The spectacular Great Ocean Road hugs the sea cliffs that wind along the wild and windswept Southern Ocean. The breathtaking views along the iconic road are awe-inspiring with rocky cliffs, empty beaches and towering cliffs lined with vibrant green landscapes. Add in epic surfing, native wildlife, unforgettable hiking and biking trails, and there’s plenty to see and do around every corner.
One of the most spectacular coastal roads in the world, the Great Ocean Road stretches over 240 km from the Victorian coastal town of Torquay, just 1.5 hours from Melbourne to Allansford, just outside the rural center of Warrnambool.
Many people don’t know that the Great Ocean Road is also the longest war memorial in the world, built by WW1 soldiers as a memorial to all those who lost their lives in the war.
Today it is one of Australia’s biggest tourist destinations and is very popular with locals and tourists alike.
Things to Do on Visit to Great Ocean Road, Australia
TAKE A TRIP ALONG THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
Taking a trip on the Great Ocean Road is a no-brainer; full of twists and turns and impressive views, in fact the drive is probably the greatest attraction of the entire Great Ocean Road.
The entire 243km stretch of road between Torquay and Allansford is stunning and varied, from rugged coastline to densely wooded roads – but our personal favorite is the section between Lorne and Apollo Bay, where the views are insanely epic all the way. Make good use of the viewpoint switches and make sure your camera batteries are fully charged, you’ll want to capture every breathtaking arc!
GET A PHOTO AT THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD MEMORIAL ARCH
Did you even go to the Great Ocean Road if you didn’t get a picture of the Great Ocean Road sign? The World’s longest memorial arch.
Built in honor of the 3,000 returned World War I soldiers who built the road by hand between 1919 and 1932, the wooden arch marks the start of the road and is probably the most iconic and picturesque part of the entire Great Ocean Road.
There is a parking lot to the left of the arch where you can park safely and there is a photo area along the road.
The area gets chaotically busy during peak hours, so be careful!
DISCOVER THE SHIPWRECK COAST
The massive stretch of Southern Ocean coastline that separates mainland Australia from the island nation of Tasmania (the last stop before Antarctica!) is rugged and breathtaking – and infamous for its treacherous seas.
In fact, it is so infamous that the 130km stretch of the Great Ocean Road from Cape Otway to Port Fairy is known as the Shipwreck Coast, where nearly 700 ships and their crews met in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Of these, only about 200 have been found again, the most famous of which is Loch Ard.
For many early European settlers looking to make their fortunes in the goldfields or grasslands of colonial Australia, this coast was their first – and last – sight of Australian land. Rugged and breathtaking on sunny days, with turquoise waves crashing against steep sandstone cliffs, it’s not hard to see how boats can be swallowed whole and shattered by the violent and unforgiving conditions of bad weather.
RECEIVE THE 12 APOSTLES IN YOUR OWN
Of all the best things to do on the Great Ocean Road, the number one and most popular is of course the 12 Apostles (read our guide here).
While it’s worth nothing that there are no longer twelve of them, 4 having eroded and collapsed into the ocean below, the eight remaining limestone piles are still an incredible sight. The piles were formed more than 20 million years ago and were once part of the landmass. As wind and water gradually eroded the coastline, these piles were left in the wake of the retreating land.
There is a boardwalk that takes you to all the best vantage points of the Apostles and the stunning coastline beyond, with plenty of epic photo opportunities.
Both the sunrise and sunset here are magical, and if you’re an avid photographer or just want to enjoy the place without the maddening crowds (especially in the summer months), we recommend getting there super early. Plus, sweet birdsong and a view of a much calmer ocean awaits you at this time!
VISIT LOCH ARD GORGE
Just a few minutes’ drive from the 12 Apostles is Loch Ard Gorge, one of the most popular stops along the Great Ocean Road, luring visitors with impressive views of the crumbling cliffs that almost surround the pretty beach below.
But while the views are worth a visit on their own, the ancient story of survival that took place here lends the place a sense of wonder and mystery. On June 1, 1878, a soupy fog left the crew of Loch Ard confused and lost, and the iron-hulled ship was wrecked at the base of nearby Muttonbird Island.
Only two survived: wealthy 17-year-old Eva Carmichael, who traveled with her family to find a new life in the colonies, and Tom Pearce, a teenage ship’s apprentice.
After making it safely to shore thanks to an overturned lifeboat, Tom heard screams from the water and saw Eva drifting barely conscious in the mouth of the ravine. He swam back and fought bravely for an hour to bring her to shore. Once there, they hid in a cave before Tom finally climbed the sandstone cliffs to seek help from nearby Glenample Station.
Standing in the gorge today, especially at beach level, it’s hard to imagine the scene unfolding or the bravery of teenage Tom climbing the crumbling and unstable 11m high ocher cliffs – making it an even more fascinating place to explore.
