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Our Favorite Great Ocean Road Bus Tour – Review and What to Expect 

Our Favorite Great Ocean Road Bus Tour – Review and What to Expect 

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If you’re looking for the best Great Ocean Road bus tour, you’ve come to the right place. I’ll go over our experience in detail and tell you everything you need to know to make the most of this epic day.

This stretch of road is one of the most incredible destinations in all of Australia. Taking a tour is a no-brainer, but who do you trust for this once-in-a-lifetime experience?

After tons of research, we cherry-picked this specific tour that we decided to take and see if it lived up to the hype. So buckle up, keep reading, and let’s take a trip down the Great Ocean Road!

Our Tour Itinerary

Pick up – Mercure Melbourne Southbank 

The Mercure Melbourne Southbank hotel
Photo credit: The Mercure Melbourne Southbank Hotel

Our day kicked off when a white mini-bus with “Go West” printed on the side pulled up to our hotel at 7:30 am (pickup is anywhere from 7-8 am). The doors opened and we were greeted by our guide, Aaron, as he welcomed us with a large smile (and an even larger beard) and showed us to our seats.

They have tons of hotel pickup locations around Melbourne, so even if you aren’t staying at one of them you’re sure to be close to one. 

Something I really like about this tour is that it’s a small group with a maximum of 24 people. Most coach tours can top 50 passengers, so a smaller group made the day way more enjoyable. Plus, the mini-coach we were in had custom-made headrests for increased visibility of all passengers which was nice. This combined with the large windows ensures you get to take in all of the amazing views!

First stop – Torquay 

Bailey at Bells Beach on the Great Ocean Road
Bells Beach outside Torquay!
Breakfast cake and coffee on a tour of the Great Ocean Road at Bells Beach
Breakfast cake and coffee!

After about an hour and a half of driving (and a few entertaining stories from our guide) we made our first stop at the coastal town of Torquay. We were given the choice of tea or coffee and were offered some delicious cakes as a mid-morning snack before we moved on. 

This area is beautiful and we were given enough time to take a quick walk down to Bells Beach, use the restroom, and take a few pictures of the scenery. It can get windy and a little chilly at multiple points throughout the day (Torquay being one of them) so I recommend taking a light jacket or sweater. It will also be about another 2 hours before you have a bathroom break so I suggest making use of this stop.

Second Stop – Great Ocean Road Memorial Archway

Daniel and Bailey pointing at a sign signiling the start of the great ocean road australia
At the start of the Great Ocean Road!

Ah yes, the official beginning of the Great Ocean Road! 

The Great Ocean Road is actually one long World War I memorial and the decision to construct it was to give returning soldiers work. The 243-kilometer (151-mile) stretch of road was completed in 1932 after 13 years and over 3,000 servicemen helped in its construction. I loved learning all of this from our guide and it made the stop all the more significant. 

We didn’t spend long here, about 10 minutes, which is just long enough to get some pictures before we continued on our way.  

Third Stop – Kennett River 

A koala in a tree at Kennett River on the Great Ocean Road
Koala in a tree!
The Kafe Koala at Kennett River on the Great Ocean Road
Kafe Koala is a great place to grab a snack or coffee

Weaving our way down the Great Ocean Road and taking in the sights, we suddenly found ourselves in Kennett River only 45 minutes later.

This stop was a blast because it was the first time during the day that we saw one of Australia’s most iconic inhabitants, koalas! The guides are great at spotting them in the wild and found tons for us to look at as we took a short nature walk through the gum trees.

There is also a small shop here, Kafe Koala, where you can grab a snack, coffee, or use the restroom. The shop has one of my favorite Australian sweet tooth snacks, Tim Tams, and I suggest you grab some if you’ve never tried them! 

Fourth Stop – Apollo Bay 

Daniel eats pizza in Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road
The pizza at George’s Restaurant was great!
Pizza in Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road
Yummy!

By this point, we were getting pretty hungry, so I was happy to hear that we would have 45 minutes to get lunch in Apollo Bay. While lunch isn’t included, I didn’t mind since food on tours can be hit or miss and I appreciate getting to make my own choice when it comes to meals. 

If you’ve never had an Aussie pie Apollo Bay Bakery is a fan favorite. Seafood lovers will want to check out Apollo Bay Seafood Cafe, but it can get really busy and the wait was too long for us to get in that day. That’s okay though because we ended up eating at George’s Restaurant and had an amazing pizza called The Doner and we couldn’t have been happier with it! 

Fifth stop – Maits Rest Rainforest Walk 

Bailey in a fallen tree at Maits Rainforest Walk on the Great Ocean Road
Look at the size of this tree!
Daniel walks through Maits Rest on the Great Ocean Road
It’s so lush!

With our bellies full, we took a quick 20-minute drive down the road to Maits Rest Rainforest Walk. 

The forest here is incredibly lush and exploring it with our guide was the best way to experience it. We learned that it’s one of the few remaining areas in Great Otway National Park that has Cool Temperate Rainforests and that some of the trees here are over 300 years old!

