One of Australia’s most celebrated road trips, the Great Ocean Road in Victoria is a must-do when you visit Melbourne. While the 12 Apostles is a crowd pleaser, this 3 day Great Ocean Road itinerary shows you that there’s so much more on offer: charming seaside towns, ancient rainforests, delicious local produce, Indigenous history, shipwrecks and wildlife abound.
So, let’s hit the road and discover the best of a Great Ocean Road drive!
This blog post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you).
Where is the Great Ocean Road?
First up, where exactly is this road trip going to take you?
The Great Ocean Road winds along the Victorian coast, 100 kilometres southwest of Melbourne. The 243-kilometre-long Great Ocean Road officially starts in Torquay and ends in Allansford, near the town of Warrnambool.
Melbourne is a great jumping-off point to discover the Great Ocean Road, and most likely where you’ll be when you begin this road trip.
History of the Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road was built as a memorial to those who lost their lives fighting in World War I. It’s considered the longest war memorial in the world.
It was an employment opportunity for returned serviceman, who carved much of the road out of the rockface by hand, using shovels and picks.
Construction began in 1918. Various sections of the road were completed over the years, but the road wasn’t officially opened until the end of 1932.
If you’re interested in learning more Great Ocean Road history, I recommend visiting the Great Ocean Road Story, an exhibit at the Lorne Visitor Centre.
How long do you need to drive the Great Ocean Road?
I think three days is the minimum you should plan for a Great Ocean Road road trip. Here, I’ve provided such a 3 days Great Ocean Road itinerary, but it is possible to do it with only two days. Having more time, like 5-7 days (or more!) is better, of course. I’ve got Great Ocean Road itineraries for a variety of days at the end of this blog post.
If you’re really squeezed for time, you can do the Great Ocean Road in one day, but you will be rushed and it will be a very long day. You might want to consider a tour if you’re going to do it this way, so that you can leave the driving to someone else. I’ve suggested a few day tours at the end of this post.
How to travel the Great Ocean Road
The best way to experience all the amazing things to do on the Great Ocean Road is to drive yourself. This way you can go at your own pace, stopping whenever you want (and you’ll stop a lot along the way – there are so many photo opportunities). This article assumes that you’re self driving this fantastic road trip.
If you’re visiting Melbourne, you can rent a car at the airport when you fly in or there are several rental companies with pick-up locations throughout the city. I like using Rentalcars to compare the different car companies’ pricing and vehicles. The Great Ocean Road is a good, smooth road, with plenty of signage and no potholes. No need for a 4WD – a small, compact car will be just fine (unless you’re travelling with a group).
Another option is to sign up for a Popcar membership and pick up one of their cars from around the city. You can hire a Popcar by the hour or the day – and a bonus is that petrol is included, so you know exactly how much you’ll need to budget for your trip.
If you’re so inclined, then driving the Great Ocean Road in a campervan is fantastic. We did this on our recent trip, in our Ford Transit van. You can rent a Jucy campervan in Melbourne.
There’s unfortunately no public transport options for seeing the Great Ocean Road properly. While you can get to cities and towns on public transport, you’ll just be speeding past the amazing sights.
If this is your first time visiting the Great Ocean Road (and maybe your first time driving in Australia), here are a few travel tips to keep in mind:
- To keep the Great Ocean Road on your left-hand side so that you can see the ocean as you’re driving, you’ll want to follow the itinerary I’ve outlined here so that you’re going from Melbourne to Allansford. If you come from Allansford to Melbourne, you’ll need to cross the road to pull into the major sites (not a big deal, but annoying during peak periods).
- Don’t forget that we drive on the left-hand side of the road in Australia! There are plenty of signs along the Great Ocean Road to remind you.
- Stop for petrol when you need it – the next petrol station may be a while away.
- Avoid driving at nighttime because of animals. Kangaroos, wallabies and wombats tend to come out at dawn and dusk and you’ll see quite a bit of roadkill along the side of the road.
