Explore one of Australia’s most iconic destinations on this Great Ocean Road itinerary. From thrilling wildlife encounters to breathtaking coastal scenery, this epic road trip will leave you awestruck around every glorious corner.

By: Mark | Last Updated: 27 Jan 2024 | Jump to Comments & Questions

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The Great Ocean Road is one of the most awe-inspiring drives in the world. Meandering along Australia’s southern coast, it showcases charming beach towns, lush rainforests, and dramatic cliffs.

The undisputed highlight is the Twelve Apostles, towering rock formations that rise tall against the backdrop of the Southern Ocean’s surging waves.

But there’s much more to enjoy on the Great Ocean Road drive than just the stunning coastal scenery. Hike to breathtaking waterfalls, spot indigenous wildlife, explore the rainforest on an adventure tour, or take surfing lessons on some of Australia’s best waves.

We recommend spending at least 3 days on this epic road trip, although you could also pick 1 or 2 glorious days on the coast.

gibson steps great ocean road
GIBSON STEPS, GREAT OCEAN ROAD

IN THIS GUIDE

GREAT OCEAN ROAD ITINERARY

This comprehensive guide includes a day-by-day breakdown, a map, and suggestions for where to stay each night so that you can make the most of every precious daylight hour.


WHERE // HOW LONG? // DAY TRIPS // TRIP OVERVIEW // MAP

DAY 1 – SURF TOWNS & BEACHES

DAY 2 – GREAT OTWAY NATIONAL PARK

DAY 3 – TWELVE APOSTLES & LOCH ARD GORGE

WHERE IS THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD?

The Great Ocean Road is a scenic drive located along the southern coast of Australia, in the state of Victoria. Stretching for 243 kilometres (151 miles), it starts from the seaside town of Torquay and ends in Allansford near Warrnambool.

Torquay is a 75-minute drive from Melbourne Tullamarine International Airport or 90 minutes from Melbourne City Centre.

HOW MANY DAYS DO YOU NEED ON THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD?

We recommend spending 3 days driving the Great Ocean Road. This gives you time to visit the popular landmarks such as the Twelve Apostles, surf and swim at the brilliant beach towns, hike in the rainforests of the Otways, and enjoy the stunning coastal views.

If you only have two days, we suggest doing day 1 and/or day 3 of the itinerary and skipping the Otways on day 2.

GREAT OCEAN ROAD DAY TRIPS

It is possible to see a good section of the Great Ocean Road on a day trip from Melbourne. If you are rushed for time or don’t want to hire a car, then this is a great option for getting a taste of the area. Here are some well-rated tours.

GREAT OCEAN ROAD 3-DAY ITINERARY OVERVIEW

Driving the Great Ocean Road is not just about big coastal views. It is an incredibly diverse area and some of the backroads off the main drive are a rewarding diversion. In fact, each day on our 3-day Great Ocean Road itinerary provides a very different experience. 

DAY 1: SURF TOWNS & BEACHES

Day 1 explores the best surf towns and beaches of the Great Ocean Road. The views from the road as it snakes along the sea cliffs are the most dramatic of the entire drive.

There are great seaside cafes and restaurants and a few opportunities to spot koalas.

DAY 2: GREAT OTWAY NATIONAL PARK

On day 2 we leave the traditional route of the Great Ocean Road and head inland to the finest section of the Otway National Park.

Here you’ll find wonderful trails leading through dense forest to sublime waterfalls, treetop canopy walks, and a remarkable stand of towering redwoods. 

DAY 3: TWELVE APOSTLES & LOCH ARD GORGE

Day 3 heads along dramatic rugged coastline where the sea has left giant rocky stacks stranded offshore and cut great gorges and bays. There are some magical photo opportunities and in winter whales can be spotted out at sea.

GREAT OCEAN ROAD MAP

All the highlights from this itinerary are marked on the below map. Day 1 highlights are marked in red, day 2 are in purple, and day 3 in orange.

Note — The itinerary can also easily be completed in reverse.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


DAY 1: TORQUAY TO APOLLO BAY

Highlights – Top surf towns on the coast | Route – Torquay to Apollo Bay | Distance – 95 kilometres | Driving Time – 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Today, drive the most dramatic section of the Great Ocean Road, from Torquay to Apollo Bay. The total driving time today is less than 2 hours, giving you plenty of time to visit several of the attractions along the way.

Here are all highlights of day 1, in order, as you drive westwards

TORQUAY

Torquay is a cool town with several excellent beaches backed by grassy banks and good cafes. We highly recommend breakfast at The Pond Café, followed by a stroll along the beachfront. The Rip Curl Outlet is perfect for picking up your gear and you can join an early morning surfing lesson.

