Skip to Content

12 Things to Know Before Visiting The Great Ocean Road, Australia 

12 Things to Know Before Visiting The Great Ocean Road, Australia 

This blog may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.

Thinking about visiting the Great Ocean Road? There’s a lot to know and we’re going to go over all of it!

We’ve driven this iconic road multiple times – both on our own and as part of a tour. There’s a lot to consider when planning a trip from the costs, what the best stops are, and when you should go. It can be overwhelming!

We’ve been right where you are, which is why we wrote this and included only the important information you need for a great trip. Below you’ll find hidden gems most people miss, tips for the main attractions, our opinions on self-driving compared to tours, and more. 

Table Of Contents
  1. 1. About The Great Ocean Road 
  2. 2. Where is the Great Ocean Road? 
  3. 3. Is it free to drive the Great Ocean Road? 
  4. 4. How long does it take to drive the Great Ocean Road? 
  5. 5. When is the best time to drive the Great Ocean Road?
  6. 6. What are the best tours that visit the Great Ocean Road?  
  7. 7. What are the best places to stop along the Great Ocean Road?
  8. 8. Are there places to fuel up along the Great Ocean Road? 
  9. 9. Where are the best places to stay along the Great Ocean Road? 
  10. 10. Is there cell service on the Great Ocean Road? 
  11. 11. Should you rent a car or do a tour of the Great Ocean Road? 
  12. 12. Is the Great Ocean Road Worth it? 
  13. Things to do in Melbourne
  14. Where to Stay in Melbourne
  15. Thanks for reading!
  16. Why We Book Tours with Viator
  17. Renting a Car in Australia

1. About The Great Ocean Road 

Bailey smiles at the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road
The Twelve Apostles
Bailey at Maits Rest Rainforest Walk on the Great Ocean Road
Taking in the rainforest at Maits Rest

With so much of what people love about Australia packed between its beginning and end, it’s no wonder the Great Ocean Road is one of the most visited destinations in Australia. One of the things I love most about this experience is that everyone regardless of age, physical capabilities, or how much time they spend on it, will leave with an outback-sized grin on their face. 

Built between 1919 and 1932, the Great Ocean Road is one of the largest World War I memorials in the world and was completely constructed by 3,000 servicemen who survived the war. The Australian Government knew that returning soldiers would need work and saw an opportunity to help them and the local economy. Since its completion, it’s known as one of the most beautiful roads in the world, which you will soon see for yourself!

A shot of the ocean on the great ocean tour australia
Look at the color of the water!

The first time I experienced this road it felt like there was something new to discover around every corner … because there is! Some of the best nature walks I’ve ever done in Australia are scattered throughout its many stops and it’s impossible not to spot wild animals like koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, and rare birds. Oh man, don’t even get me started on the viewpoints, they’re jaw-dropping! It’s pretty easy to see why they don’t call it the “Average Ocean Road”. 

Something else that makes it unique is how its landscape is constantly changing. Even in the last 50 years, famous limestone formations have collapsed and new ones are starting to take shape. And while it’s unfortunate the waves will eventually erode away sites like the Twelve Apostles, they do provide some of the best surfing in the world. In fact, the longest-running surf competition takes place along the Great Ocean Road at Bells Beach! 

2. Where is the Great Ocean Road? 

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

Located in Australia’s southern state of Victoria, the Great Ocean Road weaves its way along the coast for 243 kilometers (151 miles) from Torquay to Allansford.

While these two towns are technically the beginning and end, most people consider the formal beginning to be the Memorial Archway since it’s a little bit more ceremonious. I have to agree, there’s something about passing under the archway that reads “Great Ocean Road” that makes it official!

However, I think most people will be starting their journey from Melbourne so let’s change the total distance from to 345 kilometers (214 miles) one way. A proper road trip if you ask me! I recommend getting a good playlist ready and lots of road trip snacks – Tim Tams are my go-to!

This route has you passing through lots of towns along the way. Some of the notable ones are Torquay, Lorne, Apollo Bay, and Allansford, but I’ll tell you all about them in detail later and what to do in each one.   

3. Is it free to drive the Great Ocean Road? 

A winding part of the road on the Great Ocean Road
Get ready for a lot of curves

Naturally a road so famous would have some sort of cost to drive down right? Nope! Lucky for you it’s completely free. Most car parks are free of charge as well, especially at major attractions and viewpoints. To date, we have never had to pay for parking!

You can also explore the Great Ocean Road via tour. We recently took this all-day tour out of Melbourne and it was a fantastic way to see the highlights while someone else took care of the driving and navigating. We’ll talk about renting a car vs taking a tour later so if you have questions about that, scroll down to #11 below!

4. How long does it take to drive the Great Ocean Road? 

The Loch Ard Gorge on the Great Ocean Road
Loch Ard Gorge is so pretty!

When we did the Great Ocean Road as a day trip from Melbourne, it took us about 13 hours. So plan for a full day and get plenty of rest the night before because there’s lots of driving. The most popular attraction, the Twelve Apostles, takes a whopping 4 hours to reach without stopping, but with so much to see along this route, it’s impossible not to stop! 

The return journey to Melbourne only takes about 2.5 hours, since you take the inland roads and there’s nothing to see along the way. If you want more information on driving yourself for a day trip, we put together this 1-day Great Ocean Road itinerary that walks you through it!

