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Do the Works on the Great Ocean Road Drive: 18 Key Stops with Itinerary Options

For ten million years, the Southern Ocean has been pounding on Australia. The relentless wave action against the limestone has slowly, but inexorably carved out some of the most dramatic coastal scenery in the world. And the Great Ocean Road drive delivers on it with an unrelenting series of stops, featuring beautiful beaches, stunning stacks, cozy lighthouses and verdant rain forest.

This Great Ocean road trip planner will help you get the most of your self-drive by highlighting 18 of the best stops, including a few offbeat options and itinerary variations for 2-5 days. You’ll also get a Great Ocean Road route map, driving tips, accommodation suggestions and some packing essentials.

Australia Great Ocean Road 12 Apostles. Coastal view with limestone stacks
Daytime view of the 12 Apostles

Good on Ya for Not Doing This as a Day Trip

The Great Ocean Road route runs 151 kilometers between Torquay and Allansford and the one way drive from Melbourne takes over four hours. There are so many people who do this as a day trip, simply zooming to the 12 Apostles and zooming back.

This is a shame because doing the Great Ocean drive in anything less than two days does a severe disservice to your eyeballs…and your sense of wonder…and the Southern Ocean waves that worked so hard to make you this view. The 12 Apostles are stunning, to be sure, but there are also many other spots along the route worthy of your time and attention.

Whether you have 2 days or 5 (and you can find an itinerary for each down below), you will be rewarded for doing the self-drive and taking the time to explore the coastline more slowly.

18 Key Stops on a Great Ocean Road Drive

  1. Rone Mural in Geelong
  2. Bells Beach
  3. Apollo Bay
  4. Mariner’s Lookout
  5. Elliot River Addis Coastal Reserve
  6. Cape Ottway Lighthouse
  7. Mait’s Rest Rainforest Walk
  8. Lake Elizabeth
  9. Stevenson Falls
  10. Triplet Falls
  11. Little Aire Falls
  12. Port Campbell
  13. 12 Apostles
  14. Loch Ard Gorge
  15. The Arch
  16. London Bridge
  17. The Grotto
  18. Bay of Islands

The Great Ocean Road route is packed with pull-outs, beaches and cute towns. So, even though I’m calling out some highlights, be sure to leave time in your itinerary for random stops when the siren call of the coast sings out to you.

Because we do offbeat adventure here at Wayfaring Views, I’ve added in some suggestions that aren’t on the typical GOR itinerary. I’ve identified them with the label “offbeat” so that you can buck the herd on the GOR and get away from some of the crowds.

Rone silo mural in Geelong. Painting of people on a grain silo
My first stop on the Great Ocean Road trip technically wasn’t on the GOR at all. These are Rone’s tender portraits in Geelong.

Rone Silo Mural in Geelong

(Offbeat, if you like street art.)

For me, that siren called even before I was properly on the Great Ocean Road. But, if you are as crackers about street art as I am, then it’s worth the 20 minute detour to see Rone’s ethereal silo mural in Geelong. Rone is one of Australia’s most accomplished artists and he knows how to produce art on a grant scale.

Read More: Find more of Rone and other great graffiti and street art in Melbourne.

Bells Beach in Victoria Australia. Beach and cliffs on the Great Ocean Road drive
Bells Beach was my first official stop on the Great Ocean Road drive.

Bells Beach

Torquay is the official start of the Great Ocean Road drive and shortly after, you’ll come to Bells Beach. The area is named after William Bell, a master Mariner, however Bells Beach is more commonly known for its famous surf break. Stop there if the waves are up and you can watch the surfers. Even if the surf is down, you can take a nice walk down to the beach.

Split Point Lighthouse on the Great Ocean Road. White lighthouse with red top and trees
Split Point Lighthouse.

Split Point Lighthouse

The Split Point Lighthouse sits on a lovely spit of land and views for days in both directions. The lighthouse was built in the 1890’s and helped to guide ships along the coast and into Melbourne’s harbor. There’s parking right at the lighthouse, or you can park below at the Lorne Queenscliff Coastal Reserve and take a stroll along the coast and up to the clifftop.

