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Any trip to Melbourne wouldn’t be complete without making the weekend trek along the Great Ocean Road. This iconic Australian drive is marked by stunning coastlines, breathtaking views, and great animal sighting opportunities.
Fortunately, it is feasible to do the whole thing in about two days without sacrificing too many stops. No matter how much time you have, these are the 20 stops that you cannot miss. If you do have more than two days to explore, I’ve added some additional recommendations below. These stops do not include the casual road side turn outs that you will see along the drive and I highly recommend stopping at every single one you can. While we have done the Great Ocean Road a couple of times, we were able to see all of these stops in two very full days. No matter how much time you have, the Great Ocean Road is filled with natural treasures and adventures.
While it is possible to take a bus tour of the Great Ocean Road; however, it is much better via self-drive. After coming all the way to Melbourne, wouldn’t you rather have full control over what you see? Consequently, all of the places mentioned in this post are listed in order leaving from Melbourne and driving towards Port Fairy.
Top 20 Stops on the Great Ocean Road
- Bells Beach in Torquay- Torquay marks the official start of the Great Ocean Road. From here, you can see the famous Bells Beach where the annual Rip Curl Surfing Competition is held. The rest of the year, this is a great spot to catch some waves or watch other surfers catch the waves. If time permits, Go Ride a Wave is one of many places that offer beginner’s surf lessons.
- Airey’s Inlet for Split Point Lighthouse– The next stop on the Great Ocean Road is Airey’s Inlet. Here you will find a lighthouse made famous by the Australian TV show, “Round the Twist.” This is the first of a couple lighthouses on the drive. However, what makes this one special to me is that it is free to walk the grounds. If you want to do a lighthouse tour, there is an extra cost.
- Memorial Arch at Eastern View- That famous “Great Ocean Road” sign that you see all over Instagram is our next stop. It is actually a memorial for the builders of the Great Ocean Road. But, if you’re a sucker for a road sign like I am, it is a necessary stop.
- Teddy’s Lookout- Next stop in Lorne because Teddy’s Lookout is one of my favourites.
- Erskine Falls- Just outside of the Lorne is the first of many waterfalls along the Great Ocean Road. This waterfall is one of the drive’s natural treasures. From the lower viewpoint you can get a sense of how long a 30 metre drop really is.
- Kennett River- Kennett River is a koala hotspot. However, this isn’t where we spotted our first wild koala.
- Marriner’s Lookout- Just outside of Apollo Bay is another stunning viewpoint that offers a panoramic views.
- Mait’s Rest Rainforest Walk- This short walk will help stretch out the legs. But, if you have been stopping at every roadside view point, chances are your legs aren’t stiff. If you happen to be camped nearby (We stayed at Blanket Bay Campground when we did this), then visiting this walking path at nighttime will give you an opportunity to see glow worms.
- Castle Cove Lookout- A beautiful spot to check out. But don’t lock your keys in the car like we did because service here isn’t great.
- Triplet Falls- After that, these falls are in Great Otway National Park, mossy ferns line the 1 hour loop.
- Gibson’s Steps- The prelude to the 12 Apostles, Gibson’s Steps have you walk down about 86 steps to a beach for rugged coastline views.
- 12 Apostles- The 12 Apostles get all the glory but I think that some of the other places on this list are equally breathtaking (If not more). The 12 Apostles are a popular sunset spot. However, we skipped it as our time here was marked by gloomy clouds. If you get a chance to visit, I would do it soon. They are slowly eroding away so they might not be around forever.
- Loch Ard Gorge- Loch Ard Gorge is named for a ship that sunk nearby.
- The Arch- The Arch is nearby London Bridge and worth a glance.
- London Bridge- While the bridge has collapsed, the sight remains beautiful.
- The Grotto- This gem is a rock pool.
- Bay of Martyrs- The next two stops certainly rivalled the 12 Apostles in my book.
- Bay of Islands- Similarly, a beautiful spot to Bay of Martyrs.
- Childers Cove- Finally, this is an excellent lunch spot. We even spotted an echnida. I absolutely love their waddle.
