The Great Ocean Road Drive is one of the most beautiful and iconic road trips in Australia. Located in south west Victoria this coastal route can be enjoyed all year round. The Great Ocean Road self drive will allow you to choose your own timings, stops and is a much better way than an organised tour to enjoy all of those beautiful stops along the way to the beautiful 12 Apostles.
There are many Great Ocean Road Attractions and our 10 must see stops on the Great Ocean Road will have you wanting to take it slow, spending plenty of time at each stop and perhaps even doing the drive over a few nights.
Our Great Ocean Road Itinerary will help you to plan your self drive trip and the best places you just must see on this iconic journey. To see everything on this Great Ocean Road Trip Itinerary, ideally you'll need around 3-4 days, but the beauty is, if you leave nice and early, pick your stops selectively and don't mind a few hours on the road in one day, it can be done as a day trip.
Great Ocean Road Attractions start in Torquay. The ultimate 'surf town' it's home to the iconic Bells Beach which hosts a yearly professional surfing competition. With great surf beaches, delicious cafes, and of course lots of outlet stores selling all of your favourite surf brands, it's a great place to refuel, get kitted up and get comfy for the journey ahead.
When it comes to Great Ocean Road beaches, Bells Beach is well worth a visit as is the National Surfing Museum if you love the sport. Bird Rock Lookout provides pretty ocean views and Half Moon Bay, with its gorgeous cliffs, is perfect for some family snaps, a stroll along the beach or even a swim before getting back on the road for your Great Ocean Road Drive.
Torquay to Lorne is an easy 50 minute drive. A Great Ocean Road self drive holiday isn't about picking up the pace, it's about a gentle meander and really exploring everything the route has to offer. A funky seaside town with a village vibe, Lorne is the perfect place to stop and stretch your legs. The beach is a sheltered cove, so it is a fantastic place to have a dip, especially if you are travelling with children.
If you're ready for lunch there are plenty of cafes and the town is well known for its yummy gelato shops. The best thing about a Great Ocean Road self drive holiday or day trip is you can choose the pace of your trip. Lorne is one of those towns that you can stop for an ice cream and keep driving or spend a whole weekend exploring. Either way it is an iconic stop on your Great Ocean Road Itinerary.
We love visiting the swing bridge nearby and stopping at a cafe for a quick bite, however if you're heading off early and it's not quite lunch time, there are plenty of towns along the way to grab something to eat or refuel.
Blanket Bay is a little lesser known spot on the Great Ocean Road, but if you're a lover of beautiful beaches and Australian wildlife, then it is well worth a stop. The drive between Lorne and Apollo Bay hugs the coastline and is very scenic. You'll pass through the smaller Skenes Creek and the larger Apollo Bay before you turn off south to Blanket Bay.
Blanket Bay is a little more remote, so if you haven't eaten yet the pubs in Apollo Bay area great choice. There's also a great playground on the foreshore. It'll take you just under two hours to drive between Lorne and Blanket Bay, so Apollo Bay is a great spot to break up the journey if you need to.
Blanket Bay is 'must see' Great Ocean Road because it is that little bit quieter, a little bit off the main road and that slower pace means that the wildlife come out to play. You'll be able to get up close to kangaroos on the beach here and if you fancy spending the night, it's an amazing place to camp. Blanket Bay is all about the forest meeting the coast and is a great place to stop and unwind. The beach is beautiful for swimming and because a lot of people miss this stop (including the tour buses) you'll have a lot more space to roam and wander without feeling rushed. It is a local haven that is a must see on your Great Ocean Road Drive.
Cape Otway is just a quick 15 minute sojourn from Blanket Bay and is home to the iconic Cape Otway Lightstation (pictured above). It's a tree lined drive and the bushland is home to a significant population of koalas, so if you drive slowly and look up, chances are you'll spot a few snoozing in the trees.
If you're familiar with the author Paul Jennings, or the 'Round the Twist' series, the light station might oddly familiar to you and that's because it featured heavily in the TV series. Fame aside, the coastline here is stunning and the light station is well worth a visit. If you're not afraid of heights, make sure you climb to the viewing platform to truly experience the majesty of this rugged coastline. The Great Ocean Road Drive is dotted with light houses and its no wonder that it is called 'The Shipwreck Coast' locally. The dramatic cliffs and rugged seas put on a spectacular show, especially in the cooler months and are a beautiful sight to behold.
