Australia

The Definitive Great Ocean Road Tour Guide

When most people think of Australia, two of the most common things that come to mind are Koalas and breathtaking coastline.  If visiting Australia is on your bucket list and seeing these two things are dreams of yours, then you will absolutely love the Great Ocean Road in Southern Australia.  I mean, how can you not with the word “great” right in the name!  Seriously though, the Great Ocean Road is much more than a coastal road, it is a national treasure.  Not only does the road pass-thru Australia’s iconic Shipwreck Coast and provide a look at some of the country’s most stunning coastline, but it also allows visitors to get up-close to some of Australia’s most beloved wildlife in the wild.

The rainforests along the Southern coast of Australia are home to amazing creatures such as koalas, platypus, possums, swamp wallabies, spot-tailed quolls, and native bush rats.  Believe me, when you see koalas in the wild for the first time, you will be left absolutely speechless.  Speaking of speechless, just wait until you see some of the iconic coastlines along the Great Ocean Road.  Iconic locations like the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, the London Arch, and the Grotto will all blow your mind with their beauty.  So much so, that you might never want to leave.  No matter what brings you to the Great Ocean Road, you are certain to have an experience you will remember for a lifetime.

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In this guide, I am going to give you all of the information you need to plan a successful trip to see the Great Ocean Road.  I cover the best times to visit and the best ways to get there so that you can maximize what you are able to see and do on your trip.  In addition, I outline the top things to see and do while you are there and where the best places to stay and eat are.  With this information in hand, you can be confident that your trip to Australia will be one that you remember for the rest of your life.

At A Glance
Top Things to See
How to Get There
Best Time to Visit
Where to Stay
Where to Eat
Recommended Tours and Excursions
Photo Gallery

At a Glance

Before you start making any travel plans, you will want to make sure to take care of all of the passport, VISA, and immunization requirements for your trip.   In addition, you will want to make sure you have a clear understanding of what language they speak in Australia and what currency they use so that you can plan any translation needs you might have for your trip and exchange currency before your trip if necessary.  I have included some of this key information below for you to review as you start to make your travel plans.

Passport requirements exist. See below for details.
Immunization recommendations are listed below.
The official language in Australia is English.
The official currency in Australia is the Australian dollar.

Passport, VISA, and Immunization Requirements

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Before you start planning your trip to Australia, you need to make sure that you have all of the entrance requirements covered.  In order to help make sure you are prepared to travel to Australia, I have included a link to my Australia Passport, VISA, Customs, and Immunization Requirements for Visitors Guide below for you to review.  Once you have all of these requirements taken care of, then you can start to make your travel arrangements.

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Australia Passport, VISA, Customs, and Immunization Requirements for Visitors

Packing Tips

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Outside of taking care of the passport, visa, and immunization requirements so that you can get into Australia and don’t get sick, there is no more important pre-travel planning task than making sure you pack the right clothing and gear for your trip.  To help make sure you are properly packed and prepared, I have included links to some of my packing resources below for you to review.

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Suitcase Travel
The Ultimate Travel Packing Check List
READ MORE:
Overhead Bin Airplane
The Essential Carry-On Checklist

Top Things to See and Do

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One thing that you will never be in short supply of when driving the Great Ocean Road in Australia is amazing things to see and do.  There are few road trips in this world that are as chalk full of beautiful views, amazing wildlife, and memorable experiences to have.  In order to assist you in planning your trip to see the Great Ocean Road, I have outlined some of my top things to see and do on the road trip for you to review below.

Great Ocean Road - Top Things to See Map

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Bells Beach
Memorial Arch
Kennett River
Apollo Bay
Great Otway National Park
Cape Otway
The Twelve Apostles
Loch Ard Gorge
The London Arch
The Grotto

Torquay and Bells Beach

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The official start of the Great Ocean Road is in the beautiful city of Torquay.  This iconic surf city is the home to two of Australia’s most iconic surf brands.  Both the Quick Silver and Rip Curl surf companies were founded in the city, which just goes to show you how seriously Australians in this part of the country take their surfing.  Before you start heading down the ocean road, I would suggest taking some time to explore the shops and restaurants in the city of Torquay.

Speaking of surfing, one of the first things that you will encounter after departing Torquay is the infamous Bells Beach.  Considered to be one of the top surf beaches in all of Australia, Bells Beach was famously showcased at the end of the Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze film Point Break.  The beach is were Bodi (Swayze) famously went to surf at the end of the movie during the “100 year storm”.  While the movie clearly dramatized the size of the waves at the beach, the beach is world famous for its surf, which has made it one of the most recognized beaches in the world.

