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In south-west Victoria, only 96 Kms from the state’s capital, Melbourne, is one of the world’s greatest coastal drives. The Great Ocean Road day tour begins at the surfing mecca of Torquay and ends at the town of Warrnambool, a distance of 255 Kms. The spectacular drive ribbons its way through a region of grand coastal scenery, lush rainforests, charming seaside villages and rich rural hinterland. We took our time and spent three magical days gallivanting the Great Ocean Road.
Although we had driven the road several years ago, second time around it still took my breath away. At every turn, The Great Ocean Road of incredible contrasts, beckons you to pull over and take in the views and click the shutter button on your camera. Nature’s drama unfolds before your eyes! There are rugged seascapes and towering ochre cliffs to one side, to the other, ever-changing coastal landscapes teeming with wildlife, waterfalls and adventure.
The spiritual home of the Aussie surf culture, the birthplace of iconic surf brands and where the Surf World Museum is located. Nearby Bell’s Beach is the venue for the World Series League Rip Curl Pro, the second surfing event on the World Tour.
Torquay buzzes with vitality and offers a range of shops, Cosy Corner Beach and Torquay Surf Beach, a beachfront with great picnic areas and BBQs or snorkelling at nearby Point Addis. Otherwise try a round of golf at the RACV Torquay Golf Course if you are tired of the beach.
Where beach, bush and river collide – a popular holiday spot for families. Anglesea provides a number of surf beaches that are novice-friendly for the ‘wanna be’ surfer.
Anglesea Heath surrounding the town has a wide range of plant species, including more than a hundred varieties of orchids. You will more than likely spot a kangaroo or two as well.
Only a small family-friendly village with the famous 34 metre high Split Point Lighthouse overlooking town. Visit the lookouts at Split Point Lighthouse, Boundary Road and Lands End or revel in the Ocean Walk. There are many great places for some photo opportunities and lovely beaches.
The stylish and elegant Lorne is perfectly set with a magnificent beach against a backdrop of the Great Otway National Park. This resort style town has a touch of urban chic with great galleries, crafts, specialty shops, provedores and boutiques. Also some very good eateries.
There are more than ten waterfalls within 10 Kms of Lorne – Henderson, Phantom, Sheoak, Kalimna and Cumberland Falls for starters. Erskine Falls is the highlight with its 30 metre drop into a fern lined valley.
The journey from Lorne to Apollo Bay is undoubtedly one of the most phenomenal drives you will ever experience. We wound our way through the rainforest of The Otways where rugged coastline and crashing ocean meet the forest in all its glory.
Known as the heart of The Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay makes the perfect place to base yourself for a few days. Here The Twelve Apostles, The Great Ocean Walk and the best waterfalls of The Otways are all within a short drive.
Apollo Bay has a vibrant shopping strip brimming with cafes, restaurants and a couple of pubs. It also offers accommodation options from backpackers, apartments, cabins or luxury villas. Check out Apollo Bay Accommodation HERE. It has a busy harbour with fishing boats coming in with their day’s catches that they sell at the local Fishing Co-op.
The most southerly point of the coastline with panoramic ocean views from the cape. The Cape Otway Lighthouse is roosted high on the sea cliffs and is worth a look. You may be surprised by the stunning showcase of native flora and fauna, including a large population of Koalas lazing in the trees.
With over 103,000 hectares of National Park forests, a great way to see it is to visit The Otway Fly Treetop Adventures Centre. Trek deep down into the ancient forests on tracks or walk tall midst the treetops to a 47 metre high vantage point on the fly. You can even zip line or abseil your way for a forest-filled adrenaline charge.
Otherwise you can do an Otway Eco-Tour by canoeing, hiking or mountain biking for a unique adventure.
If you are after a secluded beach spot with fabulous surf and a pristine coastline, then venture off The Great Ocean Road just past Cape Otway. There is a great free camping area adjacent to the beach where we stayed for two nights while we explored the area. But don’t expect anything else – it is just a beach with no shops or drinkable water, but totally worth the detour.
