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The Great Ocean Road is famous around the world as one of the best scenic drives on the planet, and it’s certainly one of the best road trips in Australia.
The landscape is so scenic, that no one ever drives from one end to the other without stopping. It would be sinful to do so. Some of the attractions along the way are so iconic, it would be like driving past the Grand Canyon and not stopping for a photo.
Beginning one hour outside of Melbourne in Torquay, The Great Ocean Road stretches over 250 kilometers to Allansford, a small town near Warrnambool. It attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year.
You’re going to need a solid two or three days to complete a Great Ocean Road trip, there’s that much to see. But what attractions are there? And what are the top things to do on the Great Ocean Road?
In this guide, we’ll be covering all the highlights along the Great Ocean Road and listing some of the unmissable attractions to check out, so you can complete this scenic drive without missing a thing.
- Is the Great Ocean Road Worth Visiting?
- How many days should I spend on the Great Ocean Road?
- Things to Do on The Great Ocean Road
- 1. The Twelve Apostles
- 2. Gibson Steps
- 3. Loch Ard Gorge
- 4. London Arch (London Bridge)
- 5. The Grotto
- 6. The Arch
- 7. Walks in Port Campbell National Park
- 8. Bay of Islands
- 9. Triplet Falls – Otways National Park
- 10. Kennett River – Wild Koalas
- 11. Lorne
- 12. Teddys Lookout
- 13. The Lorne –> Apollo Bay Drive
- 14. Apollo Bay Eco Hostel
- 15. Mariners Lookout – Apollo Bay
- 16. Bells Beach
- 17. Shipwreck Coast
- 18. Memorial Arch
- 19. Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery, Bellbrae
- Tips for Visiting the Great Ocean Road Drive Australia
- Before You Go
- More Resources for the Great Ocean Road Drive
- More Australian Inspiration
Is the Great Ocean Road Worth Visiting?
Is this even a question? It’s undeniably worth seeing the Great Ocean Road. Even if you are just planning on visiting Melbourne and only have a day to spend, it’s worth seeing at least some of it.
The road is most famous for its rock formations, which don the scenic coastal landscape. You will see stacks of limestone rock sitting comfortably off the shore – these are some of the most famous rock formations in the world.
Aside from that, you’ll pass by rural and quaint small towns and some truly unspoiled beaches. It’s always worth getting out of the city for some fresh air, and it doesn’t get fresher than this.
If anything else, it’s the most scenic way to travel between Melbourne and Adelaide.
How many days should I spend on the Great Ocean Road?
The Great Ocean Road Drive was high on our list of things to do in Victoria during our one-year road trip around Australia. We were prepared to take hundreds of photos and our expectations were HIGH.
Whilst the tour buses routinely drive this in one day, crazily, we had time on our side and took two weeks to appreciate the region for what it’s worth.
However, most people take two or three days to complete the Great Ocean Road, but we were fortunate to have more time.
Things to Do on The Great Ocean Road
Now you know why you should visit and how long to plan for, it’s time to take a look at the top things to do on the Great Ocean Road. It really is a stunning coastal drive and we highly recommend you place it on your Australian travel bucket list.
1. The Twelve Apostles
Just a couple of rocks jutting out of the ocean. Really, what’s all the fuss? These were our initial thoughts when planning to visit the 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road.
But the 12 Apostles are the star of the show. We got lucky with the weather the morning we arrived and after all the hype and expectations I’m happy to say we were left awe-struck!
These massive limestone structures tower 45 metres above the ocean and were formed some 20 million years ago as the sea gradually eroded the soft craggy limestone cliffs.
There are only eight of the twelve apostles remaining (the rest have fallen) and forming the backdrop are these magnificent cliffs up to 70 metres high.
Top Tips for Visiting The 12 Apostles
- Arrive at the 12 apostles for sunrise – you’ll beat the tour buses and have the place almost to yourself.
- Enjoy a sunset with a picnic or we grabbed a takeaway pizza from Port Campbell.
- Walk the boardwalks around the cliff tops which provide various viewing platforms.
- Don’t rush. You may only witness this once in your life.
- Bring a tripod, use your camera’s self-timer and snap a family selfie.
2. Gibson Steps
Just down the road from the Twelve Apostles Visitors Centre are the Gibson Steps. Walk down these steps to the beach for a close-up view.
Here you can experience a new perspective on the power of the waves and the height of the rocks. You can even touch the rocks and feel how easily they crumble away.
Take time to watch the water crashing around the base of the limestone stacks to understand the true power of the ocean and how it’s constantly shaping our earth.
Tip for the Gibson Steps: Keep the tide in mind. It was coming in quite fast on us, so don’t walk too far around the corner as you may have a wet walk back.
3. Loch Ard Gorge
Loch Ard Gorge is amazing and only a few minutes’ drive west of The Twelve Apostles. It was one of the most stunning beaches on the Great Ocean Road
Loch Ard Gorge is named after the ship Loch Ard, which ran aground on nearby Muttonbird Island at the end of a three-month journey from England to Melbourne.
Take the stairs down to the beach and sit in wonder. And there are three easy walks you can take to discover the area and get viewpoints.