An informational sign at the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road
An informational sign at the Twelve Apostles

If trying to cram all of the awesomeness into one day sounds like too much, I highly recommend planning a two or three-day trip. There are some great towns like Apollo Bay to stay in for the night that have amazing restaurants, fantastic beaches, and breweries like the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse. I’m a big fan of Australian craft beer on the beach at sunset!

If you enjoy hiking and nature walks, a multi-day trip is a must since there are tons of great places to explore, but you’ll need extra time. The Lorne Waterfall Circut for example is an amazing hike and one of the many that most people miss when passing through Great Otway National Park.  

5. When is the best time to drive the Great Ocean Road?

The view from inside a tour bus on the Great Ocean Road
Visiting the Great Ocean Road as part of a tour during the summer was perfect!

Time of year 

By far the best time to drive the Great Ocean Road is summertime which in Australia is roughly November through March. Lookouts offer unbeatable views of the surrounding landscape and unless you’re doing some serious hiking, you can pretty much wear whatever attire you’re comfortable in. I will say that even if it is summer, I would pack a jacket since some areas are high up, can get windy, and will still be a little chilly.

While wintertime (June through August) does mean there are far fewer tourists, it’s much colder, and rains most days. Now if your only opportunity to see the Great Ocean Road has you driving it during the winter would I still recommend it? Of course! It has its own unique beauty during the winter, but be ready for a very different experience and bring waterproof boots and a rain jacket. And with wet and winding roads, you’ll need to drive a little slower so the time to get places will go up.

Time of day

With how long the Great Ocean Road is and everything there is to do on it, it’s safe to say you’ll be driving it at all hours of the day. So there really isn’t a best time – unless you’re trying to see something like the Twelve Apostles at sunset.

Something you’ll want to keep in mind however is that kangaroos are more active at dusk and dawn, which means they’re more likely to hop out onto the road. So be safe and drive slower during these times!

Related Read: If you’re interested in a few more epic drives, check out our list of the best day trips from Melbourne!

6. What are the best tours that visit the Great Ocean Road?  

Small-Group Tour from Melbourne (Best Reviews and Our Favorite!)

Bailey looking up at a tree at Maits Rest Rainforest Walk on the Great Ocean Road
Check out this tree at Maits Rest Rainforest Walk!
A limestone formation at the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road
One of the Twelve Apostles

This 5-star tour of the Great Ocean Road ticks all of our boxes! It visits our favorite places along the Great Ocean Road, the guides are fantastic, and there are lots of stops where you can get out of the vehicle and explore, so you don’t spend the whole day cooped up. 

After heading under the Memorial Arch onto the Great Ocean Road, we loved stopping to see the koalas in Kennett River, as well as wallabies, kookaburras, and kangaroos. It’s the ultimate Aussie experience! 

Later, you’ll have the chance to buy lunch in one of the cute cafes at Apollo Bay, then continue onto the epic Twelve Apostles rock formation. Our guide took us down to Gibson Steps Beach so we could admire the limestone needles from the golden sand. Then, it’s off to explore Loch Ard Gorge to discover the history of the Shipwreck Coast before heading back to Melbourne. 

This tour really does show you the best of the Great Ocean Road. You can read our full review here. Or don’t just take our word for it – check out the shocking 4,000 positive reviews that you can read here!

We like that it’s a small group tour because the mini-bus can take you places that big tour buses just can’t reach. It costs $155 AUD, including hotel pickup and dropoff. It lasts for 12-14 hours, so it’s a long day, but it’s totally worth it.

Great Ocean Road Tour Plus Koalas, Forest Walk, and Morning Tea

Cape Patton Lookout Point on the Great Ocean Road
The views from Cape Patton Lookout Point
A tree at Maits Rest Rainforest Walk on the Great Ocean Road
Maits Rest Rainforest Walk – welcome to the jungle!

This highly-rated tour along the Great Ocean Road promises to be a memorable day out. Our Instagram feed was chock full of amazing pictures after photo stops at the mind-bending Pole House, the famous sign at the Memorial Arch, and the Cape Patton Lookout Point. 

With nature walks in Kennett’s River and Maits Rest to say g’day to native Aussie wildlife, before heading down to Gibsons Steps beach to admire the Twelve Apostles, it’s no wonder this tour is one of our favorite experiences. You’ll also see the famous Razorback rock formation, Island Arch Lookout, and the stunning Loch Ard Gorge.

This tour is jam-packed with natural beauty, and we like that it’s pretty budget-friendly at $147 AUD. The tour guide, Joey, is so friendly and enthusiastic and will snap lots of epic photos to commemorate your day.

There’s a maximum of 24 people per group and hotel pickup and dropoff are included. You’ll leave Melbourne in the morning, and get back at about 8 pm, after a stop to buy some dinner in Colac. 

Great Ocean Road and 12 Apostles Day Trip (Best Budget Option!)

Bailey walks through the forest at Maits Rest Rainforest Walk on the Great Ocean Road
Maits Rest Rainforest Walk
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

This budget-friendly tour will help you explore the Great Ocean Road in-depth, with a stop at Anglesea Visitor Center to learn about the geology of the Shipwreck Coast and why the water is so dang cold!

This breaks up the journey from Melbourne nicely, and then it’s onto the Great Ocean Road to explore the scenic town of Apollo Bay. You’ll have the chance to buy lunch here, and we recommend either the Little Crumb Bakery or Moore Cafe.