There were massive ferns everywhere and it felt like we were in Jurassic Park. It was incredible! We were also feeling a little tired from lunch, so a nice forest walk was a great way to get our energy back up.

Sixth Stop – Twelve Apostles/Gibson Steps 

Bailey smiles at the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road
The Twelve Apostles
Bailey looks at the Gibson Steps on the Great Ocean Road
The Gibson Steps

Now it was time for one of the main attractions, the Twelve Apostles! After a scenic hour-long drive, we were treated to some of the most awe-inspiring views in all of Australia.

I loved that we were given an hour to explore and it felt like the perfect amount of time. We decided to go to the Gibson Steps first which is just a short walk away from the Twelve Apostles viewpoint. What makes this such a cool attraction is that it’s one of the few places you can climb down to the beach and take in the limestone cliffs up close!

Of course, the Twelve Apostles viewpoint is just as incredible and the color of the cliffs in contrast to the deep blue water is hard to look away from. While you can do them in any order we liked doing the Gibson Steps first and spending a little more time there because you actually get to go on the beach.

Seventh stop – Loch Ard Gorge 

A sign at loch ard gorge overlooking the ocean on the great ocean road australia
Loch Ard Gorge was the site of a famous shipwreck
Loch Ard Gorge on the Great Ocean Road
So pretty!

Our last sightseeing stop for the day was only 5 minutes down the road from the Twelve Apostles – Loch Ard Gorge. With views just as (if not more) stunning than the Twelve Apostles, it was wonderful to have another 45 minutes to walk around and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. While it was all beautiful, the Tom and Eva Lookout was my favorite!

Fun fact, Loch Ard Gorge got its name from a ship, the Loch Ard, that crashed into the nearby Mutton Bird Island in 1878. Of the 54 people on board only two teens survived and at least four bodies from the shipwreck are buried somewhere nearby. Don’t worry, I didn’t see any ghosts!  

Eighth Stop – Dinner 

The drive back to Melbourne was a long one, but it was a great opportunity to take in the sights of the coast once again. We stopped about halfway through the drive for a quick takeaway meal (at your own expense) and a bathroom break. 

As a little cherry on top of an already amazing day, our guide spotted some kangaroos as we were driving into the city. I never get tired of seeing these guys! The drive back takes about 2.5 hours and cuts through the Center of Victoria because it’s faster.

What we loved about this tour 

A go west tour bus at Bells Beach on the Great Ocean Road
Our ride for the day!

Got to see the highlights

This tour hits everything worth seeing on the Great Ocean Road and then some. By the time you finish this tour, you’ve seen the best this iconic drive has to offer. I especially loved that even though there were a ton of stops, we never felt like we spent too long at one place or too short at another. It was perfectly timed! 

Amazing guides with great commentary

In many ways, a tour is only as good as its guide and when it comes to this tour, the guides are 5-star. Aaron made our experience something we still talk about to this day with his passion and knowledge that had everyone entertained throughout. This is especially important when you spend a lot of time in a vehicle, good commentary makes the long drives go by quicker! 

Not having to drive

While we love a good road trip, it’s so nice to be able to sit back and let someone else do the driving. We were able to relax and enjoy the sights and not have to worry about navigation or which side of the road we were driving on! The bus was clean, the driver was excellent, and the big windows were a plus.

Lots of pickup locations

I love door-to-door service from a tour, and even if you aren’t staying at one of the many hotels they pick up from you’ll probably only be a short drive away. This makes the day a breeze and requires very little, if any planning.

Excellent reviews

Of course, you’re reading our personal review, but you don’t have to take our word for it! There are THOUSANDS of 5-star reviews you can check out online or just read a couple below:

“My husband and I really enjoyed the structure of this trip. We enjoyed that the tour guide had a timeline but allowed us to have our own time to explore as well. The tour guide was amazing and was super informative! I really underestimated this tour but would 1000% do it again and recommend it to anyone visiting.”

“It was a wonderful day! Noah, our guide, was splendid! He made a 14 hour excursion feel wonderfully relaxing. That is quite an achievement. Also, I should add, the scenery was amazing.”

Related Read: If you’re interested in more tours from this company, read our honest review of Go West Tours Melbourne here before you book!

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

What I didn’t like about this tour 

The view from inside a tour bus on the Great Ocean Road
You spend a lot of time in the bus

Meals not included

I honestly debated whether or not to put this in, but it would have been nice if there were meals included. Now I did say that I appreciate being able to choose my meals on a tour, but sometimes finding a restaurant and getting back to the bus in time can be stressful! It would have been a little easier if they had something included for lunch and dinner.

Long day – (but all the tours are)

I hate to say it, but there’s no way around this one. This is a long day, 14 hours, and even though it’s more than worth it, that’s still a really long time to be out and about. Luckily the bus is comfortable so taking a nap is no problem, but by the time we made it back to Melbourne, we were exhausted.

Related Read: If you’d rather see other tour options for this drive, we have a shortlist of the top Great Ocean Road tours from Melbourne here!

Would I recommend this tour to others? 

