Spanning over 400kms of scenic coastline, the highway which stretches from the town of Torquay in Victoria to Nelson on the boarder of South Australia, is one of the most beloved road trips in Australia. As the road winds along through green hills on one side and golden sandy beaches on the other, not only will you be immersed in the bewilderingly beautiful landscape, but you will also have the chance to learn about the local wildlife, history and culture of this secluded part of South Eastern Australia.
Let this itinerary be your guide to where to go and what not to miss along Australia’s Great Ocean Road.
BAY OF ISLANDS
You can start your journey at either end, however, I started from Adelaide and the first stop on the route is the Bay of Islands. It’s such a perfect start to the trip as this little spot absolutely encompasses the very essence of Australia’s raw natural beauty. There are two lookouts you can stop at to take in the views, as waves crash onto sheer cliffs and barrel on to the shore. Look out further and check out the unusual rock formations that pile out from the deep blue ocean.
THE GROTTO AND LONDON BRIDGE
This part of the route has been nicknamed the ‘Shipwreck’s Coast’ as legend has it that more than 700 shipwrecks are scattered across this stretch of shoreline and it’s not hard to see why. Huge jagged cliffs tower along the entire stretch of beach.
Take the steps down to the Grotto, which is a hollowed-out cave, and get a close-up view of the wildness of the ocean as the waves crash through the rocks. A little further on, you will reach ‘London Bridge,’ a rock formation in the shape of a huge arch which sits off the coast of the beach. It used to be connected to the mainland, but years of erosion caused a big portion of the bridge to fall into the ocean.
PORT CAMPBELL AND LOCH ARD GORGE
The next stop along the Great Ocean Road Trip is the town of Port Campbell which has some great restaurants and accommodation options. As well as having great views from its horseshoe-shaped bay, the little town is a great place to stop and sample some local food – particularly the fresh seafood as Port Campbell has its own local fishing fleet. Just outside of Port Campbell, you will find the spectacular Loch Ard Gorge, an inlet of ocean with a sandy beach flanked by towering cliffs. It gets its name from a famous 1878 shipwreck which was on route from England. There are a number of walkways and lookouts which offer great views of the dramatic scenery.
THE TWELVE APOSTLES
Perhaps the most famous spots on the Great Ocean Road, is the Twelve Apostles. Despite there being only 8 remaining, these limestone pillars, which are said to have once been part of the mainland, were formed over 60,000 years ago. Photos really can’t do justice to the astounding panoramic view of such a spectacular natural phenomenon. The tallest of the pillars is over 45 meters high, however, they are gradually eroding due to the force of the ocean so it’s a place to visit before nature takes down another of the towers.
GREAT OTWAY NATIONAL PARK
Follow the road along and you will get to the Great Otway National Park which is a great place to stop and stretch your legs on one of the many walking trails and hikes. The national park is made up of dense rain-forest, rugged peaks, waterfalls and freshwater lagoons. Pick one of the many walking trails and immerse yourself in the lush green hinterland or walk amongst the treetops on the Otway Treetop Walk for an epic birds-eye-view. You can also take a kayak through the park along Lake Elizabeth or visit the ecology centre to learn about Australia’s incredibly diverse wildlife and ecosystems.
Apollo Bay is about halfway on the great ocean road journey, so it makes for another great place to stop and stay overnight. The town centre has lots of great restaurants and accommodation options as well as a beautiful arched beach. The hiking tracks through the nearby hills offer spectacular views of the town and the sweeping coastline. It’s also a popular spot for watersports – especially if you are keen to head out on a kayak or try out surfing.
As you head further along the highway, the next stop is the seaside town of Lorne. As expected, the beach is superb and there are some gorgeous boutique shops, art galleries and cafés to explore along the waterside. But the real gem of the town is the many beautiful walks and waterfalls in the surrounding area. In fact, there are no less than 10 waterfalls within 30 minutes of Lorne, the most popular of which is Erskine Falls.
BELLS BEACH AND TORQUAY
The final stops along the epic Great Ocean Road trip are Bells Beach and Torquay. This stretch of coast is most famous for its incredible surfing beaches. Bells Beach is host to the annual Ripcurl World Surfing Championships. So, it really is the ideal spot to rent a board and hit the waves or take a surfing lesson (or two). Then it’s on to the last stop. With its laid-back vibes, divine beach, great eateries and quirky shops, the town of Torquay is the perfect end to the epic Great Ocean Road trip.
Have you driven along the Great Ocean Road? Do you have any tips on must-see places?