The Great Ocean Road is an Australian National Heritage site. It is a coastal route along the South Western coastline of the state of Victoria. The route is roughly 243km long, between the cities of Torquay and Allansford.
The route is also the world’s largest war memorial, as it was built by those that returned from wars between 1919 to 1932. It stands as a memorial for soldiers killed during World War I.
The route runs through a variety of terrains and is one of the major tourist destinations travellers visit whilst in Melbourne/Victoria. There are two ways to do the route – drive, or hop on a tour bus from Melbourne.
You can do the road slowly over several days, or you can do it in a long day trip, as the tour companies from Melbourne do (be warned this means an early start and late finish).
At a minimum most tours go to The Twelve Apostles, which takes just under 3 hours (227km) if you go inland and just over 4 and a half hours if you go along the coast (286 km) from the CBD in Melbourne.
I will go over some of the key stops you should visit along the way. This will not include everything though, and there is so much more to see and do, especially if you are taking the journey slowly.
Torquay is at the beginning of the Great Ocean Road and can be found just south of Geelong.
It is the first town with beaches west of Melbourne that isn’t protected within Port Phillip Bay, thus making it perfect for surfers. Some of the beaches you can visit here (for surfing, relaxing and getting that tan) include:
· Torquay Beach
· Torquay Surf Beach
· Point Impossible Beach
· Front Beach
Torquay Common is a great spot to relax, play sports, or have a picnic. They hold music festivals, markets and other community events.
Nearby is Point Danger (don’t be afraid of its name!), where you’ll find Jan Juc Lookout which gives you amazing views of the Bass Strait and the Victorian coastline to the east.
I have fond memories of Anglesea. Growing up I spent many summer holidays at a house here. It was a bit further inland and you would regularly see kangaroos laying around or jumping about in the garden like they owned the joint, or Kookaburras sitting on the porch singing to each other.
At the back end of Anglesea is Anglesea Heath, which is a 7,200 hectare area of woodland and forest that is great for bushwalks. This area also gives you the opportunity to see some of Australia’s wildlife up close in their natural habitat. As a word of warning, don’t feed the animals and do not go close to the Kangaroos as they can feel threatened and can become aggressive.
Anglesea River runs through the town, giving you a great opportunity to walk by it or Kayak on it. This is fun, and you will get some stunning views. There are also some hidden beaches nearby, and sometimes you may be the only ones there. Guvvos beach down the road is a long beach with plenty of spots for you relax.
The next town you will come across is Aireys Inlet. On the way there you will see Split Point Lighthouse. You can do tours of the lighthouse, which is tv famous, appearing on Round the Twist in the 1990s. The tour costs $10.00 (£5.30 – 2020) and gives you 360 views of the Great Ocean Road.
From here (and from other points) you will also be able to see Sentinel Rock, Table Rock, Eagle Rock and Castle Rock out at sea.
Many of these towns have art galleries, and my family always wentback to Eagle Nest Fine Art Gallery in Aireys Inlet, as they do some amazing glass pieces that we still to this day.
Beach-wise, in the town of Fairhaven (right next to Aireys Inlet), Fairhaven beach stretches along the coast for a good stretch.
As you drive along the coast you will pass Memorial Arch. This arch commemorates the construction of the Great Ocean Road by returning WWI servicemen, to whom the road is dedicated.
The bronze statues showcase then men who built this amazing attraction. There is a car park for you to pull into to take photos.
Lorne is one of the more well known towns on the Great Ocean Road, and has some great brunch spots. Two of my favourites are The Bottle of Milk and Swing Bridge Cafe and Boathouse.
Both have some really tasty food options, and according to those I was with make great coffees (I don’t drink coffee myself!).
Lorne beach is an okay spot to tan or swim, but in the summer it gets more crowded. Just by the beach is the Shipwreck Trail, which is a short walk along the entire length of the town.
