoiding the traffic and major arterials.
In full disclosure, this Great Ocean Road itinerary is enormous, you will need at least 1 week to get the most out of this epic location, but we personally think it’s one of the best day trips to do from Melbourne.
Getting to the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne is fairly simple and a lot of fun but it can be very easy to get overwhelmed with everything the region has to offer, which is why this article is hands down your best resource to plan your epic adventure down under.
Related Article >> The best day trips from Melbourne from the locals who know..
What is the Great Ocean Road?
Located 1 hour and a half Melbourne, or 2 and a half hours (including ferry) using the Queenscliff Ferry, The Great Ocean Road lies in the Barwon region of Victoria, west of the city.
A 243 km stretch of road that hugs the coastline of the southern ocean, it was built by returned soldiers of WW1 between 1919 and 1939.
Where does the Great Ocean road start and finish?
Spanning 243 km from the surf town of Torquay all the way to Allansford outside Port Campbell National Park, it is one of Australia’s biggest tourist attractions and millions of tourists flock here every year to see many of the great ocean road attractions.
21 INCREDIBLE THINGS TO DO ON THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
Stop for coffee at Garage
As always, start the day off right with a warm cup of joe at Garage, hidden in the back streets of Ocean Grove just 30 minutes from Torquay.
A beautiful indoor and outdoor setting with an extravagant and decently sized breakfast will give you all the energy you need to explore the great ocean road secrets.
Where – 15 Lelean St, Ocean Grove VIC 3226
When – 7am – 3pm Tuesday to Saturday, Sunday 8am-3pm, closed Monday
Cost – Get the ‘Garage Vego Brekky’ for $22 and a latte for $4.50
Geelong is the second largest city in the whole of Victoria and overlooks Corio Bay which forms the western section of Port Phillip Bay. Head down to Eastern beach near Geelong Harbour and go for a swim, soak up the sun or simply admire the Corio Bay views from the Eastern promenade.
While walking around in Geelong, make sure you stop by the heritage centre and the Geelong art gallery to soak in the art culture that Geelong is known for.
For a quick and delicious bite to eat in Geelong, head into the Geelong boathouse either on your way into town or as you leave to continue on to Torquay.
Shop like a surfer in Torquay
Torquay is the largest regional town on the Great Ocean Road before you head into Warrnambool at the end, so if you’re going to spend lots of time on the beach and in the water, why not dress like the locals.
There’s a massive Rip Curl outlet on the main drag of Torquay that always has great deals and plenty of options.
Torquay is now officially the beginning of your great ocean road drive, and whilst it may not look quite like how you imagined just yet, it doesn’t start to open up and look like the pictures until somewhere after Lorne.
Within the Torquay visitor information centre you’ll find the Australian national surfing museum with detailed pictures and recounts of the most famous surfers in Australia – in fact Torquay is known as the Surfing capital of Australia so it’s an excellent place to explore and learn to surf down at Bells Beach just south west of Torquay.
Where – 16 Baines court, Torquay 3228
Watch the waves at Lorne Beach
Read Next >> Your Guide to the Best Things to do in Lorne
Lorne is probably our favourite regional town on the great ocean road and one of the best places to visit on the great ocean road.
There’s some super comfortable accomodation thats close to the beach with great views of the waves where we stayed but it can get very busy in Lorne so make sure you have your place sorted before you book.
A foodie’s heaven, you have the option to dine at some of our local favourites like Hah, the perfectly placed cafe that basically sits on the sand.
We spent most mornings enjoying breakfast here during out stay in Lorne and when the weather is great you’ll find a lot of locals flock here to enjoy the warm aussie sun.
Why not head into town and try Salonika, another great brekky choice on a sunny morning and get the poached eggs on avocado!
Visit Hah Cafe’s website for their menu
Where – Lorne foreshore, 81 Mountjoy Parade, Lorne VIC 3232
When – 8am -4 pm, closed on Thursday
Get a photo of the Great Ocean Road sign
Don’t worry you haven’t missed the sign, it’s not actually at the beginning of the great ocean road drive, it’s technically in a suburb called Eastern View, just before Lorne.