VISIT THE SHERBROOK RIVER
In an area where natural beauty is all around, the place where the meandering Sherbrook River flows into the Southern Ocean is where you can feel all its wild, mighty glory in full force.
It’s hard to adequately describe the rawness of the 12-foot waves pounding the rocks on one side of the bay and crashing like thunder against the sandy shores on the other, other than it’s definitely a stop you must add to your Great Ocean Road itinerary. .
The limestone outcrop is walkable, but extreme caution is required: strange waves and huge showers appear randomly and are extremely powerful. Staying a safe distance from the edge is definitely recommended!
The Sherbrook River is just a short walk from Thunder Cave and is accessed from the same parking lot. The road down is paved, relatively easy and well maintained.
LOOK IN THE THUNDER CAVE
You’ll see the power of the Great Ocean Road everywhere you go on your travels here, but you’ll also hear it in Thunder Cave.
Thunder Cave is a narrow cave and ravine into which the ocean rushes rapidly, and as it folds back on itself and the walls of the cave, it roars like thunder. Even though there isn’t much to look at, it’s still fascinating to watch the surging water and anticipate the sound of thunder!
Thunder Cave is accessible from the Loch Ard Gorge car park.
EXPLORE GIBSON'S STEPS
Gibson’s Steps are one of the few places in Port Campbell National Park that allow proper access to the beach, while offering a completely different perspective of the famous 12 Apostles.
Once 86 narrow steps hand-carved into the cliffs by 19th-century landowner Hugh Gibson, today the narrow steps have been replaced by a much sturdier concrete version with a safety rail.
These take you down to the beach, where cliffs rise as you wander the sand, foaming waves crash against the shore, and the limestone piles of the remaining apostles tower over you just a few meters away. It’s an amazing place and unsurprisingly one of the most popular things to see on the Great Ocean Road.
Before you head out, check that the stairs are open as the local council regularly closes the stairs to clear debris from the fallen cliff that has landed on the beach (probably don’t stand too close to the crumbling cliffs when you’re on the beach!).
ADMIRATE THE VIEW FROM THE CAVE
The Grotto is a super unique place to see on your travels along the Great Ocean Road; a nice dip caused by the erosion of the surrounding limestone cliffs.
When the cliffs fell away, they left a kind of window through which you can take in the beauty of the tranquil rock pool (it almost looks like a peaceful hot tub!) offset by the rolling sea beyond. .
The stairs down into the cave are reasonably steep, but perfectly fine for anyone who can handle stairs normally.
SEE LONDON BRIDGE
If its title sings “London Bridge is fall down” then you’d be right; London Bridge is a limestone arch just off the coast that was once connected to the mainland.
True to its name, part of the rock formation actually collapsed in January 1990, creating the sheer cliff you see today. Luckily no one was hurt, but two hikers got stuck on the remaining arch and had to be rescued by helicopter!
The views from the London Bridge lookout over the Arch and the virgin beach below are beautiful and definitely one of our favorite spots on the Great Ocean Road.
DISCOVER THE BAY OF ISLANDS
Not nearly as famous as the Twelve Apostles, but just as impressive from our perspective, the Bay of Islands is a collection of pale limestone stacks tossed by the powerful waves of the Southern Ocean.
The Bay of Islands is about 25 minutes past the Twelve Apostles near Peterborough. They are especially beautiful at sunset and there is a short promenade along the coast where you can enjoy the best views. With similar scenery to the Apostles but half the crowds, it’s definitely one of the more underrated places to visit along the Great Ocean Road.
EXPLORE THE OTWAY RAINFOREST CANOPY
Walking through the forest at floor level is so yesterday, these days walking through the forest canopy is where the fun is.
Take a little off the Great Ocean Road and you’ll discover Otway Fly Treetop Adventures (book your tickets here) where you can take an hour-long 25m treetop walk through a magnificent forest of Giant Myrtle Beech, Blackwood and Mountain. Ash trees.
There’s also a spiral staircase that takes you up to a canopied observation deck (though don’t be surprised the trees will still tower above you!) where you can also get a unique perspective on the fern-covered forest floor.
Thrill-seekers won’t be disappointed here either – the 2.5 Zip Line Tour is an absolutely unique experience to enjoy along the Great Ocean Road.
COOL OFF AT MANY RAINFOREST WATERFALLS
The Great Ocean Road boasts some of the most spectacular waterfalls in all of Victoria, thanks to the cool temperate rainforest of Otway National Park and the surrounding area.
Each of the waterfalls is unique, but there’s one thing they definitely have in common: they’re all extremely picturesque, with lush ferns and towering trees giving way to cascading waterfalls that wouldn’t look out of place on a Bali postcard.
ENJOY THE SIMPLE BEAUTY OF CALIFORNIA REDWOOLES
California’s Otways Redwood Forest is one of Victoria’s best kept secrets (as was Warburton’s Redwood Forest!).