Apollo Bay

Apollo Bay is the largest town along the route. You can easily get to the following seven stops using it as a base of operations for 1-2 nights. They have a grocery store, several bars and restaurants, and accommodation at all price points.

The tourist information office is beyond friendly and they can load you up with maps and additional suggestions for what to do on the Great Ocean Road.

Where to eat in Apollo Bay:

  • The Great Ocean Road Brewhouse has local craft brews, a friendly vibe and a wide menu, including steaks, seafood, burgers and curries.
  • The Apollo Bay Hotel has a great patio overlooking the beach with pizzas and seafood.
Mariners Lookout Apollo Bay Australia. Ocean bay with town and a point
Wide views from Mariner’s Point in Apollo Bay.

Mariner’s Lookout

Before getting to Apollo Bay, you can easily drive up to Teddy’s Lookout in Lorne. However, if you want to earn your view, then I suggest Mariner’s Lookout in Apollo Bay. You park nearby and do a short climb past some cows up to the viewpoint. The clifftop has full 180′ views of the bay and beaches and is an easy add-on if you are staying in town. Here are a few additional things to do in Lorne.

Elliot River Addis Coastal Reserve Storm Point Apollo Bay Australia. Beach and dunes
Elliot River Addis Coastal Reserve walking trail.

Elliot River Addis Coastal Reserve

(Offbeat, if you like a quiet stretch of beach.)

This coastline features the Great Ocean Walk, which has 100 kilometers of trail from Apollo Bay to the 12 Apostles. It’s worth getting out of the car and taking a good long walk along the coast at some point during the road trip. You can find a lovely stretch on the Elliot River Addis Coastal Reserve just south of Apollo Bay. Park near the Marengo Holiday park and simply head out along the trail, doing as much or as little as you like.

Cape Otway lighthouse on the Great Ocean Road. White lighthouse with walkway and fencing
Cape Otway lighthouse

Cape Otway Lighthouse

I wasn’t expecting to find Napoleon in Australia, but his influence is strongly felt in Cape Otway. He pioneered the use of lighthouses on France’s coast and was surprisingly generous with lens technology, enabling other coastal countries, like Australia, to secure their ship traffic as well.

The lighthouse at Cape Otway is the oldest one in southern Australia’s network. The lighthouse itself has an ingeniously designed set of lenses that are pure art. In addition to the lighthouse, there are also other interesting sites on the grounds, including the original light keepers house, telegraph office and several indigenous Koori archaeological sites. If you plan ahead, you can even stay on the lighthouse grounds.

The Great Ocean Walk strolls right through the lighthouse grounds, so if you have extra time, head northwest on the trail for backward looking view of the lighthouse and more coastal eye candy.

Mait’s Rest Rainforest Walk

The district’s first forester, Maitland Bryant, used to rest his horse in this very spot while conducting his patrol between Apollo Bay and Horden Vale. The 800 meter nature trail offers a good look at the rich variety of flora which populate the inland rain forests of Victoria, including 300 year old eucalyptus trees. Mait’s Rest is right on the road between Apollo Bay and Cape Otway.

Lake Elizabeth

(Offbeat, if you like eerie lakes and prehistoric animals from the Flintstones.)

Lake Elizabeth is located deep in the forest inland from the coast. The lake didn’t even exist until 1952, when heavy rains triggered a massive landslide, damming up the river. The lake has a quiet, creepy vibe with old, dead trees poking out of the water like forest zombies. Local fisherman like the lake, as does a population of ancient Australian platypus.

A leisurely walk to and from the lake will take about an hour round trip. Afterword, stop by the Forest General Store for coffee, home baked goods and sandwiches for the road.

Stevenson Falls Victoria Australia. Waterfall with rocks and trees
Stevenson Falls.

Stevensons Falls

There are six waterfalls in the Otways: Beauchamp, Hopetoun, Triplet, Little Aire, Carlsbrook and Stevensons. Stevensons is a nice add-on if you are already going to Forest and Lake Elizabeth. You can drive quite close to the falls and it’s a fairly quiet spot.

Triplet Falls Cape Otway Australia. Waterfall with green ferns
Triplet Falls.