Cape Otway is more than just a light house - there is the light house keeper's cottage to visit as well as a series of outhouses that have been set up in period time to show what life was like during the years the light station was operating. If you do make it to the top of the light house, rangers are also on hand to tell you more about the history and answer any questions.
You'll want at least 1-1.5 hours to wander properly. Getting an insight into early settlement and life in Australia, on land and for those arriving by sea, really adds depth to the history and people of this beautiful coastline and is an essential stop on your Great Ocean Road Itinerary. Cape Otway Light Station is also an easy trip from Apollo Bay if you choose to make that an overnight base.
The beauty of all of the Great Ocean Road attractions is that although they have a coastal commonality, they are all quite diverse. The joy of the Great Ocean Road self drive trip is that you can explore all of the lovely little towns and local gems that would otherwise be missed on an organised tour.
Princetown is one of those stops. The road between Cape Otway and Princetown heads slightly inland allowing you to enjoy the magical Cape Otway National Park. If time is on your side, it's worth taking a 20 minute detour at Lavers Hill (around half way between Cape Otway Light Station and Princetown) to experience the Otway Fly. Nestled in the canopy of ancient sub tropical rainforest, the Otway Fly allows you to zipline, or enjoy a raised path through the forest. It is an incredible way to enjoy this unique microclimate and well worth the detour if you're Great Ocean Road Itinerary is stretching over 3 or more days.
Sans detour to the Otway fly, it's around an hour to Princetown. It's quite rural along this route and the forest greets the road, so it's a lovely section of driving just to enjoy being behind the wheel. Princetown is marked with a small sign, so you'll have to keep your eye out for it. The township is the first turn off and you'll find a local store selling snacks and lunch. The second turn off to the caravan park is where you'll enjoy the beauty of this town.
You raised boardwalk joins the township to the river and caravan park. A sea of reeds surrounds the board walk and it is an extremely scenic panorama of the surrounding hills and inlet. Rather than a beach, you'll be enjoying the river here. There's a small car park nestled close to the banks and the bridge that takes you across to the caravan park. The bridge is a favourite spot to jump into the water from and the boardwalk with a small jetty that juts out into the water is a great spot for fishing.
Princetown is a great spot for a splash, to enjoy a picnic, stretch your legs and take a couple of photos. It's most beautiful on a warm day where you can dip your legs in to the water.
The short 10 minute drive from Princetown to Gibsons Steps is where things start to get really exciting. You're on the cusp of the 12 Apostles Marine National Park and the coastline here is spectacular. Gibson's Steps is the first stop on this part of the coastline. The car park is only small and it is a popular stop, so if you're visiting over summer or a peak holiday period you'll want to time your visit to before 11am or after 3 once the peak of the day trippers have left.
Great Ocean Road Beaches don't come much more expansive than Gibsons Steps and as you head down the cliff face you'll be greeted with soft white sand as far as you can see. The beach is fantastic place for a long walk and although it is unpatrolled and not safe for swimming due to the strong currents, its a fun place for a splash.
The cliffs are quite spectacular in this location and you feel quite small in comparison. The beach is also features large towering rock formations just off the coast, so is a fantastic place for photographers and enjoying sunrise and sunset.
When thinking of must see great ocean road attractions, the 12 Apostles will most definitely come to mind. Stacked just off the coastline, the 12 Apostles are a wonder of geology and there position in relation to the shore means that you can get a really good look at them from the cliff face or from the beach.
In summer the blue, green and yellow hues are stunning in contrast and in winter the rough seas pounding against the cliffs make for a spectacular site. The 12 Apostles is where you'll really appreciate having at least a 2 day Great Ocean Road Self Drive itinerary. Particularly in summer, the 12 Apostles site is packed with tourists during the middle of the day as it is a popular destination for day trips. It is not all that enjoyable when the site is at capacity, so we highly recommend spending a night at Port Campbell or setting out early from Apollo Bay in order to enjoy the site before the masses. After peak time it can be almost empty and a real delight to sit and take in.
The 12 Apostles is also a popular site for sunrise and sunset. You don't have to be a photographer to enjoy the view though. The site is open 24 hours, so there are no gates or restrictions on when you can park at the visitors centre or visit the site. This flexibility really allows you to enjoy the site in a range of light and for you to take your time exploring.
Like all of the sites at the 12 Apostles Marine Park, parking is free. The 12 Apostles has the biggest car park and will be the easiest to access during peak times. The Great Ocean Road is quite narrow in this stretch and the sides of the road are quick thick with scrub, so there is no parking alongside the road. Rangers patrol the area, so it is essential for the environment and so you don't get a ticket, that you park in marked bays.