We got to explore the lush rainforest of Great Otway National Park to admire the wildlife and the ancient trees, then visit Loch Ard Gorge to spot shipwrecks and the striking bay. The last stop along the Great Ocean Road is the Twelve Apostles, so you end on a high note before driving inland back to Melbourne to save time. 

The 13-hour tour costs $130 AUD. We appreciated that there’s complimentary tea and coffee along the way to keep you energized, and the guides really take time to explain each stop to make sure everyone comes away learning a lot about the Great Ocean Road.  

Great Ocean Road Sunset Tour from Melbourne

Sunset at the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road
Sunset at the Twelve Apostles

What sets this tour apart is that you get to enjoy an epic sunset along the Great Ocean Road. We love catching sunsets wherever we can, but seeing one over the majestic Twelve Apostles really takes it to the next level! 

This tour leaves a few hours later than most which is a bonus if you like sleeping in! But it still checks off all of the must-see stops, including the Koala Walk and Loch Ard Gorge, where you can soak in the beautiful views and discover the history of the Great Ocean Road’s most famous shipwreck. 

The highlight, though, is undeniably the sunset over the Twelve Apostles. If there’s time, your guide will even take you down to the beach to enjoy it, but regardless, it’s an incredible thing to see. As you can see above, we got some amazing sunset photos in that golden light!

You’ll be dropped off back at your hotel pretty late, but it’s oh-so worth it for the sunset views! The pickup and dropoff times vary throughout the year following the sunset times, but you’ll be leaving Melbourne between 9-11 am. The tour is priced at $149 AUD.

Private Tour of the Great Ocean Road

A sideways shot of a rock formation at the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road
You’ll see tons of beautiful rock formations like this
A large tree at Maits Rainforest Walk on the Great Ocean Road
Some of the trees at Maits Rest Rainforest Walk are over 300 years old!

If you’d prefer to have a personalized experience, this private tour is our favorite option! The itinerary is well thought out, with stops to spot koalas, take in the views from Mount Defiance Lookout, and see the Great Ocean Road Memorial Archway, but since it’s a private experience, you can tailor it to suit you. You can spend more time learning about local Aboriginal culture or take extra time to spot kangaroos and swamp wallabies – the choice is yours! 

We find that another great thing about private tours is that you get to take your time and you have your guide’s full attention. Wes knows the Great Ocean Road like the back of his hand and will share his love of it with you with fascinating commentary along the way.

The price of this tour is cheapest on weekdays at $1,200 AUD per group which includes up to 11 people. This is a great deal for larger groups because the price works out to just under $110 AUD per person if you have 11 people going, which is even cheaper than the group tours. If you’ve got the budget or are traveling in a big group, we think this is the perfect way to ensure you enjoy the Great Ocean Road to the fullest. 

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.

7. What are the best places to stop along the Great Ocean Road?

Torquay

Torquay beach on the Great Ocean Road
Torquay Beach
A cup of coffee from Salty Dog Cafe in Torquay
Coffee time! Photo Credit: Salty Dog Cafe

Torquay is about 1-1.5 hours from Melbourne and a great first place to pull over. While you won’t be spending enough time here to grab a surfboard and hit the waves, it’s worth noting that the surf culture here is strong. Chances are that even if it isn’t high season you’ll see someone out on the water!

If you’re like me, then getting up early means you have an excuse to drink good coffee. So if a latte (or whatever your drink of choice is) with an ocean view sounds nice, look no further than The Salty Dog Cafe. Everything here is fantastic and available for takeaway so if you’re feeling peckish, it’s the perfect spot to grab a light breakfast in addition to a cup of joe. 

We really enjoyed grabbing our coffee and walking down to Torquay Beach for a morning stroll, but they have patio seating with ocean views if that’s more your vibe. They don’t have much parking available, so I recommend using the free public parking at Fishermans Beach and then taking a quick 3-minute walk to the cafe. 

Bells Beach 

Bailey at Bells Beach on the Great Ocean Road
Bells Beach outside Torquay!
Bells Beach on the Great Ocean Road
Perfect weather for the beach

Coming from Torquay, it’s only about a 15-minute drive to reach the car park for Bells Beach Lookout. I love Bells Beach because it has classic Aussie beach views and accessible (and free!) parking. 

Bells Beach Lookout offers great views of the beach and if you’re visiting from March to August, I’m going to guess you’ll see a surfer or two out on the waves. Fun fact, this beach is home to the Rip Curl Pro surf competition, the longest-running surf competition in the world! As a surfer myself, I have to say that this beach has some incredible waves and is a great place to watch locals practice.

If you fancy another stroll through the sand, some stairs lead down from the lookout, but mind your step as it can be slippery! If you’d like to take a walk without going on the beach, some nice footpaths lead out from the car park. It’s common to spot wildlife here as well, so keep your eyes peeled for various birds and even the adorable echidna! 

Aireys Inlet

A view of Split Point Lighthouse at Aireys Inlet on the Great Ocean Road
Split Point Lighthouse in the town of Aireys Inlet

Located near the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch, most people pass through this small town without a second thought. However, I think Aireys Inlet is one of the Great Ocean Road’s best-kept secrets. 

What I like about Aireys Inlet is that there is a wide range of nature walks from casual to more intense. From leisurely 5-kilometer (3-mile) walks on the beach to strenuous 12-kilometer (7.5-mile) hikes that have you zigzagging across the coastline, there’s something for everyone. If you’re looking for a family-friendly beach walk, I recommend both Fairhaven and Anglesea which have rock pools teaming with critters that are a blast to explore during low tide.