4. London Arch (London Bridge)
London Arch was formed by a gradual process of erosion, and originally was a complete double-span and was attached to the mainland.
The arch closer to the shoreline collapsed unexpectedly in 1990 leaving two tourists stranded on the outer part until they were rescued by a helicopter. Ha. What a story to tell. We don’t recommend putting that in your Great Ocean Road itinerary.
Prior to the collapse, the arch was known as London Bridge because of its similarity to its namesake.
There are three separate viewing areas and the main path branches off to these at different intervals.
5. The Grotto
The Grotto is basically a sinkhole. Take the steps down the cliff face to the bottom and look through and you’ll get visibility of the ocean beyond a pool at low tide.
It’s a pretty cool stop on your Great Ocean Road drive and has a cave-like quality to it.
6. The Arch
This naturally sculptured arch stands 8 metres high and is located 6km west of Port Campbell. You’ll appreciate the swells and power of the ocean crashing in against the arch, it makes the drama of the place even better.
7. Walks in Port Campbell National Park
Port Campbell National Park is not just about standing at the 12 Apostles and taking your “I was here pic“. We arrived thinking we’d spend a couple of hours looking at the rocks, but we ended up staying all day.
The park has so much to offer with cliff-top tracks, gorges, short walks on the beach, and stories of shipwrecks to discover. It’s truly a fascinating and beautiful park.
Don’t be like the Great Ocean Road tour-bus masses. Take your time and appreciate all the sites within the Port Campbell National Park: 12 Apostles, Gibson Steps, Loch Ard Gorge, London Arch, The Grotto, and The Arch.
8. Bay of Islands
The 12 Apostles are not the only magical rocks rising out from the ocean. Head a little further south to Peterborough and you’ll discover the mystical Bay of Islands and Bay of Martyrs.
Almost as beautiful, yet rarely talked about in a Great Ocean Road itinerary.
We didn’t get the nice weather we had at the 12 Apostles, but it adds to the drama.
9. Triplet Falls – Otways National Park
Head into the Otways National Park to immerse yourself in an ancient land. Walk among tall trees and giant tree ferns, and discover beautiful waterfalls. This is the spot on the Great Ocean Road tour to move away from the gorgeous coastline and into a forest perspective.
Triplet Falls is one of the highlights of the Great Ocean Road. Platforms provide you with spectacular views of falls. The walk is about a 1-hour return loop, which we did it easily with our kids.
10. Kennett River – Wild Koalas
Want to see koalas in the wild? The best koala-viewing spot is Kennet River, along Grey River Road, just in the middle of town. Otway Lighthouse Road is another popular spot.
I never knew the Great Ocean Road was a place to spot wild koalas. Yet another great reason to visit the GOR.
It’s not that common to find koalas in the wild, let alone sleeping in trees by the side of the road or in the middle of town. But this is the Great Ocean Road. Just look for the crowds of people and follow their gazes up for quick koala spotting.
Lorne is a picturesque town situated Great Ocean Road coast and was our favourite town to stay in along the journey.
It has a certain charm with plenty of things to do, including great cafes, unique shops boutiques, and galleries, and Otway National Park is on your doorstep. Lorne is only 140 kilometres south of Melbourne and this place swells with people over the Christmas holidays.
Enjoy a walk on the beach, a bike ride along the foreshore out to the pier, have a coffee at Lorne Beach Pavilion and try a burger from The Bottle of Milk – delicious!
12. Teddys Lookout
A short drive up the hill behind Lorne is Teddy’s Lookout. This is a viewpoint that offers expansive views of the coast and the winding road.
To get there, drive up to the picnic area at the end of George Street and walk a short distance to enjoy the spectacular views of the Great Ocean Road from the lookout.
There’s also a 45-minute walk you can do here.
13. The Lorne –> Apollo Bay Drive
Our favourite stretch of road on our Great Ocean Road tour was from Lorne to Apollo Bay. Be prepared to stop for photos a lot.
This stretch of road has some of the most picturesque scenery in the region. The Great Ocean Road hugs the cliff face as it winds through the Great Otway National Park and rolling farmland.
14. Apollo Bay Eco Hostel
Apollo Bay is perfectly positioned about halfway along the Great Ocean Road and surrounded by Otway National Park State Forest and rolling acres of green farmland.
Looking for an affordable and family-friendly place to stay? The Apollo Bay YHA Eco Hostel was a lovely place to base ourselves for a few days.
The hostel has a very homely vibe with great kitchen facilities, lounge rooms, and a rooftop deck to enjoy a sunrise. This is not a party hostel, no YHA properties are, and we met a lot of nice families and solo travelers here. It’s a wonderful option for your Great Ocean Road accommodation.
Our family room consisted of a queen bed and bunk beds.
15. Mariners Lookout – Apollo Bay
Panoramic views of Apollo Bay’s town centre, the harbour, and beaches up and down the coast can be enjoyed from the Mariners Lookout, located at the northern end of town off Mariners Lookout Road.
16. Bells Beach
Bells Beach is one of Australia’s most famous and best surfing beaches. Bells Beach holds the annual Rip Curl Pro Surfing Competition which is a powerful point break of folklore. Heard of the movie Point Break? That’s our Bells!
