I am going to let you into a secret. A secret which, as a born and bread Aussie, I am not proud to be admitting. After almost 21 years in this glorious sun kissed country I have never done the Great Ocean Road. Well, had never done it. Because this weekend I * finally * knuckled down and got down to exploring one of Australia’s best attractions.
Over three days this Great Ocean Road Trip unfolded. Although the road itself is 243 kilometres, my journey went a little further on each side. The sheer cliffs, moody turquoise ocean, outstanding 12 Apostles, and the occasional waterfall make this a road trip to never be missed.
However I will warn you that just like the rest of Australia, the Great Ocean Road is not that cheap to explore. The distances are long and the accommodation is pricey, so if you’re on a budget then you will need to allocate some time to researching the cheapest option.
Anyway here goes – my 2 night Great Ocean Road itinerary. Going Melbourne – Melbourne.
Day 1 – Melbourne to Warrnambool/Port Fairy
The Great Ocean Road is usually started from the modern metropolis of Melbourne. It is best to leave Melbourne late morning so you can enjoy the drive to Warrnambool without feeling too stressed. The drive is approximately 3 hours one way.
Tip: this is the “reverse” way to do the Great Ocean Road but it pays off – trust me. When you actually begin the Great Ocean Road it means you will be travelling in the opposite way to most traffic (i.e. tourist buses) so there will be less people at attractions and fewer annoying drivers.
Warrnambool is a splendid town which hugs the unspoiled coast of southern Victoria. It is worth allocating some time to exploring the town centre and the impressive beach. I loved picking up some fish and chips and eating them while watching the sunset at Logan’s Beach.
I would strongly recommend visiting Port Fairy as well. It is smaller than Warrnambool and much more quaint. The colonial architecture infused with beach vibes is something unique. Port Fairy is dotted with amazing cafés and brunch spots. Make sure you have an early morning dip at the beach as well – it’s super refreshing. Spending some time in Port Fairy soaking up the atmosphere and the good coffee is strongly recommended. Port Fairy is only a 20 minute drive from Warrnambool so you could either spend the night here or visit it during your time in Warrnambool.
Day 2 – Warrnambool/Port Fairy to Apollo Bay
This is where the proper Great Ocean Road begins and most of the famous landmarks can be explored. This is also where you will realise how much doing it in reverse pays off as you will encounter few tourists at the start of this trip. You can wake up and have a slow morning enjoying the food and coffee in Port Fairy as leaving around 11:30am is ideal. The total drive time for this journey is about 3 hours, but it will take much longer because you will be constantly stopping to enjoy the vistas.
From Warrnambool/Port Fairy you will drive towards Port Campbell, and just before Port Campbell the fun really begins. Along the Great Ocean Road there are so many turn offs for viewing. You will need to choose the ones that you think you want to see the most or you will be there for an eternity. I will list the places I went to and recommend but there are certainly other look outs to enjoy.
Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands one of the most incredible places to visit on the journey. It is almost a mini Twelve Apostles. With sheer cliffs and towering limestone stacks jutting out from the swirling turquoise ocean, this is a breathtaking stop. If you are visiting the Bay of Islands, you will only need about 15 minutes to enjoy the view.
You can also enjoy similar views from the nearby Bay of Martyrs.
Stop off at the Grotto if you want something a little bit different. Instead of walking along cliff edges and marvelling at the ocean, at the Grotto you actually head down the cliff for something a little different. It is difficult to describe the Grotto because it’s a bit of a combination of things: a blowhole, a cliff, an arch, a rock pool, a bay… you kind of have to see this one to understand it. Seeing the Grotto will take about 15 minutes.
London Bridge is a must-see to add to any Great Ocean Road itinerary. It is also now known as London Arch because the piece of land connecting it to the cliff collapsed in 1990. But irrespective of whether you want to call it an arch or a bridge, you will definitely be calling it epic. The towering rock formation is spectacular and the nearby cliffs are arguably the sheerest of the road trip. Allocate around 15-20mins for exploring London Bridge.
Loch Ard Gorge
Loch Ard Gorge is incredibly close to the Twelve Apostles and is a worthy stop. There are several walks that stem from the carpark and I would recommend doing most of them. The Gorge itself is stunning and the beach can be accessed via a set of stairs. One of the paths takes you to the site of a shipwreck and there is plenty of information about the tragedy.
From the Loch Ard Gorge carpark it is possible to walk to the Razorback rock formation which is stunning and you can enjoy views over Island Arch as well. There is certainly a lot to do at Loch Ard Gorge so be sure you don’t miss it! Allocate a good 45 minutes for enjoying this site.
This is the big ticket item — and it deserves this accolade. The Twelve Apostles (although only eight remain now) make up on of Australia’s most iconic landscapes. The towers are striking and rise dramatically from the stunning blue waters. Prepare yourself for a lot of tourists here (and a complicated car parking situation). It is definitely worth spending about 45 minutes at the Twelve Apostles, and if you like you can also walk down and getting a fantastic view from below.
After you finish up at the Twelve Apostles it is time to continue driving along to the seaside town of Apollo Bay. It is a well-deserving tourist hotspot and a relaxing place to spend the night. Enjoy the splendid Apollo Bay beach or head to a nearby one at Skenes Creek. Enjoy dinner at one of the restaurants along the beachfront (or try one of the famous scallop pies from the bakery!).
Around the Apollo Bay area is a hotspot for koalas so keep your eyes peeled! I was lucky enough to spot these two out the front of the Airbnb and it was an amazing experience.
Day 3 – Apollo Bay to Melbourne
Enjoy a bit of a sleep in before embarking on the final day of driving on the Great Ocean Road. Today you will see some famous (and drop dead gorgeous) Australian beach locations. The drive itself is stunning as you meander through the Great Otway National Park and along curvy cliffside road. As you drive this section of the road you will be constantly looking out to vast the ocean.
The road continues on towards Lorne via Wye River. Lorne is a spectacular location to stop off and enjoy a splendid example of Australian beaches. Many people spill out along the beach soaking up the warm sun and splashing in the refreshing lapping waves. There are a lot of fantastic cafés and restaurants in Lorne — you will be spoilt for choice! I enjoyed the pies at the Louttit Bay Bakery, and Chopstix had the best spicy tuna sushi I have enjoyed in a long time (and amazing smoothies too).
From Lorne you can visit Erskine Falls which is a part of the Great Otway National Park and well worth visiting.
After Lorne the road continues to Torquay where there is another spectacular beach to enjoy and a surf culture to lap up. Once you reach Torquay you have reached the official end of the Great Ocean Road and it is time to head back to Melbourne. I decided to add a stop to Geelong before driving to Melbourne but this is totally optional.
Been along the Great Ocean Road or have questions? Leave a comment below – I’d love to hear from you!
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