One of the main attractions here is Split Point Lighthouse which was built in 1891 and is still a functioning lighthouse today. It’s also an amazing viewpoint of the limestone cliffs and ocean below. Self-guided tours are only $10 AUD and give you a chance to get amazing 360-degree views from the top. Sometimes you can even spot pods of whales and dolphins from up here!

And as someone who has an affinity for pizza and craft beer, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention Salt Brewing Co which is located in the center of town and serves up both. Is there a better way to follow up nature walks and beautiful scenery? I don’t think so!

If you’re looking for a laid-back beach town with an emphasis on outdoor activities, Aireys Inlet shouldn’t be missed. We loved the vibe and think it’s worth stopping by even if it’s only for a quick peek!

Great Ocean Road Memorial Archway

The Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch
The Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch

Here we are, the moment you’ve been waiting for, the official beginning of the Great Ocean Road! Only a 30-minute drive from Bells Beach, the Memorial Arch Carpark will be a quick stop, but an important one.

Most people don’t know this, but the Great Ocean Road is actually one massive World War I memorial. Completed in 1932, the 243-kilometer (151-mile) road took 13 years to finish and was done entirely by 3,000 servicemen. The Australian government knew the returning veterans would need work and set aside money for the project to serve as both a memorial and tourist attraction. Pretty neat!

Along the road and to the side of the car park is a great place to get a selfie with the sign or just of the sign itself. You will also find two plaques at the end of the car park near the arch commemorating the engineer of the Great Ocean Road and the servicemen who fought in the war.

Parking is free but limited, so if there aren’t any spaces for your vehicle, there are some large pullouts on the side of the road nearby.

Erskine Falls

Erskine Falls on the Great Ocean Road 2
Erskine Falls

Great Otway National Park is known for its incredible waterfalls, but among all of them, Erskine Falls stands out from the rest. 

What I love about this waterfall is that it’s easy to reach. Only a 15-minute drive from the Great Ocean Road and you find yourself at this parking lot. It’s free to park and there are plenty of spaces for your vehicle, but by mid-day it can become full, so go early if you can. The nearby town of Lorne is one of our recommended places to stay for a multi-day trip and if you happen to stay the night there this is a great morning activity. 

The hike down to the falls has two lookouts. The first one is about a 5-minute walk from the parking lot and the second is at the base of the falls about another 10 minutes away. The 230 steps leading down are steep so those with mobility issues will want to stick to the first stop or be prepared for a strenuous walk back up. However, there are benches at various points and handrails along the way making it easier. 

It’s not just the falls that are stunning, but the entire area on the way down. Lush forest, massive ferns, birds calling out as they fly from tree to tree, I loved every moment of it! What’s even better is that once you reach the falls you aren’t confined to the viewing area and you can actually get up close (or get into) the water. Just have good hiking boots on because the rocks are slippery.

Short, sweet, and a bit of a butt-kicker, Erskine Falls was one of our favorites on the Great Ocean Road. And since it doesn’t take long to visit this is a must-do stop!

Teddy’s Lookout

Teddy's Lookout on the Great Ocean Road
What a view!

Teddy’s Lookout has sweeping views of the coastline and Great Ocean Road that I absolutely love. It’s an underrated stop and one locals (and myself) adore so I had to include it.

There are actually two platforms here and both are fantastic. The upper platform gives you stunning views of the ocean, while the lower is only a 3-minute walk away. On the lower platform, you can spot the St George River snake into the valleys of the mountains behind it. If you enjoy birdwatching, this is a great spot to see kookaburras, willie wagtails, magpies, and more.

Unlike other viewpoints along the Great Ocean Road, Teddy’s Lookout is much higher than the rest so you can see farther. I’m partial to the upper lookout myself, but both are worth checking out especially since they’re so close. Since it’s so high up, it can get windy and cold, so I’d bring a jacket even on a summer day. 

If you need to top up your vehicle on fuel, this gas station is a good place to do it. Otherwise, your next opportunity will be when you reach Apollo Bay, which is still 45 kilometers (28 miles) away.

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

Just 30 minutes down the road from Teddy’s Lookout is Kennett River. Stop here to take a walk and hopefully see all sorts of iconic Australian animals like koalas and wallabies!

The easiest place we’ve found to park is Kafe Koala which is also a good spot to grab some snacks, use the restroom, or wherever else you might need. If you haven’t had Tim Tams, they are my favorite Aussie snack when I’m craving something sweet and you have to try them!

As far as nature walks go, you have two options, the Kennett River Nature Walk or the Bailey and Dan (that’s us!) Nature Walk. Okay, so we don’t really have a nature walk named after us, but when we visited we had a lot of luck spotting animals when we walked down Grey River Road just south of Kafe Koala. This is more like a gravel path but still has great scenery, is less busy, and there were tons of koalas.

The other option is the Kennett River Nature Walk which is a short 2.4 kilometer (1.5 mile) out-and-back hike north of Kafe Koala and follows part of the Kennett River. It’s an easy trail with some fun info boards about animals, and great scenery. We enjoyed this short hike, although it is more busy, especially on the weekends. Families with younger kids would probably do better on this trail than the previous one.

You aren’t more likely to see animals on one walk or the other since it really just depends on the day and where the animals happen to be. If you’re quick, you might be able to complete the Kennett River Nature Walk in 45 minutes and if you take Grey River Road, I’d just turn back after 20 minutes.

