21 best things to do along the Great Ocean Road

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  • Post last modified:June 26, 2024
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Although driving the Great Ocean Road is a monumental experience, planning what to do along the way doesn’t have to be. Here, we cover both the best lesser-known spots and the iconic must-see sights in handy east-west order. Your only task now is to sit back and enjoy the bucket-list journey.

Note: Some of the stops are directly on the Great Ocean Road, while others require a short or not-so-short detour. We know how precious time is and have therefore included total detour driving time for each activity.

1. Begin your Great Ocean Road adventure in surf-loving Torquay

Detour: None

The Great Ocean Road’s eastern gateway, Torquay is a surf-mad town. Learn about the history of riding waves at the Australian National Surfing Museum, showcasing a collection of over 150 surfboards; scan shops brimming with all things surfing (including locally founded brands Rip Curl and Quiksilver) at Surf City Plaza; and absorb the vista from the perched viewing platform at Bells Beach, which annually (around Easter) hosts one of the world’s most prestigious surf competitions, the Rip Curl Pro. And if all this stirs your appetite to hit the waves yourself, consider signing up for a surf lesson. Need a light meal or coffee for the road? The vibes are on point at The Salty Dog Cafe, beautifully facing Fisherman’s Beach.

Woman holding a surfboard under her right arm while heading for the waves on the beach in Torquay
Feel the surf vibe in Torquay.

2. Succumb to goodies at the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery

Detour: None

Those with a sweet tooth unavoidably gravitate towards the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery. Watching the chocolate making in action through large windows, browsing chocolate products in the impressive showroom, attending a tasting session and grabbing house-made ice cream are all crowd-pleasers. There’s also a cafe with flavours not solely sweet.

3. See golfing and wildlife come together at Anglesea Golf Club

Detour: 10 min

It’s not the delicately cut greens or challenging bunkers that make Anglesea Golf Club a Great Ocean Road institution, but rather the some 300 hopping animals calling it home. If you book the 25-minute kangaroo tour, sightings of eastern grey kangaroos, having roamed the area since long before the golf course was designed in the 1950s, and unique photo opportunities are guaranteed. The 18th hole Bistro and mini golf course are reasons to extend your visit.

4. Ascend to the top of TV-famous Split Point Lighthouse

Detour: 10 min.

Exploring the little town of Aireys Inlet comes with big coastal vistas. Facing the rock platforms and reefs of the Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary, the Split Point precinct provides commanding overlooks and a white 34-m lighthouse, erected in 1891 but still in operation and open for tours. If the setting looks familiar, it’s probably because it has been featured in popular culture, most famously in the children’s TV series “Round the Twist”.

The white Split Point Lighthouse with its red cap proudly standing on the top of vegetation-covered cliffs
Does Split Point Lighthouse look familiar?

5. Pay tribute under the Memorial Arch at Eastern View

Detour: None

Despite popular belief, the Memorial Arch at Eastern View isn’t an official Great Ocean Road entrance. Instead, the wooden monument commemorates the noble construction of the road it spans: Between 1919 and 1932, soldiers returned from World War I built the Great Ocean Road in honour of their fallen comrades, creating the planet’s longest war memorial (it still is). Contemplate that as you snap a picture from the roadside.

6. Feel the mist on your skin at the tranquil Erskine Falls

Detour: 30 min

If you only have time for one waterfall along the Great Ocean Road, we suggest you make it Erskine Falls. The scenery is awe-inspiring: Imagine the serene Erskine River spraying mist on your skin as it drops 30 metres into a verdant fern gully. It’s also an uncomplicated excursion: The elevated viewpoint is an easy 5-minute (return) walk, while the base lookout is a 25-minute (return) trek, with lots of potentially slippery stairs, for those who want more.

7. Get a higher perspective on the Great Ocean Road at Teddy’s Lookout

Detour: 10 min

On the outskirts of Lorne, the outflow of the Saint George River collides with the crashing waves of Bass Strait. Teddy’s Lookout captures this brilliantly, yet the largest “wow” factor comes from looking down at the Great Ocean Road as it, fringed by turquoise water and twisting around green mountains, traces the coast until it makes a sharp right and disappears. Don’t miss the adjacent lower platform for the best gorge views.

