The Great Ocean Road is arguably one of the world’s most beautiful scenic drives. This stretch of road spans along the south-west coast of Victoria. Running nearly 250-kilometres from the town of Torquay to Allansford, the road is home to iconic landmarks like the Twelve Apostles and Bells Beach.
Along the way, you’ll find everything from shaggy limestone cliffs, stunning waterfalls and epic surf, to cozy, seaside diners, cafes and hip microbreweries.
Whether you’ve got only 24hrs to explore or a few weeks, this unique Australian experience isn’t one to miss. Here are our top Great Ocean Road tips for the ultimate road trip experience.
Great Ocean Road Tips #1: Experience Aussie Surf Culture
Among the many awesome things the Great Ocean Road has to offer, world-class surf is definitely at the top of the list. This stretch of road is home to some of the most hip, quintessential surf towns in Australia. Whether you’re a complete newbie or advanced pro, there’s a wave for you.
If you’ve never surfed, or its been a while, we recommend going over surf etiquette and basic skills like paddling, standing and riding a wave before going out on your own. There are several surf schools along the Great Ocean Road where you can learn from an experienced instructor.
The waves at beaches in Anglesea and Lorne can be ideal for beginners. More experienced surfers will enjoy Bells Beach, an Australian icon and home to the world’s longest running surf competition in the world, Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. If you’re not so keen on getting into the water, you can still get a feel for Aussie surf.
Visit the Australian National Surfing Museum in Torquay, where you can learn about the history of the sport and look at cool vintage boards. This is one of the top things to do in Torquay on a rainy day or when you need a break from the sun.
Great Ocean Road Tips #2: Get Active
One of the best ways to see the Great Ocean Road is by looking at it from a new perspective. Though most people drive as a way to cover a lot of ground, you may find yourself missing out on some of the smaller details. Plus, your back might start getting sore!
If you’re into biking, cycling the Great Ocean Road is a great option. Not only will you be reducing your environmental footprint, but you’ll also get front-row seats to some of the world’s most spectacular views.
Stop along the way and visit the Twelve Apostles or one of the Great Ocean Road’s many beaches. Cycling the road is moderately difficult and is full of inclines and descents. Longer rides are best suited for experienced bikers. You can also cycle a smaller portion of the road, with paths merging along the road.
Great Ocean Road Tips #3: Don’t Rush it
While it is possible to visit the Great Ocean Road in one day, we don’t recommend rushing this trip. Part of what makes this scenic drive so great is being able to stop-over along the way and explore the little towns, scenic viewpoints, landmarks, and restaurants along the way.
Take your time and explore the best of what this spectacular stretch has to offer. We suggest at least a 3-day Great Ocean Road itinerary, so you’ll have lots of time to to visit places like Apollo Bay, the Twelve Apostles and Otway National Park.
Great Ocean Road Tips #4: Keep It Green
Part of what makes the Great Ocean Road such a beautiful place to visit it how pristine the natural environment is. Loch Ard Gorge, Otway National Park and the Twelve Apostles wouldn’t be quite the same if they were covered in trash, and we want to keep it that way.
As a visitor, it’s important to be considerate of the places you visit and how you leave them. Try to pack some reusable items such as coffee cups, utensils, water bottles, and face masks. You’ll still be able to enjoy local food and stay hydrated without creating as much waste.
If you decide to camp or hike along the way, practice leave-no-trace principles. This means leaving the spot exactly as, or better than, you found it. When going for bush walks or hikes, stick to the designated pathways and trails that already exist. This helps maintain the natural ecosystems that are home to all the Aussie animals we love so much.
Great Ocean Road Tips #5: Get Comfortable With The Drive
If you decide to drive the Great Ocean Road, be sure that you’re comfortable before hitting the road. If you’ve rented a car, you’ll want to get your bearings before you drive this winding road. Remember, Aussies drive on the left side of the road. While there are signs reminding tourists along the way, it is still a common problem.
As for the drive itself, all it takes is one look at the Great Ocean Road on map to see it’s has lots of twists and turns. Even if you don’t normally get car sick, or you’re travelling with kids, bring a couple extra bags and ginger tablets to calm any unsettled tummies.
Try to avoid driving the Great Ocean Road at night. The road is unlit in some areas, making a drive in twisting, windy conditions all the more difficult. Plus, dark roads equals an increased risk of hitting wildlife.
The last thing you want is an unexpected kangaroo jumping out onto the road while you drive. Be sure to factor in daylight when planning your itinerary. During the winter months, you’ll have fewer light hours on the road. Once you get used to the drive, it’s bound to be a great road trip.
Great Ocean Road Tips #6: Be Weather Ready
Part of the beauty of the Great Ocean Road is the range of diverse climates within a small region. There’s so much to offer, from lush green rainforest and splashing waterfalls, to sandy, sunny beaches and long coastal trails.
The rainforest climate means it can be hot and humid, and rain showers are not uncommon. Regardless of the time of year, you’ll want to save wet gear with you. This may include a rain coat or poncho, hat and a couple pair of wool socks. We recommend keeping an extra pair in the car to change into if your feet get soaked.
Regardless of the time of year, the Australian sun is very strong and sunscreen is always recommended. Stay out of the sun during the peak hours. Instead, take a break and explore the hip, culinary scene or cultural sites along the road.