- Book accommodation well in advance during peak holiday periods, especially summer (December and January) when school’s out and hotels and caravan parks fill up quickly. Campsites on the Great Ocean Road also book up in advance.
- You can visit the Great Ocean Road year-round, although the weather is of course nicer in summer – but comes with far more crowds. Winters are chilly and can be quite windy along the coast. If you visit between May and October you may be lucky enough to spot Southern Right Whales off the coast when they come in to calve.
Great Ocean Road map of attractions
This map lists out each of the Great Ocean Road recommended stops I suggest you visit on this itinerary. You can also pick up a physical may at any of the visitor centres along the Great Ocean Road, the first one being the Torquay Visitor Information Centre.
Great Ocean Road 3-day itinerary
Day 1: Melbourne to Apollo Bay
Let’s get on the road! Today you’ll be leaving the city behind and heading through some of Victoria’s most famous coastal towns.
- Bells Beach – a Great Ocean Road must see
- Koala spotting
- Exploring Torquay and Lorne
Great Ocean Road Stop 1: Torquay
Melbourne to Torquay: 105 kilometres / 1.5 hours
Torquay is the official starting point of the Great Ocean Road, and this lovely seaside town is a mecca for surfers and lovers of the outdoors.
I recommend stopping by the friendly visitor centre and picking up a few brochures, including a map of the Great Ocean Road if you don’t already have one.
The visitor centre is also home to the Australian National Surfing Museum, a treasure trove of all things surfing. Here, you can marvel at a huge collection of surfboards – some dating back a century – and even have a try on a (mechanical) surfboard yourself.
Both the Rip Curl and Quicksilver brands were started in Torquay in the late 60s, and you can pick up some beachwear at Surf City Plaza.
Take a wander along the beach. In summer, there are plenty of sunbathers and swimmers hanging out here.
If it’s Saturday, check out the Torquay Farmers Market, held from 8.30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Great Ocean Road Stop 2: Bells Beach
Torquay to Bells Beach: 7 kilometres / 8 mins
Home to the world-famous Rip Curl Pro, Bells Beach is legendary among surfers. It’s best for experienced surfers – many people have to be rescued from here each year.
Park the car here and head to the viewpoint from where you can see surfers bobbing in the water waiting for the next right-hander. Did I just sound like I know something about surfing? The truth is I have no idea! But it’s really cool to watch a few surfers catch a wave.
After the drive from Melbourne, stretch your legs and take the steps down to wander along the beach.
Great Ocean Road stop 3: Point Addis
Bells Beach to Point Addis: 7 kilometres / 9 mins
A short drive off the Great Ocean Road is the Point Addis National Marine Park. It’s much quieter here, so you may even have the beach to yourself. There are some great viewpoints from the car park.
If you have the time, take the 2-kilometre Koorie Cultural Walk. There’s a sign along Point Addis Road and you can park by the side of the road. The walk includes a few signs that explain how the Indigenous Wathaurong people lived in the area, including about shelter, food and medicines.
At the end of the walk is a lookout with amazing views over the beach and of the nearby cliffs.
Great Ocean Road Stop 4: Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery
Point Addis to Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie: 6 kilometres / 7 mins
Time for a treat! You can’t miss the signs to this huge chocolate and ice cream shop. Watch the chocolatiers coating strawberries in a river of chocolate, grab a scoop of ice cream or pick up some sweet souvenirs.
The Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery is open 7 days a week, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Great Ocean Road Stop 5: Aireys Inlet
Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery to Aireys Inlet: 15 kilometres / 17 mins
If you’re feeling peckish (even after that ice cream!), grab some lunch in Aireys Inlet. Try A la Grecque for Greek food, pick up some goodies from Truffles and have a picnic, or grab pizza from The Captain of Aireys.
The Split Point Lighthouse is a great photo location, and will be familiar to anyone who grew up watching the 90s kids show ‘Round the Twist. Built in 1891, the lighthouse still has its original construction. You can book a self-guided tour and climb to the top for the great views.