BELLS BEACH

Bells Beach is one of the premier surf spots in Australia. Its consistent right point breaks on almost any tide, wind, or swell. It is not a place for beginners, but a raised wooden platform provides wonderful views over the ocean as expert surfers cut through the waves.

Surfers can usually be seen here at any time and it’s well worth the 5-minute detour from the main Great Ocean Road drive.

POINT ADDIS BEACH LOOKOUT

Addiscot Beach is a glorious sweep of golden sand under 80-metre-high red slumping cliffs. If you are looking for a beach stroll away from the crowds, this is it. Even if you don’t want to head down to the beach the views from the lookout are gorgeous. Point Addis is a 5-minute detour from the main Great Ocean Road.

SPLIT POINT LOOKOUT 

The red and white Split Point lighthouse pierces the surrounding scrubland. A wooden boardwalk leads to a lookout that has fine views along the rocky coast towards Fairhaven Beach and out to the Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary. Split Point Lookout is a 5-minute detour from the main Great Ocean Road.

MEMORIAL ARCH 

The Memorial Arch at Eastern View is an essential stop on any Great Ocean Road itinerary. First built in 1939, it’s been hit by a truck and burnt in a bush fire, so it has been reconstructed a few times but the original sign still sits on top of the arch. Park on the left just before the arch and get your own tourist photo.

LORNE

The smartest of the beach towns along the Great Ocean Road, Lorne is a popular weekend trip from Melbourne with a great café scene. Salonika does an excellent brunch and lunch with good coffee and the Pit Stop Van grills up tasty burgers. The beach is well protected making it a great place to swim for families. It’s also excellent for beginners or intermediate surfers.

LIVE WIRE PARK 

The adventure playground, Live Wire Park has challenges such as the Super Circuit, an exciting treetop trail, and the Shockwave Zip Coaster, the most extreme zip line in Australia (according to them). There are different types of passes for a range of activities.

ERSKINE FALLS 

The magnificent trees of the Otway National Park surround Lorne. A 15-minute drive inland takes you deep into the forest to Erskine Falls.

This beautiful thin stream of water drops into a lovely pool surrounded by thick jungle. There are two viewpoints, the upper viewpoint is easily reached in a minute from the car park. The lower viewpoint has much better views but requires a 10-minute hike down a series of steps, but it’s well worth the effort.

Allow about 75 minutes for the entire detour from Lorne.

WYE RIVER 

The area around Wye River is the most dramatic section of the drive. Sitting under towering cliffs the road clings to the edge of the coast as it passes lovely villages and beaches. There are plenty of pull-outs to stop and take in the views, so take your time and soak it all in.

KOALA CAFÉ 

Koala Café sits on the edges of the Kennett River. Named for the clique of koalas that live in the area, it’s a must-see stop on a Great Ocean Road itinerary.

Spotting koalas is not guaranteed, but you have a good chance. The best areas are on the Grey River Road. Start on the section of road nearest the café and if you have no luck there, get back in the car and drive on for another 2 or 3 kilometres and look again.

APOLLO BAY 

Spend the night at Apollo Bay. The Apollo Bay Fishermen’s Co-op sells fresh fish overlooking the harbour until 7 pm and there are plenty of spots for a sunset walk along the beachfront.

WHERE TO STAY ON DAY 1

As this Great Ocean Road itinerary starts in Torquay, you may want to spend the night before setting off the next day. Torquay has great nightlife with plenty of bars and restaurants on the front, making it an ideal place to hang out before you start this itinerary.

Here are some accommodation recommendations in Torquay.

  • The Sands Torquay — 4-star accommodation with a fitness centre, and pool; 2 miles from the main beach.
  • RACV Torquay Resort — A grand, modern hotel just a 15-minute walk from the beach.

Apollo Bay is a great place to finish the first day of this Great Ocean Road itinerary with plenty of bars and restaurants to unwind in after a day of sightseeing. As a popular tourist destination there’s a mix of accommodation to choose from, but here are our recommendations.

DAY 2: APOLLO BAY TO PORT CAMPBELL

Highlights – Great Otway National Park | Route – Apollo Bay to Port Campbell | Distance – 105 kilometres | Driving Time – 1 hour, 45 minutes

On Day 2 our Great Ocean Road itinerary leaves the main route and heads inland to see the best of the Great Otway National Park.

If you were to drive this route from Apollo Bay to Port Campbell without stopping it would take 1 hour, 45 minutes, but there are lots of great detours to beautiful spots into the forest that it’s worth spending a little longer.