8. Spot koalas along the Kennett River Nature Walk

Detour: None

Stretch your legs along Kennett River while keeping your eyes peeled for furry Aussie wildlife. Although koalas are solitary animals, the odds of spotting one (or three) in the eucalyptus trees here are excellent. The grassy trail begins at Kafe Koala, supplying casual food and koala-themed souvenirs.

A koala bear in the green canopy of the Kennett River Nature Walk
Look for koalas along Kennett River.

9. Embark on an enchanting detour to The Redwoods Otways & Hopetoun Falls

Detour: 1 h 40 min

Traveling into the depths of Great Otway National Park is a spellbinding blend of forests and waterfalls. Within a few minutes’ drive of each other await the magical Redwoods Otways and Hopetoun Falls.

You are bound to feel small upon entering The Redwoods Otways, a swathe of sequoia trees native to California but thriving in Victorian soil. Planted in 1936, they measure 60-plus metres tall and still go strong — some believe they one day will be the tallest trees on earth.

This was first published on Strayaguide.com

Visitors to Hopetoun Falls, on the heritage-listed Aire River, are wowed by the water rushing over its brink just steps from the carpark. Allow half an hour for the gully-framed out-and-back hike to the base, 30 metres and some 200 steps below. These special waters are inhabited by the rare platypus, so keep an eye open.

10. Zoom out on Apollo Bay at Marriner’s Lookout

Detour: 15 min

At the end of a narrow road, a partly steep, 15-minute (return) trek leads to the top of a green hill frequented by farm animals. Marriner’s Lookout serves as a simple but no less magnificent vantage point — in front of your eyes, the ocean, beach and town of Apollo Bay harmoniously coexist.

The final stretch of the gravel trail leading to Marriner's Lookout above Apollo Bay
The trail leading up to Marriner’s Lookout.

11. Loop through the ancient forest of Maits Rest

Detour: None

Navigate the 800-m boardwalk around Maits Rest, a pristine pocket of cool temperature rainforest with fern gardens radiating Jurassic Park vibes. Millions and millions of years ago, dinosaurs, in fact, used to rule the Otways. Nowadays, watch out for a glossy 25-millimetre meat eater, the endangered Otway Black Snail.

A wooden log and huge green ferns framing the Jurrasic Park-like path through Maits Rest
Wander through Maits Rest.

12. Combine history and vistas at Cape Otway Lightstation

Detour: 30 min

First lit in 1848, Cape Otway Lighthouse is mainland Australia’s oldest surviving lighthouse. Marvel at a beacon of hope reaching a staggering 91 m above sea level thanks to its strategic position on the edge of Bass Strait’s imposing cliffs. Beyond the rising star attraction, the extensive precinct includes the Keepers Quarters, Telegraph Station, WW2 Radar Bunker, cafe and gift shop.

13. View crashing waves from Castle Cove Lookout

Detour: None

Schedule a quick stop at Castle Cove Lookout to admire the Southern Ocean’s waves that tirelessly batter the coastline’s golden sand and lush cliffs. If you see people on the passing Great Ocean Walk, a massive 100-km hiking route connecting Apollo Bay with the Twelve Apostles, give them well-deserved high fives.

The Southern Ocean crashing in on the beach below Castle Cove Lookout during sunset
Castle Cove — a brief but beautiful stop.

14. Savour the intimate scene down the Gibson Steps

Detour: None

Welcome to Port Campbell National Park, home to the Great Ocean Road’s most iconic stretch with several fantastic stops. First out, the Gibson Steps features an overlook from which 86 steps lead to the wild beach beneath, allowing you to feel one with the scenery. While you can’t see any of the world-famous apostles from here, an up-close view of the Gog and Magog limestone stacks is, at least, nearly as overwhelming. If the parking lot is full, consider taking a 2.2 km (return) walk from the nearby Twelve Apostles car park.

