The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s Most Iconic Roads and is on everyone’s Road Trip Bucketlist. It runs 243km’s from Torquay in the East, and ends in Allansford, 10 minutes from Warrnambool in the West.
Taking well over a decade to build, the World’s Largest War Memorial honours the fallen soldiers from WW1 and was built by over 3000 returned soldiers.
You can drive this coastal route in a day or two, but it is best explored with as many days you can allow. We drove this road over 4 days from West to East instead, and we believe it is just as good driving it this way!
The GOR isn’t just made up of limestone cliffs and stacks, but it is where world renowned surf beaches meet lush rainforest, with countless waterfalls and hikes, and as you drive through country dairy farms you turn a corner to a seaside town!
Where we started…
Starting in Port Fairy (half hour from Allansford), we took a little self-drive tour around the town, soaking in the seaside vibes with the cute little houses dotting the tiny harbour and the beautiful tree lined streets. We only spent a couple of hours before having an early dinner and moving onto a free camp out of town.
We were recommended a place for dinner whilst we were here, and WOW are we glad we checked it out! Coffin Sally is a small and cosy pizza restaurant/bar, located in the main street serving a variety of fresh and delicious wood-fired pizzas and a range of craft beers for every taste!
We felt it was the perfect way to experience this town, we enjoyed a craft beer & a glass of bubbly whilst cosying up next to the fireplace and waiting to devour our freshly made pizza – which was literally one of the best pizzas we’d ever had!
BAY OF ISLANDS
Next up was an hour down the road, to our first stop on the Great Ocean Road, the ‘Bay of Islands’.
A fantastic introduction to one of Australia’s Best Coastal Routes, the Bay of Islands comprises of many limestone ‘stacks’, like those of the famous 12 Apostles.
This coastline is forever receding due to the heavy erosion from the crashing waves and all the elements.
10 minutes further South is ‘The Grotto’, a quick walk like most of the sights along the GOR and accessed by a winding wooden staircase, this sinkhole resembles more of a cave/arch with eroded limestone pools at the bottom, and is worth a visit at sunset especially!
LONDON BRIDGE & THE ARCH
Another short drive away, only two minutes along we reached ‘London Bridge’, our first recognisable icon on this drive. Another example of the fierce coastal erosion, this natural arch was once connected until 1990 when it collapsed, leaving two people stranded for three hrs as they had to wait for a helicopter from Melbourne to rescue them.
Less than a kilometre down from London Bridge is ‘The Arch’, another natural erosion from being exposed to the elements.
As we kept driving south another 10 minutes and just before reaching Loch Ard Gorge, we arrived at Thunder Cave. There are a few different walks in this area including Broken Head and Mutton Bird Island Lookout, but the day was getting quite hot and we were keen to get in the water so we only chose to do this shorter walk and then drive around the corner to Loch Ard.
LOCH ARD GORGE
There are a few short walks you can take once reaching the carpark at Loch Ard Gorge; Island Archway Lookout, Razorback Lookout, the Wreck Lookout and then Loch Ard Gorge itself.
We decided on smashing out all the lookouts first and then rewarding ourselves with a dip at the gorge last.
We were rewarded with perfect weather and the water temperature was so perfect too.
All the photos we had seen of this place and from the stories we were told, the water is always rough and always freezing, so we were completely blown away and so very grateful that we were able to experience it on such a beautiful day.
Before seeing the 12 Apostles we drove just a little further to take the Gibson Steps down to the beach, where we walked amongst the two stacks just off shore named ‘Gog’ and ‘Magog’.
The beautiful afternoon glow lit up the huge cliff face that you take the stairs down from, and it made for a perfect walk along the beach, we agreed this was a sure highlight of this coastal drive.
THE 12 APOSTLES
Seeing as we drove from the West, the 12 Apostles weren’t one of the first stops for us, and so by the time we reached the busy info centre we decided to grab an ice-cream and have a bit of a break to wait for sunset.
We arrived at the lookout just a short walk from the 12 Apostles carpark, and although this was by far the busiest section of the GOR understandably, we took the time to just soak it in before taking a few snaps as the sun went down.
Fun Fact – Something we learnt only as we drove through this area, is that when they were named ‘The 12 Apostles’ back in the 20’s, there were originally only nine Apostles, not twelve, and so only one has fallen to erosion as there are still eight left today.
Although you may think the Great ‘Ocean’ Road is just made of up seaside villages and dramatic cliff drops, there are countless waterfalls that make up part of this scenic journey, and we dare say you will be blown away just as much as we were!
After exploring numerous waterfalls throughout Queensland, we thought we had seen them all, only to be surprised by the very first waterfall on this drive, Beauchamp Falls – now a current favourite of ours!
There is a gorgeous campground amongst the pines at the start of this walk, and we really regret not taking advantage and choosing to stay here versus the park down the road.
An easy reward for the walk, Hopetoun Waterfall is just one of the many beauties around the area, and you may as well drive around the corner to see the California Redwood Plantation that we managed to miss unfortunately.
This cascade waterfall is stunning by itself, but what makes this short hike interesting are the abandoned historic artefacts, from when the site was part of the Original Otway Timber Mill.
CAPE OTWAY LIGHTHOUSE
Overlooking the rough waters of Bass Strait is Australia’s oldest surviving Lighthouse on the mainland, Cape Otway Lighthouse. Built in 1848, this lighthouse is also considered to be one of the most significant as it was the first sight of land for the 19th Century migrants.
We arrived 10 minutes after the Lightstation had closed and were unable to get close to the lighthouse, so instead we found a walking track that lead to a lookout where we were able to see the lighthouse from afar.
As you drive through Otway National Park just before you reach Cape Otway Lighthouse, you will see a section of dead Manna Gum Trees that look like they’re out of a Tim Burton movie.
These gum trees were actually stripped bare by koalas, creating a huge imbalance in the ecosystem with the trees unable to sprout new shoots and the koalas dying of starvation.
A few systems were put in place to restore balance in the area, and it’s worth stopping for a photo on your drive through.
This charming fishing town is the perfect base and mid-way point along the Great Ocean Road, and is incredibly picturesque with a backdrop of green rolling hills overlooking the bay.
Lorne is known to be an artsy surfing town, and is a great base to explore the many waterfalls in the area. Just in town is Teddy’s Lookout, a gorgeous viewpoint with a few walks leading back down to town and surrounds.
We checked out a couple of waterfalls in the area with our favourite being Erskine Falls. It is flowing year-round and the short but steep track is worth it.
AIREYS INLET – SPLIT POINT LIGHTHOUSE
You can spot Split Point Lighthouse from a mile away when driving the Great Ocean Road.
Located in the town of Aireys Inlet, this lighthouse is recognisable from the early 90’s kids TV Show ‘Round the Twist. It is open for daily tours but we had to keep moving and so couldn’t check it out.
TORQUAY AND BELLS BEACH
The end or beginning of this journey, some say this town is the birthplace of Australia’s surf culture, with the Famous Bells Beach holding the Rip Curl Pro World Championships every year.
And there you have it, our journey across this beautiful stretch in Australia. If you have any questions or comments please leave them in the box below!
Until next time,
Sarah and Amy