Here are all the highlights on day 2, in order, as you continue westwards –

BEAUCHAMP FALLS

Our favourite of the Otway waterfalls, Beauchamp Falls is a beautiful cascade dropping over a ledge into a deep pool. Surrounded by an amphitheatre of rock and fern, it’s worth making the effort to get here.

How to get there? – A 10-minute drive from the main road brings you to the car park (half of which is along a dirt track but usually fine for a 2WD). From the car park it’s a lovely 20-minute downhill walk to the falls passing through a mountain ash forest thick with myrtle beech trees and ferns.

Wear shoes with good grip and take your swimming gear for a dip in the – rather refreshing – pool. Allow about 75-90 minutes for the entire detour.

HOPETOUN FALLS

Our next favourite waterfall in the Otways, Hopetoun Falls plummets 30 metres into a pool. Sometimes it is little more than a trickle, yet at others, it’s a gushing cascade forcing spray into the air.

There are two viewpoints. The upper platform is an easy 20-metre walk, but the much better lower platform requires hiking down 200 steps as the trail twists and turns through dense fern-strewn forest. Don’t let that put you off, the walk is half the fun.

How to get there? – Hopetoun Falls car park is a 10-minute drive from the main road and the hike down to the lower platform takes 10-15 minutes. Allow 60-70 minutes for the entire detour.

OTWAY REDWOODS

Do not miss the Otway Redwoods, just a 3-minute drive from Hopetoun Falls, this stand of trees is truly remarkable. Massive trunks covered in thick red bark seem to rise inexorably into the sky. Shooting up, straight as an arrow, their 70-metre height dwarfs any onlooker.

It’s a great place for photography and the surrounding landscape is beautiful.

How to get there? — The redwoods are right next to the car park, (see the location on our map below) so you don’t need to hike anywhere.

ART REACH STUDIO GALLERY CAFÉ

There are not many places to stop for lunch in the Otways, but the Art Reach Studio Gallery makes a quirky break.

OTWAY FLY TREETOPS ADVENTURE

Most of this day involves hiking through the forest and peering at waterfalls from below. To get a birds-eye view head to Otway Fly Treetop Adventures – a 5-minute detour from the main road.

There are a couple of adventures to choose from.

Treetop Walk // Following an elevated metal walkway the Treetop Walk heads into the canopy of the forest, 30 metres above the ground. The 600-metre-long elevated section includes a cantilevered lookout and spiral staircase. Allow about 60-90 minutes.

Zipline Tour // Spend 2.5 hours zipping between platforms 30 metres above the forest floor while guides educate you about its history and wildlife. Unlike the Treetop Walk, The Zipline Tour must be booked online in advance.

TRIPLET FALLS

A 45-minute circular hike through the forest climaxes at the Triplet Falls. Running over large rocks, it’s less a cascade and more a series of short drops one after the other. It’s a lovely walk, but if you are pushed for time, this may be the one to skip.

How to get there? ‑ The car park is an 8-minute drive from the Otway Fly Treetop Adventures.

GIBSON STEPS

Leave the Great Otway National Park to return to the coast for the next section of the itinerary. By now it should be late afternoon or early evening making it the perfect time to see the Twelve Apostles (don’t worry if it’s getting too late, just head back here the following morning).

Start at Gibson Steps where 86 switchback steps drop to the beach below. A short stroll along the golden sand offers magnificent views of a couple of the stacks and rocky cliffs from below. It’s a great spot for some sunset photography. Allow 20 to 40 minutes.

TWELVE APOSTLES

The most iconic sight on the Great Ocean Road is the Twelve Apostles. The best viewpoint is from the lookout opposite the visitors’ centre, where you can see 6 of the 7 remaining stacks. The seventh is a few metres behind the main viewing platform. The 12 Apostles are best viewed at dawn or dusk, so if you don’t get time, come back on the morning of day 3 instead.

PORT CAMPBELL

End the day at Port Campbell, a relaxed beach hub with a lovely small swimming beach and a splattering of friendly restaurants and cool cafes.

WHERE TO STAY ON DAY 2

Port Campbell is a small community built around the tourism industry with the town mostly made up of accommodation. Here are a few we recommend.