Grab a coffee at the nearby Lighthouse Tea Rooms before you get back on the road.
Great Ocean Road Stop 6: Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch
Airey’s Inlet to Memorial Arch: 6 kilometres / 6 mins
Just outside Aireys Inlet is the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch – a must-take photo for your trip to the Great Ocean Road.
There’s parking on both sides of the road so that you can pull over safely. Barriers have now been erected nearby, however, to prevent people from taking selfies on the actual road. The car park also has some great historical information and statues that commemorate the men lost during World War I. It’s one of the most popular things to see on the Great Ocean Road, so make sure you pull over for a photo opp.
Great Ocean Road Stop 7: Lorne
Memorial Arch to Lorne: 13 kilometres / 16 mins
The road starts to becoming winding after Memorial Arch, so make sure you’re paying close attention as you drive – even though there’s so much to see out the left-hand side!
If you haven’t already eaten, pull into Lorne here for a late lunch. The Bottle of Milk is known for its burgers, while MoVida Lorne (open for lunch Friday, Saturday and Sunday) is an outpost of the beloved Spanish restaurant in the Melbourne CBD.
After eating, check out the Great Ocean Road Story exhibit at the Lorne Visitor Information Centre to learn more about the history of the road and the longest war memorial in the world.
If you’ve managed to get to Lorne at a decent time, head up to see the 30-metre Erskine Falls, a 15-minute drive from Lorne.
Great Ocean Road Stop 8: Kennett River
Lorne to Kennett River: 23 kilometres / 30 mins
Pull into Kennett River for a quick pitstop to see if you can spot koalas. They’re usually located in the gumtrees behind the caravan park (park your car at Kafe Koala). If you walk a bit further down Grey River Road you’ll get away from the tourists. We unfortunately didn’t see any when we stopped by, but most people do get lucky here!
Great Ocean Road Stop 9: Apollo Bay
Kennett River to Apollo Bay: 23 kilometres / 30 mins
Apollo Bay is home for tonight. It’s been a long but hopefully magical day, so end the day with some fish and chips at the Apollo Bay Fishermen’s Co-Op or dinner at the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse or Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant, and then a stroll along the beach.
Where to stay in Apollo Bay
Hotel: Beachside at Apollo Bay Guest House, a villa at Point of View, or Beachcomber Motel & Apartments
Airbnb: Stay at this hillside villa overlooking Apollo Bay, or this beachfront home is ideal for larger groups
Caravan park: We stayed in our campervan at the Big4 Apollo Bay Pisces Holiday Park
Camping: Marengo Family Caravan Park has powered and unpowered tent sites as well as cabins
Day 2: Apollo Bay to Port Campbell
97 kilometres (direct – longer if you follow this itinerary exactly)
Today’s journey takes you through ancient rainforests and along a coastline that’s been carved over millions of years. Depending on what time of year you’re travelling, plan today’s itinerary according to the sunset – you’ll want to be at the 12 Apostles as the sun is sinking.
This is a long day, so you can cut out some of these stops depending on your interests and what time you head off for the day.
- Great Otway National Park – walking through here is one of the most beautiful things to do along the Great Ocean Road, although this national park is often skipped
- Exploring waterfalls
- The 12 Apostles
Great Ocean Road Stop 1: Maits Rest Rainforest Walk
Apollo Bay to Maits Rest Rainforest Walk: 17 kilometres / 17 mins
Grab some lunch to go if you’re planning to explore the Great Otway National Park; there aren’t many options for food along the way. Pick up one of the famous scallop pies from the Apollo Bay Bakery or have a fresh sandwich made.
Leaving Apollo Bay, it isn’t long before you transition from ocean views to the rainforest interior. The Great Otway National Park extends from Torquay in the east to Princetown in the west and is filled with forests, ancient trees, waterfalls and waterways, and an array of wildlife and flora.
