The Great Ocean Road is one of the most wonderful scenic drives in Australia. It stretches for about 430 km (270 miles) along the southern coast of Australia, in the State of Victoria. The Great Ocean Road begins from Torquay, a small town a 90-minute drive from Melbourne, and ends at Nelson.
Along the way you will have the opportunity to enjoy dramatic views over the Southern Ocean; drive along majestic cliffs, breathing the cool air of the Antarctic winds; walk along beautiful wild beaches; hike through wonderful rainforests; spot typical Australian wildlife like kangaroos, koalas and parrots!
Finally, the Great Ocean Road is part of Australia’s National Heritage List.
How to visit the Great Ocean Road
Typically, visitors drive from Melbourne to the major landmarks along the Great Ocean Road in a day trip. Of course, they don’t drive the entire Great Ocean Road, but they usually stop at the London Bridge viewpoint and then they come back to Melbourne.
The best way to explore the Great Ocean Road is definitely to rent a car and enjoy the wonderful scenic drive slowly for a few days. If you need advice about car rental, check out my post about how to rent a car and save.
Otherwise, if you don’t feel like driving or you want to meet other like-minded backpackers, you can join one of the many tours that depart daily from Melbourne. You will see the major attractions along the Great Ocean Road in a day trip, typically in a van with other 20 people. The driver will be also your guide, telling you facts and stories during the driving. They usually have different pickup locations in town, so you can choose the most suitable for you, depending on your accomodation. Check out Backpackers World Travel and Backpacker Deals websites! I visited myself the Great Ocean Road with one of these tours and it was funny, even though a little too in a rush honestly. But I think it is normal: that’s the compromise when you go on a day trip. At the end of the day, eventually, we ate pizza altogether on a beach: it was a good way to finish the day.
Great Ocean Road itinerary
So, this is the itinerary we followed in our day trip from Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road. It is about 293 km (182 miles) one way.
- A: Melbourne
- B: Torquay
- C: Anglesea Golf Club
- D: Memorial Arch
- E: Lorne
- F: Kennett River
- G: Maits Rest Rainforest Walk – Great Otway National Park
- H: 12 Apostles
- I: Loch Ard Gorge
- J: London Bridge
Let’s see now the wonderful landmarks along the way.
What to see along the Great Ocean Road
Anglesea Golf Club
We just made a quick stop along the way at the Anglesea Golf Club to observe hundreds of kangaroos grazing peacefully on the meadows from afar. However, guided tours are available if you wish to see them more closely.
Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch
The Great Ocean Road was built between 1919 and 1932 by the soldiers returned from World War I and it was dedicated to those who had died during the conflict. The Memorial Arch on the Great Ocean Road was erected to commemorate the men who had worked to build the road. Somehow it marks the beginning of the Great Ocean Road.
Not far from the Memorial Arch, you can stop at the beautiful sandy beach of Lorne and have a short walk to stretch your legs.
Kennett River is another small town along the Great Ocean Road. Make a stop here to spot some wildlife. In fact, in Kennett River there is one of the largest koala populations in Australia. Watch them while they are climbing trees: they are so cute, aren’t they?
Moreover, you can also spot colourful parrots in Kennett River!
Great Otway National Park
Great Otway National Park stretches along the Great Ocean Road and gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in nature. We went for a walk through the rainforest following the Maits Rest trail. Even though it is quite short (it takes about 30 minutes), this loop trail allows you to explore closely a rainforest, walking through strangely-shaped trees. It was exciting. Of course, Great Otway National Park itself would be worth a visit for more days, as it offers many other hiking trails through the rainforest or along the coast.
The 12 Apostles are probably the most famous landmark along the Great Ocean Road. They are located in Port Campbell National Park on the Shipwreck Coast.
The views from the rugged cliffs, beaten by the wind and the ocean for thousands of years, over these majestic limestone stacks are dramatic. Spend some time staring at the ocean and breathing the salty air blown by the wind.
There are some beautiful poems about the sea, written on signs along the cliff. Take some time to read them. This was one I liked in particular:
Shipwreck [by Suzanne Howard] Immigrant, you shriek - I hear you - I am the land you seek. In sight of salvation - Miscalculation - Welcome to my deep. Twelve thousands miles to perish Just a shout From beach and farm. Just a breath From fear and harm. Can you not swim Into my arms?
Loch Ard Gorge
Loch Ard Gorge is located just a few minutes drive from the 12 Apostles. It is the site of one of the most famous shipwrecks along the Shipwreck Coast. Here, the clipper ship Loch Ard ran aground on Muttonbird Island in 1878: only two teenagers survived, Tom Pearce and Eva Carmichael. Tom, who had already managed to reach the beach, hearing the cry of Eva still in the water, swam back to the ocean and saved her.
Loch Ard Gorge is a spectacular cove surrounded by majestic rugged cliffs. Keep in mind that you have to walk on a steep path downhill to get to the beach.
London Bridge is a another must-see along the Great Ocean Road. It is located a 15-minute drive from the 12 Apostles. From here you can enjoy other spectacular views over the cliffed coast. Unfortunately, the rock bridge collapsed in 1990, leaving just an arch now. That’s why today it is also known as London Arch. However, it still remains a remarkable landmark along the Great Ocean Road. Curiously, at the moment of the collapse, two tourists got stucked on the newly formed island and had to wait for a helicopter to rescue them.
This was the last landmark we visited during our trip along the Great Ocean Road. After getting back to Melbourne, I continued my trip across Australia, visiting Uluru and Sydney. Check out my posts if you love this beautiful country.
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