A limestone formation at the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road
Yes!

There’s a reason this Great Ocean Road tour has over 4,000 5-star reviews and you can add our review to that list! For only $155 AUD I can easily see why! 

So yes, go do this! It was incredible and without a doubt one of the best ways to experience the Great Ocean Road. As far as tour experiences go, this was put together perfectly and you see so much over the day you’ll be talking about it for years to come. We recommend this to any type of traveler out there, young, old, solo, groups big or small, and guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Other Things to do in Melbourne

Bailey and Daniel cheers their wine on the spirit of melbourne dinner cruise with tthe city in the background
Cheers!
The Royal Arcade in Melbourne Australia
The Royal Arcade in Melbourne

Before or after this tour, we have even more epic Melbourne activities you won’t want to miss. Check out our full list of the best things to do in Melbourne or our top recommendations below!

  • Cruise down the river – The Spirit of Melbourne Dinner Cruise isn’t just one of the best cruises in Australia, but one of our all-time favorites. It’s an all-inclusive experience with stunning sunset and nighttime views of Melbourne, unlimited drinks, and a four-course gourmet meal. Seriously, what’s not to love?
  • Wander the Arcades – Melbourne is also home to tons of pretty arcades (covered walkways), and my favorites to explore are the Block Arcade and the Royal Arcade. You can see the most famous arcades and visit the best chocolate shops and dessert cafes (with plenty of samples!) on this Arcades Dessert Walking Tour. Our guide was amazing and my sweet tooth was so happy!
  • Explore the Melbourne Gardens – The Royal Botanic Gardens are another great way to escape the city, without leaving city limits. This huge garden is home to over 8,500 species of plants and has been around for over 170 years. It’s simply gorgeous, and spending a few hours strolling through the gardens makes for a lovely afternoon. There are often special events going on, so check the website here before you go!
  • Explore St Kilda – This cute beach town is just 15 minutes from downtown Melbourne, and is a great place to grab a coffee and take in those ocean views! St Kilda is famous for its coffee scene, there are many to choose from – but our favorite is Galleon Cafe. If you’re visiting on the weekend, check out Esplanade Market for some unique souvenirs or Luna Park, super fun for families!
  • Day trip to Phillip Island – Phillip Island is another one of our favorite day trips from Melbourne because you can see the world’s largest Little Penguin Colony! Famous for their “Penguin Parade” taking a day trip here allows you to see hundreds of Little Penguins waddling back to their burrows. We took this organized tour, which also included stops at the Brighton Boxes and the Moonlit Sanctuary, where we got to hand-fed wallabies and see koalas up close!

Where to Stay in Melbourne

The Langham Melbourne room
Photo credit: The Langham Melbourne

If you’re planning to visit Melbourne, let us help you find a great place to stay. There’s something to fit every budget, so check out our top picks from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels. Here’s what you need to know!

The Langham Melbourne – $$$

For an elegant stay – think marble staircases, fountains, and chandeliers – The Langham Melbourne is the perfect place. The hotel is in the middle of Melbourne overlooking the Yarra River. You’ll get beautiful city views from the hotel’s restaurant and from the indoor pool. It’s also within walking distance of a number of top attractions.

Rooms here start at $300 – $400 AUD per night. Check availability and reserve a room here.

Grand Hotel Melbourne – $$

Stay in the Melbourne CBD at this historic hotel that has plenty of character. The studios and apartments at the Grand Hotel Melbourne give you more space than a typical hotel and even include a kitchen. You can also take advantage of the heated indoor pool and the fitness center with a sauna. Plus, it’s just a few minutes’ walk to Crown Casino, Southbank, Docklands, and more.

A studio starts at around $200 AUD per night and can be reserved through Booking.com here.

Space Hotel – $

You don’t have to sacrifice style for money at this hostel. The Space Hotel is a modern hostel with lots of extra guest amenities like a gym, a hot tub, and even a mini-theater. You can head to the rooftop terrace to relax and enjoy the views. The hostel is conveniently located in the Central Business District and is not far from the Queen Victoria Market and Chinatown.

Accommodation options include both private rooms and shared dorm rooms. A bed in a dorm starts at $55 AUD per night and private rooms begin at $100 AUD. Reserve a spot in advance with Booking.com or HostelWorld.com.

Thanks for reading!

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie at Bells Beach on the Great Ocean Road
Thanks for reading!

Hopefully, our review has helped you decide if this bus tour of the Great Ocean Road is for you! We were super happy with our experience, which is why we wanted to give this breakdown to other travelers thinking about it. If you’re ready to book, we recommend booking online here so you can access free cancellation and the reserve now, pay later option. It’s handy for budgeting for a trip!

I’m an Aussie, so we have tons of blogs on Australia that should be helpful while you’re visiting. Have a look around and if you have any questions, leave a comment below!

Spirit of Melbourne Dinner Cruise Review – Is it Worth it?

Our One-Day Melbourne CBD Itinerary to See All the Sights!

5 Tours in Melbourne That Made Us Fall in Love With the City!