One of the world’s most scenic and well-known waterfront driving routes is found in Australia’s province of Victoria, not far from Melbourne. The Great Ocean Road is a 243-kilometre-long route where you will wind past lush forests along a rugged ocean shoreline and admire endless vistas. Watch native wildlife as you visit pristine beaches, towering rock formations, cascading waterfalls, magical hiking trails, and more.
With so many spots on the map along this scenic driving trail, how do you know where to begin? Start here! Don’t miss out on seeing these exciting destinations along Australia’s Great Ocean Road.
With the endless natural attractions and breathtaking views along this scenic coastal drive, you don’t want to miss stopping at the Memorial Arch at Eastern View. Located just after the town of Airey’s Inlet, many tourists mistake this arch and statue as the entrance of the Great Ocean Road, but it’s about 30 minutes into the drive.
The memorial commemorates the work of soldiers who returned from WWI and built the Great Ocean Road. There is a plaque with historical information, and this site is easily reached by a parking lot on the ocean side of the street. While many great views are ahead, wander onto the nearby beach and admire the water.
Tip: Keep your eyes peeled as you watch the roadside around Lorne; you may see some Kangaroos grazing in the distance.
The Great Ocean Road is next to plenty of waterfalls, and there are 10 of them within 10 kilometres of Lorne. Sheoak Falls is a nature area with a hiking trail leading to a 15-metre cascade down a rock face into a pool of water. Lush trees surround you as you admire the falls, with the hiking trail offering distant ocean views. If you’re okay with a steeper hike, you can continue past the cascade to see Swallow Cave.
The parking lot is just off Great Ocean Road and is less than a kilometre’s walk to reach the Sheoak Falls. If you’d enjoy a longer hike or want to admire more nearby falls, you can park at Sheoak Picnic Area to reach Henderson Falls, Phantom Falls and others.
Kafe Koala is a great spot to get a drink on your road trip and catch a glimpse of koalas hanging out in the nearby trees. If you have binoculars or a professional camera, bring them.
Park your car in the lot at the base of the cafe shop and begin walking toward the dirt road lined with eucalyptus trees. You can also drive up this road to a quieter section away from most tourists. Have your eyes scanning up into the branches. Koalas sleep most of the day, so they’re not always easy to spot immediately.
Cape Otway Lightstation
Considered Australia’s most important lighthouse, this was the first sight of land for many 19th-century migrants who spent months travelling down under from places like Europe or Asia. It’s now the oldest surviving lighthouse on mainland Australia. Here, you can learn about its rich history and tragic shipwrecks. Not only can you climb up inside the lighthouse and admire the sight of ocean waves crashing into a rocky coastline, but you can also visit heritage buildings during your stop.
Experience life in the 1850s by exploring the Telegraph Station, Head Lightkeeper’s House and World War II Radar Bunker. Grab a coffee and homemade scone from the cafe and even book overnight accommodation.
These rock stacks and limestone cliffs are a popular stop along the Great Ocean Road and one of Australia’s most visited attractions. The standing apostles are breathtaking as the shore crashes against these towering cliffs and the surrounding beach below. Unfortunately, some of the original 12 stacks have fallen over, but new limestone stacks have also appeared.
There is a parking lot a short walk to the boardwalk and viewing platforms, where you’ll find a visitors’ center and gift shop. This location is often busy with tourists, so if you’re hoping for fewer crowds, plan your visit early in the morning or late evening. This platform and pathway are the most common way to view this magical attraction, or you can park just up the road at Gibson Steps, walk down to the beach and admire the rock stacks from below. You can even book a helicopter flight and enjoy the scenery from above. If you visit around sunset, you may spot penguins congregating at the water’s edge.
Loch Ard Gorge
A short drive from the 12 Apostles, you’ll find Loch Ard Gorge and other natural attractions within Port Campbell National Park. Enjoy a self-guided walk and discover the history of the most famous shipwreck on the coast.
Take the wooden steps to an enclosed sandy beach with epic clear water views and more giant sea stacks. Inland, you’ll uncover cave-like areas with stalactites hanging from the rock.
Further down the Great Ocean Road, just past Port Campbell, you can explore more limestone formations and natural attractions, including London Bridge and The Grotto. These are two other picturesque places to stop and enjoy a stunning view of unique sea stacks and rugged landscapes. London Bridge is a giant rocky arch in the distance, whereas The Grotto is a scenic hollowed-out cave where you can see the ocean through the opening.
Whale watching between Warrnambool and Portland
If you are visiting Australia between May and October, you may spot whales along the coastline. Southern Right, Humpback, Blue Whales and the Orca appear near the West end of the Great Ocean Road, around Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Portland. They annually escape the cold Antarctic for the warmer waters of the Southern Ocean to breed, birth and raise their calves.
One of the top whale-watching spots is Logans Beach, where you’ll find access to a viewing platform. You can continue along the coast toward East Beach in Port Fairy and Wade Street Viewing Platform in Portland for other fabulous ocean lookout decks.
Melbourne is about an hour’s drive from Torquay – the starting point of the Great Ocean Road. From quirky cafes to art museums, colourful graffiti and stunning architecture, Melbourne is a city for foodies and art lovers. In addition to visiting Great Ocean Road, there are many unique tours and day trips to embark on surrounding this city.
Head out to the Yarra Valley for a wine tasting, Peninsula Hot Springs for a luxurious day spa experience, Phillip Island to watch the penguin parade, Grampians National Park for stunning hikes, Brighton Bathing Boxes for rainbow photo ops and St. Kilda for a beach-side carnival atmosphere.
Where to stay: Depending on your desired destinations along this beautiful tourist road and what time of year you’re visiting, Loch Ard Gorge, The Grotto and the 12 Apostles will be near the end of your journey. The town of Port Campbell is nestled amongst these attractions, making it a great place to find a meal and spend a night. There are all types of accommodation, from motels to beach houses and cottages to rent.
Apollo Bay is a more central town along the route to rest for the evening, or you may choose to stay in or near Torquay, back at the start of the Great Ocean Road.
Book a tour and forgo the stress of planning
Book an appointment with a CAA Travel Consultant to start planning your trip to Australia. Whether you’re looking for flights, hotels, guided tours or a cruise – CAA Travel Consultants can help you get there while saving.