The National Park hugs the wild coastline for 27 Kms between Princetown and Peterborough. Possibly the biggest tourist attraction of The Great Ocean Road, the dramatic wave-sculpted landforms, known as The Twelve Apostles are located in the park. These colossal limestone stacks tower 45 metres above the swirling Southern Ocean.
But just as dramatic and amazing are Gibsons Steps that lead you down 86 steps to the windswept beach with rock stacks looming above you.
Loch Ard Gorge with its ghostly charm where the Loch Ard Shipwreck went down in 1878. Then there are The Arch, London Bridge and The Grotto – all wondrous natural landforms.
A great way to see all this is from the air by either plane or helicopter that has been described as the only way to view this amazing region. However there are extremely good viewing platforms dotted along the coastline that give you a great view of the sights.
If you want nature’s drama to unfold at every step, then The Great Ocean Walk is for you. It embraces the spectacular coastline for 104 Kms from Apollo Bay to The Twelve Apostles, passing through The Great Otway National Park.
Short walks, day hikes and overnight treks are also available according to your fitness level. Call into a Visitor Information Centre and pick up a selection of walk brochures.
West of Peterborough you encounter the 32 Km long Bay Of Islands Coastal Park with more outstanding coastal views and landforms, including cliff formations and rock stacks. It is definitely worth the drive further along The Great Ocean Road to see this area.
What can I say? The Great Ocean Road will thrill you and astound you at every single kilometre of the journey. What I liked most about it is that there isn’t one resort or hi-rise condo anywhere along the vast coastline. It is completely unspoilt and the Victorian National Parks and Wildlife have done a great job at keeping it that way. It is one to put on your ‘must see’ Australian travel destination itinerary.
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
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Pinky PoinkerMarch 26, 2014
Scotto and I did this drive a few years ago and loved it. We had the fattiest fish and chips at Torquay and just made it to the Twelve Apostles before sunset. It is certainly spectacular but cold in Winter :)
KathyMarch 26, 2014
I can vouch for the cold. It was perfect one day and the next it was like Antarctic temperatures! However it is one travel destination that really has the ‘wow’ factor. Simply stunning!
Rae HilhorstMarch 28, 2014
You are having the best time, have you thought of putting your trip photos into a book, I think it’s an online service such as fish? x
KathyMarch 29, 2014
Yes I make photobooks of all of our trips and they are amazing. If you mean a published book, I’m not sure whether I would have the knowledge and skill to do this. The photos are incredible though.
Min@WriteoftheMiddleSeptember 17, 2018
Fabulous to read this Kathy as we’re about to head off in late November for Melbourne and The Great Ocean Road. We have 8 nights. I’m tempted to stay at a few places along the GOR – maybe Lorne, Apollo Bay and Port Fairy. Might also spend a night in Geelong … with a night at each end in Melbourne. I’m not sure though so need all the help I can to familiarise myself a bit with the area and understand the best places to stay etc. So thank you! :-)
KathySeptember 17, 2018
I wrote this especially for you Min! You will absolutely love this magnificent stretch of coastline in Victoria. It’s certainly got a whole lot to offer.
JohannaSeptember 17, 2018
We still have to visit this wonderful part of Australia, but after your fabulous write up Kathy it’s become even more appealing. I love your photographs and suggestions.
KathySeptember 17, 2018
Thanks Jo. I think the Great Ocean Road should be on everyone’s travel itinerary. It is even better in real life.
Louise @ Travel Visa AustraliaSeptember 17, 2018
Wow! Such mesmerizing photos, I wish I could see it personally, this site is really one of the best places to check out when traveling Australia. Thank you for sharing.
KathySeptember 17, 2018
Thank you Louise. The Great Ocean Road is just one of the mesmerizing places in Australia. There are plenty more fantastic spots to see.
janSeptember 24, 2018
I loved reliving the Great Ocean Road through your lens Kathy. It makes me want to be there and doing it right now.
KathySeptember 26, 2018
It really is one of the most scenic ocean drives that I’ve embarked on. So much beautiful scenery and some of the beaches are infamous.