If there’s one road trip you will have heard about a million times over in Australia, it will be the Great Ocean Road. And it’s for good reason too! Seriously, it’s not one of those over-hyped things that everyone tells you to do but is actually kinda naff. It’s amazing. It’s beautiful. It’s a must!
The Great Ocean Road does is what it says on the tin – one beautiful twisting road that winds its way along breathtaking scenery of the Victoria coastline. To the east, you will find Melbourne, to the West, Adelaide and to the North, the breathtaking Grampian National Park. This triangle makes the perfect route to experience the Great Ocean Road in 3 fantastic ways over 4 days. Options 2 and 3 are the routes I did (yes, I did it twice) so that’s what I will be focusing on.
The Great Ocean Road Routes
Route 1: Melbourne to Adelaide, via the Grampians
Route 2: Adelaide to Melbourne, via the Grampians
Route 3: Melbourne to Melbourne loop, via the Grampians
**Alternatively, the Grampians can be missed out but I’m not going to encourage that because they’re freakin’ amazing!**
Things to know before you drive the Great Ocean Road:
- There are no free camping sites along the road and many of the towns you go through have signs up saying no overnight camping. There can be pretty hefty fines for ignoring these so my advice is don’t! Download the Wikicamps app and call around some campsites to compare prices.
- Fuel is pretty pricey so make sure you fill up at the beginning to get you off to a good start.
- There aren’t many supermarkets along the way so again, stock up!
- Remember it’s the coast so the weather can change pretty quickly. Make sure you have everything from suncream to waterproofs ready.
Day 1: The Grampians
Set off early from either Melbourne or Adelaide and make your way over to Halls Gap at The Grampians which will be your starting point. Grab a map from the tourist information centre to make sure you don’t get lost as phone reception is sketchy. To make sure you cover as much as you can in your day here, hit the tarmac on the Central Grampians drive that will take you to spots such as the mind-blowing Balconies, Boroka lookout and McKenzie Falls.
Once you’ve had your fill of this amazing scenic drive head to the fantastic free Plantations Campsite just 15 minutes drive from Halls Gap. There are toilets, bush showers and you can even build a fire if you fancy. Enjoy having some kangaroos as your neighbours as well as unspoilt starry skies. What a way to spend your first night!
Day 2: The Grampians – Warrnambool
Rise early and make your way south through the national park for a stop at the highest point in the Grampians – Mt William. Park up and walk the 1.8km path to the summit to get the best panoramic views. This steep walk will certainly wake you up and is totally worth it.
After this, it’s time to make a start (nearly) on the Great Ocean Road. Head to the pretty town of Port Fairy and take a walk along the glimmering marina for a while before jumping back in the car and heading over to Warrnambool. Take a walk down the pier and grab a coffee at the café there. You can’t miss a stop at Logans Beach Whale Watching platform if your trip falls at the right time of year to get the chance to see whales migrating. If you have time then you have to make your way over to Tower Hill nature reserve and take a couple of walks- hopefully, you will see some emus and maybe even a koala or 2.
Both of these are considered to be the gateway to the Great Ocean Road. Whilst in Warrnambool for the night, make sure you stock up on food if you’re camping and gas.
Day 3: Warrnambool – Port Campbell for the Twelve Apostles
This small section is jam-packed full of stunning lookouts and coastal features. Get your cameras ready!
The main stops along this stretch are Childers Cove, Bay of Islands, Loch Ard Gorge and the famous Twelve Apostles. But don’t even think about skipping past the other great spots here!
Start off at Childers Cove where you will get your first taste of what the Great Ocean Road has to offer. If the tide is out then head down to the beach to get a different perspective. Next stop is the stunning Bay of Islands then on to Martyr’s Beach for a stroll along. Afterwards, make your way to The Arch and then London Bridge (which actually did fall down) where you will also see the rough terrain of the Ridgeback.
To get a feel of the enormity and power of this coastline, make your way down Gibson’s Steps to the beach. The strong currents and rugged coastline make for a dramatic misty view.
For a different mystical feel, spend some time in The Grotto; a small cove where you will see the combination of a calm rock pool and the rough seas through the other side. It’s a favourite spot of mine.
Before the infamous Twelve Apostles, turn in at Loch Ard Gorge and take in the stunning views. There are loads of other parts to see here too, such as Thunder Cave and Sherbrook River depending on how far you want to walk, but you can certainly spend a good amount of time here!
The end of this beautiful day should be spent at the Twelve Apostles for sunset. Be prepared for it to get seriously busy but it’s worth it! Walk along the boardwalks and then pitch up at a spot and wait for the moment.
Day 4: Port Campbell- Melbourne
Today you will find yourself on those photogenic winding coastal roads you see in all the photos. It’s all about the journey today!
Take a detour off of the Great Ocean Road and head up into The Otway Ranges to Beauchamp Falls. It’s not on the standard list of things to do but you can’t miss this walk through the forest to this beautiful waterfall. Once you’ve soaked in the scenery here head back to the GOR and drive along to Apollo Bay – it will be busy on a beautiful day and rightly so. Standing on the sand you can see the full length of the bay along with the surfers it attracts. It’s a great place for a picnic.
From here on you will be met with those winding coastal roads. Take your time and enjoy the views stopping off when you can to see the coast from a height. Make your way Sheoaks Waterfall and then to Kennett River where you will see Kafe Koala. This may not sound like an unusual name for a café here, but the walk along the river is a hot spot for Koalas, so take some time and see if you can see them.
A little further along the road, off of the twisting turns you will see the Memorial Arch showing off The Great Ocean Road. Grab your photo and also look up behind it at the insane houses that have been built on the cliffs there. Seriously, Grand Designs eat your heart out!
Head onwards to the cute seaside town of Lorne with a pretty pier heading out to the sea. Grandma’s café is a great place to grab a sweet treat if you fancy and eat it overlooking the water.
I’m a huge fan of lighthouses in all their cuteness so Aireys Inlet was perfect. The Split Point Lighthouse is just a short walk up a hill and unsurprisingly offers great views.
The final stop is Torquay which is famous for its surf beaches- Bells Beach and Jan Juc beach. Stroll along and soak in the last of the Great Ocean Road, or even have a surfing lesson before driving into Melbourne.