How to start this post? Maybe like this: The Great Ocean Road is one of the most beautiful coastal roads, I’ve seen in my life. We took a whole weekend driving along the sea and couldn’t stop being amazed.
You can expect long sandy beaches, huge cliffs, wild animals and gigantic viewpoints as far as the eye can see.It is totally justified that the Great Ocean Road is so popular and an absolute Must for every trip to Australia.
To help you with planning, I’ll give away the exact route including a map, highlights, sights and further tips in this post.
- Map with all the stops of the tour
- Highlights, sights and route
- Helpful tips
Map with all the stops of the tour
Let’s start with a little map of the Great Ocean Road, where I’ve marked all the stops and highlights of the trip. It gives you a better overview and understanding of the complete route.
Highlights, sights and route
The official beginning of the coastal road is the village Torquay, which is only 100km away from beautiful Melbourne. Whereas the end of it is 243km away in Allansford, but the last 40km after the Bay of Islands are not really exciting anymore.
In this part I will show you every stop of the trip, step by step, with all the sights and highlights.
- Lorne Beach
The first real stop along the Great Ocean Road was Lorne Beach: a beautiful, golden, fine sandy beach. If it’s war enough and the waves are not too strong, you can definitely swim (not in September though…).
There is also the cute Swing Bridge Café just behind the beach, with colourful chairs, a little bridge and sea view. We had coffee (4$ each) and relaxed for a moment. Parking is free at the café.
2. Teddy’s Lookout
Teddy’s Lookout is waiting with an amazing view just a few minutes from Lorne. The lookout is located on a small mountain and here you have a great panorama viewing the sea and the Great Ocean Road which is winding through the hills.
If you like, you can go on a little hike from the viewpoint, which leads you through the nearby forest. The hike takes about an hour, isn’t very hard and is called Teddy’s lookout circuit.
Accomodation: see Lorne Beach
Distance from Lorne Beach: 3km
3. Kennett River – Koalas along the Great Ocean Road
On we go towards Kennett River. It’s not surprising that the route between Teddy’s Lookout and here is known as one of the most beautiful parts of the Great Ocean Road. We stopped multiple times and allowed ourselves to absorb the incredible nature. Driving this breathtaking route is really a dream come true!
But, back to Kennett River. I talked about wild animals in the introduction, right? Here they come! Kennett River is indeed a small village with little houses, but even more parrots and koalas!
You’ll have the best chances of discovering koalas along Grey River Road. Look up into the eucalyptus trees and listen for a grunting, similar to pigs – yes, male koalas actually sound like pigs 🙂
The colourful parrots on the other hand, you won’t have to search long – in fact they rather search for you, as they are very trusting and also suspect food. This can be purchased at the entrance of Kennett River at Koala Café. I would advise against that, as the animals loose their natural food instinct, if they are being fed daily by humans.
Accomodation: Great Ocean Road Brewhouse
Distance from Teddy’s Lookout: 23km
4. Apollo Bay
The route section between Kennett River and Apollo Bay seems like it’s taken straight from a postcard! