Road trip enthusiasts (i.e. every traveller ever) consider the Great Ocean Road to be one of the finest stretches of asphalt in the world. It’s comfortably driveable in a couple of days – even less if you’re not bothered about seeing every little thing along the way – and skirts some of the most stunning coastline southeast Australia has to offer.
The 244 kilometre road kicks off at Anglesea and heads west to finish around Warrnambool. It might not encompass any famous cities, but what it lacks in civilisation it more than makes up for in open spaces, rugged countryside, stunning views, and a thrilling sense of freedom.
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Here are some of the most incredible stops on the Great Ocean Road, head east to west, for you to make along the way.
World famous for its big swells and major surfing competitions, Bells Beach in Torquay is the perfect place to relax at the beginning of your trip. You can learn to surf (a handy skill, given how many beaches lie ahead of you), go snorkelling, skydiving, strolling along the coast, or simply lie flat on your back in the sand with an ice cold beer.
It might be tempting never to leave; but you better stock up, because there’s a long way to go yet.
Your next stop is home to what is arguably the first must-see attraction of the Great Ocean Road: the Split Point Lighthouse, a real icon of this famous road trip. There are frequent guided tours to the top, or you can just snap a quick selfie with it for prosperity.
Did you ever watch that weird Australian kids show Round the Twist? A great deal of it was filmed in Aireys Inlet. But for now it’s time to push on round the bend in the road.
Great Otway National Park
This absolutely massive national park encompasses a huge percentage of the Great Ocean Road, and reaching the town of Lorne is one of your first opportunities to explore it. Great Otway National Park covers 103,000 hectares of ancient rainforests, pristine beaches, dramatic coastline, magnificent waterfalls, and windswept heathland.
Considering its size, there’s no excuse not to pull off for a wander at some point on your trip.
By this stage of the journey you might be feeling in need of a rest. Apollo Bay is a great place to kick back. It’s home to some decent surfing, and there are plenty of picturesque walks to take in the foothills of the Otway Ranges. You also won’t be short of cool places to eat and knock back a few drinks.
Remember, there’s no hurry. You’ll enjoy the trip more if you’re as relaxed as possible. When you’re ready, it’s time to keep heading west.
This tiny town is pretty unremarkable in itself, but it stands at an important crossroads in your journey. If you’re sticking to a strict itinerary you can quickly stock up on some delicious local produce before continuing along the Great Ocean Road. Simple.
Alternatively you can detour to Otway Fly or Chapple Vale for some great hiking and camping, or if you’re in need of a bigger town you can divert inland to Colac. It even has a dormant volcano to visit.
The Twelve Apostles
As if it wasn’t nice enough already, you’ve now reached the Shipwreck Coast, the most picturesque stretch of this epic journey. This collection of towering limestone stacks sits just off the shore of Port Campbell National Park, offering an iconic view of this incredible coastline.
Sadly these days only eight of the apostles remain, the others having succumbed to the ocean in recent years. So make sure you see them while you can!
The next big attraction on the Great Ocean Road is this impressive stone arch that sits out in the water. It used to be a double arch, another natural stone walkway connecting it to land. Back then it was known as London Bridge. Then the sea claimed the bridge (damn you, sea!) and left the rest of the structure stranded.
Loch Ard Gorge
These sheer cliffs that collapse down into the ocean are named for a ship that wrecked here in 1878. Two unconnected stone pillars stand strong inside the gorge, named Tom and Eva after the only two survivors of the incident.
It’s another unfathomably scenic location, and it’s worth taking the time to wander the numerous paths and viewpoints that run throughout the location.
The Shipwreck Coast just doesn’t stop giving. Finally, instead of viewing them from on high, the Grotto lets you get up close and personal with the crashing waves. Take the steep stairs down into the hollowed out cave and relish the noise of the ocean surging through onto the rocks.
The Bay of Islands
Once you pass through Peterborough there’s a tangible sense that you’re coming to the end of your journey. That doesn’t mean there aren’t sights still to see, and you’re going to want one last longing look at the views you’re leaving behind.
Luckily the Bay of Islands is absolutely riddled with bravura lookout points to fill up the last of the memory on your camera.
The end of the trip brings you deep into farming territory, and Cheese World is a terrific, tacky way to appreciate it. You might have guessed that it’s dedicated entirely to cheese: there’s a cheese museum, a cheese cellar, a cheese restaurant, and more.
If you can’t get enough of cheese, this might end up being your favourite stop of the trip.
Thankfully, Warrnambool is here to comfort you in the dying stages of your journey. It’s packed full of activities that let you stretch your legs after all that time in the car. The best is the top notch whale-watching this area is famous for. Every June to October southern right whales come to these waters to give birth, sometimes so close to shore you don’t even need a boat to see them.
The rest of Australia
Your Great Ocean Road Trip is over, but don’t be sad! You’re in Australia! You have wheels! There’s a simply ludicrous amount of places to move on to next. Your adventure is only just beginning.