Built by returned soldiers after WW1 as a memorial to honour the men and women who died during the war, it’s now become a top tourist attraction on the great ocean road and seemingly a right of passage for those curious to drive this part of the world.
Where – 689/721 Great Ocean Rd, Eastern View VIC 3231
Tip – if you’re going to stand in the middle of the road for the photo just make sure you look both ways before crossing the road, it can get very busy around here
Read Next >> Plan your trip to the Great Ocean Road using our comprehensive self-drive itinerary right here
Discover Port Campbell National Park | Things to see on the Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Discover the breathtaking 12 Apostles in Port Campbell national park
Of all the incredible things to do on the great ocean road, surely this natural wonder of Victoria has to be top of the list for most.
The 12 Apostles are enormous stacks of limestone bolstering out of the southern ocean are continuously subjected to the crashing waves.
Interestingly enough there were never 12, only 8 after one collapsed in 2005 leaving 7 behind.
From the carpark at the Apostles Visitor Centre is a long boardwalk that takes you on a 180 degree journey to the viewing platform for the 12 Apostles, as well as further back from where you can see the mythical Gog and Magog.
The great thing about the 12 Apostles is that no matter sunrise, sunset or a foggy morning, the light is always fascinating here and also makes for incredible astrophotography opportunities.
There is absolutely no swimming in these waters under any circumstances, as people have previously died in these rough waters in 2019.
If you’re looking for more calmer and quieter things to do along the Great Ocean Road, continue north to Bay of Islands coastal park between Peterborough and Warrnambool and view the limestone cliffs in a more sedate and less touristy fashion!
Apostles Visitor Centre – Great Ocean Road/Booringa rd, Princetown 3269
Access- Via Princes Hwy or Great Ocean road. Car-park and toilets also on site with wheelchair access
Cost – Free for the boardwalk
Phone – 1300 137 255
Tip- stay till after sunset to get a glimpse of the penguins returning to shore into their burrows.
Official website: parks.vic/portcampbellnationalpark
See the Apostles from the air
There is no better way to experience the grandiosity of nature than by getting above it in a luxury helicopter flight along Victoria’s shipwreck coast.
This is such a fantastic opportunity to see the coast from the air, that you get to choose between jumping out of an aeroplane, or a helicopter flight.
Related Article >> Our EPIC guide to the 12 Apostles
If you choose the Helicopter flight there are 3 locations to choose from
- Cape Otway – 1 hour flight over 17 landmark destinations for $570 pp
- Bay of Islands or – 25 minute flight over 9 landmarks for $235
- London Bridge – 15 minute flight for $145 from the apostles to london bridge
Then, there’s skydiving! Choosing to jump at either 10,000 feet or 15,000 feet – the highest legal jumping altitude in Australia without supplemental oxygen.
We have skydived years ago from 14,000 feet and if you’ve never tried then now is your chance to experience this once in a lifetime adventure! The views over the Great Ocean Road are insane so we highly recommend this skydive adventure in Victoria.
You also get to experience sites like Loch Ard Gorge, Bay of Islands and London Bridge.
Prices –Tickets are $145 for the standard flight over the apostles or you can choose from the other options on their website.
Book tours at 12 Apostles helicopter tours
Great Ocean Road Points of Interest – Gog and Magog
Well no, technically speaking not a part of the Apostles natural formations but not too far from them. Separated by the viewing platform are two very large limestone formations called Gog and Magog.
The best way to see Gog and Magog is by walking along the boardwalk away from the Apostles following the coast where you will venture to the second and higher platform right here where you can easily see both structures form the platform.
Having been renamed multiple times, these formations can also be easily viewed from Gibsons Steps a short 5 minute drive from the Apostles.
