Your Guide to the Ultimate Great Ocean Road Trip

Your Guide to the Ultimate Great Ocean Road Trip

27 August 2019

A Great Ocean Road Trip. It just rolls off the tongue doesn’t it? Full of cruising down ocean highways, coastal views and chill vibes a Great Ocean Road Trip is a right of passage for both international backpackers and local Aussies alike. The Great Ocean Road itself is a two-lane highway that stretches across 243km, hugging the cliffside while it winds along the coast, passing small towns and iconic natural landmarks. The towns this road passes through are almost always coastal towns, and the ones that are host some of Victoria’s best beaches. If you’re a sucker for sun, sand, and surf then you’re in luck. So where should you go when you’re driving along this heritage-listed highway? Read more to find out.

Geelong

Great Ocean Road - Adventure Park Geelong

Image thanks to PlanetWare

Although technically not part of the Great Ocean Road, if you’ve got the time we recommend hanging out in Geelong for a day or two to start your trip. These days, most people heading for the Great Ocean Road skip Geelong, but as Victoria’s second largest city, the place has a lot to offer. If you’re up for some old fashioned fun head to Adventure Park Geelong, Victoria’s biggest water park, to speed down waterslides, chill out in the lazy river or challenge your mates to a round of mini-golf. If you’re looking for somewhere to hang out afterwards, you’re in luck. Just across the road is Flying Brick Cider, a local Cider maker with an awesome beer garden where you can sit back and relax on the grass with a drink in hand. 

Geelong is also incredibly close to the Bellarine Peninsula, so there’s plenty of opportunity to explore beautiful areas like Ocean Grove, Point Lonsdale, Queenscliff, and Portarlington.

Torquay

Image thanks to Traveller.com.au

There aren’t two words that could describe Torquay better than laid-back. Time moves slowly here and it seems like a place free from stress - even the Snapper off the beach aren’t worried about the fisherman above. As the home of Rip Curl and Quiksliver, two great Australian surf brands, and plenty of great surf to match, this place is a beach bums dream. If you’re keen to surf some waves you’re best bet is Bells Beach, world-famous for its top-notch waves. If Bells Beach doesn’t take your fancy there’s still plenty of options like Point Impossible and Southside Beach. But you don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy Torquay. The beaches themselves are great places to sit back and relax on the sand while soaking up the sun. If you’re keen for a quality drink Torquay hosts two independent craft breweries - Bells Beach Brewing and Blackmans Brewery - both within walking distance to the beach. And of course with Rip Curl and Quiksilver being headquartered here, there’s plenty of great deals on clothing and surf gear at Surf City Plaza.

Lorne

Image thanks to Visit Victoria

Lorne is a local favourite among the towns that line the Great Ocean Road. With a bay protecting the area from harsh winds it hosts one of the calmer beaches along this historic highway, making it great for a swim, or just relaxing on the sands. If you head up into the hills you can find Teddy’s Lookout. It’s an unfortunate fact that the lookout wasn’t named after everyone's favourite kind of bear-shaped childhood friend, but instead after a ranger who once went there in the 1800s to round up stray cattle. Once you climb the steps up to the lookout you’ll be faced with stunning views over the town and coastline, and if you’re lucky you might even encounter a Koala or two. 

Journey even further into the rainforest and you’ll come across Erskine Falls, a beautiful waterfall located just off of the appropriately named Erskine Falls Rd. The falls themselves are a peaceful place, especially if you go before the crowds, and unlike most of the falls in the area, these ones are easy to access. Speaking of easy to access, when the water levels are low you can actually walk right up to the falls via the rocks it cascades down onto to. Be careful though, it gets slippery!

Apollo Bay

Image thanks to Visit Apollo Bay

Apollo Bay is a cosy town and one of the largest along the Great Ocean Road. Full of fisherman, artists and musicians this tight-knit community is placed right in the center of the rainforest and the beach. Like much of the Great Ocean Road this town breathes surf culture, and with some of the areas best waves, the place is perfect for anyone looking to carve the ocean blue. On the other side of town is the Great Otway National Park, colloquially known as The Otways. This 1,032km² rainforest has had a checkered past due to heavy logging in the 1800s and a few forest fires over the years, but walking through this natural landscape feels like exploring an ancient land, unexplored and forgotten by time. This sense of mystery, combined with a few unconfirmed sightings, have resulted in a fairly low-level conspiracy in which the legend states that big cats (people mostly say panthers, but sometimes also refer to tigers and other big cats) are roaming through these dense rainforests. 

But while you're probably not interested in seeing big cats marauding through the Otways, you might be more interested in seeing some more native wildlife, especially that of the cute and cuddly kind. That’s right, we’re talking about Koalas. Drive down the road to the Cape Otway lighthouse and you’re likely to spot quite a few Koalas going about their days in the trees. Just remember that these are wild animals, so even if you want to cuddle them (which everyone does) it’s best to watch from a distance. 

Another amazing Otway location is the Otway Fly, a tour where you can explore the Otways by flying from giant to tree to giant tree à la zipline. Even if you’re afraid of heights the Otway Fly is always highly recommended.

Port Campbell

Image thanks to Visit Melbourne

We don’t think we’d offend anyone if we said there’s not much to do in Port Campbell. This small town of 478 people is a sleepy little area with the main attractions (in the place itself) being the Beach and Jetty. But what draws people to Port Campbell every year is just outside, the Port Campbell National Park. Spanning 1750 hectares this national park features some of the states best coastal scenery and tends to be the main reason that people embark on a Great Ocean Road Trip. Highlights include world-renowned sights like the 12 Apostles, which due to erosion has been reduced to only 8 apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, which features an inlet that is protected from the harsh ocean waves and makes for a great place to swim, London Arch, which was formally London Bridge until it ironically fell down, and plenty more amazing coastal sights. If you’re travelling the Great Ocean Road and you don’t at least come to check out Port Campbell National Park, you’re missing out.

Warrnambool

Image thanks to Visit Victoria

And here we are. The final destination on your trip along the historic Great Ocean Road. Discounting Geelong, Warrnambool is by far the biggest town along the Great Ocean Road. Once a station built on a foundation of whaling and sealing, the town is now a tourist hub and whale-watching hotspot. Warrnambool is a culmination of everything that makes the Ocean Road so great. Great waves to surf? Check. Beaches to lay on? Check. Top-notch natural scenery? Check, check and check. 

If nature takes your fancy you’ve got a few options. Head to the very creatively named Middle Island and meet the Maremma Dogs that protect the local penguin population. If you’re more of a fan of mountainous mammals then travel to Logans Beach for some Whale watching. Not so keen on the creatures? Travel north to Hopkins Falls, which give off the sense of a scaled-down Niagra.

Another of Warrnambool's major attractions is the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village. This open-air maritime museum feels like a cousin to Ballarat’s ode to the gold rush, Sovereign Hill. Here you can step back in time and experience the history of Warrnambool’s past as a town making its way in the world through whaling and sealing. Walk down cobblestone streets lined with 1800s style buildings and pass people all dressed up in the historical attire. Chill out by the lake filled with old boats that are open for you to explore. There’s more to do here than your average museum.