The Great Ocean Road, one of Australia’s most iconic scenic drives, stretches along the south-eastern coast of Australia between the Victorian cities of Torquay and Allansford. Road Trippin’ Great Ocean Road Australia should be on everyone’s bucket list. Similar to the coastal drive along Oregon and California, it’s the ultimate Aussie road trip!
A 90 minute drive from the city of Melbourne, you reach the beginning of the Great Ocean Road. At the end of this short drive, we spent a few nights in Fairhaven, about 40 minutes past the beginning of the scenic route.
Travel Tip: Use Airbnb. Most of our stays are booked this way and here are just a few reason why:
- Location – whether an apartment in the center of the city or a remote location with a view – you get to see more of the “real location”.
- Often an entire home or apartment can be rented cheaper than a hotel room.
- Meals – Save money (and your waistline) by cooking meals versus eating out.
- A place to do laundry
- More space to spread
- Some cool experiences in unique homes and locations
- Use this code to get $40 off your first night stay at Airbnb.
This house in Fairhaven was an awesome Airbnb find!
Imagine a deck surrounded by the sights and sounds of beautiful birds like the cockatoo. Until your new buddy tries to share your meal and shows his temperamental side with loud, intimidating squawks.
One big advantage to the location for this trip – The Annual Rip Curl Pro World Surf League competition in Bells Beach- only a few miles away.
Bells Beach is one of Australia’s most famous surfing beaches. Spectators crowd to the edges of the cliffs to catch views of the competition trying to get up higher than everyone else. Or sit on the asphalt watching on the big screen.
Being amidst the excitement was a lot of fun, but our favorite place to watch was an area down on the beach. Surfers were warming up and practicing before heading over to compete – very cool!
Continuing our journey from Fairhaven along the Great Ocean Road we made a breakfast stop in the picturesque town of Lorne. Breakfast at the Swing Bridge Cafe and Boathouse was amazing! Delicious, healthy food in a fun outdoor atmosphere!
Lorne to Apollo Bay
When Road Trippin’ Great Ocean Road Australia be prepared to stop, a lot, like every few feet, between Lorne and Apollo Bay. Views are spectacular as the road curves along vertical forest-covered cliffs with only a guard rail between you and the turquoise ocean below.
To see wild koalas, stop at Kennett River. Koalas can almost always be seen here in manna gums overhanging the Grey River Road behind the town. Spot a crowd of tourists looking up and pointing, and you will probably see a koala.
Wild parrots have also learned this is a great place to be. Not so much for the koalas, but for the tourists who feed them while hanging out along the road. Amazing how tame they are!
Port Campbell National Park
Best known for the 12 Apostles, there is so much more to discover and explore in Port Campbell! Consider staying a night or two to really take in all this fascinating and beautiful park has to offer.
Our destination for the night was Southern Anchorage Retreat booked through Agoda. A peaceful cottage nestled into nature with spectacular views and wildlife right at our doorstep. We were greeted by our host Drew and shown to our room which had even been decorating welcoming us for our honeymoon!
There was just enough time after our arrival to head to the nearby Gibson Steps down to the beach for sunset. Once you reach the beach you feel the true power of the ocean and the waves crashing agains the limestone stacks. Be careful – the tide comes in quickly!
The Twelve Apostles
Massive limestone structures were formed some 20 million years ago as the sea eroded the soft limestone cliffs, but only eight remains today. Walk the boardwalks around the cliff tops to viewing platforms. Beat the tour buses by going early in the morning.
Wreck Beach is a more “secret spot” on the Great Ocean Road. Named for two prominent shipwrecks there – The Fiji and the Marie Gabrielle. Huge anchors are embedded in the rocks, but can only be seen at low tide.
A hike down over 350 steps takes you to the beach and then go right toward the shipwrecks. Walking this section of beach is only safe during low tide and calm seas, neither of which were on our side. A voice of reason (aka Bill) held me back from venturing around the next bend. It was very tempting, but not safe with the unpredictable crashing waves. Even though we didn’t get the chance to see the anchors, it was a very cool hike. Remote and peaceful, but at the same time feeling the dynamic power and intensity of the ocean.
The Arch, The London Arch and The Grotto
Located 6km west of Port Campbell, the naturally sculptured Arch stands 8 metres high. Crashing waves against the structure are mesmerizing to watch.
Formerly know as London Bridge, The London Arch was a complete natural bridge connected to the mainland until it’s collapse in 1990. There were two tourists stranded on the outer span who were not hurt, but did need to be rescued by helicopter.
A short hike and down a few steps is The Grotto. Basically a sinkhole, you get visibility of the ocean beyond a pool of water at low tide. It’s a pretty cool “picture frame” formed by nature.
Great Otway National Park
On our way to hike in the Great Otway National Park, we made a stop recommended by our host Drew at the Otway Nourished. From the outside it’s an old potato shed in the middle of farm country. Inside is rustic charm, organic coffee and delicious locally grown and prepared foods.
Triplet Falls is one of the highlights of the Otway National Park. A peaceful hike one hour round trip through ancient forest of Mountain Ash and Myrtle Beech leads to the falls. Abandoned relics along the way reveal some history of the logging and sawmill activity of the early 1900s.
Tips for Road Trippin’ Great Ocean Road Australia
You do adjust to driving on the left. In fact, when you return home you will have occasional moments of whoa – are we on the right side of the road? Not to mention turning on windshield wipers instead of turn signal – yep that’s reversed too. Confusing if like me, directions are already an issue!
Remembering to drive on the left is probably one of the toughest parts of an Aussie road trip. Australia’s roads are nice and wide and there are constant reminders for us crazy tourists – keep left and watch for roos!
- If you only drive one direction, go east to west. That way you’ll be on the left side of the road closest to the ocean making it easier to pull over for all the view points.
- Keep your car fueled – there can be large distances between stations.
- Be prepared for limited wifi and cell phone service.
- Allow plenty of time. Slow down and enjoy the journey. Make plenty of stops along the way, and spend a few days to soak it all in.
What’s your favorite road trip? Any suggestions for a road trip through the Midwest, South and West US?