Where – Gibsons Steps, great ocean road, Princetown
Walk down Gibsons Steps
Blink and you will miss it. The stairs leading down to Gibsons beach hug the cliff face hidden from the public eye.
A small car park at the top of the steps can only hold around 5 cars or so, hence be prepared to park your car further away and potentially walk.
Of all the places to visit on the great ocean road, this by far is one of the most impressive as the photos you can take here are nothing short of impressive, giving you a completely different perspective of Gog and Magog.
The hge crashing waves that smash the coastline here can be unpredictable at times, and if you plan on walking up the beach, always be mindful of the tide as it can leave you stranded if you’re not careful.
Where – Gibsons Steps, great ocean road, Princetown
Loch Ard Gorge
5 minutes further up the road from the Apostles brings you to one of the great ocean roads hidden secrets; Loch Ard Gorge.
An incredibly beautiful beach with the crumbling cliff faces that tell a rather sad tale.
On June 1 1878 the Loch Ard, a large clipper carrying a total of 54 passengers, had set sail from England bound for Melbourne. A strong fog had overwhelmed the captain and crew, obscuring their view of Cape Otway Lighthouse and unable to navigate their way safely.
At 4 am that morning, the fog lifted and revealed the now dangerously close cliffs; they subsequently collided with the cliff face and wrecked itself near the base of Mutton Bird island.
The shipwreck coast is a large stretch of coast and it can get exhausting seeing all those places in one day so we booked a couple nights stay along the road to help us break the journey apart.
The ship sank within 15 minutes and, of the 54 passengers only 2 survived.
It now serves as a popular attraction on the great ocean road, and also provides a staircase to the beach below from where to view at sea level, the power and awe of the southern ocean.
There are a variety of other attractions and points of interest whilst at the carpark here other than the Tom and Eva Lookout point, including Mutton Bird lookout, island arch lookout, Thunder cave and the Razorback.
Where – Loch Ard Gorge carpark, great ocean rd, princetown
Explore the shipwreck coast
A must do on your great ocean road itinerary is visit the infamous Shipwreck coast along the southern ocean of Port Campbell, princetown, peterborough and Warrnambool.
Officially located between two distinct landmarks, Cape Otway lighthouse at the southernmost tip of the Otway national park and Port Fairy west of Warrnambool.
There are said to be at least 700 shipwrecks in these waters but only 240 of them have been found.
The shipwrecks have become popular dive sites for those brave enough to tackle the frigid waters of the southern ocean.
Strong winds from Antarctica cause massive swells in the water that crash against the cliffs, pairing that with the sometimes un-navigable fog and mist and you have a recipe for disaster.
Where – Between Port Fairy and Cape Otway lighthouse station
Just drive the Great Ocean Road
Sometimes it’s just great to feel the wind in your hair and the sun on your face. Undoubtedly one of the best things to do on the great ocean road is to just drive.
243 km non-stop will take you approximately 3 hours and 42 minutes to drive from sunny Torquay through to Allansford.
Warrnambool is the next major regional town after the great ocean road ends but is definitely worth the visit on your way through.
Winding along the two way road as you cruise through the great otway national park, your great ocean road itinerary should include stops along the way like Apollo Bay, Aireys Inlet, Anglesea and Marengo.
We recommend taking this day trip from Melbourne to take in all the highlights, or if you are looking for something a bit more intimate and unique then why not jump on this small group tour of the Great Ocean Road.
Our most recent visit was a mere 3 day itinerary along the great ocean road but it still allowed us enough time to hit enough hidden spots and remarkable waterfalls that we were very keen to explore.
For something a little different on your Great ocean road itinerary head into Lavers Hill, 46 minutes from Apollo Bay. Melba Gulley is a fantastic walking track filled with giant ferns and an impressive glow worm cave – most impressive at night time.
