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Living in Melbourne, we are lucky enough to have the Great Ocean Road on our doorstep. One of Australia’s most iconic destinations, this coastal drive is a must for anyone visiting Melbourne.
Many tour groups do Great Ocean Road in a very long day trip from Melbourne, but we think you should definitely spend a few nights out on the coast. This allows you a much more leisurely pace to see the main attractions. If you are comfortable driving, we think the best way to see the Great Ocean Road is by renting a car. This way you can stop wherever you like and customize your trip to what you want to see.
Click here to check the latest car rental prices out of Melbourne.
From Melbourne, it is just over an hour’s drive to get to the beginning of Great Ocean Road between Anglesea and Lorne. But, we like to start the drive in Torquay where we can visit the famous Bells Beach. There are so many great viewpoints to check out as you drive along the breathtaking coast. Our highlights start from Melbourne and head west. Of course, don’t forget to explore Melbourne too. We have a great post on things to do in Melbourne that you can check out.
Check out this helpful post to plan your entire Australia vacation itinerary.
- 1 8 Great Ocean Road Highlights
- 2 Where to Stay Great Ocean Road?
8 Great Ocean Road Highlights
Bells Beach, Torquay
Just beyond the beach town of Torquay, you come to Bells Beach, one of Australia’s most famous surf beaches. The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach surfing competition has been running here since 1962. We love to stop here and watch the surfers. If you need any surf/beach attire, Torquay has a number of good surf shops to do some shopping. If you are stopping for lunch, we recommend the delicious burgers and chips from The Bottle of Milk in Torquay.
There are so many great beaches along Great Ocean Road, but Lorne is a popular seaside town for a good reason. The beach is great for swimming, there is a nice wide foreshore area and cute shops and restaurants along the main street. Head inland to check out Erskine Falls, a quick detour that is well worth it.
Apollo Bay Beach & Ice Cream
This is our favourite beach along Great Ocean Road and our favourite beach town. Set right beside Great Otway National Park, you have green, mountainous pasture land that meets a gloriously long white sand beach.
Spend time walking the beach, enjoying the great parkland along the town and treat yourself to the best ice cream around at Dooley’s. You can also visit the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse for a refreshment, some pub food and live entertainment.
While you are there drive up to Marriners Lookout for great views of the coast.
Spot Koalas in the Wild
Most visitors to Australia want to see these iconic furry animals. We love seeing the koalas up close at sanctuaries like Healesville Sanctuary in the Yarra Valley. But it is even better to see them in the wild. You won’t get nearly as close to them as they like to hang out high up in the gum trees, but it is really special to see them in their natural environment.
So where is the best place? The Great Ocean Road goes inland through Great Otway National Park and you want to take a little detour down Lighthouse Road for the best chance to see the koalas. Keep your eyes peeled on the upper branches and look out for cars pulled over to the side. We have always gotten lucky in this area and seen at least a few koalas.
If you haven’t seen kangaroos in the wild, a sure bet to see them is at the Anglesea Golf course, where they like to lounge around.
Otway National Park
The first time we drove this route, I was surprised by the long stretch that goes inland through the National Park. As you drive into the Park, you will be greeted with lush ferns and towering trees that have been there for centuries. The forests are spectacular and if you have time, stop and do some of the walks in the area.
There are a number of waterfalls that you can visit in the north of the Park and there is camping available throughout. To see the forest from a better vantage point, stop at Otway Fly Treetop Adventures. This attraction allows you to view the canopy from the treetop walk or do a zip line tour.
This is the image that most visitors have of Great Ocean Road and it truly is a spectacular sight to see the crumbling pinnacles rising out of the ocean. This is a huge tourist draw and be prepared for masses of people. There is a large car park with boardwalks to the viewpoints.
Just how many apostles are there? Were there ever 12? The best time to view them is at sunrise or sunset. Try to avoid the afternoon when the tour buses from Melbourne descend. You can view the 12 Apostles from the air with a helicopter tour for a totally different perspective.
I actually prefer London Bridge and the Grotto to the 12 Apostles. You still have the orange cliffs into the ocean, but these areas are much quieter with less tourists. London Bridge actually collapsed in 1990 but the orange island with blue waters as a backdrop is still spectacular. Now referred to as London Arch, the story of its collapse is really interesting. Two tourists were stranded on the now island and had to be rescued by helicopter.
The grotto is a sinkhole geological formation and one of my favourite stops along Great Ocean Road. Best seen at high tide when the water enters the grotto creating mist, the green water of the grotto against the orange cliffs is beautiful. You do have to descend a number of stairs to see the grotto. However, often you will have the place to yourselves to enjoy this beautiful place.
Where to Stay Great Ocean Road?
I think the best places to stay are at Apollo Bay or Port Campbell. Apollo Bay is halfway along the drive and makes for a nice overnight. If you want to see the 12 Apostles at sunset or sunrise, you will want to stay at Port Campbell
Big 4 Apollo Bay Pisces Holiday Park – with a great location, set right across the street from the beach, we like the good value Big 4. There are a variety of cabins to suit couples or families, but to request one with a view. Click here to check the latest prices.
Sandpiper Motel – great location near the shops and restaurants and right across from the Beach, the Sandpiper is a great choice in Apollo Bay. Check the latest prices here.
Anchors Port Campbell – the most luxurious place to stay near the 12 Apostles, Anchors offers amazing cottages with views and lovely hosts. Check the latest prices here.
Portside Motel – just on the outskirts of town, Portside is close to the 12 Apostles and consistently receives good reviews. Check the latest prices here.
Have you driven Great Ocean Road? What was your favourite part?
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