Start at Maits Rest Rainforest Walk, a short 1-kilometre stroll through a rainforest track. This easy walk follows boardwalks through fern gullies and past trees that are hundreds of years old.
Great Ocean Road Stop 2: Cape Otway Lightstation
Maits Rest to Cape Otway Lightstation: 16 kilometres / 18 mins
A little after leaving the Maits Rest Rainforest Walk, veer off the Great Ocean Road for a visit to the Cape Otway Lightstation.
This Great Ocean Road lighthouse is Australia’s oldest surviving lightstation and has been in operation since 1848.
You’ll need around an hour to explore the area here. Along with the lighthouse there’s a telegraph station that housed Australia’s first submarine telegraph cable, relics from shipwrecks, dinosaur fossils and even a spooky UFO mystery… There are daily history and native food talks as well.
If you’re peckish, now’s a good time to grab something to eat. There’s a café at the lighthouse that serves snacks and light lunches – and fresh scones with jam and cream.
Keep an eye out for koalas along Lighthouse Road. We got lucky and saw two adult and one teeny-tiny cute baby koala. Cars alongside the road and people toting cameras will alert you to koalas – otherwise they’re pretty hard to see from a moving car.
Great Ocean Road Stop 3: Triplet Falls
Cape Otway Lightstation to Triplet Falls: 61 kilometres / 1 hour
Great Otway National Park is home to several stunning waterfalls. Triplet Falls is made up of three cascades. The 2-kilometre loop trail leads to the falls, and is mostly on raised boardwalks.
There are toilets at the carpark.
Great Ocean Road 3 Days Itinerary Stop 4: Hopetoun Falls
Triplet Falls to Hopetoun Falls: 17 kilometres / 24 mins
My favourite waterfall is Hopetoun Falls. Water cascades 30 metres down to rocky pools, surrounded by lush ferns.
There’s a viewing platform about 20 metres from the carpark, but to be honest you won’t see much from here. You’ll need to walk down (many) steps to reach the bottom of the falls for the best sighting. It’s only a 30-minute round trip, but the steps are steep, so prepare for some burning thighs on the way back up.
Platypuses have been seen here but we weren’t so lucky!
Great Ocean Road Stop 5: California Redwoods Forest
Hopetoun Falls to Redwood Forest: 1.3 kilometres / 3 minutes
In the 1930s, foresters planted Californian Redwood trees (sequoia trees) as a bit of an experiment. The trees now stand tall, an awesome sight that reminds you just how small you are.
Spend 20-30 minutes here, wandering through the trees and imagining how old they are. This is the perfect spot for a moment of calm reflection.
There are toilets here.
Great Ocean Road Stop 6: Beauchamp Falls
Redwood Forest to Beauchamp Falls: 8 kilometres / 15 minutes
The final waterfalls to see today are Beauchamp Falls, a 20-metre waterfall crashing over a pool that you can swim in.
Getting to these falls requires a little more effort than the others. While it’s only a 3-kilometre trail (about an hour’s return walk), the path is steep, so keep that in mind when returning.
There are toilets and campsite facilities here.
Great Ocean Road Stop 7: Gibson Steps
Beauchamp Falls to Gibson Steps: 124 kilometres / 2 hours
Leaving Beauchamp Falls, you’ll now need to loop back through Apollo Bay. It adds a bit of extra time to your driving but I think doing the loop through the Great Otway National Park is totally worth it.
From Beauchamp Falls, it’s not far until the road turns into Turtons Track, which is a winding, narrow road that you’ll often need to share with logging trucks. There are plenty of blind corners so pay attention and tap the horn as you’re approaching bends to alert oncoming cars.
Once you’re back in Apollo Bay, hit the tarmac and head for Gibson Steps.
Take the 86 steps down to the beach (check the tide first!) for awesome views of the Gog and Magog sea stacks. Later on, you’ll see these two spires from above, so seeing them from the beach offers a completely different perspective.
