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How To Explore The Great Ocean Road In Australia

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How to explore the Great OCEAN road

Last updated on May 22, 2020

Known for being one of the most beautiful coastal drives in the world, on a Great Ocean Road trip you will be delighted to see not just the famous coast, but cliffs, empty beaches, plenty of wildlife, and nature all around you. This post will help you to explore the Great Ocean Road.

The Great Ocean road is well known for being a must do if you are in Australia. Located in the state of Victoria, many people leave from Melbourne and take a day trip.

If you are driving though, you can take a few days to do the drive, and spend as much time at each stop as you desire.

How To Explore The Great Ocean Road

Spanning 400 kilometres from Torquay to Nelson (or Allansford, depending on how far you want to drive), the Great Ocean Road officially begins about a 90 minute drive from Melbourne.

I took a day tour on a bus departing from Melbourne. The tour took about 12 hours to and from Melbourne, meaning we only hit up the highlights. I suggest renting a car and driving if you can, that way you can stop anywhere you like, and aren’t in such a rush.

The History

Named on Australia’s National Heritage list, the Great Ocean Road is known as the world’s longest war memorial. It took 13 years to build, from 1919 to 1932, and was built by approximately 3,000 soldiers who returned from the war, and dedicated to all the soldiers killed during World War 1.

Bell’s Beach

This famous surf spot is iconic, perhaps due to the fact that the Point Break movie ended here? That’s how I first heard of Bell’s Beach, but in reality it has been famous for some time, due to the great surf breaks. I got to go to a surf competition at Bell’s beach and it was so cool!7

The Twelve Apostles

Views looking over the 12 apostles

Photo of myself standing in front of one of the apostles

Photo of myself standing in front of the 12 apostles, showing how windy it is
Just a tad windy

Located just off the shore of Port Campbell Nation Park, these limestone stacks are a stunning sight to see. With a height of about 50 meters above the water and formed about 20 million years ago, the harsh weather conditions from the Southern Ocean eroded the limestone cliffs to create caves, then arches that eventually collapsed, leaving us with these stacks in the ocean.

Though there were only 8 stacks, they were officially named the 12 apostles. In 2005 one of the stacks collapsed, leaving only 7 left.

Be prepared for large crowds and lots of wind while there. I knew that this was a very popular stop on the road trip, however I was completely blown away (haha, literally) by just how many people were there, all in a rush to see the same views.  But know, the crowd and winds are well worth it!

The trail to the viewing point of the 12 apostles absolutely filled with people

Gibson Steps

Want to get even closer to the apostles? About a 2 minute drive away are the Gibson Steps, where you can walk down to the beach for an even closer view. Keep in mind the changing tide when going down there though.

Loch Ard Gorge

Looking down to the Loch Ard Gorge beach from a viewpoint

Standing at a viewing platform, showing the cliffs and the ocean

View of the beach from down in the gorge

My favorite part of the road trip, the Loch Ard Gorge is less than a 5 minute drive away from the 12 Apostles. Named after the ship Loch Ard, which ran aground in 1878 after a 3 month journey from England. There were only two survivors, named Tom Pearce and Eva Carmichael.

To get to the gorge you can take steps down to the beach. This was such a gorgeous area, and if I had my way I would have stayed there all day.

Other than the beach, you can also take walks around the area for different viewing platforms.

London Arch

Photo of the London Arch from one of the viewing platforms

Formerly known as London Bridge, the bridge was originally attached to the mainland, however erosion eventually caused the bridge to collapse, thus leaving an arch. When the bridge collapsed on January 15th, 1990, two tourists were stranded on the outer part. A helicopter had to rescue them.

Now this is where my tour ended, and our bus returned home. This is why I suggest renting a car, because this was only half of the actual Great Ocean Road! There is still much more to see.

View of the beach in the gorge from a different viewing platform

Photo of the Loch Ard Gorge, the ocean very blue

What I Didn’t See

But what you can see! I was pretty disappointed when my tour ended here. I was so glad to see the main touristy bits, as the coast has some of the most beautiful views I had ever seen in my life (Want some more beautiful coast? Check out the Bondi to Bronte Walk). But I knew there was still more to see!