Triplet Falls/Little Aire Falls

Triplet Falls is a better stop if you are traversing between Apollo Bay and the 12 Apostles. You can access both Triplet and Little Aire from the same parking lot, stitching them together for a longer hike. The rainforest is drippy and quiet. Tread softly among these old growth trees and fern beds and you’ll feel the perseverance of this landscape.

Port Campbell

Port Campbell is a great base of operations for following 6 road trip stops. It’s a small town perched carefully between the clifftops and the harbor. Just above town on the Great Ocean Road, you can stop at the scenic look-outs and also take a walk along the Port Campbell discovery trail.

Where to eat in Port Campbell:

  • The Port Campbell Hotel has a bustling bar and formal dining room with a range of salads and meat + 2 veg dishes.
  • Nicos Pizza and Pasta is a casual, friendly place with Italian staples and good pizza.
  • The Sow & Piglets is a mini-micro brewery located inside the Port Campbell Hostel. It’s a friendly spot for an inexpensive beer or glass of wine at the end of a long day of sightseeing.
Great Ocean Road Drive 12 Apostles at dusk. Limestone stacks and coastal cliffs
These rocks at dusk were one of my most favorite things to see on the Great Ocean Road.

12 Apostles

This is what you came for and the 12 Apostles won’t disappoint. These limestone stacks are stubbornly hanging on despite a constant harangue of waves coming straight from Antarctica.

The tour bus day trippers usually travel east to west and they will get to the 12 Apostles visitor’s center in the afternoon. So, visit early for fewer crowds. Better yet, visit at sunrise to see the tops of the stacks lit up like birthday candles. And even better yet, go back at sunset to see them fade to purple.

Great Ocean Road highlights Loch Ard Gorge. Ocean bay with cliff
Loch Ard Gorge.

Loch Ard Gorge

This perfectly formed little beach will make you feel like a castaway (except you can get there with your car and Gilligan doesn’t live there). More coastal erosion took a chunk out of the entrance to this little bay and the pushy waves did the rest. This is an good stop to do before or after the 12 Apostles and you can also take the clifftop walk.

Great Ocean Road Australia The Arch. Limestone rock and ocean waves
The Arch.

The Arch

The Arch, London Bridge and the Grotto are can all be reached in one fell swoop via a series of pull-outs.

The Arch is hanging on, but only just. It stretches across two pillars of hard rock the the arch itself is under constant attack from the wave action.

Australia's London Bridge on the Great Ocean Road. Limestone arch and rocks with ocean waves
London Bridge.

London Bridge

Well, like the Arch, this was a bridge, but the arch collapsed in 1990. It’s a great reminder of the power of the ocean and our impermanence relative to it.

Australia's Great Ocean Road landscape: The Grotto. Limestone hole with ocean water reflections
The Grotto.

The Grotto

Who says a swamp can’t be pretty? The Grotto was formed by a swampy depression filled with acidic water slowing nibbling away at the limestone until this peekaboo keyhole was created.

Bay of Islands

(Offbeat, if you need to flee the tour buses.)

If you have extra time, and a voracious apetitite for yet more limestone stacks, head another 12 kilometers northwest to the Bay of Islands. This coastal park has 32 kilometers of coastline with beaches and yet more stunning coastal views. It’s worth taking the time to drive up to Bay of Islands because it’s well off the heavily trodden tourist trail and you can find some quietude among the beaches and clifftops.

Map and Approximate Distances

The following are some approximate drive times and distances so that you can plan the necessary time to see all of your top spots.

  • Melbourne to Bells Beach: 1.5 hours, 117/k.
  • Bells Beach to Apollo Bay: 1.75 hours, 86/k.
  • Apollo Bay to Cape Otway Lighthouse: 40 mins, 35/k.
  • Apollo Bay to Stevensons Falls: 50 mins, 40/k.
  • Apollo Bay to Port Campbell: 1.5 hours, 98/k.
  • Port Campbell to 12 Apostles: 10 mins, 11/k.
  • Port Campbell to London Bridge: 8 mins, 7/k.

Read More: Get inspiration for your trip with this epic list of Australian books.