Great Ocean Road Tips #7: Download a Great Ocean Road Map
While paper maps are becoming increasing less common these days, having a visual reference has never been a bad thing. While a map of Great Ocean Road is a feature well worth a few extra dollars, there’s a more modern equivalent available as well.
We recommend using a smartphone app like Google Maps to download an Offline Map of the region. This way you’ll be able to check your location relative to your destinations along the Great Ocean Road.
You can even ‘favorite’ particular Great Ocean Road beaches or landmarks like the 12 Apostles or Loch Ard Gorge that you don’t want to miss along the drive or petrol stations. There are can be long distances between stations, so make sure to fuel up before you drive off again!
Great Ocean Road Tips #8: Research Beaches Before You Go
Though the Great Ocean Road has tons of beautiful beaches, you’ll want to do your research before visiting. Some beaches are best suited for swimming and/or surfing, while others are better for spotting wildlife.
For the some of the best beaches to swim, head to Lorne or Apollo Bay. Both destinations have patrolled areas where you can swim between the flags. For the safest place to swim and one of the best things to do in Anglesea, we love Point Roadknight.
Lorne is also a great spot for beginners to try their hand at surfing. While most experienced surfers will want to experience iconic Bells Beach at least once, quality surf can also be found at Torquay Beach and Johanna Beach.
For those epic views of the sunset overlooking the ocean, there’s nothing quite like the Twelve Apostles. You can stroll the beach below, admiring the huge rock formations rising out from the ocean. Just a 1-km away at Gibson Steps, you’ll get sweeping views from the 70-metre high vertical cliff top lookout overlooking the beach.
Great Ocean Road Tips #9: Bring Binoculars
Though binoculars aren’t an absolute necessity, if you’ve got ‘em, pack ‘em! With so many unique landmarks, wildlife and stunning views, a pair of binoculars allows you to notice unique details you’d otherwise miss.
The Great Ocean Road is the perfect opportunity to spot some truly unique Australian wildlife. The Great Otway National Park is home to some of Australia’s most exotic species. Some of the animals you might spot include the Otway Black Snail, usually spotted after rainfall, and native Australian birds such as the kookaburra, cockatoo and currawong.
The park is home to kangaroos and wallabies, and which can usually be seen around dusk and dawn. Though there is often some luck involved, having a pair of binoculars will definitely help you see more wildlife you might otherwise not notice.
If you drive the Great Ocean Road between June and September, you’ll want binoculars handy. These months are a great time to spot Southern Right Whales swimming the coast along the Great Ocean Road. Every winter, the whales migrate to the sheltered bays of Australia’s southern coast to calve. This is one of the only places in the world where female and their young swim within 100-kilometers of the shore.
Whether you’re watching the locals catch waves, stargazing in Apollo Bay, admiring the Apostles, or spotting wildlife at Otway National Park, binoculars will make the experience just that much better.
Read Next: Your Guide to Warrnambool Whale Watching
Great Ocean Road Tips #10: Make Time for Walks
While driving is the most common-way to explore the Great Ocean Road, be sure to fit in some time to do some hikes. There are tons of great bush walks and hiking trails that are free and open to the public year round, many of which can be accessed via Port Campbell National Park.
We love the Kennet River Koala Walk, the best places to spot koalas in Australia. A large population of these adorable animals eat, live, and mostly sleep, on the gum trees above. Pro tip: the walk can get busy during the day, so go early in the morning or visit during low-season to enjoy the walk to yourself.
If you’ve got more time on your hands, hike the Surf Coast Walk. Starting in Torquay, this walk is known for its stunning views of the coastline. Though it spans 44-kilometers, the walk is broken down into sections and has different terrains and lengths suitable for all levels.
Another favorite is the Great Ocean Walk. This iconic trail starts off at the Apollo Bay Visitor Centre, passing through Gibson Steps and culminating at the 12 Apostles. If that’s not enough, some hikers will complete another 11km all the way to the town of Port Campbell.
Great Ocean Road Tips #11: Don’t Miss Out on the Food & Drinks
With such stunning views and incredible wildlife viewing opportunities, its easy to forget one of the best highlights of the Great Ocean Road – the food! As you progress along the map, Great Ocean Road are ready to serve up some Aussie goodness.
Lorne restaurants are considered some of the best along the Great Ocean Road. You’ll find everything from Argentinian BBQ to Mexican Tacos, not to mention a plethora of cozy cafes. For a sunset view by the beach head to the Lorne Hotel Bistro and Beer Garden. Not only do they have great food, they play great music and a live band often comes to play.
Next up, Port Campbell! Despite the town’s small size, Port Campbell restaurants offers a variety of different cuisines for every budget. Once you’ve visited Loch Ard Gorge and the Twelve Apostles, head into town for a meal. For an 100% unique meal, head to the Forage on the Foreshore dining room. All the ingredients used in the restaurant are foraged or found at some point along the Great Ocean Road.
Lastly, don’t miss out on the chill, surfer vibes in Torquay. If there’s one place to hangout and enjoy a good brunch and coffee, Torquay restaurants are it! The hip little town has some insanely good coffee, our personal favorite being Ginger Monkey.
Will go much to do along in the region make sure you follow these Great Ocean Road tips to make the most of our journey!