Great Ocean Road Stop 8: The Twelve Apostles
Gibson Steps to 12 Apostles: 1 kilometre / 2 minutes
Now it’s time to visit what’s considered most people’s highlight of the Great Ocean Road and the reason many people make this trip: the 12 Apostles. Located in Port Campbell National Park, it’s undoubtedly one of the most famous Great Ocean Road attractions – if not one of the most famous in Victoria.
Following today’s itinerary, you’ve hopefully arrived here just before sunset to enjoy the magical hour as the sun begins to sink into the horizon.
Pull into the carpark (on the right-hand side of the road) and then take the tunnel under the road over to the boardwalks. To the east you’ll see Gog and Magog, and to the west the remaining sea stacks.
The name Twelve Apostles is actually a misnomer: there aren’t and never were 12 spires. There were only ever nine stacks, with only seven remaining today. These rock stacks were originally called the Sow and Piglets (the “sow” was what’s now called Mutton Island with the “piglets” the apostles), but in a bid to attract more visitors, the name was changed to the 12 Apostles. Definitely a decent marketing tactic that seems to have worked!
Great Ocean Road Stop 9: Port Campbell
12 Apostles to Port Campbell: 11 kilometres / 9 mins
I absolutely adore Port Campbell. It’s a small town of only 500 people on a calm bay. Port Campbell is walkable and super friendly and is one of the best places to stay on the Great Ocean Road.
Where to stay in Port Campbell
Hotel: The Port O’Call Motel (super stylish) or Sea Foam Villas (popular accommodation on the beach)
Airbnb: Try this colourful cottage or this cosy cottage with bay views
Caravan park: We stayed at the NRMA Port Campbell Holiday Park which was really close to everything
Camping: Port Campbell Recreation Reserve has powered and unpowered campsites
Day 3: Port Campbell to Allansford (and return to Melbourne)
299 kilometres (to Allansford and then to Melbourne)
The last day of this Great Ocean Road 3 days itinerary takes you along the coast and shows you that this journey isn’t just about the 12 Apostles. Hopping along the shoreline, you’ll discover that there are many other amazing coastal sights to feast your eyes on before heading back to the city.
- Loch Ard Gorge
- Childers Cove
Great Ocean Road 3 Day Itinerary Stop 1: Breakfast at Forage on the Foreshore
The last two days have been pretty full, so enjoy a sleep in and then grab breakfast at Forage on the Foreshore before you head out for more Great Ocean Road sightseeing. This seafront cottage café has an emphasis on locally sourced produce – and the owners do indeed often spend their time foraging for food.
Stop 2: Loch Ard Gorge
Port Campbell to Loch Ard Gorge: 8 kilometres / 8 mins
Just an 8-minute drive from Port Campbell, Loch Ard Gorge is named after one of the many ships that crashed onto the rocky shores of the Victorian coast. There were only two survivors, Eva Carmichael and Thomas Pierce, and the two limestone stacks here are named after them.
There are three different short, easy hikes you can do around here to walk off your breakfast (see the signs at the car park). You’ll need 2-3 hours if you want to do them all.
Plan to arrive here early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
Stop 3: The Arch
Loch Ard Gorge to The Arch: 14 kilometres / 14 mins
Leaving Loch Ard Gorge, you’ll stop at The Arch. Over millions of year, the crashing waves have slowly eroded this rock stack, boring a hole in the middle and creating an archway.
There’s an easy, sealed pathway to the viewing platforms.
Stop 4: London Bridge
The Arch to London Bridge: 1.2 kilometres / 2 mins
Next up it’s London Bridge. This rock formation is now marooned, having once been connected to the mainland. A section collapsed unexpectedly in January 1990 – leaving two visitors stranded before a helicopter rescue!
There are two viewing platforms here, the furthest only a 350-metre return walk from the carpark.
Stop 5: The Grotto
London Bridge to The Grotto: 2.1 kilometres / 5 mins
The next stop along is the Grotto. A 700-metre return walk leads to a viewing platform that overlooks the Grotto. However, make sure to take the steps down to the Grotto, a peaceful open cave.
