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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Tell us. What are some of your favourite towns along the Great Ocean Road?

36 thoughts on “5 Towns to Visit ON the GOR in Australia”

  1. Departures With Aimee

    This is actually extremely helpful as I’m looking at trips to Australia right now! Thank you. 🙂 xo

  2. Great post! I’d definitely recommend staying in Port Campbell – the proximity to the national park gave us the chance to wake up early and see the 12 Apostles at sunrise, then return later in the day to see the sunset! One of our best discoveries was a little off the beaten track in the small town of Timboon. We had one of our best meals at Timboon Distillery – top-notch food at an excellent price. Very family friendly, too!

    1. Agree on the practicality of staying in Port Campbell. You want to try and avoid seeing the 12 Apostles in the middle of the day when the sun is directly above and most of the crowd is in town

      Thanks for the tip on Timboon!

  3. Amazing! Look at all of the wonderful places, I couldn’t imagine trying to do this in only a day! I would much rather take my time. Those koalas are so cute!

    1. It is crazy that people make a day trip out of this Lauren. Way too quick and you would miss many of the highlights. And it would be exhausting!

  4. So happy to see this entry on your amazing blog.
    I’m a born and bred Victorian and have driven along the great ocean road, in parts and in full at least 10 times. The views and scenery are obviously amazing but it’s the towns and the people that help make it what it is. There are so many cute towns along the road & you’ve managed to capture the main ones. Though, I have to disagree with you on Port Campbell – that town is possibly one of my favourites in Victoria. Although there’s not a whole lot to do there, I could sit in one of the cafes and just watch the water & tourists. We once saw a WHALE in the cove, that was an incredible experience!
    If I could give your other readers any advice, it would be to bring warm coats/jackets/scarves etc and drive the GOR during Winter – there are a lot less people, less cars & buses on the roads and you get to truly experience the magic of nature at it’s best!
    Thanks again!

    1. Whoa! How cool to see a whale there! It’s such a small cove. Great advice re winter – as long as people are rugged up its probably the best time to see it for sure!

  5. I have to agree that the Great Ocean Road is awesome! And it’s definitely a good idea to give yourself as long as possible to do it. Don’t even try to do it in one day – you will miss so much. I used to work for Victoria’s public transport body and V/Line has a bus that runs along the GOR to Warrnambool with lengthy stops at the main sites (people can then take the train back to Melbourne) – a great idea, yes, but seriously, you get 20 minutes at the Twelve Apostles and 10 minutes at Loch Ard Gorge, the rest of the time you’re zipping past in the bus…there’s no way you can see everything in that span of time!

    If I could add anything to this post, I would say that if you are going in the right time of year, stop off at Warrnambool and see if you can spot some whales. But then I’m obsessed with whales so I’m biased. :p

  6. Thank you for this post!

    It made my day 😀

    (It is quite rainy in Scandinavia right now)

    I love Australia and it is my childhood dream to do a long road-trip there. You totally got me with the cute koala picture.
    Although I am more looking forward meeting with Skippy (or its cousins) 😀

    When I finally get to Australia during my round the world trip, I will definitely visit those places. 🙂

    Cheers from a fellow French globetrotter

    Myriam @OffToWanderland

    1. You’ll see plenty of skippies Myriam!! They are everywhere once you move away from the big cities. I never get tired of seeing them. We stayed at a place the other day where the family had one as a pet. The girls were beside themselves playing with their pet kangaroo for the evening (So was I!)

  7. I agree with you guys in that it’s best to spend a couple of days here. But, I also believe that the tours are an okay option for those like me who don’t drive.

    The Vline bus stops at some of the main highlights, but not at things such as Maits Rest. It doesn’t give you time to spend at Kennett River. The tour buses rush everything but at least you actually get to ‘see’ the highlights, rather then rush past them while on the V-line bus. Some tours go for a couple of days or go through the grampians afterwards.

    I also recommend that people check out Aireys Inlet and Anglesea. I’m biased – I’ve explored the areas and love these two small townships. Anglesea golf course has a resident population of kangaroos and the river is incredibly serene. Aireys Inlet has the popular split point lighthouse, but I prefer the Eagle Rock marine sanctuary below it. We spent over an hour exploring there on my bday this year.

