7 Essential Stops on the Great Ocean Road
Published 15 August 2016
The Great Ocean Road: 150 miles of cosy coves, crumbling cliffs and balmy beaches stretched across the southern coast of Victoria. The definitive Australian road trip, this is not a journey to be rushed. Take your time; stop for photos; pause for picnics, and make plenty of spontaneous detours inland, especially to the forests and gold mining towns. And don’t forget to add on some time in the lively cities of Melbourne and Adelaide at either end.
While there’s nothing stopping you from driving eastwards from Warrnambool to Torquay, we’ve listed our favourite Great Ocean Road stops from east to west:
Lovely Lorne is many people’s first stop on the Great Ocean Road, and what a first impression it makes! Here, deep blue surf laps gently onto soft beaches, majestic gum trees carpet the hills and, amongst it all, stands a little seaside town filled with ice cream parlours and quirky coffee shops. It’s the perfect place to hang out for a few days and fish for barracuda from the pier, or take off your shoes and wander along the sand.
A little larger than Lorne, Apollo Bay is a water sports hub, with the forests of Great Otway National Park (see below) right on its doorstep. Its attractive setting among rolling hills and craggy beaches draws artists and musicians, and food fans will love the row of al fresco beachside eateries. While you’re here, hike a section of the Great Ocean Walk to Cape Otway Lightstation (pictured) and take in the sweeping views out to sea. Better yet, if you’re in town between May and October, look out for migrating southern right, humpback and killer whales (orcas) along the shore.
Great Otway National Park
Get back to nature in the lush forests and windswept gullies of the Great Otway National Park. Hike to the 30m cascade of Erskine Falls, the highest single drop in the Otways and easily observed from one of two viewing platforms, and look out for the petrified forests, gushing waterfalls and glittering fireflies you pass along the way. Wildlife watchers might catch a glimpse of a koala or two, even the rare Otway black snail, a carnivorous land snail found only in the Otway Ranges.
The Twelve Apostles
The most recognisable symbol of the Great Ocean Road, the eight stacks of rock that make up the Twelve Apostles jut precariously from the ocean, just off the Victoria coast. As there were only ever nine of them, their name is misleading, especially as one collapsed back in 2005. A popular spot at sunset as well as during the day, the designated lookout point is a good place to capture all eight stacks in one photo. But for an unforgettable Twelve Apostles experience, catch a helicopter and fly over them – not only will you be treated to truly stupendous views but you might even spot the dark shadow of a whale in the waters below.
Port Campbell National Park
One of the most scenic drives along the Great Ocean Road is the route from Port Campbell to Peterborough via Port Campbell National Park. This drive not only takes you past the Twelve Apostles, but also passes the impressive London Arch. This a natural rock structure formed a double-humped connection with the mainland, known as London Bridge until it dramatically collapsed in 1990, stranding two shocked tourists on the rocks and changing its name in the process. Port Campbell National Park is home to many bird species, including the fairy wren, peregrine falcons and short-tailed shearwaters, and penguins are sometimes spotted along the shoreline.
Slightly beyond Warrnambool at the western end of the Great Ocean Road, the delightfully named Port Fairy is a classic fishing town. While away your days browsing the antiques shops and watching the colourful yachts and fishing boats bob about in the harbour while munching on fish and chips and ice cream. Or, for something a little more active, find out more about the town’s fascinating maritime history on the Shipwreck Heritage Walk and descend into the crater of an extinct volcano to see if you can spot koalas, kangaroos, emus and an array of birdlife at the Tower Hill State Game Reserve.
Grampians National Park
We admit it’s a bit of a detour to Grampians National Park, about 90 minutes’ drive north of Warrnambool, but it’s definitely worth the extra mileage. ‘The Grampians,’ as these hills are known, are a glorious natural wonderland home to numerous Aboriginal rock art sites as well as various mountain trails and rock climbing routes. Learn more about the local indigenous people at the Brambuk Cultural Centre then hike the forest footpaths to Flat Rock and the Cave of Ghosts to see the impressive paintings for yourself.
Grab your sunglasses, wind down the windows and set off on a road trip adventure with Round the World Experts’ Great Ocean Road Journey.