5 Towns to Visit ON the GOR in Australia

If you’re going to explore The Great Ocean Road Drive in Victoria let me make a suggestion.

Don’t rush it. Don’t do it in one day. And don’t just visit the Twelve Apostles for your “I was here pic”.

The Great Ocean Road deserves more. You deserve more. It’s one of Australia’s best road trips for a reason.

Everyone has different time constraints, but if you have the time give yourself at least three days. We took two weeks for our GOR trip.

The tour buses that routinely drive the Great Ocean Road in one day and get to the 12 Apostles at lunchtime (the best time is sunrise or sunset) will bypass many of the highlights.

Hire a car if you don’t have your own. This 243 km road needs to be experienced from behind the wheel and having your own vehicle allows you the flexibility to stop when and where you like.

Besides the stunning beaches, waterfalls, walks, and forests there are some great towns dotted along the Great Ocean Road worthy of your time.

Here are five towns we recommend you not only visit, but stay at and enjoy what they have to offer.

1. Torquay, Victoria

The Great Ocean Road officially starts in the town of Torquay. We recommend starting the Great Ocean Road drive from this direction so you’ll be on the lane closest to the ocean which makes for easier stops at the view points.

The township of Torquay is famous for its surfing culture, which you can learn more about at the surfing museum Surf World. Even surf brands Rip Curl and Quicksilver were founded in Torquay.

Nearby is one of Australia’s best surfing beaches, Bells Beach, home to the annual Rip Curl Pro Surfing Competition (made infamous by the movie Point Break).

Bells has an impressive cliff-face and the views are spectacular.

Bells Beach, Great Ocean Road, Australia
Bells Beach – credit Clogwog

Torquay also offers popular activities such as nature walks, fishing, sailboarding, surfing and mountain bike riding. 

Just down the road is Jan Juc a neighboring suburb known for its hills and native tea tree. There’s a trail running along the coast between Torquay and Jan Juc for walkers and bike riders that offer excellent views.

Leaving Torquay and continuing west, check out the townships of Anglesea and Aireys Inlet which are beautiful. You’ll definitely notice the change in the scenery.

Jan Juc Beach, Victoria, Australia
Bird Rock Lookout over Jan Juc Beach near Torquay – Credit Shutterstock.com

2. Lorne, Victoria

Lorne was our favorite town along the Great Ocean Road drive and we spent three relaxing days here. It’s picturesque and situated right on the ocean with a charm that’s hard to resist.

Lorne has some great cafes to keep your coffee and cake addiction well satisfied. There are several unique shops, boutiques, and galleries to keep the shoppers happy.

The beach is lovely for a walk either early morning or late afternoon and stop at the Lorne Beach Pavilion for a coffee, or beer, with uninterrupted views of the water.

Lorne - Great Ocean Road, Australia
Lorne Beach
Coffee at the Lorne Beach Pavillion - Great Ocean Road, Australia
Coffee at the Lorne Beach Pavillion

For lunch, eat at The Bottle of Milk, famous for their burgers, or grab some takeaway and sit on the grass at the excellent playground by the beach and let the kids run around.

The Playground
The Playground

Just behind Lorne, take a short drive to Teddy’s Lookout for spectacular views of the Great Ocean Road. There’s also a 45-minute walk you can do here.

Teddys Lookout - Great Ocean Road, Australia
View from Teddys Lookout

Lorne also plays host to The Falls Music & Arts Festival at the end of December which is very popular.

Read more: Mantra Lorne Review – great place to stay in the Great Ocean Road

3. Kennett River, GOR

With a population of only 50, Kennett River is a quiet and laid-back town between Lorne and Apollo Bay.

Flanked by Otway National Park this town is probably best known for the place to see koalas in the wild along the Grey River Road in the middle of town, just look for the crowds of people and follow their gazes up for quick koala spotting.

Koalas in the wild - Kennet River, Great Ocean Road, Australia

There’s also the glowworms at night (which aren’t that great) and you can buy bird feed from the store here and feed wild king parrots and Rosellas.

Wild King Parrot - Kennett River, Great Ocean Road, Australia
Wild King Parrot – credit Jan

It can be very popular here with many tourist buses lined up. But it’s a lot safer, and easier, to view the koalas here compared to driving Otway Lighthouse Road.