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
Yum!

Apollo Bay is a 30-minute drive from Kennett River and serves as a great place to stop for lunch. It’s also another convenient place to refuel your vehicle if you haven’t done so already.

There are tons of food options here depending on what you’re in the mood for. I’ll tell you some of our favorites, but you really can’t go wrong anywhere!

If you’re unfamiliar with the iconic Aussie Pie, Apollo Bay Bakery dishes up some insanely good ones and offers meat, seafood, vegetarian, and vegan options. And since we’re on the ocean it would make sense there’d be good seafood, right? Yup! Apollo Bay Seafood Cafe is a favorite for locals and travelers alike and their fish and chips are out of this world!

Most recently we ate at George’s Restaurant because we heard they had good pizza and wow, they did not disappoint! They have a huge menu that includes sandwiches, burgers, seafood, and salads so there’s something here for everybody. 

You can have a sit-down experience at any of these places, but if the weather is nice I have another suggestion. Apollo Bay Garden and Beach is a wonderful spot for a picnic so if you call ahead to a restaurant and place your order to-go you can eat outside instead! 

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
Such a great place for a walk

I know dinosaurs went extinct a long time ago, but when we first walked through Maits Rest Rainforest Walk, I thought I was going to see a couple in person! Only 20 minutes away from Apollo Bay, this short trek will transport you to another world.

What I love about this walk is how much you get to see in a short amount of time. It’s not technical and while I recommend good shoes or boots, it can be done in any sort of attire. There is some slight incline and decline at a few points but nothing too difficult. Most of the path is paved or boardwalk, so even if it’s raining you will have stable footing.

As one of the few remaining cool temperate rainforests in Great Otway National Park, this area is renowned for its biodiversity and there are few places like it on mainland Australia. Some of the trees here are HUGE and up to 300 years old! It’s rare, but you can sometimes spot koalas, swamp wallabies, grey kangaroos, and ring-tailed possums along the trail.

When we visited, we stopped for some pictures and to just marvel at everything around us and it still only took us about 30 minutes to complete. This makes it an easy-to-fit-in experience on the Great Ocean Road and something I think everyone will enjoy! 

Cape Otway Lightstation

Cape Otway Lightstation on the Great ocean Road 2
The Cape Otway Lightstation

I have two words for you, history and views. Cape Otway Lightstation is the oldest lighthouse on mainland Australia and get this, you can climb to the top of it! 

Built in 1848, this lighthouse has had a long and important history along the shipwreck coast. For those who don’t know, this area of Australia was infamous for shipwrecks that took many lives and led to the construction of lighthouses such as this one. Today the grounds serve as a well-preserved look back into part of Australia’s fascinating maritime past.

Getting to the lighthouse car park takes you roughly 15 minutes off the Great Ocean Road as you drive south 12.3 km (7.6 m). The road is winding but perfectly manageable, and the views you’re rewarded with are magnificent. While climbing the lighthouse is the main attraction, the whole area is dotted with walking paths, historical exhibits, and even a lovely cafe that serves scones and other refreshments. You can spend as much or as little time as you want here, but we found 45 minutes to be perfect.

Climbing to the top of the lighthouse is a lot of fun but since lighthouses built in the 1800s didn’t come equipped with elevators, be ready for 78 steep steps ending with climbing a ladder. But when you do make it to the top, I think you’ll agree it was worth the trouble! Besides the climb up to the top, all other historical attractions like the lightkeeper’s house, old telegraph station, and radar station bunker are accessible to those with mobility issues. 

Open from 9:30 am to 5 pm daily, tickets cost $19.50 AUD and you can buy them on arrival. The last entry is at 4:30 pm, so if you want to make the most of your visit try and arrive early!

Note: Access to the Lighthouse and climbing to the top has been restricted due to an earthquake in October 2023. Check online here for updates. The other attractions onsite are still open to visitors.

Gibson Steps 

Bailey looks at the Gibson Steps on the Great Ocean Road
The Gibson Steps
The Gibson Steps on the Great Ocean Road
You can go on the beach here!

The Gibson Steps are more than just a staircase leading down to the ocean. Well, that’s exactly what they are, but there’s some really cool history behind them!

It is believed the steps were originally carved out by the Kirrae Whurrong people hundreds of years ago. It wasn’t until 1878 that the name Gibson Steps was widely used when a local man, Hugh Gibson, became famous for helping the survivors of a nearby shipwreck.

To this day, it’s still a popular fishing spot and an amazing place to access the beach and see the towering limestone cliffs that make up the dramatic coastline. Most lookouts on the Great Ocean Road are from the top of the cliffs, but I love this one because it gets you up close! 

This is an incredibly popular stop and while the parking lot is large, there’s still the chance for it to be full. Or if you don’t mind a little bit of a trek, you can also park at the visitor center just down the road (parking is free at both locations) and walk roughly 1 km (.6 mi) to access the staircase.

As for the steps themselves, they have a handrail, but can still be very slippery so be extra careful on your way down. If you aren’t interested in taking the steps down or have limited mobility, there is a wonderful viewing platform at the top of the stairs that offers panoramic views of the area. 

Twelve Apostles 

Bailey poses for a picture at the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road-2
What a sight!
Bailey walks at the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road
We had so much fun!