- Port Fairy- Port Fairy is the last stop on the Great Ocean Road. It is a very cute, historic town. We drove around it a bit and stopped for dinner. We actually ran into massive van problems towards the end of the Great Ocean Road so we weren’t the most enthusiastic travellers by the time we got here. However, it is super lovely.
After that, if you are low on time, most people will take the back road through Timboon back to Melbourne. We’ve heard that Timboon has some great foodie stops for cheese and whiskey. The back way generally involves skipping Port Fairy. But, if you are continuing onto South Australia, head west. Above all, drive safely if you’re driving at night because the wildlife is everywhere.
Great Ocean Road Optional Activities
- Have you had the chance to spot a platypus yet? They are adorable, playful creatures and at Lake Elizabeth you can do a tour to find one. We opted not to as we had seen a wild platypus on our own on Tasmania. Since Lake Elizabeth is a little out of the way, this is best left for the explorer with more time.
- Waterfalls- For those fueled by waterfall wanderlust there are more waterfalls than I have listed here. If you’re a chaser of waterfalls feel free to check out more. I’ve only listed the most commonly visited ones. Due to drought in Australia, often waterfalls do not fall with full force. So, in addition to Erskine Falls and Triplett Falls, you might also like:
- Carisbrook Falls- We did actually stop here, it is a nice walk up to see them but the falls are virtually non-existent.
- Beauchamp falls, beech forest
- Phantom falls 2 km from lorne
- Hopetoun falls
- Stevensons falls
- Hopkinss falls
- Cumberland Falls
- Another adventurous stop is Great Otway Fly Treetop Adventures– Unfortunately, we skipped this one in favour of following a budget. But, we did hear great things so it could be worth checking out! There is a zipline and a tree top walk. If I’m ever in the area again, I think I will check it out.
- Great Ocean Walk- The Great Ocean Walk is a 100 km, self-sustained and self-guided walking alternative to driving. There are campsites along the way! When we stayed at Blanket Bay Campground there was a smaller section of the Great Ocean Walk that you could complete. But if you are up for a challenge, here is more info. If you’re new to bushwalking in Australia, find out how to stay the safest you can!
- Beech Forest- Nestled into the lush forests of the Great Ocean Road, there is a petrified forest! Sadly, we didn’t make it there but I’m going to try next time.
- Cape Otway Light Station– Sadly, this lighthouse isn’t free to visit. Therefore, I prefer Split Point.
Road Trip Essentials
- A reusable water bottle. Australia is full of free places to refill. There is no need for plastic water bottles. For instance, CamelBak Water Bottles are one of my favourites.
- Wifi and reliable service can be hard to come by.Lonely Planet guidebooks are my go-to.
- Above all, if you’re looking for cheap flights to Melbourne? Check out Skyscanner.
Where to Stay Along the Great Ocean Road
Unfortunately, accommodations on the Great Ocean Road can be quite expensive. The cheapest bet is to camp.
- Luckily, we found a free campsite at Bill Hill Campground. This site is just outside of Lorne and is where we chose to spend our first night. CamperMate is where I find all of my campsite information.
- Kennett River is renowned for having koalas around. They offer a caravan park as well. If you haven’t seen any yet, this is the place for you! There is even a koala walk! We skipped this as we had seen a wild koala on an earlier Great Ocean Road trip.
- Blanket Bay Campground – We saw a koala and her joey here! There is also a nice beach and a short walk in the area to do too.
- Port Campbell Recreation Reserve- We spent one night here. It is fairly low-cost making it an ideal spot if you plan to watch the sunset at the 12 Apostles. Please try not to drive when its too dark out though as there is a lot of wildlife in the area.
- Along the Great Ocean Road you might find New Zealand Fur Seals and seasonally (winter), you might be able to spot whales!
- The Anglesea Golf Course frequently has roos hopping along the holes. However, if you hate golfing, they also offer a tour.
- Depending on where you go, you might get to spot a platypus. These lovely creatures are hard to spot.
- Koalas! Don’t forget to look up as you’re exploring the forests.
- If you do decide to do the Mait’s Rest Rainforest Walk or if you check out the Melba Gully, you might bet get to see glow worms.
- Finally, one of my favourite animals, the echnida, can be spotted in the area.