Cape Otway Lighthouse view Great Ocean Road. Lighthouse seen through trees
A backward glance at the Cape Otway lighthouse from the Great Ocean Walk trail.

5 Road-Tested Tips for Your Self-Drive

  • Drive east to west. That way you can easily access pull-outs and viewing stops without crossing traffic.
  • Slow down. For starters, the road is curvy and it would be a shame if you Thelma and Louise’d yourself right off the cliff. Also, to fully appreciate this epic scenery, you need to put yourself in a chill frame of mind.
  • Bring Food. Stop for a cooler and groceries in Geelong or Torquay. There’s nothing worse than a hangry co-pilot and this way, you can eat your lunches al fresco on the beach.
  • Take a Hike. Get out of the car at regular intervals and take a coastal or rain forest walk. The landscape will reveal more to you on a walk than on a drive.
  • Be Smart about #Vanlife. Get tips for how to be smart about renting a van in Australia.

(This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you choose to purchase, I’ll make a small commission.)

Score a deal on your rental car by comparing prices here.

Where to Stay on the GOR

Where to stay in Apollo Bay:

  • B&B with a lovely garden: I stayed at the appropriately named Stay Inn. They have a simple but delicious in-room breakfast with a large room that overlooks a beautiful garden. It’s walkable to downtown and the aforementioned brewpub. Check reviews or book on Trip Advisor or Booking.com.
  • No nonsense motel: For a more budget option, try the Beachcomber Motel & Apartments. They are also easily walking to downtown Apollo Bay and they have a kitchenette and BBQ facilities. Check reviews or book on Trip Advisor or Booking.com.

Where to stay in Port Campbell:

  • Craft brews and friendly vibe: Port Campbell Hostel offers budget prices with private rooms and a craft brewery on site. Yes please! They have a mix of room types with both shared and private baths. The staff is very friendly and their living room space is chill. Check reviews or book on Trip Advisor or Booking.com.
  • Updated and modern: The Port O’ Call Motel has light, updated rooms with a small town vibe. Check reviews or book on Trip Advisor or Booking.com.

There is also quite a bit of AirBnB inventory in the region for well under $100/night. You can check the listings for the area here. If you book this way, be mindful of location. There are some really cool offerings, but they are not near a major town. So, you’ll want to plan ahead for groceries and meals.

If you’ve never booked with AirBnB, you can get up to $55US off your first stay by using my special code.

Stevenson Falls on the Great Ocean Road Victoria Australia. Waterfall with woman in the foreground
Stevenson Falls makes an offbeat but worthwhile stop on the Great Ocean Road.

Great Ocean Road Trip Itinerary Builder

2 Day Great Ocean Road Itinerary

I recommend trying to spend at least three days on the Great Ocean Road. But if your itinerary simply doesn’t allow, I suggest prioritizing the following:

Day 1

  • Depart Melbourne.
  • Cape Otway Lighthouse
  • Quick pit stop to Mait’s Rest
  • Triplet Falls
  • Mariner’s Lookout at sunset
  • Stay in Apollo Bay

Day 2

  • 12 Apostles in the AM
  • Loch Ard
  • The Grotto, the Arch, London Bridge
  • Back to 12 Apostles for sunset
  • Stay in Port Campbell
  • Back to Melbourne.

3 Day Great Ocean Road Itinerary

This three day itinerary allows you to do more things and it also gives you the option to slow down and spend more time at each attraction.

Day 1

  • Depart Melbourne.
  • Visit Bells Beach.
  • Stop at Split Point Lighthouse.
  • Cape Otway Lighthouse.
  • Walk northwest along the Great Ocean Walk out of Cape Otway.
  • Stroll through Mait’s Rest.
  • Stay in Apollo Bay.

Day 2

  • Morning at Mariner’s Lookout.
  • Stroll along Elliot River Addis Coastal Reserve in the AM.
  • Visit Triplet Falls and Little Aire Falls.
  • Stay in Port Campbell.