15. Let the Twelve Apostles take your breath away

Detour: None

No Great Ocean Road itinerary is complete without the Twelve Apostles, a majestic group of limestone pillars shooting up from the ocean. When you visit, park at the visitor centre and follow the path under the Great Ocean Road to find a series of elevated viewpoints providing breathtaking perspectives.

The twist? Originally, these world-famous stacks were included in a larger constellation called the Sow and Piglets; later, the name was changed to the easier-to-market Twelve Apostles despite the fact there were just nine of them. Erosion inevitably continues to sculpt with the end result of, eventually, bringing them all down. Only seven remain today.

The iconic Twelve Apostles protruding from the powerful ocean in the namesake marine park
You made it to the Twelve Apostles!

16. Uncover a stirring narrative at Loch Ard Gorge

Detour: None

You’ll appreciate your time at heavenly Loch Ard Gorge, with calm turquoise water, soft sand and enclosing vertiginous cliffs, more if you know its infamous background. On a foggy morning in 1878, the iron clipper Loch Ard struck the offshore reefs, sinking within 15 minutes. Only two people, Eva Carmichael and Tom Pearce, survived; they miraculously reached the narrow opening of the cove later named after the vessel. Immerse yourself in the engaging story as you hop between dramatic overlooks, stopping at the small cemetery where the only four recovered bodies were buried.

The golden strip of sand and calm water enclosed in storied Loch Ard Gorge
Picture being Eva and Tom at Loch Ard.

17. See the fallen London Bridge

Detour: None

Teaching about the persistent attacks by the waves, London Bridge was a double-span natural bridge until 1990 when the section closest to the mainland collapsed, turning it into a single-span natural bridge and island. Two shocked tourists were stranded and later rescued by a helicopter. Luckily, no one was injured when London Bridge (like in that well-known nursery rhyme) fell down.

London Bridge, a current single-span natural bridge and previous double-span natural bridge in the waters off the Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road’s London Bridge.

18. Face the peculiar Grotto

Detour: None.

A quirky geological formation, The Grotto is a hollowed-out archway, sometimes even trying out as a blowhole. Move 350 m from the parking lot to survey it from a perched platform, and continue down the steep wooden stairs to get all the way there. Through the opening, be captivated by The Grotto’s peaceful rock pool backdropped by the constant swell of the ocean.

The calm rock pool of the hollowed-out Grotto archway backdropped by the constant surge of the ocean
Step down to the base of The Grotto.

19. Escape the crowds at the Bay of Martyrs

Detour: None.

Most who stop at the Bay of Martyrs settle with the sweeping views of cliff-framed beaches, enchantingly blue water and small rocky islands from the effortlessly accessible overlook. For guaranteed solitude and history, take a 20-minute out-and-back stroll atop the cliffs, past Worm Bay and Crays Beach, to Halladale Point, where the four-masted barque Falls of Halladale wrecked in 1908 on its way from New York to Melbourne.

Wooden stairs leading down to the dramatic beach below the viewing platforms of the Bay of Martyrs
Dodging the crowds is easy at the Bay of Martyrs.

20. Discover the limestone stacks of the Bay of Islands

Detour: None.

The star attraction in the 33-km-long Bay of Islands Coastal Park features limestone stacks similar to the Twelve Apostles but without the same visitation levels. Within steps of the car park, two main platforms offer different vantage points of the eye-popping scenery. Will you be able to spot the tiramisu-looking rock?

Limestone stacks shooting up from the water in the Bay of Islands
Be mesmerised by the Bay of Islands.

21. Journey into a bygone era in Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village

Detour: 20 min

At the Great Ocean Road’s end, in the town of Warrnambool, the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village transports you back to the 19th-century days of the area, which aptly goes by the Shipwreck Coast. Enter the museum to find artefacts from 200-plus shipwrecks — the centerpiece Loch Ard Peacock statue, washed ashore from the unfortunate namesake, is Australia’s most valuable wreck item. Then, saunter cobblestone streets framed by over 40 village buildings, maybe pausing at the school or fire station to mingle with costumed characters. Finish your Great Ocean Road adventure enjoying baked scones in the Stella Maris Tearooms, reflecting on what an epic trip you have had.

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