Behind Lorne is a large woodland area, with great opportunities to hike and see some waterfalls. Some ones worth checking out include:
· Erskine Falls
· Corra Lynn Cascades
· Phantom Falls
Great Otway National Park
The next section of the Great Ocean Road cuts a bit inland, but again is great forbushwalks. Many schools come here for camps, and you can go on a multi-day hike through the Great Otway National Park. There are several routes to try, and I highly recommend it if you love being out in nature.
You can also try the Otway Fly Treetop Adventure and take a zipline through a small part of the National Park, which is both thrilling and has great views.
Twelve Apostles National Park
You have now made it to one of the most iconic and well known landmarks in all of Australia.
The Twelve Apostles National Park was home to the Twelve Apostles – although sadly there are now only eight. These rock formations sit just out at sea in the Bass Strait, and are stunning to look at. I recommend getting to the lookout areas as early as you can as they get extremely busy with tour groups from Melbourne during the day.
The lookouts go around part of the coastline, giving you views of all the remaining Apostles that have yet to fall into the sea. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
The reason why four of the Twelve Apostles have collapsed into the sea is obvious when you are there. This section of the Great Ocean Road has some of the roughest and wildest winds and waves pounding against the rocks. You can see the sea carvings out the sea cliffs, giving us this stunning coastline.
Just down the road from the Twelves Apostles National Park you come to Port Campbell National Park, where you can stop at the Loch and Gorge.
It was named after the ship Loch Ard, which crashed into muttonbird island in 1878, killing all but two of its passengers who were trapped in the area.
By looking around you’ll see how sheer the surrounding cliffs were, making it impossible to climb out. The little beach in Loch and Gorge is beautiful and you can see huge waves crash along the beach and against the cliff walls. As a word of warning, do not swim in this water.
The two survivors couldn’t swim out as the water is dangerous and will easily slam you into cliffs.
Just down another walkway is a lookout point to see the Razorback. This rock formation is in the shape of a long thin razor, shaped by high winds and waves. It is tough to get fully in a picture!
Another spot here to see is Thunder Cave, where you can see waves crashing into a hollowed out section of the cliffs.
Just past the town of Port Campbell (which is a great spot to grab some lunch, includingfish and chips) you will come to London Bridge.
This isn’t a real bridge, and is actually now known as London Arch. It was formed naterually – not man-made. This area also often has high winds (it’s a good idea to take a thin jacket to keep off the wind chill), and you’ll notice that the arch isn’t attached to the mainland.
On 15th January 1990 the section that connected the arch to the mainland collapsed, leaving two people stuck out on the arch itself, but luckily no one was killed. Funnily enough, my mum was on London Bridge the day before it collapsed, and has told me about how she felt the tremors in the ground at the time.
This next section of the road is where the tourist crowd starts to thin out, as most Melbourne tour buses don’t come this far. This is great news for those who want to see more amazing natural landmarks in peace.
One stop is the Bay of Martyrs. There are several lookout points here that show off limestone pillars like the Twelve Apostles. There is a vibrant bird population here, with lots of available information.
The waves are not as rough in this section of the Great Ocean Road, making this a quieter spot to go for a swim.
The Bay of Islands is another spot that offers picturesque views of the rock formations. I think this section of the Great Ocean Road is just as beautiful, if not more so, than the Twelve Apostles. The added benefit is the relative quiet.
For those that want to do the full length of the Great Ocean Road, the last section does cut inland towards Warnambool, where it finishes up in the nearby town of Allansford.
Warnambool is a great location to go whale watching, with tours going out from this city and a whale watching platform in the city looking out on the coast.
There are several lovely areas to go for walks in parkland or along the coast, with amazing views.
If you don’t want to drive back to Melbourne you can catch the Vline train, which cuts through the interior of Victoria towards Geelong.
The Great Ocean Road has many childhood memories attached to it for me, as we spent a couple of weeks each year out on this stunning coastline. I haven’t covered everything you could stop and see – there are so many more beaches, lookouts, hiking treks, bushland, hidden coves and small towns to explore if you have the time.
I do hope this inspires you to take this adventure, either as a day trip or over a week at your own pace.
*Some Photos provided by my friend whose content is @Southwestgod on Instagram*