The Memorial Arch

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Next to the Twelve Apostles, arguably the most widely recognized landmark on the Great Ocean Road is the iconic Memorial Arch.  Built to honour the 3,000 soldies who returned from World War I and worked on building the Great Ocean Road, the Memorial Arch is one of the most popular tourist stops along the route.  In addition to the arch, the government of Australia also erected a statue to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the of the construction of the roadway.  Make sure you take the time to get out of your car and snap a few pictures of yourself in front of the arch before continuing on down the road.

Itinerary Tip:  As you make your way along the Great Ocean Road from the Memorial Arch towards Kennett River, make sure you don’t forget to stop at Teddy’s Lookout to snap some photographs of the amazing views from this viewpoint.  The viewpoint sits just South of the city of Lorne and I have included map outlining its exact location to assist you in your planning.

Teddy's Lookout Viewpoint - Great Ocean Road Map

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Kennett River

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When it comes to Australian wildlife, one of the animals people most often want to catch a glimpse of in the wild is the Koala.  Not only is the Kennett River area along the Great Ocean Road one of the best places to find wild Koalas, but you have a great chance of spotting other wildlife in this area as well.  If you are wondering which locations in Kennett River are best for spotting wild Koalas, I have included a map below that pinpoints where we spotted wild Koalas when we visited.  According to our tour guide, this is one of the best spots to see wild Koalas in the Kennett River area.

Koala Sightings in Kennett River Map

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Apollo Bay

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Just before you reach Cape Otway and the amazing Great Otway National Park, you will encounter the breathtaking Apollo Bay.  I would strongly recommend that you take some time to explore this amazing area before heading off to the national park.  If you are looking for a great place to stop, stretch, grab a bite to eat, and enjoy some beautiful views of the ocean, then Apollo Bay is a great option.  In the city, you will find a plethora of neat cafes, surf shops, and boutique-type shops to explore.  When we visited, we ate some fresh, delicious pies at the Apollo Bay Bakery and absolutely loved them!  If you are interested in some more restaurant recommendations along the Great Ocean Road, please see my section of this guide on “Where to Eat” below.

Great Otway National Park

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Widely regarded as one of Australia’s most unique, diverse, and beautiful landscapes, the Great Otway National Park is an absolute must-see stop along the Great Ocean Road.  The rainforests within the park and the stunning waterfalls and diversity of wildlife that forests are hiding are amazing to behold in person.  In addition to the breathtaking scenery, there are also a lot of fun activities that you can enjoy in the Great Otway National Park area.  Most notable is the infamous Otway treetop adventures, which involves walking on platforms in the tree-tops and taking zip lines from one section of the forest to another.  You will be blown away by the beauty of the forests as you walk over 150-feet (47-meters) above the forest floor.  If heights aren’t your thing, there are also a number of really fun hiking paths thru the forest you can enjoy as well.  While you’re there, keep your eyes peeled for Koalas and other wildlife that call the park their home.

Cape Otway

Cape Otway

Along the coast of Great Otway National Park is Cape Otway, which is equally as beautiful as the rest of the park.  With stunning coastline and one of the prettiest lighthouses I have seen in my travels, Cape Otway is something that should not be missed during your drive of the Great Ocean Road.

Itinerary Tip:  When you drive to the coast of Cape Otway to see the Lighthouse, make sure you stop to see the breathtaking view at Seal Point as well.  The coastline is beautiful and you won’t want to miss getting a few pictures of the view.  To help you find your way, I have included map outlining its exact location to assist you in your planning.

Seal Point Viewpoint - Great Ocean Road Map

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The Twelve Apostles

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There is a lot of really pretty coastline in this world, and Australia certainly has its fair share of it.  In all of my travels, there are very few pieces of coastline that can match up to the coastline found in Port Campbell National Park in terms of raw beauty and ruggedness.  The limestone cliffs, sea stacks, grottos, and natural rock formations that you will find in this stretch of coastline are nothing short of spectacular.  Believe me, the beauty is something that you need to see first-hand to truly appreciate, which is why I think seeing Port Campbell National Park alone is worth driving the Great Ocean Road.