I have to admit, after exploring a good deal of Australia, this has to be one of the most stunning views in the entire country.

If you’re like me and trying to count 12, there’s only 8 limestone stacks left here. They are constantly eroding and there were actually only 9 to begin with, but the name Twelve Apostles had a nice ring to it I guess!

The first step to seeing this natural wonder is to make your way to the visitor center. Here you will find free parking and a building with some info about the formation and history of the coastline.

The Twelve Apostles Viewpoint is a series of boardwalks along the cliffs that offer incredible views of the limestone formations that dot the horizon. The only downside to visiting is the crowds that persist through most of the day. While there are a couple of lookouts that offer an iconic photo of the Twelve Apostles, we enjoyed walking to the less busy areas for quieter views instead. 

Loch Ard Gorge

loch ard gorge great ocean road australia
Loch Ard Gorge is stunning

While most people claim that the Twelve Apostles is the highlight of the Great Ocean Road, I think many people (us included!) actually enjoy Loch Ard Gorge even more. With lots of great lookouts and plenty of walking paths, I loved how much quieter this area was compared to the Twelve Apostles.

There’s plenty of parking at the Loch Ard Gorge car park and great lookouts nearby along flat and well-maintained paths.

Loch Ard is an interesting name don’t you think? It was actually the name of a ship that crashed into the rock reef of nearby Mutton Bird Island in 1878 and only two teenagers, Tom and Eva, survived.

There is a lot to see here and depending on how much you want to walk, you can get farther away from crowds for better views. I personally recommend starting at the Mutton Bird Island lookout and working your way back. This lookout is an 850-meter (.5-mile) walk from the car park and gives you views of the beautiful sandstone island and surrounding ocean. We found that since it’s farther away from the car park, fewer people went here especially those on tours.

After that, it’s really up to you and how much you want to see compared to how long you want to stay in one place and take in the views. The Loch Ard Viewpoint tends to be crowded but has incredible views of the beach below. Or if you’re okay with a 1.3-kilometer (.8-mile) walk. we are enjoyed The Razorback Lookout which has some amazing views and is less visited.

London Bridge

London bridge in the Great Ocean Road
The London Bridge

If you want to enjoy the beauty of the iconic limestone formations along the Great Ocean Road without the crowds, London Bridge is a stop worth making. Located 20 minutes past the Twelve Apostles, this lesser-visited viewpoint is as peaceful as it is stunning.

The car park for London Bridge is small, but since this area is less visited it’s rarely full. From the parking lot, several paved paths lead out to viewpoints and you can reach them in only a few minutes. There isn’t any access to the beach, but depending on the time of day you have a chance of seeing fairy penguins emerging from the ocean from around 8:30-9 pm.

Besides London Bridge, there aren’t any other rock formations to see. Some people spend a long time here since it’s so quiet, but we found 15 minutes was perfect for us. 

Fun fact, London Bridge used to be connected to the mainland, but in 1990 the section that connected it collapsed leaving two visitors stranded on the part you can see today (don’t worry, they were rescued!). Brings a whole new meaning to the song “London Bridge is falling down” if you ask me!

The Grotto

The view of The Grotto on the Great Ocean Road
The iconic view of The Grotto
View of The Grotto from above on the Great Ocean Road
View of The Grotto from the top

The Grotto is a one-of-a-kind stop on the Great Ocean Road formed from the inevitable erosion and collapse of limestone cliffs. It’s what happens when you combine a sinkhole, cave, archway, and rockpool all into one! What’s even better is that you can walk right down into it and enjoy it up close.

From the parking lot, walking down to The Grotto takes about 10 minutes. There is a viewing platform at the top, and midway, but the best views are at the bottom. This does mean you’ll have to go down about 30 steps which are somewhat steep and slippery if wet. However, it’s totally worth it!

The walk down is beautiful with wildflowers and plants growing out of the cliffs surrounding the path. At the bottom, it can be a little crowded, but don’t leave until you get a peek into the rock pool! Some say it’s one of the most spectacular views on the Great Ocean Road. Better than the Twelve Apostles? I’ll leave it up to you to decide!

Bay of Martyrs

Bay of Martyrs on the Great Ocean Road 2
The Bay of Martyrs

The Bay of Martyrs is one of the most picturesque stops on the Great Ocean Road and receives very few travelers compared to other popular attractions. I loved the dramatic landscape, nature walks, and the opportunity to stroll down the beach and feel the sand between my toes. It’s one of those places where you could spend a few minutes or a few hours, but if you like off-the-beaten-path destinations this is as good as it gets.

The bay actually encloses two smaller bays, Massacre Bay and Crofts Bay, and is 2.5 km (1.5 mi) long. There are several places to park along this stretch, but we used this car park to access the beach and enjoy the views. People told us we could swim here, but the water looked pretty rough even for a calm day, so I’d be cautious. 

Personally, I found the Clifftop Walk the highlight of the bay. It runs past Worm Bay towards Peterborough with lookouts and info boards along the way. I especially enjoyed Halladale Point which overlooks the site of a famous shipwreck from 1908. We didn’t do the whole walk, but it’s roughly 2.2 km (1.3 mi) one way from the parking lot we listed above to the end when it meets Macs Street. 

I don’t know how the Bay of Martyrs isn’t more popular than it is, but I’m not mad about it! Some of the best scenery on the Great Ocean Road with virtually no people around? That’s an experience that’s hard to beat. 

Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands on the Great Ocean Road
The Bay of Islands is so lush!

The Bay of Islands is quite simply, beautiful. With a small beach you can swim at, rare and beautiful plants, and scenic overlooks, it’s a perfect end to the Great Ocean Road. While it’s out of the way for most, we loved how secluded it was.

If you don’t mind a short 600-meter (.4 mile) walk, I recommend parking at the Bay of Islands parking lot to start. From there take the walking path east to The Great Ship Overlook. Here there are stunning views of the bay and limestone formations that you’ve now probably become very familiar with. If you look off to the left, you’ll see Tiramisu Rock, perhaps the most oddly named rock on the whole Great Ocean Road!

After soaking in the views (don’t worry there’s more to come), head back towards the parking lot, but this time head north. A well-maintained nature trail will guide you along cliffs with more amazing views where you might spot the rare sun orchid or spider orchid, but please don’t pick them if you find one! 

At the end of this short trail, you’ll reach Bay of Islands Beach which has some steps leading down to a great little spot to go swimming or just stick your feet in the water. When we visited, there was nobody there and it was incredible. If you’re staying the night in Warrnambool, the Bay of Islands is a fantastic place to watch the sunset.

8. Are there places to fuel up along the Great Ocean Road? 

A view of the Great Ocean Road from the sky
Look at all those curves

Yes, there are plenty! You can even find EV charging stations along this route as well. 

I’m not going to list all of the service stations here, but I’ll mention the towns that I think are a good place to fill up. Bigger towns are usually cheaper by the liter, so I recommend stopping at these places instead of a mom-and-pop shop which will be more expensive. 

Another quick word of warning about mom-and-pop shops. Google Maps doesn’t always have accurate information on smaller petrol stations and there were multiple times we came across “out of order” signs at stations Google Maps said were open. Long story short, fuel up at large towns when you get the chance.

From Melbourne, the first big town to fill up at is Torquay. After Torquay, you have Lorne and Apollo Bay. After Apollo Bay, there are only two that we saw, Port Campbell and Warrnambool.

For EV charge stations you have fewer options, but I think there are enough to make it there and back. From Melbourne, the first charging station is at Torquay. After Torquay, the next charging station is in Apollo Bay. After Apollo Bay, the only other charging station is at Warrnambool.

9. Where are the best places to stay along the Great Ocean Road? 

Lorne

The Lorne Surf Apartments on the Great Ocean Road
Photo credit: Lorne Surf Apartments

Lorne Surf Apartments

With views of the ocean and only a short walk to the center of town, the Lorne Surf Apartments has everything you need for a comfortable stay. Quiet and surrounded by nature, it’s a super relaxing place to stay that is adults-only. Nightly rates start at $175 AUD. Check availability and book here!

Cumberland Lorne Resort

Each of the private apartments at Cumberland Lorne Resort sits only a 5-minute walk from the beach, making it perfect for those who enjoy getting sand between their toes. Equipped with everything you’d come to expect from a luxury stay, this is perfect for all types of travelers. Rooms are typically around $300 AUD, but we’ve seen cheaper rates when booking online in advance.

Apollo Bay

Seafarers Getaway in Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road
Photo credit: Seafarers Getaway

Captain’s at the Bay

Only a 5-minute walk from the best restaurants and the beach, Captain’s at the Bay offers studio accommodation in the heart of the city. What I particularly love is that each has a private balcony or patio! Expect to pay around $275 AUD. These tend to book up quickly, so reserve here.

Seafarers Getaway

Nothing beats falling asleep to the sound of the ocean which is why Seafarers Getaway is the perfect stay for a beachfront experience. With incredible views and direct beach access, this might be the most dreamy stay in all of Apollo Bay. Beachfront studios start at $340 AUD/night when booked in advance.

Port Campbell

Sea Foam Villas in Port Campbell on the Great Ocean Road
Photo credit: Sea Foam Villas

Sea Foam Villas

Clean, comfortable, and only a 15-minute drive away from the Twelve Apostles! The Sea Foam Villas are a perfect stay for those who want to see this famous attraction at sunset. Rates for an entire villa are only $230 AUD/night, so book online here to reserve one!

Port O’ Call Motel

Nestled in downtown Port Campbell, the quaint Port O’ Call Motel is within walking distance of great restaurants and shopping. The main draw however is that it’s only a 10-minute drive from the Twelve Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge! Rooms are typically around $200 AUD and can be reserved online.

Warrnambool

Quest Warrnambool in Warrnambool
Photo credit: Quest Warrnambool

Quest Warrnambool

Comfortable, modern, and only a 15-minute walk from the beach. Quest Warrnambool even has a heated outdoor pool! How can you say no? Plus, we’ve seen rates as low as $175 AUD on Booking.com!

Comfort Inn Warrnambool

Located in the city center, the Comfort Inn Warrnambool has everything you need. Perfect for those who need a place to sleep before making a trip back to Melbourne the next day. It’s also really budget-friendly with rooms starting at $125 AUD when booking online here.

10. Is there cell service on the Great Ocean Road? 

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie at the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road
So many beautiful lookouts at the Twelve Apostles!

Before we get to the answer, I want to tell you a crucial bit of information, especially if you’re flying into Melbourne to drive the Great Ocean Road. Buy a Telstra pre-paid SIM card at the airport. They hands-down have the best coverage on the Great Ocean Road. You can get 30 GB of data for 28 days ($30 AUD) or 40 GB of data for 28 days ($40 AUD), but I say spend the extra $10 AUD and get 40 GB.

