The Great Ocean Road
Updated: May 24, 2020
One of the most iconic drives you can take in Australia is the Great Ocean Road! Located south of Melbourne, it is absolutely scenic and has so many beautiful stops along the way, including the well known 12 Apostles.
The Great Ocean Road was actually a government job to create work for service men returning from WWI. Australia fell into a recession and needed jobs. Construction for the road began in the mid 1930s. The entire 241 km coastal road has become one of the most scenic day trips from Melbourne and about 7 million people a year visit the Great Ocean Road!
How to get there:
The closest airport to the Great Ocean Road is the Melbourne- Avalon airport. We were able to book an easy flight through Jetstar directly to this airport and pick up a rental car. The Avalon airport is only an hour away from the first stop on the Great Ocean Road, so it made it much quicker to bypass the city of Melbourne and all of the traffic. We chose to make our road trip a 2 day adventure, but you could easily spend more days exploring the Great Ocean Road.
When to Go:
We visited in late summer at the end of February. The crowds were much lower, but we also noticed how drastic the weather could be. It was always windy and quite chilly at times. It rained a couple of times on our drive down, but overall, we still had pretty good weather. During the summer months of November-January are peak season, so this is when tourism is at its highest. We would suggest visiting in the shoulder months of early November and mid February to avoid the crowds. Make sure to always pack a light rain coat and jeans as the weather is pretty unpredictable.
Where to stay:
We chose to stay in Port Campbell at the Port Campbell Motor Inn. To be honest, it was quite difficult to find places to stay in Port Campbell because there were limited options. We spent one night here and found the rooms clean. We also had a view of the beach from our room. I usually stay away from "Motor Inn" style accommodations, but this wasn't bad for one night. Click here to check availability. There were also limited food options in Port Campbell. We found a pub, an Italian restaurant, some bakeries, and a small grocery store.
What to see:
The first stop along the Great Ocean Road is the iconic Great Ocean Road sign! This sign is an hour drive from the Avalon airport. There is a small parking lot right next to the sign so you can stop and take some pictures. It does get very busy as this is where all of the tourist busses stop too. You can also have a quick look at the beach just along the parking lot. The stop for the sign is called Memorial Arch. Click here to see the actual location on Google maps.
The second stop we made along the drive was in the cute city of Lorne. It is a quintessential surf town along the Great Ocean Road and a great stop for a bite to eat. We enjoyed some fish and chips at the local shop and also stepped into the bakery for a Lamington.
Just a short 15 minute drive inland from Lorne is the beautiful waterfall of Erskine Falls. There was a small parking lot and the waterfall was super easy to get to. There were two observation decks to see the waterfall. It's only a 10 minute trek down to the bottom of the fall where you can admire how huge it actually is!
We had a quick stop in Apollo Bay to admire the beaches here. The water was the clearest shade of blue and I loved the mountain views behind the ocean! This would also be a great stop for a bite to eat as there are a couple of restaurants and cafes along the main strip of stores in town.
We chose to stop at Cape Otway to admire the light house here. Entrance is $19.50 AUD per adult. The price was a little steep, but stopping at this property was super informative. We learned the history of the telegram in Australia and how life was living by the lighthouse. The Otway Lighthouse is considered one of the most important lighthouses in Australia as it was one of the first sightings of a boat from Europe. It was an incredibly important connection between Tasmania and Melbourne. The lighthouse was nice and you could climb up to the top to admire the coastline. I thought it was enjoyable to visit, but I probably wouldn't go again.
We finished off our drive for the night at Port Campbell. Port Campbell is the nearest city to some of the most famous sights along the Great Ocean Road. It is super small, so there are not many options to chose from as far as accommodation and food.
My advice for the 12 apostles is to visit during sunrise. The 12 Apostles has its own car park and an easy access ramp down to the viewing point. We woke up to witness sunrise and although the weather was a little moody, we were the only ones enjoying this view! We had the entire viewing platform to ourselves, and I think this made our experience even better. Click here to learn more about the 12 apostles.
Gibson Steps located in the exact parking lot as the 12 apostles. You can even walk down to the beach when the weather is good. Unfortunately, it was too dangerous for us to do this, so we were unable to walk down to the beach.
Loch Ard Gorge
This was one of my favorite stops along the Great Ocean Road. The sheer power of the waves crashing through the small opening of the beach was insane to watch. Loch Ard Gorge has its own parking lot and was very easy to walk to the observation deck. You can even take the short flight of stairs to visit the beach. I imagine during good weather, it would be so refreshing to take a swim here. Click here to read more about Loch Ard Gorge.
Tom and Eva Lookout
On the other side of the Loch Ard Gorge parking lot is the Tom and Eva Lookout. This is a nice viewing platform that shows other cliffs along the coastline. It was named after the two survivors of a shipwreck along this coastline in 1878.
Further down the trail from the Tom and Eva Lookout is the Razorback. It's really cool to see the formations of the rocks as they zig zag through the coastline. There is a nice viewpoint of this from the observation deck.
London Arch (formerly known as London Bridge)
One last lookout we went to was London Arch located in the opposite direction of the 12 Apostles. It's a 7 minute drive from Port Campbell. In 1990, this land form was called London Bridge. Part of the arch collapsed leaving two tourists trapped on the landform! Luckily, no one was injured and the tourists were rescued by helicopter. Once the bridge became detached, it was renamed to London Arch.
Overall, we spent a full day and a half to visit all of the sights, but you could easily stretch your road trip to a full weekend. We chose to visit the more popular sights like the 12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, and the Razorback in the morning to avoid the crowds. We hope you have a fantastic road trip along the Great Ocean Road. It really is a beautiful drive and there are so many fantastic spots to see!
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