    Also love Lake Elizabeth in the otways. You can see platypus here and it’s a beautiful place to go camping.

    And agree with what others say about going further to Port Fairy. Have never explored there myself but man, the grean ocean road is beautiful.

    1. Great tips Jade!! Thank you. We’ll have to go back and spend time at Anglesea and Airey’s Inlet. Some friends of ours rave about it too

  8. This post reminds me of this amazing quote by Gloria Vanderbilt

    “When I started travelling, I would go to a city and be on television and I used to get the question, ‘Why do you work? If I were you, I’d just go and lie on a beach somewhere.’ And I’d answer, ‘Well, I wanted to make something of my life”

    Gloria Vanderbilt – wantedquotes.com

  9. Glad you enjoyed the Great Ocean Road so much! It is a terrific place to explore. I used to run 2 days overnight backpacker tours down there and always deviated from the main trail… it was back in the time when only two small bus companies stopped at Kennet River to see the koalas. I’d drive up the road a fair bit and toss the passengers out to wander back down slowly!
    Now I do the trip with my family and enjoy camping out in some great free camp spots with the kids! …ok, we do get accom. too and the last time was at the Apollo Bay recreation camp ground in a cabin, really inexpensive and on a pretty river.
    Loved your pics, they showcased the region well!

    1. Hi Jane
      We are travelling down to the GOR . Leaving Qld end of March. We have a caravan and wold appreciate any if you could recommend any places of interest OFF THE BEATEN TRACK. We like to the hidden little gems (towns).
      regards
      Carolyn

  10. Great itinerary. Have been looking everywhere online to see what places are good to stop and stay. This is wonderful!

    My husband and I (from Mexico) only have 3 days (2 nights). We were planning to stay 1 night in Apollo Bay and 1 night in Port Fairy before driving back to Melbourne. Would it be too far away to go all the way to Port Fairy? Do you think it would it be a better idea to stay in Port Campbell to have time to see everything close by?

    xoxo

    1. Hi Dominique! I’d recommend staying in Port Campbell as many of the highlights are near there. Port Fairy is a little away from it and not really worth it if you are short on time.

  11. Thanks for the great tips and post!

    I’ll be travelling with my wife over on 24 and 25 Dec, and was wondering if 1) the great ocean drive be crowded; and 2) will the shops in these main towns still be open over the Christmas holidays? And if so will they open only for half a day or so? M
    Thanks!

  12. Love this post. Heading to GOR at the end of the year (Boxing Day!) I hear it’s pretty busy then – and hot right? I can’t make up my mind if we should start at Geelong end (staying in Queenscliff) and head South or drive to the other end and come back. Planning on being in Melbourne for New Year so fly in and out of there.

  13. Thanks for the article! I also read your 16 Highlights article and loved it. Both extremely helpful. My wife and I will be staying in Torquay then driving to Triplet Falls and Otway Lighthouse. We plan to make it to 12 Apostles by Sunset where we’ll be spending the night to see it again during Sunrise. Then venturing to Gibson Steps, Loch Ard Gorge and the other Port Campbell National Park sites. Then driving back and staying in Apollo Bay. We have a full 2 days from Torquay to Peterborough to Apollo Bay and hope it’ll be enough.

    1. Hi John. Glad you’ve found the articles helpful. Sounds like you’ve got a pretty good plan and you shouldn’t be too rushed with 2 full days to see all the highlights. And sunrise & sunset at 12 apostles is the best time. Enjoy!

  14. Where should one stay longer? We are planning 1 day in Torquay, 3 days in Lorne, 2 days in Apollo Bay and 2 days in Port Campbell. Should we change something? Thank you

  15. Thanks Chaps for all the info on great places to see on the Great Ocean Road.
    + Great Photos. I am doing it in late October and spending 6 – 7 days there.
    I am coming from Adelaide but I was thinking it might be better doing as you
    say and coming from the East and heading West so its easier for stopping and
    taking photos. Thanks again you have made our trip a lot easier to plan.
    Keep up the great work it really is appreciated.

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