12 apostles at dusk
12 APOSTLES AT DUSK

DAY 3: PORT CAMPBELL TO PORT FAIRY

Highlights – Twelve Apostles & Loch Ard Gorge | Route – Port Campbell via Loch Ard Gorge to Port Fairy | Distance – 105 kilometres | Driving Time – 1 hour, 30 minutes

Day 3 of this Great Ocean Road Itinerary heads along the coastline stopping at viewpoints to see a variety of stacks, gorges, natural arches, and golden beaches. Strictly the official drive ends at Warrnambool but it’s worth continuing onto the charming town of Port Fairy.

Here are all the highlights on day 3, in order, as you continue west –

GIBSON STEPS & TWELVE APOSTLES

If you didn’t have time on Day 2, start today by heading back to Gibson Steps and the Twelve Apostles. Even if you did see them, photographers might want to get up early and capture them at dawn.

12 apostles at sunrise
12 APOSTLES AT SUNRISE

LOCH ARD GORGE

The pounding Southern Ocean has created great gashes in the coast around Loch Ard. There are a series of lookouts that are best accessed from the first car park. Loch Ard Gorge is a narrow inlet with a beach. It is best seen from the Island Arch lookout jutting into the sea.

Steps also descend to the beach, which is a lovely (although busy) place to swim. Finally, don’t miss the views from the Tom and Eva lookout or the ruggedly sculpted Razorback. Allow 30 to 60 minutes.

LONDON BRIDGE

The natural arches of London Bridge used to resemble a double-span bridge, but one of them collapsed in 1990 leaving a single arch. It’s still a sight to see as the surf batters the sides. The lookout is a 3-minute walk from the car park.

THE GROTTO

A popular Instagram spot on the Great Ocean Road, the Grotto is a collapsed sinkhole that has formed an archway in a cave structure. There’s a viewing platform at the top, but for the best photos, walk down the stairs to the cave level. The grotto is a 5-minute walk from the car park.

BAY OF MARTYRS & BAY OF ISLANDS

The Bay of Islands is the 32-kilometre stretch of the Great Ocean Road between Peterborough and Warrnambool. The area is dotted with interesting rock stacks, sheer cliffs, and heathland with wildflowers.

The highlight is The Bay of Martyrs, a 2.5-kilometre bay with a quiet beach and a very photogenic landscape. There’s a wheelchair-accessible lookout at the top or you can take the stairs down to the beach.

CHILDERS COVE

A little off the beaten track, this lovely cove can be found after a short walk along a sandy track followed by wooden steps that descend to the beach.

The cove is a natural amphitheatre surrounded by tall cliffs and the chances are there will be no one else around. It’s a five-minute walk from the Childers Cove car park which is a 3-minute drive along a dirt track from the Childers Cove Road.

LOGAN’S BEACH WHALE WATCHING

Between June and September, female Southern Right whales come to the waters around Warrnambool to calve. They can be seen all along this part of the coast, but they are best viewed from Logan’s Beach Whale watching platform on the outskirts of Warrnambool.

Even out of season it’s a beautiful spot to take in views of the coastline.

TOWER HILL WILDLIFE RESERVE

Strictly speaking, the Great Ocean Road ends at Warrnambool, but if you have time, it’s worth pushing on to Tower Hill and Port Fairy.

Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve offers good opportunities for spotting iconic Australian wildlife. Emus roam the picnic areas, koalas can be spotted amongst the eucalyptus, kangaroos hop across the grasslands, and wallabies scurry between the trees.

There are several trails to help you see the park. If you are looking for koalas stroll the 30-minute Lava Tongue Boardwalk making sure to look up for sleeping grey lumps.

PORT FAIRY

The folksy seaside town of Port Fairy is an excellent final stop on a Great Ocean Road itinerary. The white sand beach is backed by dunes and a tree-studded headland. The high street is packed with little boutiques and a fine array of shops and restaurants.

In addition to the annual Folk Festival, Port Fairy is known for its food scene and it’s around 35 minutes from the farm where Paul grew up.

Here are some restaurants to celebrate your final night on the Great Ocean Road.

  • Blakes // A smart yet relaxed restaurant with some of the best seafood you’ll find in the area. They only seat around 10 people so book early.
  • Bank St + Co // One of the best breakfasts you’ll come across on the coast with creative choices and remarkably good coffee.
  • Merrijig Kitchen // A special experience in one of the oldest B&Bs in Victoria. The food is consistently good and the service is charming.  

WHERE TO STAY ON DAY 3

After enjoying the culinary side of Port Fairy, book a night in one of these cool stays.

  • The Oak & Anchor — Bright and cheery newly renovated rooms right in the centre of town.
  • Drift House — Stylish beautifully appointed rooms with excellent breakfasts. Great upmarket choice.

WHERE NEXT?

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ANYWHERE WE ROAM IS
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