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As someone who grew up in Melbourne, visiting the Great Ocean Road was a huge part of my childhood travels. This road trip was a favorite of my family’s and we would take family members who were visiting from overseas.
Along the Great Ocean Road, you’ll find the famous 12 Apostles (a collection of limestone rock formations that line the coast) and also endless coastal lookouts and beaches.
This 4 day Great Ocean Road itinerary highlights the most picturesque parts of this famous road trip. This guide is not only based on my recent visit to the Great Ocean Road, but also on my childhood experiences!
Table of contents
- Where is the Great Ocean Road
- How to visit the Great Ocean Road
- When to visit the Great Ocean Road
- Where to stay on the Great Ocean Road
- The best Great Ocean Road drive itinerary
Psst: At the time of writing this (February 2021), the Great Ocean Road is a fantastic holiday destination for locals, especially given the drop in international tourist numbers. If you’re in Australia and on the lookout for a local road trip, the Great Ocean Road deserves a top spot – we are likely never going to be able to visit this place with such small crowds!
Where is the Great Ocean Road?
The Great Ocean Road is a stretch of road along Victoria’s south-west coast, between the towns of Torquay and Allanford. The beginning of the Great Ocean Road is about a 1 hr 20min drive from Melbourne, located just past Geelong.
Don’t let this apparent closeness to Melbourne fool you though – the Great Ocean Road is 243 km long, and if you were to drive it in one go (without stopping) it would take you 3 hrs 40 min.
How to visit the Great Ocean Road
The best way to see the Great Ocean Road is via car. While there are many places in this world that don’t need a car rental, this road trip is not one of them! If you can’t drive, you can go on a tour (there are mostly day tours from Melbourne)
This Great Ocean Road itinerary assumes that you have a car as many of the hikes, lookout points and waterfalls are not accessible via public transport.
Alternatively, there are buses that visit this part of Victoria, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are very patient or are unable to go on a tour or drive.
When to visit the Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road route is a year-round destination, however, I think it is best visited during the warmer months like summer or spring. Autumn would also be a great time to visit!
Winter in this part of Victoria can be really cold, especially since you’re so exposed on the coast. On clear sunny days, however, I’d imagine it would be really beautiful and quiet. But if you can only visit in winter, don’t let that deter you as “bad” weather can make for dramatic views.
Where to stay on the Great Ocean Road
There are so many places and towns you can stay at along the Great Ocean Road route. Given the long drive, I recommend spending 1 night in Apollo Bay (or nearby Apollo Bay) and 2 nights in Port Campbell.
Apollo Bay is a convenient tourist town with lots of food and accommodation options. Port Campbell is a bit smaller, but its location is perfect as it’s only a 10-minute drive from the 12 Apostles.
I recommend staying in Port Campbell not only so you can rest after a long drive, but after all the day-trippers have left, you will have this part of the Great Ocean Road all to yourself!
Where to stay in Apollo Bay:
- Budget-friendly: Marengo Beach Studio
- Mid-range: Contemporary Hillside Villa
- Treat yourself: Little Beach House or Hideaway Cottage
Where to stay in Port Campbell:
The best Great Ocean Road drive itinerary
This Great Ocean Road itinerary is based on my own experiences visiting this part of Victoria and is also influenced by my many family holidays I’ve taken here.
I recommend spending at least 3 – 4 days road tripping The Great Ocean Road, any less and you’ll feel too rushed!
Day 1: Explore Lorne and drive to Apollo Bay
Day 2: Explore the Great Otway National Park
Day 3: Visit the 12 Apostles and surrounds
Day 4: Drive back to Melbourne
Read on for the best places to visit on the Great Ocean Road 🙂
Day 1: Lorne and drive to Apollo Bay
This day is mainly for driving and visting various spots along the way to Apollo Bay. I’d recommend visiting the coastal town of Lorne (a popular weekend holiday destination for Melbournians) and stopping by the Kennett River Koala Walk to see if you can spot a Koala!
Psst: we weren’t lucky on our visit to Kennett River as we didn’t see any Koalas as the road was closed for road works. But if you manage to see any leave me a comment below and let me know!
There are various lookouts I’d recommend, like the Point Addis Cliffs, Teddy’s Lookout, and the Cape Patton Lookout for incredible coastal views. The Split Point Lighthouse is also worth a visit and many Australians will recognize this lighthouse from the popular kid’s TV show Round the Twist!