Out of all of the amazing landmarks along the shores of Port Campbell National Park, none are as widely recognized as the infamous Twelve Apostles.  These legendary sea stacks are so profoundly beautiful that you will find yourself watching the waves crash into them for hours.  The sea stacks were given the name “The Twelve Apostles” because of their appearance to stand tall and proud against the relentless waves, but sadly only eight of the beautiful sea stacks have survived the elements to this day.  As you can see in my image above and the other images of the Twelve Apostles in my photo gallery at the end of this guide, they are still quite breathtaking to see.  For more information on the best places to photograph them, please see my Twelve Apostles Photography Map below.

Twelve Apostles - Great Ocean Road Photos Map

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Loch Ard Gorge

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Heading further into Port Campbell National Park, the next major landmark that you will encounter is the enchanting Loch Ard Gorge.   Loch Ard Gorge gets its name from a large clipper ship that existed back in the late 1800’s that was named “Loch Ard”.  Legend says that the ship entered the dark and foggy waters of Port Campbell back on June 1st of 1878, ran into shallow waters, collided with the rock reef, and then ran aground near Mutton Bird Island after a long trip from England.  Only two of the fifty-four passengers survived, including ninteen-year-old sailor apprentice Tom Pearce and a nineteen-year-old Irish girl named Eva Carmichael, who was with her family aboard the ship.  Tom bravely rescued Eva from the rough waters and the two lived in Victoria for the next few months before Eva returned to Europe and married an aristocrat.  Tom followed to Europe soon after and died at the early age of 49, still a hero for his bravery on that stormy day.

Back in June of 2009, the arch of Island Archway crumbled into the sea, leaving two large sea stacks in the ocean.  These two sea stacks have been named Tom and Eva, after the survivors of the 19th Century shipwreck.  When you visit the gorge, there are some nice walkways that allow you to get different perspectives of this beautiful stretch of coastline and the sea stacks in the gorge.  If you are wondering where to go to get the best photographs of this iconic landmark, I have included a Loch Ard Gorge Photography Map for you to review below.

Loch Ard Gorge - Great Ocean Road Photos Map

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The London Arch

London Bridge

In addition to the Tweleve Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge, the London Arch in Port Campbell National Park is another must-see landmark for visitors traveling the Great Ocean Road.  This beautiful sea stack has had the center of it erode to the point where it formed a natural arch in the stack.  If you are like me and love natural arches, then you will love the London Arch.  Watching the waves break against the sea stack and thru the archway is somehow so satisfying.

The Grotto

The Grotto

The final landmark inside Port Campbell National Park that I would like to highlight for you to see as you travel the Great Ocean Road is a feature that is known locally as the Grotto.  This natural arch in the limestone cliffs along the coast is another of the can’t miss landmarks in the area.  Make sure you have your camera with you when you visit because you will definitely want to capture photographs of the sunight reflecting off the calm tidal pool inside the grotto and the ocean waves crashing on the other side.

How to Get There

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If you are planning on traveling to Australia from outside the country to see the Great Ocean Road, your best bet is to fly into Melbourne.  Once in Melbourne, you can either rent a car to drive the Great Ocean Road, or book a tour that will take you to the top spots on the road.  If you are interested in seeing an overview map of the Great Ocean Road and the surrounding area, I have included one for you to review below.  If you are visiting from within Australia, you can either start your tour of the Great Ocean Road in Torquay (the traditional starting point) or do the tour backwards by starting in Allansford.

Pro Tip:  If it isn’t too inconvenient to start in Allansford, it is beneficial to do so because you will miss all of the big crowds by touring the Great Ocean Road in reverse.  If you are looking at tours, be mindful that some small tours drive the road in reverse order for this very reason.  So if you aren’t planning to drive yourself, but would still like to miss the big crowds, look for small tours that drive the road in reverse order.

Great Ocean Road - How to Get There Map

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Best Time to Visit

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Average Temperature (°F)

When many foreign tourists think of Australia they mistakenly think that the weather is hot all year round.  While the weather tends to be warm in the tropical northern region of the country year-round, the same cannot be said for the more temperate southern coastal region of the country.  In fact, during the winter months of June thru August, the weather can actually get fairly chilly near the Great Ocean Road.  If you would like to visit when the weather is warmer, I would suggest targeting the warmer months.  The weather is warmest in the months of December thru February, but that is also the busiest time of the year on the Great Ocean Road.  To avoid the crowds and still have warm weather, I would suggest targeting the shoulder months of October-November or March-April.

