Plan Your Great Ocean Road Trip

13 September 2014

Victoria’s Great Ocean Road is one of the most picturesque drives in Australia. You can stop wherever and whenever the mood strikes you along this coastal stretch, discovering countless highlights and hidden gems.

The Great Ocean Road, on Victoria's southeast coast, extends approximately 250 kilometres from Torquay to just shy of Warrnambool. The route boasts rugged cliffs, stunning views of the Southern Ocean, pristine beaches, lush rainforests, quaint seaside towns and awe-inspiring rock formations. Plus, there are all the requisite fun things to do along the way, including surfing, shopping and wildlife spotting.

 All signs point to the GOR

Surf’s Up

With Torquay your first port of call, channel your inner surfer and embrace the local culture. Torquay is a top surfing destination and home to Bells Beach - the site of the annual Rip Curl Pro surfing competition. Keen to know more about hanging 10? You’ll also find the Surfworld Museum here, and won't want to miss spectacular seaside views along the Surf Coast Walk.

Next stop, Anglesea - a cosy seaside village with white-sand beaches and great chances for picnicking and camping. On the way to Aireys Inlet further along, you’ll drive through Angahook-Lorne State Park – an ideal spot for birdlife and wildlife spotting. Once at Aireys Inlet you’ll find another charming seaside village complete with more picturesque beaches, and Split Point Lighthouse, also known as ‘the White Queen’.

Lovely Lorne

From here, the Great Ocean Road finds its way to Lorne – the most developed stop along the route. Spend a couple of hours shopping at the boutiques and having a bite to eat at cafes along the town’s main drag, taking in the local arts scene or relaxing on the shore.

Wildlife watchers will not want to miss a stop at Kennett River to catch a glimpse of koalas in the wild. The shy and elusive platypus has also been known to make an appearance in this region - the best time to spot them is at dawn or dusk.

Your Great Ocean Road excursion will soon find you in Apollo Bay – a pretty fishing town again known for its beautiful beaches. For those who want to trade in their driving gloves for walking shoes, the town also marks the start of the Great Ocean Walk. The 104-kilometre trek meanders from Apollo Bay to the famed Twelve Apostles.

 The 12 Apostles at sunset

Let There Be Light

Apollo Bay is also a great base to explore the Great Otway National Park. At Cape Otway, you can see the historic convict era lighthouse – the oldest light-station on mainland Australia. Light up your Great Ocean Road adventure even further with a night-time stop at Melba Gully State Park, where a colony of glow worms appear after sunset.

Soon, your travels will lead you to the stunning natural landscape of Port Campbell National Park, home the iconic Twelve Apostles. You can thank years of buffeting by wind and sea for these celebrated limestone rock sculptures. Other impressive rock formations in the park include the Grotto, London Arch and Loch Ard Gorge.

Now you’re heading for the home stretch! From Peterborough – just beyond the national park – the Great Ocean Road winds its way 32 kilometres towards Warrnambool. It takes you through the strikingly scenic Bay of Islands Coastal Park and ends just east of Warrnambool, merging with Princes Highway towards Adelaide.

Beyond Warrnambool

Though you’ve come to the official end of the Great Ocean Road, there are still some not-to-be-missed highlights just beyond Warrnambool. At Tower Hill State Game Reserve, which sits inside an extinct volcano, you can encounter koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, emus, reptiles and an array of native wildlife.

To see the largest colony of Australian fur seals in the Southern Hemisphere, as well as dolphins and fairy penguins, a cruise from Port Fairy to Lady Julia Percy Island is just the ticket. In winter, be on the lookout for whales, too.

Kasey Clark

Kasey Clark is the founder and editor of food, wine, and travel blog The Hungry Expat.com. She spent 18 years as a magazine editor, has freelanced for many years, and recently joined King Content as a lead editor and content strategist. When she’s not blogging or strategising content, she provides editorial and communications services on a contract basis.