Things to do on the drive to Apollo Bay:
- Enjoy the views at Point Addis Cliffs
- Visit Split Point Lighthouse (the filming location of Round the Twist)
- Drive through and even photograph the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch (there’s a car park just to the left of this memorial arch)
- Try to spot a Koala at the Kennett River Koala Walk
- Enjoy the views at Teddys Lookout (my favorite lookout near Lorne)
- Hike down to Erskine Falls
- Enjoy the views at Cape Patton Lookout
Driving time: 2 hr 45 min Melbourne to Apollo Bay
Where to stay: Apollo Bay or surrounds (Marengo, nearby to Apollo Bay is a great option if you want to stay somewhere convenient but slightly cheaper options!)
Budget friendly: Marengo Beach Studio
Mid-range: Contemporary Hillside Villa
Day 2: Exploring Great Otway National Park
The Great Otway National Park has some of the highest rainfall in Victoria and is famous for its many waterfalls and rainforests. This makes this national park unique in Victoria and is definitely worth a visit when you’re visiting the Great Ocean Road.
When visiting, I’d recommend visiting the Californian Redwood forest (which feels weird, considering you’re in Australia!), Hopetoun Falls, and Triplet Falls. Triplet Falls also has various picnic/seating areas and is a great place to stop and eat lunch.
Psst: also make sure you bring a pair of hiking boots or shoes you don’t mind getting a bit muddy. Many of the hiking paths can get wet and muddy (the Maits Rest Rainforest walk is a 30min boardwalk loop if you’re looking to avoid this)
Things to do at the Great Otway National Park:
- Visit the giants at the Californian Redwoods forest
- Hike to Hopetoun Falls
- Hike to Triplet Falls
- Take a leisurely walk at the Maits Rest Rainforest Walk (boardwalk loop walk)
Driving time: 1 hr 40 min Apollo Bay to Port Campbell
Where to stay: Port Campbell (this is only a 10-minute drive to the 12 Apostles)
Budget friendly: 29 on Pitcher
Mid-range: The Lobster Shack Port Campbell
Day 3: The 12 Apostles and surrounds
Visiting the 12 Apostles is probably the biggest highlight along the Great Ocean Road route. While the name might lead you to believe that there are 12 stacks, there were only 8, to begin with. Today, 7 remain standing, as one collapsed in 2005.
Around this part of the coast, you’ll find various lookouts and opportunities to see these limestone stacks from the beach.
Some highlights include the 12 Apostles Lookout, the Gibson Steps and the Loch Ard Gorge. I especially loved these places at sunset as they were emptier, quieter and the lighting was magical.
Psst: when visiting in January 2021, the lack of international tourists meant this part of the Great Ocean Road which is normally heaving with tourists became a lot quieter. For my fellow Australians, I’d recommend taking advantage of the smaller crowds while we can!
Things to do at the 12 Apostles:
- Enjoy the views from the 12 Apostles Lookout
- Walk down the Gibson Steps and enjoy the views from the beach (make sure you visit at low tide only!)
- Enjoy sunset views at the Loch Ard Gorge and see limestone caves while you’re there
- See the cool rock formations at the Razorback
- Enjoy the views from Tom & Eva Lookout
- See the waves crash at Thunder Cave
Driving time: 10 min drive from Port Campbell
Where to stay: Port Campbell
If you have time, there are a couple of quieter spots further along from the 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road route. These lookout areas are not as busy but nonetheless have incredible coastal views.
Extra things to do on the Great Ocean Road:
- Enjoy the views at The Arch
- Seeing the London Bridge (now collapsed, but still worth seeing!)
- The Grotto which is a sinkhole
- Seeing the coastal views at Halladale Point
- Seeing the Bay of Islands
- Enjoying the small lagoon at Childers Cove
Psst: you can visit these places on your 3rd day, or if you run out of time, visit them on your 4th day.
Driving time: 30 min from Port Campbell to Childers Cove (furtherest place from Port Campbell on this list above)
Day 4: Drive back to Melbourne
Since we’ve come a long way from Melbourne, day 4 is for driving back to Melbourne! I’d recommend driving inland to save time, unless you want to re-visit places along the coast.
If you have time, Warrnambool (which is just past the “official” end of the Great Ocean Road) is a town worth visiting. During winter you can go even go whale watching from the coast!
Driving time: 2 hr 45 min from Port Campbell to Melbourne (via the inland Hwy route direct from Port Campbell)
There you have it – my Great Ocean Road itinerary! I hope this was helpful in planning your future trip.