The Great Ocean Road is definitely one of those Australian Bucket List things that everyone should aim to do while here. Not only is it a good way to get out of the main cities, but it is convenient by starting a mere hour and a half away from Melbourne. And so I said – “Let’s go!”.
The Great Ocean Road is a stretch of road which officially starts at Torquay, Victoria – undoubtedly the surfing capital of Australia and home to the infamous Bells Beach.
There are a number of different ways you can do the Great Ocean Road (GOR) from a one-day tour to weeks , checking off all possible activities along the way. However, unless you are pressed for time and feel the urge of joining a very hectic, long and tiring tour bus full of tourists and their selfie sticks, I suggest borrowing or hiring a car and making your own itinery up as you go along.
For us, it was simple. A tent, small camp stove, and a backpack or two along with a few snacks and a box of Corona , we were away on a four day excursion. One of the great things about the GOR is that it is so much more than just a road. On the one side, there is stunning beaches and stretches of sand. On the other side, two large National Parks – The Great Otway National Park and Port Campbell National Park.
There are so many different options on what to do and see during the drive, and the drive itself is spectacular. Below are the top things I did during my time on the Great Ocean Road, and some suggestions to take into consideration for your own trip!!
Fish & Chips & Sunset, Torquay Beach
This was an amazing start to our journey. Seeing my best friend for the first time in months, and watching a beautiful sunset while demolishing some fish and chips with a cheeky Corona- we knew good times were ahead! Torquay is a neat little surfers town right by the beach, with plenty of food options and a great chilled out vibe.
Great Ocean Road Arch
Because it wouldn’t be right without the classic tourist photo!! The official starting point to the GOR – we were lucky that it wasn’t high tourist season yet so we managed a photo with no one else in it!
The Great Otway National Park offers so many alternative activities to the classic “beach” trip the Great Ocean Road is renowned for. While we were down this way we decided to check out all it had to offer!
Chasing Waterfalls near Lorne, Great Otway National Park
While driving through Lorne, stopping off at Visitor and Information Centres are a great way to be able to explore an area. Numerous waterfalls surround Lorne just a short drive off the GOR. A great opportunity to lace up those walking shoes and get back in the bush.
While the weather was okay, it wasn’t really hot enough to do any serious sunbathing or swimming, so doing some walking was a great alternative for us. Plus, the birdlife in the Australian bush is awesome!
Here are some suggestions for walking near Lorne in the Great Otways.
- Erskine Falls – 1.5 km Return
- Cora Lynn Cascades – 7km Return
- Kalimna Falls – Upper & Lower Falls – 6.5km/8.5km respectively
- Henderson Falls, The Canyon and Phantom Falls – 6.5km Return
Otway Fly Treetop Walk
This is an brilliant activity to do regardless of weather. Although it is not free, it is well worth the money to walk high in the trees and learn about the types of rainforest and bush life that is around. The treetop walk takes about an hour, and is the longest and highest of its kind in the world. The treetop canopy is about 2km long and has a large tower which takes you from 30m high to 45m above the forest floor. Impressive!!
We had such an amazing morning and the best was yet to come! As a birthday present to ourselves (as a way of celebrating post-birthday but together!) we decided to take it one step further and do the zipline tour !
Otway Fly Zipline Tour
I was really impressed by this zipline tour, not only because of the amazing feeling of flying between trees 30 metres above the ground but because the staff and the crew were so good. It really makes a difference when you can see that the staff enjoy their job and meeting new people as much as you are enjoying what they have to offer! Definitely recommend Otway Fly Tree Top Adventures – five stars from me!
We were strapped into harnesses and then off we went! 2-3 hours of zipping through the trees on ziplines and crossing 20m high rope bridges. It was a blast. Having never done ziplining before – its definitely something I’d love to do again!
Couple of cheeky snaps from high above the ground!
Stop on the side of the road for some awesome views along the way
There are numerous photo opportunities all along the GOR but i recommend stopping off at any of the little gravel stop points where you can see there aren’t many people during the first half on the way to Apollo Bay. Because this is a highly sought after travel destination it is really nice to not be bombarded with fifty other people trying to take a photo!
Camping at Apollo Bay
Apollo Bay is a cute little town at the heart of the GOR and a great place to camp, beach, walk and chill during your trip. There are numerous restaurants and little seaside shops to explore and stretches of beach for you to find a spot for your towel. Also, there is a few great budget accommodation options such as the BIG4 Holiday park, and a couple of youth hostels.
Nows a good time to point out that the GOR can get very very busy in the high season, so booking accommodation or carrying a tent is the way to go. Even with tenting, there is strictly no free camping along the main Great Ocean Road, so it is best to come prepared. Tenting is awesome though, and doesn’t break the budget!
The Twelve Apostles
Undoubtedly driving the GOR and viewing the Twelve Apostles go hand in hand but I think that there is so much more to the GOR than just the Twelve Apostles. For sure – it is a beautiful sight amidst the rugged coastline, and it is fascinating to see the role that erosion has played in these natural wonders.
However – a word to the wise – you will get bashed in the head with several selfie poles, you will wait in line about 50 people long if you need to use the loo , and you will have a window of opportunity about 3 seconds long to get your infamous Twelve Apostles snap.
That being said, we did visit during the middle of the day – and there was numerous tour buses spilling over with people. I’d love to go back for sunrise or sunset, it would be beautiful but with less people.
However, it is definitely an amazing sight!
The 12 Apostles and the family of attractions near it, were created by the gradual erosion of the towering limestone cliffs that began 10-20 million years ago.
Other great lookouts I would suggest to anyone travelling to see the 12 Apostles are
- Loch Ard Gorge
- London Bridge
- Bay of Islands
- The Grotto
- The Arch
- The Bay of Martyrs
All of these provide excellent viewpoints and cliff walks seeing some spectacular scenery with a fraction of the crowding than at the 12 Apostles.
Eat Pizza & Ice-cream in Port Campbell
One of the best meals I had on this trip was from a little Italian restaurant in Port Campbell! With homemade gelato on display, it made for a perfect dinner.
Check out some Australian wildlife
While I didn’t get any photos, there were a bunch of koalas chilling in the trees on one of our drives out to the Cape Otway Lightstation. Birdlife and kookaburras in particular are around in the National Parks, and watch out around you for creepy crawlies!
Travelling the Great Ocean Road, its important to remember that there are all sorts of drivers and travellers around, so look out on the roads. Weather can change at any moment, and often it is really windy near the ocean. We had heavy rain and cold temperatures two of the nights, so pack something warm! As goes with any Australian bush , it is equally important to heed to any fire or safety warnings. My thoughts go out to all those who were affected by the huge bush fire near Lorne on Christmas Day this year.
The Great Ocean Road really is an awesome trip – whether for two days or two weeks. I recommend it to anyone who wants a bit of beach, bush and beautiful scenery in their lives!!
It was really special sharing it with my bestie too =) Thanks Mai for the visit!
See you soon!