Tours – Australias Great Ocean Road and 12 Apostles Tour | Small great ocean road day tour
DISCOVER THE BEAUTY OF THE BEECH FOREST | THINGS TO DO ON THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
Take a walk amongst the Californian Redwoods
Read Next >> A practical guide to the Great Otway National Park
Like a scene out of the forbidden forest in Harry Potter, walking amongst the 60m high Redwoods of the Californian Redwood forest located in the heart of the Beech Forest was our second most favourite place to visit along the ocean road.
What makes this 85 year old redwood plantation different from the one in Warburton in the Yarra Ranges is the dense, lush fern gully that lines the Aire river to one side, creating a magical and inspiring place to be.
If you’ve never tried this before, we recommend ‘grounding’ yourself in these immersive, natural places. Take your shoes off, feel the soil beneath your feet and truly feel connected to the place you’re in.
Where –Binns road, Beech Forest (accessible via Beech forest Mount Sabine road
Cost – Free entry, a drop toilet located opposite the Park that isn’t always topped up with paper, so bring your own.
Access: Gravel car park outside the park with road overflow parking as well.
Visit Hopetoun falls – the best waterfall in Victoria
Related Article: A day trip to the best waterfall in Victoria
Yes this is a bold claim we know, and whilst there are about 101 waterfalls scattered across Victoria, none took our breath away more than seeing the power and amazement of Hopetoun falls, located deep in the Beech Forest along the great ocean road.
A photographer’s dream, the leading lines of fallen trees, overgrown ferns and moss that cover the floor in a delicate but veracious way prove that if you leave nature untouched for long enough, she astounds us with beauty and abundance.
The steps leading down to the falls from hopetoun falls rd surely say something about the effort required to reach such a beautiful destination.
Hopetoun falls truly are one of the great ocean roads hidden secrets; well they used to be at least.
The viewing platform at the base allows for full vantage point over the falls, and if you’re brave enough to climb the barrier and head closer in, you will be in awe of the strength of this waterfall.
Where – Hopetoun falls rd, Cape Otway
Access – 4 minutes from the Redwoods to the carpark of the falls, very easy drive but car-park is small.
These bad-ass falls aren’t too far away from Hopetoun falls or the redwood forest either, and are still a sight for sore eyes of camera sensors!
Where – Beauchamp falls rd, Beech Forest.
Access: Access to these three locations is super easy as they are no more than 10 minutes apart from each other from Binns Rd, however access here can sometimes be closed due to logging in the area so read ahead to find out road closures etc
DISCOVER LORNE | THINGS TO DO ON THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
Visit Erskine Falls
Way back up north outside of Lorne is the easily accessible Erskine waterfalls, one of 7 smaller waterfalls in and around Lorne.
An easy 13 minute drive up the hills to Erskine falls is easily one of the quickest day trips you can make on the great ocean road and a top attraction in Lorne.
Where – Erskine falls access road, Lorne (13 minutes up the hills from Lorne on a dirt road)
Cost – Free entry and free parking on site
Retail Therapy in Lorne
We are not big shoppers by any means but if you happen to stop here for a snack, why not pull your wallet out and shop at some of the local artisanal shops that have a wide range of both surf gear, as well as well known, ethically mined brands.
Ghanda is a great vegan, ethically minded store to purchase your clothes from, or why not recycle clothes and head into the Lorne Op Shop.
We spent a bit of time in the Lorne corner store and I gotta say it was a lot of fun. Pick yourself up a nice Patagonia sweater or decorate your house with some beachy, surf knick knacks.
EXPLORE GREAT OTWAY NATIONAL PARK | THINGS TO DO ON THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
The Great Ocean walk
Do you enjoy hiking? Well this is the ultimate hiking trail in all of the great ocean road; aptly named so.
Start your 8 day, one way journey across 110km of beautiful hiking across the shipwreck coast, trekking towards Port Campbell national park.
Your journey starts at the Apollo Bay Visitor Information Centre and finishes at the iconic 12 Apostles in Port Campbell. Most hikers decide to challenge themselves and pitch a tent every night with sleeping bags, building a fire in designated camp sites and cooking their food.