Day 3

  • 12 Apostles before noon.
  • Visit the Loch Ard, the Arch, the Grotto and London Bridge.
  • Back to 12 Apostles for sunset.
  • Stay in Port Campbell.
  • Back to Melbourne.
Great Ocean Road itinerary: 12 Apostles at dawn. Limestone stacks with coastal cliffs and clouds
Because sometimes, it’s worth getting up before dawn.

4 Day Great Ocean Road Itinerary

This four day itinerary is the full enchilada platter. It includes all of the above top highlights for the region.

Day 1

  • Depart Melbourne.
  • Rone silo mural in Geelong.
  • Split Point Lighthouse.
  • Stop liberally at random beaches and lookout points.
  • Mariner’s Lookout.
  • Stay in Apollo Bay.

Day 2

  • Cape Otway lighthouse. Do the full tour including the historic buildings and indigenous sites.
  • Walk northwest out of the lighthouse grounds along the Great Ocean Walk for however long you have time.
  • On the way between Cape Otway and Mait’s Rest, pull over and look at the totally weird blighted gum trees. There’s no sign, but they will be obvious.
  • Slow stroll through Mait’s Rest.
  • Walk along Elliot River Addis Coastal Reserve.
  • Stay in Apollo Bay.

Day 3

  • Lake Elizabeth hike.
  • Stevenson Falls walk.
  • Triplet Falls and Little Aire Falls walk.
  • 12 Apostles for sunset.
  • Stay in Port Campbell.

Day 4

  • Sunrise at 12 Apostles.
  • Back to town for breakfast because, unfortunately, the sunrise landscape don’t come equipped with coffee.
  • Visit the Loch Ard, the Arch, the Grotto and London Bridge.
  • Keep going to Bay of Islands.
  • Back to Melbourne.
The Grampions Sunrise Victoria Australia
Sunrise at the Boroka lookout in the Grampions. A view so lovely, even my cell phone got a great shot.

If you Have 5 or More Days

  • Option 1: More Great Ocean Road. Add more space into the 4 day itinerary by devoting a chunk of time for chilling on the beach or communing in the forest.
  • Option 2: The Grampions. Veer inland from the coast and spend one or two nights in Grampions National Park. It’s a 200 kilometer, 2.5 hour drive into the interior but well worth it. Highlights include sunrise at Boroka lookout, sunset at Sundial and the Pinnacles loop trail. On the way, stop for lunch in Dunkeld at the Dunkeld Old Bakery and Cafe. They have delicious savory pies and sweets.
  • Option 3: The Silo Art Trail. Veer even further north and drive the Silo Art Trail. It’s an hour north of Halls Gap in the Grampions. Like the Rone mural noted above, this is a series of six painted silos stretching from Patchewollock to Rupanyup. The murals present thoughtful portraits of local residents and they really stand out amid the spare rural landscape. This article will give you background and travel information for the painted silos.
Eastern view of Cape Otway on Great Ocean Road trip in Australia
Coastal view from Cape Otway Lighthouse grounds.

3 Packing Essentials

  • Get a local SIM. If you are from outside of Australia, be sure to enable an international data plan or buy a local SIM upon your arrival. Any road trip requires a lot of Google mapping.
  • Get serious about your hiking pants. This road trip offers a lot of opportunity for hiking and there’s nothing worse than dysfunctional hiking pants. I’m very fond of the Kuhl weekender hiking pant. They have a cute design, but even better, they have zippered pockets, so you won’t lose your phone and car keys while you are wandering around the rain forest.
  • Bring a Joby tripod. You’ll want stabilization for your phone and/or DSLR for both the waterfalls and the sunrise/sunset shots at the 12 Apostles. The Joby GuerillaPod kit is lightweight but with flexible and remarkably durable legs which you can wrap around railings at the viewing platforms.

Like so many other people, traveling the 12 Apostles and the Great Ocean Road was a bucket list experience for me. Seeing a landscape that has been so patiently shaped by wind and wave is very humbling. It’s a reminder for me to apply patience to my own travels. Which is also why this region of Australia deserves as much time as you can possibly spare. So, hit the road and happy trails.

Read More: For more epic road trips, check out this road trip itinerary for California’s Pacific Coast Highway, this one for SF to Yosemite or this one for Ireland.

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