Wondering how a group of California redwoods took root so far from home? The 85-year-old plantation is a remnant of the mining industry that operated here in the 1930s. Today, the 60 m tall trees are a magical and peaceful place to walk.
With the River Aire running down one side and thick ferns and native trees surrounding it, it’s a little pocket of natural magic that you’ll want to spend hours soaking up.
EXPLORE CAPE OTWAY LIGHT STATION
Built in 1848, Cape Otway Light Station is widely regarded as Australia’s oldest and most important remaining lighthouse, guiding ships around the confluence of Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean for centuries.
The Light Station is still fully operational today (albeit automated) and there are lots of things to do here, including spending the night at the Lighthouse! Other attractions include a historic telegraph station built in 1859, a secret World War II bunker, an Aboriginal cultural center and epic coastal views.
During the winter months you can also spot whales playing in the ocean. There is also an on-site cafe, Lightkeeper’s Kitchen, serving delicious food and coffee.
DISCOVER ICONIC AUSTRALIAN WILDLIFE
This part of Victoria is one of the best places in the state, if not Australia, to see our rarest fauna in the wild. All the standard favorites are here, from kangaroos to koalas, kangaroos to platypuses, wombats to echidnas and loads more.
Most of the above is likely to be spotted simply as you move around the region – on our last visit we saw kangaroos, koalas, kangaroos and wombats simply walking or driving between destinations
SPEND TIME IN LORNE
Lorne is definitely the biggest and coolest hub along the Great Ocean Road with a fun vibe and lots of hipster cafes, fancy restaurants and cute boutiques lining the main road.
Along with plenty of cafes and boutiques, there’s also a great creative scene with the Lorne Arts Festival held every year and lots of galleries popping up over the years. The famous Falls Festival is also held every year just outside Lorne on New Year’s Day.
WATCH THE DRIVERS AT BELLS BEACH
Arguably the most famous beach along the surf coast and probably the whole of Victoria (although we’d argue there are certainly nicer spots!), Bells Beach, just outside Torquay, is where you’ll find the saltiest surfers on the coast. .
Even in the winter, expect to see plenty of enthusiastic surfers catching some epic breaks on the right hand. To the right of the surf breaks is a slightly quieter beach, perfect for afternoon beach walks or exploring with the kids.
LEARN TO SURF IN TORQUAY
Australians love surfing and they love surfing in Torquay most of all. In fact, between Torquay’s Bells Beach and the Rip Curl Pro competition, the birthplace of a number of iconic Australian surf brands and many surfing legends growing up right here among those waves, Torquay is pretty much the home of surfing in Victoria.
Torquay is also one of the best places to learn to surf in the state, with a safe beach, experienced teachers and great conditions for students – something we can vouch for as we took a few lessons here a few years ago!
DIG AT SOME OF THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD BEACHES
When it comes to Australia’s iconic beautiful beaches, the Great Ocean Road boasts hundreds.
With gentle blue waves, soft golden sand and breathtaking scenery all around, the beaches here are some of the dreamiest swimming spots you’ll find in Victoria, perfect for cooling off on those sweltering hot summer days.
While most beaches are very inviting, not all are safe for swimming – so it’s important to stick to those that are patrolled by lifeguards (and swim between red and yellow flags!).
WATCH THE SUNSET FROM SPLIT POINT LIGHTHOUSE, AIREYS INLET
As you round the bend in Aireys Inlet, you will see the White Queen with her red cap.
Probably best known as the filming location for the iconic 90s Aussie children’s TV show ‘Round the Twist’ (have you ever felt like this…!), Split Point Lighthouse stands as a striking figure set against the cliffs and tumbling cliffs. surfing at Aireys.
The lighthouse has stood watch here since 1891, sending out warnings to ships sailing through the treacherous Bass Strait and along this rugged coastline. It is still fully functional and is still an important part of ship navigation today.
ADMIRATE THE VIEWS FROM MANY VIEWPOINTS
One thing is always guaranteed on the Great Ocean Road, and that is epic views.
There are plenty of turns along the Great Ocean Road that we definitely recommend taking and admiring the best of the drive
How long does it take to drive the Great Ocean Road?
664 km / 413 miles, about 9.5 hours
One of Australia’s most scenic drives, the Great Ocean Road is a beautiful three-day tour from the surfing capital of Torquay to the famous 12 Apostles, ending in the historic fishing village of Port Fairy.
Where does the Great Ocean Road start and end in Australia?
The Great Ocean Road (B100) starts in Torquay and ends in Allansford.
What is so special about the Great Ocean Road?
The Great Ocean Road, world famous for its surf breaks, incredible wilderness and ancient rainforests. Also a special place for a three-time World Surfing Champion… Choose from two different viewing areas and get that perfect sunset over the Southern Ocean and the limestone stacks of the Bay of Islands.