This does mean it requires you to back your own food for most of the 100km in your backpack, having enough water for a few days although there are plenty of spots along the way including in towns where you can fill up your bottles within places like Apollo Bay etc.
Another option is to take a guided walking tour from different walking tour companies taht offer fully or semi-guided 3 to 7 day itineraries.
If you can’t let go of luxury and need your creature comforts then we suggest the four day twelve apostles walk that includes everything from a guide, eco-friendly luxury accommodation, all meals included and a scenic flight over the 12 apostles to finish off.
Groups are limited to 12 people and should be booked well in advance to not lose your spot.
Here is a great guide to help you plan your Great Ocean Walk
Where to stay in Apollo Bay
Apollo Bay is the main tourist hub of the western Great Ocean Road and the largest city along here, meaning accommodation will be hard to come by if you haven’t pre-booked ahead of time.
We personally choose to stay at The Apollo Apartment when we visit here. A super comfortable and relaxing atmosphere in apartment style suites, this is a fantastic choice for anyone considering spending time in Apollo Bay.
For fantastic panoramic views we recommend heading straight to Marriners Lookout, which can be easily accessed from the carpark and up the trail to the viewpoint. While here make sure you check out the Apollo Bay Museum.
A little further inland north east of Apollo Bay si the perfect little spot at Lake Elizabeth, where you might just be lucky enough to come across a Platypus bathing in the lake, swimming around.
Cape Otway Lighthouse station
Head deep south down lighthouse rd (duh) and explore the oldest surviving lighthouse station anywhere in Australia.
Normally a beacon for tourists to get involved in whale watching either from the tower or below, the lighthouse has been a guiding light for ships of bygone entering Australian waters.
Tickets are available to book online for the lighthouse tours, where you have the opportunity to sleep in the accommodation within the lighthouse, visit the indegenous cultural centre nearby, the lightkeepers cafe and a secret WW2 bunker.
Also Explore – Lightkeepers Cafe, Cape Otway lightstation lookout & lighthouse road walking track
Where – Lighthouse road, Cape Otway 3233
Maits Rest rainforest walk
A small yet inspiringly beautiful walk that will take you no more than 30 minutes to complete from start to finish is the Maits Rest walk on the outskirts of the great otway rainforest.
A Fern lovers haven, a boardwalk has been built over the moss-covered trees and delicate ferns that live here, sharing space with the many wildlife creatures that call the otways home.
No hills or surprises, this completely free adventure is a great day in the Otway rainforest and one of the best places to visit on the Great Ocean Road.
Where – Maits Rest, Cape Otway 3233
Price – Free entry
When – Open 24 hours, check the parks Victoria website for updates on closures and weather conditions
Otway Fly tree tops
Only the adventurous come here, so good thing you love heights because if walking 25 metres in the air, ziplining through the mountain ash and myrtle beech tree line isn’t your thing, then turn around now!
Book your tickets here to experience the joy of a tree’s perspective of life and take the hour long self guided tour on the suspension walkways high in the rainforest.
The ultimate outdoor experience in the Otway Ranges is the 2 and a half hour zipline eco-tour, a fully guided tour including the zip lines, suspension bridges and 6 flights.
Where- 360 Phillips Track, Fergusson 3237
Cost- $25/adult at the venue or $22 online, children $21.50 at the venue, $19.5 online
Hours – 9am -5pm everyday (except Tuesdays and Wednesdays till 4pm)
GREAT DAY STOPS ALONG THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
Pho-out at Pholklore
Recommended to us by a mate, Pholklore is one of the more popular places in Torquay. Famous for their delicious Vietnamese Pho, Pholklore is more than a pit stop.
Keep in mind they are very open about the fact that they are not an authentic vietnamese restaurant, which means very little when you physically sit down and chomp into a delicious vegetarian Bun Bowls or Pho fusion.
