The Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s most scenic drives and a must-do Australian road-trip. It is an Australian National Heritage List stretch of 243-kilometre-long road that hugs the south-eastern coast of Victoria, making it ideal for a weekend getaway or a longer road trip. Here, find the ultimate self-drive Great Ocean Road itinerary for you to save for later and makes yours – overnighting in each of the stops, picking and choosing how long to spend, or having only a loose plan and seeing where the day takes you. This route takes you from Melbourne to Port Fairy, and along the way you’ll pass dazzling blue water and protected forests, wine and dine at an array of restaurants, and maybe even try your hand at a few activities too.
Melbourne to Torquay
Driving time: approximately 1 hour 20 minutes
Your road trip starts in Melbourne, the capital city of Victoria that is famous for its maze of hidden laneway cafes, street art-dressed alleys, and cool neighbourhoods. Before you hit the road, indulge in Australia’s (almost) national breakfast dish of smashed avo on toast at one of these trendy cafes. And don’t forget to wash it down in true Melbourne style; with plenty of coffee. Get in for a table early so you can be out on the road and miss any peak hour traffic – and to maximise your time on the coast, of course.
Leave Melbourne in your rear-view mirror and set out for Torquay, the official start point of the Great Ocean Road. Known for its beaches and surf breaks, Torquay is a haven for everyone, from young families to experienced surfers searching for a large swell. Bell’s Beach is a favourite among keen surfers in particular, and is home to the world-renowned Rip Curl Pro. Learn more about Torquay’s surfing legacy at the Australian National Surfing Museum, or those wanting to partake in retail therapy can hit the outlets of some of Australia’s most beloved surfwear brands.
Torquay to Lorne
Driving time: approximately 50 minutes
Your second destination along the Great Ocean Road is Lorne. A hot-spot holiday destination for Melburnians throughout the summer, Lorne has a classic relaxed coastal atmosphere. Stop for lunch at MoVida in the Lorne Hotel, an iconic food institution from Melbourne that became a permanent fixture in Lorne in January 2018. MoVida Lorne offers delicious Spanish tapas with a beachside twist. After lunch, if you fancy a dip in the ocean, head to the patrolled Lorne surf beach.
Lorne to Apollo Bay
Driving time: approximately 1 hour
Re-energised from a delicious lunch and refreshing swim, it’s time to make your way to Apollo Bay. The views along the way are incredible, so make a pitstop for photos from any of the cliff-top lookouts. Before settling into Apollo Bay for the night, follow the coastline to the Otway National Park and head to the Cape Otway light station. Here you will find the oldest surviving lighthouse in Australia, and if you climb to the very top you can see where Bass Strait meets the Southern Ocean. You could then return to Apollo Bay for the night, picking from a wide range of accommodation, suitable for all budgets and tastes. For those hanging around in Apollo Bay a bit longer, more things to do in and around town include surfing and kayaking, helicopter tours over the water, visiting the Old Cable Station Museum, or wandering a section of the Great Ocean Walk.
Animal-lovers may want to time their drive with the opening of Wildlife Wonders. This sanctuary is scheduled to open in mid-to late 2020, and is where visitors can encounter koalas and other wildlife, explore bushland walks, and learn more about the area as guided by a conservationist. It is then an easy one-hour drive to the Otway Fly Treetop Adventures. The treetop canopy walkway here is the longest and tallest of its type in the world!
Apollo Bay to Port Campbell
Driving time: approximately 1 hour 30 minutes
Next up, follow the Great Ocean Road for the two-hour drive to Port Campbell. Keep your cameras at the ready, because along the way you’ll pass The Twelve Apostles. The Twelve Apostles are magnificent rock stacks that have been weathered, carved and shaped from years of wind and water-wear. The Apostles take on different colours depending on the time of day. A scenic helicopter ride over the Apostles is the best way of seeing this striking stacks, but there are various lookout points along the coastline too.
If you’re ready for a bite to eat, continue along the Great Ocean Road until you reach Forage on the Foreshore, located on the beachfront in Port Campbell. The daily changing menu is entirely determined by seasonality, what is fresh, and what local produce is at its best. There are breakfast and all-day dining options, covering everything from an egg and chorizo brioche sandwich, and baked eggs with local camembert, to housemade gnocchi with kitchen garden sage or a grass-fed beef burger. Can’t make up your mind? Go for the forage plate, which comes with a chef’s selection of charcuterie, cheeses and more.
Port Campbell to Port Fairy
Driving time: approximately 1 hour 15 minutes
The London Arch is only a short drive away from Port Campbell. Much like the Twelve Apostles, this stack has been impacted by years of erosion; it became a double-span bridge (lending to its former name, London Bridge) in 1990. Time your visit towards the latter part of the day to increase your chances of seeing some of the local population of penguins returning home.
From the Arch, it’s an one-hour drive to your final destination, Port Fairy. This charming town makes a beautiful spot to end your road trip. As the sun sets, make for a table at the Merrijig Kitchen for dinner. This eatery is famous for its menus that highlight local wines and tip-top seasonal produce, sourced from regional farmers. With its cosy fireplace and dim lighting, it’s the ideal setting for those chillier nights, especially when dishes such as pine mushroom pate, stout-braised beef with mash, confit duck leg, and Persian lime pie have all featured on recent menus.
If you have extra time to spend in Port Fairy, there are plenty of options to keep you occupied. Treat yourself to a relaxing massage at the Port Fairy Day Spa, or check out the unique exhibits at the Whale Bone Gallery, which is run by local artists. Port Fairy also sits along a stretch known as Shipwreck Coast, and you can learn about more than 50 shipwrecks along the Historic Shipwreck Trail. Make the trip to Budj Bim National Park, discover the history of Koroit, or cast a line for whiting, salmon and flathead at Killarney.
Most of Port Fairy accommodation is within walking distance to the town’s main centre, and there are plenty of options that won’t burn a hole in your hip pocket. Rest easy for a night or two before making the drive back to Melbourne.