It’s true what they say, that not all roads are created equal. The Great Ocean Road is billed as Australia’s most scenic drive and that’s not an exaggeration. When we were in Melbourne, we rented a car and started on this epic route, stopping along the way to visit the many iconic lookouts. Starting from Melbourne, it’s an easy drive along the dramatic Southern coastline winding around cliff tops, down to the beaches of Lorne famous for surfing, through the lush rainforest at Otway National Park, and ending at the magnificent Twelve Apostles. Along the way, we spotted koalas, kangaroos, and parakeets.
You can go all the way down to the Twelve Apostles and back to Melbourne in a day, but it’s not recommended, because it’s an 8 hour drive there and back, leaving very little time for sightseeing. We decided to do a 2 day trip, spending the night in Port Campbell, in order to allow us more time to admire the scenery. It was definitely worth it. Here is a map of our road trip and a little description of the places we stopped along the way:
A. Anglesea Golf Club (71 miles, 1.5 hours from Melbourne)
This first pit stop is a must if you want to see kangaroo in the “wild”. This area is well known for its large population of grey kangaroos, and they can be found all around the golf course. You are not allowed on the premises, unless you’re really there to play golf. There are signs saying “absolutely no golf course entrance for kangaroo viewing”. However, if you drive around the perimeter and keep a sharp eye out, you’ll be able to see them from the side streets near Noble St. or Golf Links Rd.
Be careful that you don’t wander onto the course itself or you might get pelted by golf balls. We found a whole family lounging in the shade at the edge of the course. The older ones were tagged and had names on their necklaces. It’s very interesting to see them bouncing on their tails.
B. Split Light House (8 miles, 16 mins)
On the road of out Anglesea, you’ll pass by a quaint white lighthouse with a red top which overlooks the Aireys Inlet. She is affectionately known as ‘The White Queen’ to locals. You can pay money to tour the lighthouse or you can walk around the trails out to the inlet where you will get a beautiful view of the coast.
C. Lorne (12 miles, 23 mins)
Getting back on the road, we headed over to Lorne for lunch at the Swing Cafe. Set between the sparkling waters of Louttit Bay and the Otway National Park, Lorne is a spectacular place, where the forest meets the beach. The café is located right by the ocean and a great place to stop for delicious food.
D. Kennett River (14 miles, 27 mins)
Kennett River is one of the best places in Australia to see koalas in the wild. Turn onto Grey River Road off of Great Ocean Road and turn left at the Koala cafe where you’ll see a dirt road. At the entrance of the dirt road, there was a flock of wild cockatoos, colorful parakeets, and kookaburras, perched in the trees. These wild birds were friendly and have no qualms about landing on your shoulders, especially if you brought bird feed. We spent a few minutes playing with the parakeets before moving on to look for koalas.
The koalas are usually found high up on the trees and can be difficult to spot. You have to constantly be on the lookout for a little fur ball up high. Most of them are sleeping and not moving, but we were lucky to find one that was actually active. It was busy eating eucalyptus leaves and not happy to have an audience. We spotted about 6-7 in total. If you want a good picture, however, you’ll have to bring a zoom lens.
E. Apollo Bay (13 miles, 20 mins)
Apollo Bay is a coastal town, situated on the eastern side of Cape Otway, known as the paradise by the sea. Once the home of loggers and farmers, the area is now occupied by artists and beach lovers. This quaint town is where we stopped for gas and a short walk on the black-pebbled beach.
F. Cape Otway
Cape Otway is the southernmost point of the Great Ocean Road region. Here, you’ll find some of the most beautiful rainforests, coastal scenery, and the oldest lighthouse in Victoria. Since we didn’t have enough time, we decided to bypass this pit stop, saving it for another time.
G. Twelve Apostle (40 miles, 65 minutes)
One of the most well-known highlights of the Great Ocean Road is the Twelve Apostles. Found in Port Campbell National Park, the massive limestone structures tower above the tempestuous Southern Ocean, leaving its visitors awe-struck at the rugged splendor.
These huge monolithic formations were created by constant erosion of the limestone cliffs which began 10–20 million years ago. The harsh winds from the stormy Southern Ocean gradually eroded the softer limestone forming caves in the cliffs, which then became arches that eventually collapsed leaving these magnificent rock stacks up to 50 meters high. The dramatic coast line is best viewed at sunrise or sunset as the formations change color from brilliant sandy yellow to dark and shadowy.
H. Port Campbell (2 miles, 4 minutes)
Also at Port Campbell National Park, you can take a stroll out to visit Loch Ard Gorge and Thunder Cave, the area’s other natural treasures. Along the way, you will get a beautiful view of the jagged coast line for miles on end.
Thunder cave used to be an arch over the ocean but the continuous wind, sea, and rain whittled the arch down to nothing. A little further out, is Loch Ard Gorge, a place named after a clipper ship that ran aground on its journey from England to Melbourne in 1878. Standing on the precipice, you be amazed at the sheer size of the cliffs and the narrow opening out to sea at the Loch Ard Gorge. There are steps leading down to the small beach below. The water is ice cold, but it’s a really nice place to sit back and watch the waves come in. In rough weather, the crashing waves put on quite a show.
I. London Bridge (6 miles, 12 minutes)
This offshore natural arch and tunnel in Port Campbell National Park is another tourist attraction on the GOR. The structure was formed by gradual erosion over time. The cliffs here are unstable and can collapse at any time, in fact in 1990, the arch unexpectedly collapsed, leaving 2 people stranded on the newly created island.
Know Before You Go: In Australia, they take their traffic laws very seriously. So when the speed limit is 100km/h, they mean 100 exactly. In North America, it’s implicitly understood that you can go about 10 mph over the speed limit, not so for Australia. There are traffic cameras posted throughout the highway and if you go even 3 km over the speed limit, you’ll get a nice big ticket in the mail.
Information Round up:
Total Travel Time: 4 hours from Melbourne to Port Campbell
Car Rental: Avis – $50/day
Hotel: Southern Ocean Villas -$250 USD