Where – 38 The Esplanade, Torquay 3228
Food Recommendation – Mushroom + Veg Pho Tom Yum
Cost – expect to pay anywhere between $12-$18 per meal plus drinks
Hours – Monday to Friday 5-9pm, Saturday to Sunday 12-9pm
Parking- plenty of parking along the Esplanade or down Gilbert st. There is also a small car park on Cliff st in front of a set of shops
Drive through Beech Forest
Sometimes it’s the small things that count, like taking a drive through gorgeous temperate rainforest, smelling the aromatic pheromones of the trees and plants, or a gentle cruise up the winding roads in search of breaking daylight.
Relax at a farm stay at Warilda in Birregurra
The ultimate relaxing day spa you can imagine nestled on a beautiful farm property in Birregurra, 20 minutes outside of Colac.
Run by Denise Pinot, Denise has created the perfect retreat for both couples and singles wishing to escape the city life and enjoy the peaceful and tranquil serenity that comes from sunset baths, being pampered by massage therapists, connecting with nature and feeding an eclectic mix of Horses, Sheep and Alpaca.
A revitalised and renovated chicken coup is the perfect setting for your bath, and stay in the old farm house with an outdoor fireplace and deck that sits atop of a still lake.
We had such a fantastic time at Warilda Spa we cannot thank Denise enough for her hospitality and kind, wam spirit.
Where – 95 Amiets rd, Birregurra VIC 3242
Spa treatment – Guests of Warilda pay $110/couple for the bath, treatments start at $90 upwards
Contact- Denise Pinot on (+61) 428 254 637
The following cities are not on the Great Ocean Road so bare that in mind when you plan your visit along the southern coastline however, they are still fantastic places to visit while you’re down this way if you’re looking for a bit more adventure!
Warrnambool whale watching
Every year the incredibly beautiful town of Warrnambool comes out to enjoy the migratory path of humpback whales and southern right whales as they arrive in the warmer Australian waters of the southern ocean with their newborn calves.
If you plan on driving from Apollo Bay to Warrnambool then we recommend doing this drive over 3 hours or so, allowing to stop for breaks and lunch along the way.
The best spot to visit the whales is at Logans Beach whale nursery; a boardwalk platform purpose built to view the whales breaching, tail slapping and fin waving at the crows above.
Early mornings spent here are both chilly and inspiring and is not too far from the centre of town.
The best time of year to see the whales is from June through to late September and possibly October through the winter months of southern australia.
It’s one of the best free things to do on the Great Ocean Road and we love coming back here every single time.
Visiting Warrnambool and Tower Hill wildlife reserve
Other spots worth visiting while in Warrnambool is the Flagstaff Hill maritime village; a collection of ships from the region’s seafaring history. They’ve even gone as far as recreating a maritime village for visitors to explore and understand how people lived.
A little further inland is Tower Hill wildlife reserve; the site of Victoria’s oldest inactive Volcano and Victorias first declared national park.
It’s one of Victoria’s most significant geological formations and is believed to have erupted some 32,000 years ago. A trip into Tower Hill reserve is one of the best things to do in Warrnambool.
It’s formation is known as a ‘nested maar’ and is the largest of its kind in Victoria sitting at 3.2 km wide.
For more information about the history of Tower Hill reserved you can visit their website
Tower Hill is located at 105 lakeview road, Towerhill VIC 3283
Port Fairy & Folk festival
This old fishing village plays host to a nation wide festival known as folk festival that runs every March. The town comes alive to greet the thousands of victorias that flock to Port Fairy every year.
While you’re here it’s worth taking a trip a little down south to griffitts island and walk through Port Fairy coastal reserve to reach the port Fairy lighthouse built by Scottish stonemasons in 1859.
Want more Great Ocean Road information?
Let us know what you think of this blog as it’s the most up to date source of the best things to do on the great ocean road as of 2021.
While you’re here you should check out our Great Ocean Road itinerary article, or plan your visit to the Great Otway national park and become acquainted with the world’s tallest trees
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