What is the Great Ocean Road?
Spanning more than 150 miles, it is one of Victoria’s most scenic drives. But it is much more than just another Australian tourist attraction or road trip experience. The road also brings with it historical significance – having been built by soldiers between 1919-1932, it serves as the world’s largest war memorial, making the experience that bit more special.
The self-drive tour takes you from Surfer’s paradise through two national parks, a port, and comes to an aptly calming end in the town of Allansford, Warrnambool. So, with that much tarmac between start and finish, what are our top picks for stop-offs across the Great Ocean Road route?
1. Surfs up at Bells Beach
Start your road trip as you mean to go on by absorbing the true essence of Australia. Bells Beach is known internationally as one of the best surf breaks in Victoria, but it holds more than just a reputation.
Home to the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach – the world’s longest continuously running surfing competition – travellers along the Great Ocean Road Route can witness, or partake in, some of the best surfing opportunities Australia has to offer. And better yet, it’s only 10 minutes into their journey.
2. Spot Koalas at Kennett River
You won’t have to wonder what to do along the Great Ocean Road for long, as just over an hour’s drive from Bells Beach you’ll find Kennett River. A small seaside town just 17 miles south of Lorne, it offers one of the best opportunities to spot Koalas in their natural habitat.
As well as one of Australia’s most well-known domestic species, if you’re lucky you might also spot King Parrots, Kookaburras and Yellow-bellied Gliders (though the latter only at night). Also in the area is the Great Otway National Park, great for an intermittent adventure on foot.
3. Whale watch at Apollo Bay
Beaches, walks, waterfalls and whale watching – Apollo Bay somehow manages to condense some of Australia’s most well-loved wonders all into one small coastal town. Striking and dramatic waterfalls hidden in the rainforest in the southern part of the Great Otway National Park are contrasted with the calm but crashing waves of the beach.
There’s surfing, kayaking or the chance to simply stop off and lounge on the sands. And if you’re lucky you might also catch a glimpse of a Southern Right or Humpback whale in winter or Spring. A Great Ocean Road Trip without a stop at Apollo Bay just isn’t on the cards!
4. Stop in Awe at the Twelve Apostles
Wondering what to see along the Great Ocean Road beside sea, sand, surfers and the rainforest? More than halfway into your road trip, just past Princetown, you’ll come across Twelve Apostles. Despite the name, there are actually only 8 apostles left from an original 9, with one collapsing due to erosion in 2005.
These limestone rock formations were formed naturally by the Southern Ocean, leaving a beautiful spectacle towards the latter end of the tour that many travellers take the opportunity to enjoy. If you want to experience the natural wonder in style, there are helicopter tours available.
5. Wind Down at Port Campbell
Drive just 10 minutes on from the Twelve Apostles and you’ll come across our final recommended stop, less than an hour out from your final destination. The coastal town of Port Campbell is home to a population of less than 1,000, but that doesn’t stop it having enough character to entertain you for your final stop.
From fishing to walking trails and the Port Campbell national park, there is as much scenery and wildlife to get accustomed to as there has been so far along the way. And if you’re getting peckish, regional cheeses, wines, chocolate and ice creams are not to be missed out on before setting back off to the open road for your final stretch to Allansford.
Knowing how to travel the Great Ocean Road in style by taking in some of the most enriching experiences along the way is important for travellers of all interests. And so too is staying prepared, grab all the outdoor gear you’ll need for a well-equipped road trip you’re unlikely to forget in a hurry.
Happy road tripping!