Average Precipitation (Inches)

A majority of rainfall that the region around the Great Ocean Road gets throughout the year comes during the late autumn, winter, and early spring months of May thru October.  If you are looking to maximize the amount of sunshine you get during your visit, then I would definitely try and avoid the winter months of June thru August.  Instead, I would target the summer months of December thru February or the shoulder months of March, April, or November.  These shoulder months tend to see less rainfall than the late autumn, winter, and early spring months, but have less tourist traffic than the busy summer months.

Where to Stay

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One of the most important decisions you are going to have to make when planning your trip to see the Great Ocean Road is where you will stay.  When you travel, the accommodations you choose are oftentimes amongst the biggest expenditures for your trip.  So not only do you need to be comfortable where you are staying, but you also need to be comfortable with how much you are paying to stay there.  Finding the right accommodations for your trip involves looking at the amenities, the location, and most importantly, the price.

In terms of where you will book your accommodations, that will largely depend on how many days you will take to explore the Great Ocean Road.  If you are planning on exploring the road as a day trip, you can find a hotel, hostel, or room share in Melbourne and rent a car for the day to drive the road.  However, if you are going to be spending multiple days exploring the road, you will want to find accommodations along the road.

If you are starting to plan your trip and want some hotel and hostel suggestions, I have included some great options at different price points in different locations below for you to review.  As always, don’t be afraid to expand your search to room sharing sites such as Airbnb or VRBO if you aren’t finding a hotel or hostel that meets your needs.

Great Ocean Road - Hostels and Hotels Map

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Warrnambool Beach Backpackers ($)
Port Campbell Hostel ($)
Best Western Olde Maritime ($$)
Comfort Inn Warrnambool International ($$)
Best Western Colonial Village Motel ($$)
Quest Warrnambool ($$)
Lady Bay Resort ($$$)
Southern Ocean Villas ($$$)
La Bella View ($$$$)
Hopkins River Homestead – Rejuvenate Stays ($$$$$)

Where to Eat

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When most people plan a trip, the primary focus is one how to get there, where to stay, and what is on the list of things to see and do.  What many travelers neglect to plan, is where to eat when you are there.  Granted, it is sometimes fun to be spontaneous when choosing a restaurant while traveling, and it is always smart to get recommendations when you arrive.  However, it can also be advantageous to have some ideas of restaurants you would like to try during your trip written down beforehand as well.  This way you can be assured that you won’t miss out on a highly recommended culinary experience that you will regret.  To help you decide on some restaurants along the Great Ocean Road to add to your list, I have included a list of some highly recommended options for you to review below.

Great Ocean Road Restaurant Recommendations
Restaurant Cuisine Price
Apollo Bay Bakery Bakeries, Cafe, Healthy $
The Bayleaf Cafe – Apollo Bay Cafe, Contemporary, Australian $$-$$$
Squires Loft Steakhouse, Grill, Australian $$-$$$
The Coast Restaurant Italian, Australian, Veggie $$-$$$
Bohemia Cafe and Bar Quick Bites, Cafe, Healthy $$-$$$
Clovelly Restaurant and Bar International, Australian, Veggie Friendly $$-$$$

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There is an abundance of amazing things to see and do along the Great Ocean Road and one of the best ways to experience those things is on a tour.  If you are looking for fun tours and excursions to fill out your trip, I have included some category links to recommended tours and excursions you can review below.

Torquay Activities and Excursions
Apollo Bay Area Activities and Excursions
Warrnambool Area Activities and Excursions

The Great Ocean Road is one of the most breathtaking road trips that you can take in this world.  If you are in Australia and decide to take this epic road trip, I would strongly suggest that you bring a camera along with you.  To give you some inspiration, below is a gallery of just some of the many pictures that I took when I toured the Great Ocean Road.

The Great Ocean Road

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6 replies »

  1. We enjoyed the Great Ocean Road in early February from BC Canada. The scenery as mentioned was beautiful. Great post & photos! Have retweeted for other to see! 🙂

    • Awesome Robert!!! I am so glad you got to see it before everything got locked down. What an amazing place!!

  2. Love those red & blue birds! This adventure looks amazing. I always forget just how big AUS is. I wish I could see the whole country in one go, but it would take so many visits, especially because the husband wants to visit the Outback. There are a lot of petsits in AUS, but we just haven’t taken advantage yet. Great post!

    • Thank you!! I agree, it is much too big to see in one trip. I am definitely going to need to make it back someday soon to see some of the spots we missed, including the Outback.

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