The Great Ocean Road stretches over 243km from Torquay to Allansford along the south-eastern coast of Australia. You can drive it in one day, but to really enjoy it, take at least a few days to appreciate what the region has to offer.
It was built between 1919 – 1932 by soldiers who returned from WWI and is the world’s largest war memorial which connected once isolated settlements along the coast.
Read our blog and check which are the top 5 places to visit on your Great Ocean Road Trip.
#1 Bells Beach
Which is the most famous surf beach in Australia? Yes, it’s Bells Beach about five kilometres southwest of Torquay which holds the annual Rip Curl Pro Surfing Competition in March. Torquay is transformed into a festival like atmosphere when the Rip Curl Pro rolls into town. The cliff’s edge offer entertainment during the day and the city takes over with celebrations at night.
Bells Beach huge waves crawl one after the other into a large bay, overlooked by impressive cliffs. The view from up the cliff platform is spectacular and a great place to watch the surfers doing acrobatics.
#2 Kennet River Koala
Being in Australia and not seeing a koala would be a sin. And if you have never seen a Koala before, you are in for a treat. The Kennett River Koala walk winds along Grey River Road through heavily populated gum trees in the Otway Rainforest and is the best viewing spot.
There is a lay by for buses and a loo by the caravan park. The caravan park has a small shop and cafe if you fancy ice cream. You can walk a hundred yard up a rough path, there are eucalyptus trees on either side. Wander along the road and look up to the eucalyptus trees, you might find them sleeping. There is also plenty of parrots and other wild birds you can admire.
#3 Apollo Bay
Visiting Apollo Bay is an adventure. Explore nature’s backyard with protected bays to swim, endless Great Otway National Park trails or enjoy a great meal trying local food and wine.
The Great Otway National Park stretches from Torquay through to Princetown and up through the Otways hinterland towards Colac. The park features sandy beaches and rugged coastlines, rock platforms, magnificent waterfalls and lakes and dense green forests.
Apollo Bay is positioned about halfway along your Great Ocean Road trip. For the perfect lookout on Apollo Bay’s town centre, the harbour and beaches up and down the coat, visit the Mariners Lookout. The lookout is on private property, but open to the public by a local couple who made the route and land available as a contribution to the shire. It is located at the northern end of town. From the city, you can enjoy many short or multi-day walks to explore the Otways rainforest. If you a more a sporty type, the city makes a good starting point for biking, riding horses, kayaking or flying above the coastline.
#4 The Twelve Apostles, Port Campbell National Park
One of the most popular stops on The Great Ocean Road trip is visiting Port Campbell National Park. The park features cliffs overlooking the Southern Ocean and it hosts several tourist attractions such as The Twelve Apostles, The London Arch, Loch Ard Gorge, The Grotto, Gibson Steps etc…
The Twelve Apostles are one of the most well-known highlights of The Great Ocean Road Trip. While there are no longer twelve, this is by far the most popular of all the things to do on The Great Ocean Road. Formerly 12 limestone stacks shot up from the water up to 45 metres created an amazing view down the coast. Until the 1960s, the area was nicknamed the Sow and Pigs, with the Muttonbird island being the sow, and the limestone stacks being the pigs. For marketing purposes, they have then created the Apostles, which slowly turned in the 12 apostles.
The Twelve Apostles have formed some 20 million years ago, and the sea gradually eroded the limestone cliffs forming caves and arches and eventually isolating rock islands from the shore. Every year the fierce ocean storms still roll in and cause even more erosion of up to two centimetres a year. Behind the eight remaining stacks (five have fallen since their discovery) are majestic cliffs, around 70 metres high. If you have the opportunity, visit them at sunrise or sunset to enjoy the beautiful play of light. This is how you will avoid the tourist buses as well.
If you have time and money to spare, you can enjoy these incredible rock formations from above. Join a helicopter tour for a 15-minute long flight and experience a truly unique perspective of the breathtaking scenery.
#5 Highlights of The Port Campbell National Park
The Arch is beside the shipwreck Loch Ard and London Arch one of the most spectacular highlights of the Port Campbell National Park. This naturally sculptured arch stands 8 metres high and is located 6km west of Port Campbell. You’ll appreciate the power of the ocean crashing in against the arch, it makes the drama of the place even better.
The beauty of this location is that with two viewing platforms you can get quite low to the water and experience the crashing of the waves from much closer than other locations along the Great Ocean Road. It only takes a couple of minutes to walk down the sealed path to the viewing platforms and you'll be glad you did. The first 50m of the path is level but the last 100m descends steeply. The main viewing platform is okay for wheelchair manoeuvrability, but the lower, smaller one isn't.
The London Arch (formerly the London Bridge) is as well an incredible sight to see and it also has an interesting history. Before 1990 London Bridge was a bridge that connected the arch of land to the mainland. In that year the part of the bridge collapsed into the ocean, leaving a chunk of land isolated in the ocean. And leaving 2 tourists on the island that needed to be rescued by a helicopter.
London Arch is one of two points in the National Park where visitors can observe little penguins returning to shore (the other is from the main 12 Apostles viewing platform).
If your interest does not finish watching the ocean and its rock formations, we advise you to bring your binoculars and enjoy the rich birdlife. The Port Campbell National Park fauna is largely ornithological, so keep your eyes open for honeyeaters, emus, and fairy-wrens, as well as pelicans, peregrine falcons, ducks, and black swans.
Useful tips for your Great Ocean Road trip:
- Instead of taking a bus tour, drive your own car, so you have the freedom to stop anywhere you want. This road needs to be experienced from behind the wheel to have the opportunity not to miss any of the spectacular views on this Great Ocean Road Trip.
- You can rent a camper, caravan or a motorhome to have the best self-drive experience. Waking up with the sunrise with a sea panorama should be one of your things to do.
- Fuel up your car, since there can be large distances between petrol stations.
- Don’t rush. You may only witness this magnificent view from The Great Ocean Road Trip once in your life.