I can only vouch for their cell service on the Great Ocean Road and for the most part, it was just fine. Not exactly lightning fast everywhere, but rarely did we not have some sort of connection. This is because they have more Mobile Black Spots (that sounds bad but it’s good!) than other providers on the Great Ocean Road which means increased connectivity.

If you don’t have Telstra or don’t want to pay extra for their SIM don’t panic! The Great Ocean Road is perfectly doable without their SIM, but your connection may not be as great or drop out more.

Regardless, I recommend downloading an offline Google Map of your Great Ocean Road route so that even without service, you’ll still know where you’re going!

11. Should you rent a car or do a tour of the Great Ocean Road? 

A go west tour bus at Bells Beach on the Great Ocean Road
Taking a tour is our recommended choice for a day trip

I’ll get right to the point and say if you’re planning on a multi-day trip, rent a car and if you only have time for one day, take a tour, but let’s talk about why.

Rental car

If you have the time and budget for a multi-day trip, I say go for it. There’s so much to see that you can easily spend 2-3 days exploring and still not be sick of it! 

In this scenario, renting a car in Melbourne is the best option and gives you the freedom to experience things you couldn’t on a tour. If you only have a day, my biggest piece of advice is to pick your stops carefully and budget your time. If you want to see how we did our day trip, we have a breakdown of the ideal 1-day Great Ocean Road itinerary you can read here.

For your road trip vehicle, whenever we’re in Australia, we use Discover Cars. It’s like a search engine for rental cars and it has saved us so much money and time over the years!

A crowd of people at the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road
The Twelve Apostles can get very busy

Tour

If you only have the time or budget for a day trip, I think a tour is the best choice for most people. It’s just so much more relaxing since you don’t have to worry about driving for 8 or more hours in a single day. Plus, the guides bring so much amazing knowledge, history, and entertainment to each stop that you get so much more out of it than if you were on your own.

Having driven ourselves on a day trip and taken this one-day tour, we found that the tour was overall a much better experience. We pretty much went to the exact same spots for the same amount of time, but the day was completely stress-free.

Bus

What about the bus? Honestly, we’ve never taken it, and while it’s a cheap way to see the Great Ocean Road, I don’t think it’s the best way to experience it. You make four quick stops at London Arch, Twelve Apostles, Bay of Islands, and Loch Ard Gorge. All stops are 15 minutes except for Twelve Apostles which is 30 minutes. For me, this isn’t enough time, but you still get to see the stunning coastline on the drive, and making quick stops at some of the highlights is better than none at all! 

You can book tickets online for $10.60 AUD. The one-day trip would be the return trip from Melbourne Southern Cross to Warrnambool Station. My recommendation, if you do want to take the bus, is to take it to Port Campbell and then plan to stay somewhere in town and rent a bike to explore the nearby sights!

12. Is the Great Ocean Road Worth it? 

loch ard sign on the great ocean road tour by the ocean australia
Yes!

Yes! Regardless of how much you get to see or how you drive down it, the Great Ocean Road is one the most incredible things you can see in Australia and in my opinion, the world.

From the breathtaking limestone cliffs of the Twelve Apostles to the abundant wildlife at every stop, there is something here everyone will enjoy. And considering that of these famous rock formations won’t be around forever, I think everyone should experience it while they can. 

Related Read: Need help coming up with ideas before this drive? Our 1-day and 2-day Melbourne itineraries help you see the best of what the city has to offer!

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

Since the major city closest to the Great Ocean Road is Melbourne, chances are you’ll be stopping here for a bit. You can 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 Melbourne 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 koalas!

Where to Stay in Melbourne

The Langham Melbourne room
Photo credit: The Langham Melbourne

If you’re planning to spend some time in 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 Central Business District 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.

Renting a Car in Australia

Driving through the outback in a rental car in Australia
Outback Australia!

With many must-see destinations in Australia outside city limits, one of the best ways to get around is in a rental car.

Australia is a huge country and traveling between cities or getting to some of the most scenic spots requires driving. While public transit is sometimes an option, it often adds a lot of time and planning. Plus, we love the freedom of a rental car to stop wherever we want and not have to stick to a set schedule.

Car rental in Australia is super affordable, especially if you choose a smaller vehicle. We use the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a search engine that compares multiple car rental companies for you – saving you from visiting each website individually.

If you plan to be based in a main city like Sydney, Melbourne, or Perth and do a few day trips while returning your car to the same location, we’ve booked rentals for as cheap as $25 AUD a day! Full coverage insurance can be added for around an extra $12 AUD a day too. The price will vary depending on the time of year, type of car, and if you’re able to pick up and drop off at the same location.

Discover Cars also offers handy filters so you can search for cars that offer features like child seats, GPS, or let you have an additional driver. There are also free cancellation options if your trip changes. Read our honest review of Discover Cars here for more details!

Check out the selection and book your car rental online here!

Thanks for reading!

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

I hope this complete guide on the Great Ocean Road has been helpful as you plan your trip! This stretch of road is breathtaking and I feel like we discover a new favorite spot every time we visit.

For more help planning a trip here, check out all our blogs on Australia. Since I grew up here and come back to visit often, we’ve put together guides on everything from iconic attractions to hidden gems.

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

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

7 BEST Sydney Opera House Tours +Tips to Know BEFORE You Go!