First published on 11 Jul 2012. Updated on 12 Mar 2013.
The Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s great motoring trips: an odyssey that takes in some of Australia’s most spectacular natural features. The journey from Torquay to Warnambool can be completed in a day’s drive, but a speedy arrival is hardly the point. You’re going to want to stop many times along the way.
From Melbourne get yourself onto the Princes Highway and head towards Geelong, 60km southwest of the city. While Geelong offers a number of hot spots, check out the 100 painted bollards by artist Jan Mitchell, dotted along Geelong’s waterfront.
From Geelong take the Surf Coast Highway to Torquay and honour our nation’s favourite pastime with a visit to the Surfworld Australia Surfing Museum, showcasing beach culture including surfboards dating back to 1915. Surf City Plaza, Beach Rd, Torquay 3228 (03 5261 4606). World famous Bells Beach, an untamed oceanfront strip of raw coastline, is worthy of a winter stroll.
Continuing on through the towns of Anglesea and Airey’s Inlet and you’ll reach the beautiful town of Lorne clinging to the hillside. A visit to Angahook-Lorne State Forest reveals a number of streams and cascades and, if staying overnight, check into the quaint Cora-Lynn Apartments where seaside-shack chic is the order of the day. Cora-Lynn, 22-28 Mountjoy Pde, Lorne 3232.
As you approach Apollo Bay the coastline starts to get more rugged and the road veers inland through Great Otway National Park. Take Otway Lighthouse Road to visit the Lightstation, Australia’s oldest mainland lighthouse, standing 91m above the water (03 5237 9240). There is also a self-guided rainforest walking trail through the park and the Otway Fly Treetop Walk, adjacent to Triplet Falls, features a 30m high steel walkway right up into the trees. 360 Phillips Track, Beech Forest 3250 (03 5235 9200).
Lavers Hill marks the beginning of what you’ve all been waiting for: awe-inspiring limestone rock formations formed by wave erosion. This is the Shipwreck Coast, where dozens of vessels have foundered in former times and where scenic highlights include the famous 12 Apostles. (There are currently only eight but don’t worry: what’s now headland will one day collapse to form new apostles.)
Before arriving at Port Campbell you’ll also pass by London Arch – it was called London Bridge until 1990 when a collapse separated it from the mainland – Loch Ard Gorge, the Blowhole and the Grotto. Wherever there’s a geological feature you’ll find a parking area and often a boardwalk too. If staying in Port Campbell and looking for something affordably boutique then try the Anchors Resort in the hills above the fishing village. 2540 Cobden-Port Campbell Rd, Port Campbell 3269 (0417 434 400).
In the morning continue on past Peterborough to where the 32km Bay of Islands begins. Just off the Great Ocean Road is an ideal vantage point for seeing the Bay of Martyrs and Massacre Point. Push on to Warrnambool, a former whaling town where whales are still the main attraction. Go to the viewing platforms at Logans Beach and scan the horizon for Southern Right Whales, visible during their May to September migrations.
The Great Ocean Road officially ends here but you may opt to continue on along the Princes Highway for Port Fairy, Nelson and South Australia, or take an inland route back to Melbourne via gold rush centre Ballarat. But you’ll probably want to simply turn around and head back the way you came. And when there’s the chance of another glimpse of those stunning natural monuments, who could blame you?
TIME OUT TIP: The Gibson Steps, about 5km west of Princetown, are 86 steps that take you down to the beach where you can view the twin stacks Gog and Magog.
||Time: As long as you want
||Stop off at: Geelong
||Don’t miss: The 12 Apostles
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