  • The Grotto
  • Bay of Islands
  • Lorne
  • Apollo Bay
  • Port Campbell National Park
  • Otways National Park (I’m really disappointed that I didn’t get to explore this ancient land, the photos I’ve seen are stunning)

Great Reasons To Go – Koala Spotting

When deciding to go on a Great Ocean Road road trip, I didn’t expect to see koalas that day. Little did I know that some of the best koala wildlife viewing is in Victoria. Specifically Kennett River. Go down Grey River Road in the middle of town and look up into the trees. There you’ll see koalas sleeping.

Alternatively, Otway Lighthouse Road is another popular place to go koala spotting.

Need To Know

Koala sleeping in a tree

Koala sleeping in a tree

Koala sleeping in a tree

Length – 9.5 hours, 243 Kilometers from Torquay to Allansford, but many people take a few days at least to do everything on this road trip.

Want to see Koalas in the wild? Head to Kennet River, a popular spot to look up and see koalas sleeping in the trees. Our bus driver actually knew a small road (that looked quite sketchy) to drive down. I wish I could remember the name of the road, but it was incredible looking up in the trees and seeing dozens of koalas sleeping away. That is an experience I will never forget.

Fuel up your car when you see a petrol (gas) station. Australia is infamous for having long distances between petrol stations when you aren’t in a major city, so save yourself some stress and fuel up!

Even on the warm days, the wind gets very cold – pack a jacket!

Have you ever explored The Great Ocean Road?

How to explore the Great OCEAN road

46 Responses

  1. Love the Great Ocean Road! I was there in winter and it was freezing, but would love to go back in the summer and actually get to swim! I especially liked the little town of Lorne, so pretty.

  2. Australia was never high up on my bucket list, but you just changed my mind! These pictures are beautiful!! I would love to visit Kennet River and see a sleeping koala. How cool! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Beautiful pictures. I do want to see the Apostles! And thank you for showing that pictures with the crowds–I always appreciate those “real” looks so you know what to expect.

  4. I had no idea the history behind it! I only know this beautiful and classic view! Thanks for sharing- well done 😀

  5. Great ocean road is so high on my list! Was going to try to go this Spring before my trip got cancelled. Hope to go next year instead 🙂

  6. The amount of times I’ve been in the GOR. we used to take a road trip from Adelaide to Melbourne every year when I was younger. So much to see and experience along the road. You’ll have to come back and see all the spots you missed. Great write up

  7. I have never been to Australia but would love to do the Great Ocean road and see the Twelve Apostles as well as Bell’s Beach and the Gibson Steps. It all looks so pretty and thanks for your great tips too!

  8. We decided to explore WA on our last road trip through Australia, and somehow have yet to drive the Great Ocean Road. Saving this for next time!

  9. This brought back some awesome memories of doing the Great Ocean Road drive and flying over the 12 Apostles in a helicopter. It’s a beautiful trip.

  10. Wow! What a beautiful coastline! I am so pleasantly surprised by all of the history that is behind this natural beauty. I agree that renting a car sounds like the best option. That way you could navigate your own timing. Just breathe-taking. Also, the story about the ‘London Bridge’ falling down has caused the children’s nursery rhyme to now be stuck in my head. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hey Courtney! I know, learning the history behind the GOR was so fascinating! Next time I go I’ll definitely be renting a car so I can take my time, it’s such a beautiful road trip.

  11. I have always wanted to drive the Great Ocean Road, and visit Apollo and Lorne. It looks amazing! This is such a detailed guide too, will save for when I finally get there 🙂

  12. This looks incredible! I can’t believe I live in Aus and haven’t explored here – definitely will once lockdowns are eased!

  13. The landscapes here look amazing! But if on top of that we can spot koalas I am 100% sold!! I would love to see this part of Australia!

  14. Holy Moly that crowd at 12 Apostles looked insane! But all of the views along the Golden Road look amazing, I guess I would be right there with them!

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Brooklyn standing in front of the pyramids of Giza

Brooklyn Murtaugh

travel blogger

Hi! I’m Brooklyn. Like many, I thought my purpose in life was to go to university, settle down and have kids. But that is not me. 

My aim is to inspire you to travel as much as you can while you can, whether that be through au pair work, or on your limited vacation days. It CAN be done. This world is incredible, let’s explore it!

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