If seeing koalas and glow worms isn’t enough, there are excellent fishing and surfing beaches for beginners. There’s a caravan park at Kennet River should you wish to stay longer with Australia’s favourite furry friends.

4. Apollo Bay, Great Ocean Road

Half-way along the Great Ocean Road is our second favourite town, Apollo Bay, often described as the place where the hill meets the sea.

Panoramic views over the harbour and the coastline from the Mariners Lookout will give you the best perspective of this. The lookout is located at the northern end of town off Mariners Lookout Road.

Apollo Bay, Great Ocean Road, Australia
View of Apollo Bay from Mariners Lookout

Apollo Bay was once a sleepy fishing village but is now a modest seaside town of 2,000 people with plenty of cafes, restaurants and a community market each Saturday. In April it hosts one of the best three-day music festivals in Victoria, the Apollo Bay Music Festival.

Just down the road at Cape Otway are some of the best walks in the country and the town makes for a great base to explore the Otway region of lighthouses, rainforests, waterfalls, and farmland.

Maits Rest is an easy 800m self-guided circuit walk through ancient, cool temperate rainforest and the walk to Triplet Falls, a one-hour return loop, is a highlight.

Triplet Falls, Otways National Park - Great Ocean Road, Australia
Triplet Falls

The Cape Otway Lighthouse is Australia’s oldest lighthouse still in operation today, you can take a tour and climb to the top 90 meters high with breathtaking views of Bass Straight.

Cape Otway Lighthouse, Great Ocean Road, Australia
Cape Otway Lighthouse – credit Shutterstock.com

Just up the road from Apollo Bay is one of those “best-kept secrets” of the Great Ocean Road, the Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary, a rocky beach with a seal colony. Apollo Bay Surf & Kayak run 2-hour tours to view the seals.

Read More: Where to stay on the Great Ocean Road: Apollo Bay YHA

5. Port Campbell, Victoria

Our least favourite town out of the five mentioned, but what makes it appealing for travellers is its close proximity to Port Campbell National Park, home to the Twelve Apostles and many other famous Great Ocean Road landmarks.

It’s still a nice enough town with a few cafes, shops and a bay area in a natural setting, but we mainly used it as a base to explore the surrounding area.

Port Campbell, Victoria, Australia
Port Campbell – credit Shutterstock.com

We spent the whole day in the National Park, starting with sunrise over the 12 Apostles and finishing with a sunset picnic.

The Twelve Apostles - Great Ocean Road, Australia
The 12 Apostles at sunrise

During the day we walked down Gibson’s Steps and then visited Loch Ard Gorge, London Bridge, The Grotto, The Arch, and the Bay of Islands with a handy lunch break back in Port Campbell.

We stayed in a cabin in the Port Campbell Holiday Park which was a one minute walk into town. You can find more accommodation for Port Campbell here and through Airbnb.

12 Apostles - Great Ocean Road, Australia
Gibsons Steps leads to here!
Loch Ard Gorge - Great Ocean Road, Australia
Loch Ard Gorge
London Bridge - Great Ocean Road, Australia
London Bridge
Port Campbell National Park - Great Ocean Road, Australia
walking in Port Campbell National Park

The Great Ocean Road continues on and finishes at Port Fairy. We didn’t really explore the last section too much but did stop at Port Fairy for lunch. It was pouring with rain so could not explore more. Through the drizzle, it looked like a lovely historical fishing village.

The Great Beach Drive in Queensland is another amazing road trip to consider. Here are 14 best Australia road trips. Our podcast that shares our 18 month road Australia road trip.

Organized tours to the Great Ocean Road

While we recommend road tripping the Great Ocean Road in your own vehicle, we understand this is not always possible. We recommend these tour options through our tour booking partner, Get Your Guide.

Plan Your Great Ocean Road Trip

We’ve been traveling consistently for 17 years and have come to rely on a few trusted websites that save us money and time when booking accommodation, flights and car rental. Below are our preferred partners:

Accommodation

  • Booking.com has 215 properties along the Great Ocean Road including hotels, apartments and hostels. You get free cancellation on most rooms and a best price guarantee.

Flights

  • Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).

Car Rental

  • RentalCars.com is the world’s biggest car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Europcar.

More useful tips for Victoria

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