There’s an impressive cliff-face and views from the cliff-top car park are spectacular and a great spot to watch any local surfers.
All dedicated surfers want to get down to the Great Ocean Road to ride the same waves that the pros do at Bells.
17. Shipwreck Coast
While the Great Ocean Road is safe to drive, there is a stretch of about 120 km that has an infamous past. But don’t worry, the dangers are further out into the ocean.
The stretch of road between Port Fairy to Cape Otway is known as the shipwreck coast, this is because of dangerous waters that have caused shipwrecks in the past.
In the 1700-1800s, these stormy waters were part of a popular trading route, but many boats ran into trouble when the sea was rough. Even Matthew Flinders, a famous explorer, was afraid of this coast.
It is estimated there are around 700 shipwrecks in the ocean, but only 240 have been discovered…so far.
The best place to see shipwrecks is from the aptly named, Wreck Beach, which has two anchors from wrecks on the beach, as well as Loch Ard, which is the most famous wreck on the coast. It was here that survivors, Tom Pearce and Eva Carmichael, washed ashore and spent the night near the 12 Apostles.
18. Memorial Arch
The Memorial Arch is often missed because it’s located at the very start of the Great Ocean Road. The arch and the statue were built to commemorate the soldiers lost during WWI.
It was made from wood, with the sides made out of stone and cement. The arch has been damaged many times since it was built in 1939, and was even considered to be removed in the 70s as the government feared it was a hazard to drivers.
Despite battling bushfires and stormy winds, the arch still stands tall today. This is a testament to the brave men the monument represents, who stood strong during the dark days of the war.
The sign on the arch is still the original from 1939.
19. Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery, Bellbrae
Come rain or shine, the Great Ocean Road Cholaterie is always open. But this is not just a place that sells chocolate and ice cream, they also run chocolatier workshops and classes for kids every now and then, which is definitely worth doing if you’re traveling with kids.
Sometimes it can be hard for kids to be sitting in a car for a long time, so make sure to take a stop by Bellbrae so the kids can take this yummy workshop. It’s certainly one of the best things to do on the Great Ocean Road for kids.
And mom and dad can enjoy an ice cream and some quiet time while they wait.
Tips for Visiting the Great Ocean Road Drive Australia
- Don’t do the Great Ocean Road drive in one day – Don’t just rush to the 12 Apostles for your tourist snap. Slow down and appreciate all it has to offer. Visit all the rock formations and towns, walk on a beach and in the rainforest, see a waterfall and native wildlife, sit on a lookout and be present. I would suggest 3 days minimum – we took 2 weeks!
- If you only have time to visit one section of the GOR, spend the most amount of your time in Port Campbell National Park.
- If you only drive in one direction, drive from Torquay to Warrnambool (East to West). That way you’ll be on the left side of the road closest to the southern ocean and you’ll be able to pull over easier to all the viewpoints.
- If you can drive, drive your own car, or rent a car from Melbourne instead of taking a Great Ocean Road tour. This road needs to be experienced from behind the wheel, and you need flexibility in where you stop and for how long. At each, turn you’ll discover something amazing.
- If you’re visiting in the winter months, keep your eyes peeled for whales!
- You may want to rent a unique caravan, motorhome, or camper to drive the Great Ocean Road. Outdoorsy is like the Airbnb of camper rentals, and they include insurance!
- Fuel up your car – there can be large distances between petrol stations, so make sure you fill up.
- If you do have to take an organized Great Ocean Road tour, we recommend these ones through Get your Guide.
Before You Go
So there you have it, those are the top things to do on the Great Ocean Road Australia, and as you can see, there is plenty of stops to add to your GOR adventure.
Before you go, we have just a few more words of advice. First, book your car rental in advance to get a deal and save yourself money.
Second, don’t rush it. It’s a beautiful drive and one that should be savoured like a fine wine. Take it slow, and enjoy the views, the peace, and the serenity.
More Resources for the Great Ocean Road Drive
If you need more tips and inspiration for the drive, check out these other useful guides:
- 5 Towns to Visit Along the Great Ocean Road in Australia
- Mantra Lorne – A Place to Stay on the Great Ocean Road
- Where to stay on the Great Ocean Road: Apollo Bay YHA
More Australian Inspiration
If you’re planning to travel to other parts of Australia, then you might like to read these guides:
- 9 ways to experience the magic of Uluru
- 25 Outstanding National Parks in Australia
- 12 awesome things to do on Fraser Island
- Why Rottnest Island should be on your bucket list
- 14 Best Road Trips in Australia
- 50 Stunning and Adventures Things to do in Queensland
- 50 Amazing Things to do in Western Australia
- 20 Places to Put on your Australian Bucket List
- 45 Things to know before visiting Australia
- How to visit the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
- How to Explore Kakadu National Park in the NT
- 4 Day Kangaroo Island Road Trip
- A Thrilling Tour of Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Islands
- Road Trip from Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation
- 28 Sensational Things to do in Broome, WA
Have You Visited the Great Ocean Road? Tell us in the comments any tips you have, or what you most want to see?