The 12 Apostles visitors centre also adjoins 12 Apostles Helicopters who offer scenic flights over the region. If you're not afraid of flying, it is a once in a lifetime experience and gives you a unique perspective of the landscape and how erosion has shaped it over the years. I can highly recommend booking a heli flight, it is one of 2 locations I've done one in the world and it is stunning by air. Allow 1 hour to explore the site and another hour if you're taking a flight.
It is quite incredible that in just a 10 minute drive there is so much to enjoy, but the 12 Apostles Marine Park offers just that. Loch Ard Gorge and Thunder cave are just a few minutes further on than the 12 Apostles, and secretly they're my favourite stop of all.
Both Thunder Cave and Loch Ard Gorge are accessed from the same carpark. Thunder Cave is a blow hole and it really comes alive on windy days where the seas are high. You'll most definitely feel the splash of this powerful blow hole and it will give you a real sense of just how strong the ocean is in this part of the world.
Loch Ard Gorge, is a beautiful gorge with a beautiful private beach. Our most recent visit was during the peak of summer and at 9am we had the beach all to ourselves. It is a stunning spot for some splashes, sand castles and photos. The tide is quite strong and the gorge has caves with hidden rocks, so it isn't a safe place to swim, but water play is fine.
If you visit during low tide, you can scramble over the rocks and enjoy the caves. It is a location that is beautiful from the lookouts looking top down and from the beach itself. If you visit during a quieter time, it is one of the most serene Great Ocean Road beaches to just sit at and unwind.
Port Campbell is the ideal location to overnight if you want to get the most out of the 12 Apostles Marine Park. Its just a 10 minute drive away and has a huge range of accommodation options. There is a small sheltered beach that is patrolled and a river that is safe for swimming, so it is a great place to enjoy the water.
Port Campbell offers a large range of accommodation options, including self catering apartments and a caravan park. There is a wide range of dining options, however in summer it does get busy, so make sure you book ahead.
The township itself is small, laid back and relaxed. Its pier is popular for fishing and the local seafood is delicious.
As well as being famous for its coastline, the Great Ocean Road is also home to some of the best food, particularly dairy, in Victoria. Timboon is an artisanal town just 10 minutes from Port Campbell that is home to the Timboon Fine Icecream shop and the Timboon Distillery. They are both nestled next to the Curdies River which meanders between both sites. During the warmer months you can sit out by the banks of the river to enjoy your icecream. There's also plenty of space indoors and the option to take away for later too if you'd like.
The distillery offers whiskey tastings as well as meals. It sits adjacent to a large playground and the old Timboon railway station cottage which has now been repurposed into a bike hire store should you feel like a cycle around the region.
The last stop on our coastal drive is Peterborough. Just 15 minutes from Port Campbell, it is a beautiful town known for its cliff lined beaches and river inlet. On the short drive, you can stop and enjoy London Bridge, a stone stack that was previously joined to the mainland in a double arched bridge, but after a collapse in 1990 stands as a single arched stone bridge adjacent to the shore. Before its collapse, it was open to the public, with some left stranded by the collapse. Luckily no one was injured and those trapped by the collapse were rescued by helicopter.
The Grotto is another must see attraction in Peterborough. A little similar to Thunder Cave, The Grotto is an open cave formation with small rock pools by the water's edge. It is spectacular at high seas where a fine mist of ocean water hangs in the air with every wave's crash. In summer you can take a quick dip in the rock pools and get a little closer to the edge during calmer seas.
Worm Bay and the Bay of Martyrs are beautiful beaches for a stroll and Port Campbell Bay is a lovely spot to swim. There are many patrolled beaches in this area, making it a great holiday spot during the summer
Our Great Ocean Road Itinerary ends at Peterborough, however you can continue to drive to Warrnambool where the Great Ocean Road Drive officially ends. Ideally taken over 4 days, our must see Great Ocean Road stops can be done comfortable in as little as 2, or with several adjustments shortened to a day trip. Either way, these Great Ocean Road attractions are must see locations. Whether you've visited once or twice, or many more, it is one of those regions that is beautiful in all seasons and seems to keep inviting you back to explore more!
If you are condensing your road trip, we'd suggest driving inland via Colac as it is a much shorter route than the coastal route, however if you've got time, the ocean road is just as scenic on the way back to Melbourne and it will give you the chance to visit some of the stops you may have missed along the way.
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