On The Road: Your Best Stops On A Great Ocean Road Trip

the twelve apostles limestone rock formation in the Great Ocean Road

3.47min read

Published 8 December 2020


Here’s where you should go: 

  • Day 1: Melbourne to Apollo Bay- The first leg of the journey will take you through the heritage trail town of Winchelsea, artsy Lorne and from forested headlands to cliffs. 

  • Day 2: Apollo Bay to Cape Otway- Plenty to explore on this short journey. Visit Beech Forest for waterfall walks, then onto Cape Otway Light-station which is the oldest on mainland Australia. 

  •  Day 3: Cape Otway to Port Fairy- Visit more rainforests and waterfalls in Melba Gully, then take the Johanna Beach detour for ocean views and the splendour of the Twelve Apostles. Port Fairy is a time-frozen village with many National Trust classified buildings. 

  • Day 4: Port Fairy to Mt Gambier- On the way to Mt Gambier stop into the oldest European settlement in Victoria, Portland. Then travel through Cape Nelson and onto Mt Gambier, a regional city famous for its pink sandstone buildings, coastal caves and freshwater ponds for incredible diving and snorkelling. 

  • Day 5: Mt Gambier to Penola- Drive along the coast towards Carpenter Rocks and then take the rural back-roads to Penola. Make sure to pop into one of the Coonawarra wineries for some of the region’s famous red wines. 

  • Day 6: Penola to Robe- Drive past paddocks full of red gums and photogenic ruins to the chic seaside town of Robe. 

  • Day 7: Robe to Adelaide- Visit the cafes and galleries in Robe before heading through the Coorong Wetlands to Adelaide. 


This is a road-trip to flush the cheeks and startle the eyes. Intoxicating scenery and a far-from-anywhere vibe is a constant on the coastal route from Melbourne to Adelaide. From the quivering, wave gouged coastline around the Twelve Apostles to the Limestone Coast wine region, this route offers exceptional diversity: vividly carved cliffs, temperate rainforests, bird –rich wetlands, rural vistas, evocative historic settlements; even outback-style vistas.



Boats of different colours and sizes flock the crystal blue water of Apollo Bay
The 45 kilometre stretch of coastline between Lorne and Apollo Bay. (Image: Melissa Rimac)

Day 1: Melbourne to Apollo Bay

Although the riverside town of Winchelsea is only 114 kilometres from Melbourne, this is a great place to stretch along the heritage trail and marvel at the grandeur of Barwon Park mansion.

Afterwards, a 46 km roll through forest reveals Lorne, a town abuzz with eateries, galleries and arts events and a great base for nearby rainforest walks. Be sure to imbibe at the iron-lace festooned Grand Pacific Hotel.

Forested headlands plunge straight into sea along the cliff – hugging 45 km stretch between Lorne and Apollo Bay. As you swoop into bays shrouded with salt –spray and strewn with bull-kelp, pause at tiny settlements such as Wye River and Separation Creek and picnic with wallabies.

the green meadow lined with white fence and the lighthouse can also be seen from a distance
Cape Otway lighthouse is the oldest on mainland Australia. (Image: Melissa Rimac)

Day 2: Apollo Bay to Cape Otway

It’s only 31 km from Apollo Bay to Cape Otway, but a rewarding diversion is Beech Forest, a central point for accessing nearby waterfall walks and majestic Californian Redwoods.  

Cape Otway Light-station - oldest on mainland Australia- has an inviting cafe with a roaring fire. There’s plenty to explore around here and drives to nearby wilderness beaches such as Blanket Bay have the added bonus of koala spotting. Wave thrashed Wreck Bay and Moonlit Bay underscore the Shipwreck Coast label.

the wavu waters of Bay of Islands hitting the side of the rock formations
The Bay of Islands is a coastline equally impressive, yet much less popular than the Twelve Apostles. (Image: Melissa Rimac)

Need more road trip ideas? Here are our tip itineraries to explore regional Australia

Day 3: Cape Otway to Port Fairy

There’s no need to rush to the Twelve Apostles. Close to Lavers Hill (38 km from Cape Otway) is Melba Gully, a rainforest embellished with waterfalls and towering fern-trees. For wild ocean scenes, take the Johanna Beach detour.

The splendour of the Twelve Apostles is best appreciated in solitude- just follow the tracks veering off the road after the main viewing area. A few kilometres further, the Bay of Islands features dramatic rock stacks and short walks boasting splendid, un-peopled views.

Drive through farmland for another 63 km to Port Fairy, a time frozen riverside village of bluestones galore, where more than 50 buildings are National Trust classified.   

Mount Gambier Jens Hotel can be seen across the street with its impressive architecture
Mount Gambier is a town of distinctive, beautiful buildings. (Image: Melissa Rimac)

Day 4: Port Fairy to Mt Gambier

Start the day with a promenade along Port Fairy’s Moyne River and out to the shearwater hub of Griffiths Island. If you’re someone for whom too much heritage is never enough, detour to Irish-inspired Koroit.

Emerald dairy country lines the road along the 65km to Portland; oldest European settlement in Victoria and still oozing gothic edginess. Twelve kilometres from here is Cape Nelson, where uplifted ancient sea-beads offer moody walks through heath-land and an atmospheric cafe awaits in the former lighthouse stables.   

Travel for 115 km to Mt Gambier, a low- slung regional city distinctive for its pink sandstone buildings and Riddoch Art Gallery. The surrounding Limestone Coast volcanic hinterland is pockmarked with caves such as World Heritage listed Naracoorte Caves and freshwater ponds that make for surreal diving and snorkelling.  

across the penola street there is a bungalo house with red roof, tree, and a little windmill-like structure
The picturesque streets of Penola. (Image: Melissa Rimac)

Day 5: Mt Gambier to Penola

Slumbering coastal village appeal, the quirky Feasts Classic Car Museum and a selection of calm beaches await at Port MacDonnell, just 28kms from Mt Gambier.

From Port MacDonnell, you have your pick of empty beaches as you drive towards Carpenter Rocks, after which it’s fun to trace a rural back-roads route towards Penola, home to 1800’s street scapes and grand, uncannily preserved Yallum Park mansion.

Surrounding Penola are dozens of cellar doors brimming with the resonant red wines the Coonawarra region is famous for.  

The Robe Church building standing on a field of lavander
The seaside village of Robe is filled with beautiful limestone buildings. (Image: Melissa Rimac)

Day 6: Penola to Robe

Drive for 104 km past paddocks dotted with red-gums and photogenic ruins towards Robe, a chic seaside town resplendent with handsome limestone buildings and cottages edged with lavender.

On the way, a worthwhile detour is Beachwood, a historic village distinctive for its long jetty and nearby Bowman Scenic Drive.

a dilapidated stone house surrounded by green grass and huge trees
The Lime Coast countryside is filled with history. (Image: Melissa Rimac)

Day 7: Robe to Adelaide

After a relaxing morning in Robe savouring atmospheric cafes, eateries and galleries, drive to Adelaide. For much of the 336 kilometres, the vast Coorong Wetlands form the meditative backdrop. 

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