Location: Great Ocean Road, Victoria
A visit to Victoria isn’t complete with hitting the road on one of the most well known drives in Australia, the Great Ocean Road (GOR). Originally, the GOR started off as a public works project to resettle returned World War I soldiers back into society, and stand as a permanent memorial to the many lives lost during that war. Today it is one of the most scenic drives in Victoria, and the best way to do it is over two days to allow yourself enough time to visit some of the coastal towns and beautiful sights along the way.
Torquay and Bells Beach
Most people head out from Melbourne with a hire car and drive to Torquay. I don’t think Torquay rates too highly for a stop in the town, however if you need maps or information then pull in to the Tourism Information Centre just off the highway, and you can also do a spot of surf brand factory outlet shopping while you’re there, then continue driving until you reach the turn off to Australia’s most famous surfing beach, Bells Beach. Here you can wet suit up and grab your board to go for a surf, or sit back at the lookout points and watch the surfers catch some waves.
After Bells Beach head to Aireys Inlet and up to the Split Point Lighthouse for some great ocean views (from either the lookout or from the top of the lighthouse, fees apply for the lighthouse tour), and then drive a little further along the GOR for an obligatory tourist photo stop at the Memorial Arch. There is a short walk that has some information plaques which I found interesting, and then you can head out along the most scenic part of the drive on your way to Lorne, remembering to pull out into the many viewing areas along the way to take in the ocean views.
Lorne is described in the tourist brochures as a ‘sophisticated and cosmopolitan coastal village’, and that would be a pretty good assessment of the area judging by it’s popularity with Melbournians heading here for the weekend. It’s a large town and the main street is lined with many Melbourne-esque boutique shops and trendy cafes, and I’d recommend making Lorne your lunch stop for a burger and coffee from A Bottle Of Milk. After you’ve had a meal head down to the beach and soak in some more beach time, and then take a short 10km detour up to see some incredible waterfalls in the Great Otway National park, especially the beautiful Erskine Falls.
By now you will be rolling into Apollo Bay in the afternoon, and just before you hit the main street make a turn off to Marriners Lookout for an birds eye view of Apollo Bay and the GOR’s twists and turns. After this make your way into town and to your accommodation for the night (be sure to book in advance if you’re here during high season). We stayed at the Apollo Bay Eco YHA and found it clean and close to the town. A few must do’s in Apollo Bay include a walk along the beautiful town beach, fish and chips from the Apollo Bay Seafood Cafe, an award winning ice cream from Dooleys and a drink out in the front beer garden of The Apollo Bay Hotel.
The next morning grab some breakfast at a cafe along the Apollo Bay main street and make a detour back into the Otways to see Beauchamp Falls, but be careful on the drive up as there are a lot of hairpin turns and blind corners! After Beauchamp Falls get back onto the GOR and head towards the main coastal sights; soon you’ll come to the Cape Otway Lighthouse turn off, however, unless you’re really into lighthouses you can give it a miss as there weren’t any view points of the lighthouse and the only way you could see it was to pay, and since Siu and I are on a budget, we ended up just driving back to continue the GOR.
I’m going to ruin this one for you right now, because I don’t want you to look like an idiot trying to count all the ‘Apostles’… there aren’t actually 12 of them, in fact there are only nine! Just before you hit the ‘Information Centre’ (and I use that term very loosely as it was not informative at all, but rather more of a public toilet and cafe centre), you can pull into the Gibson Steps car park and head down to the beach to get a closer view of the Apostles. I also recommend checking the tide times before you do this, as the high water makes it dangerous to walk towards the Apostles. After you’ve done the Gibson Steps walk, head on over to the ‘Information Centre’ and walk out towards the viewing platforms and get snap happy!
Loch Ard Gorge
Not too far away from the Twelve Apostles you’ll come up to the turn off for Loch Ard Gorge. There are actually quite a few walks around the area and all will give you a different view of the Gorge and a short history of the area. On a warm day the beach would be amazing to go for a dip at, however in the quiet season you’ll get it all to yourself as most people don’t make the walk down the steep stairs to the beach.
After you’ve worked up an appetite viewing the Twelve Apostles and the Loch Ard Gorge, head over to Port Campbell for lunch with it’s mix of restaurants and cafes. Have a walk down to the beach and then up to the great viewpoint above the town before heading on.
London Bridge is the last major sight on the GOR, and although one of the arches did fall down a number of years ago it’s still pretty cool to see. At this stage you’ve seen some of the nicest towns and the big sights along the GOR, and you can easily call it a day and head back towards Melbourne to make it in by night fall, or you can continue along to the end with an optional overnight stay at Port Fairy.
If you’ve decided to continue along the GOR, good for you! You’ll want to aim to make it to Port Fairy by night fall and I’d recommend stopping at the viewing points for both the Bay of Martyrs and the Bay of Isles, before continuing on past Warrnambool for your stay in Port Fairy.
Of all the towns along the GOR, I found that Port Fairy had the most different feel to it; more of an old world European vibe with it’s canal houses and old wharf. The main street offers a good mix of shopping, eating and drinking, and there are some beautiful beaches close to the town which makes extending your GOR drive by ending with a night here not a bad option!
However if you’re short on time, you can still do the GOR in a day! Or if you’re feeling inspired to go out on a road trip, you can read about our other road trips across the Nullarbor and the Flinders Highway through the Eyre Peninsula. And don’t forget to follow along with us on our adventures on Instagram – @thetravelleur .
Photography by Jelena Stipanicev.