Stop 6: Bay of Martyrs
The Grotto to Bay of Martyrs: 8 kilometres / 9 mins
The Bay of Martyrs is part of the 33-kilometre-long Bay of Islands Coastal Park. Here you can take two short, easy walks: the Halladale Point Track to discover local birdlife, shipwreck stories and Indigenous history, or the Beach Walk down to the beach.
Stop 7: Bay of Islands
Bay of Martyrs to Bay of Islands: 2 kilometres / 3 mins
There’s still one more sight to see along the Great Ocean Road and that’s the Bay of Islands. Here you might spot hooded plovers, pied oyster catchers or fur seals.
There’s a short, 280-metre walk to the viewing platforms.
Stop 8: Childers Cove
Bay of Islands to Childers Cove: 27 kilometres / 23 mins
A secret(ish) beach just off the Great Ocean Road, Childers Cove is a great spot for a picnic if it’s time for lunch. This lovely bay is often not busy – even during the peak summer period.
Stop here to recuperate before the long drive back to Melbourne that’s ahead of you.
Stop 9: Allansford
Childers Cove to Allansford: 18 kilometres / 16 mins
The Great Ocean Road officially ends at Allansford, a town of 1,500 people that’s known for its Cheese World cheese museum (unfortunately currently closed until March 2021).
There’s not a lot to do here, so, sadly, the journey along the Great Ocean Road has come to an end. It’s time to head back to Melbourne to enjoy more of the city. Jump on the Princess Highway for the 3-hour trip back to the city.
More self drive Great Ocean Road itinerary ideas
I think 3 days on the Great Ocean Road is the minimum you should plan for, but if you have less time – or more time! – then it’s entirely possible to see the Great Ocean Road.
Here are a few ideas for how to plan a shorter or longer Great Ocean Road route. Drop me a comment or email if you have questions as you start planning your trip.
Great Ocean Road day trip
As I mentioned earlier in the post, you can do the Great Ocean Road in a day – but prepare for a long and tiring day. You definitely won’t be able to hit all the highlights I’ve listed in this itinerary, but on a Great Ocean Road 1 day itinerary should include a stop at Torquay or Lorne, driving through the Great Otway National Park and, of course, stopping to see the 12 Apostles.
Alternatively, join a day tour so that you can leave the driving up to someone else. See the best of the Great Ocean Road on this 11-hour day tour, or drive the Great Ocean Road in reverse to avoid the crowds.
2 day Great Ocean Road itinerary
If you’ve got two days, here’s an idea for a Ocean Road 2 day itinerary:
- Day 1 – Head from Melbourne to Apollo Bay. Follow the day 1 itinerary I’ve outlined earlier, stopping at Torquay, Lorne, and overnighting in Apollo Bay.
- Day 2 – On the second day, start early and leave Apollo Bay. You’ve got two options here: head inland to explore the waterfalls of the Great Otway National Park, or stick to the Great Ocean Road and visit the Cape Otway Lightstation before heading to the 12 Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge. Head inland to return to Melbourne.
Great Ocean Road itinerary 4 days or longer
With more days, the world is your oyster! We actually had 4 days for our trip and spent two nights in Apollo Bay. This meant we spent our second day doing the Great Otway National Park loop at our leisure, and then on the third day headed to Port Campbell with a side trip to Timboon and the 12 Apostles Gourmet Trail.
With four or more days, you can add on some of the many places to visit near the Great Ocean Road. Visit the charming town of Timboon (a great town for foodies), go mountain biking in Forrest, take a side trip to Koroit and the strangely named (but awesome) Noodledoof Brewing and Distillery Co, or keep driving up to Port Fairy to stay a day or two in this pleasant seaside village.
The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s most spectacular drives and you won’t be disappointed. I hope this Great Ocean Road trip itinerary guide will help you plan an epic trip filled with lasting memories.
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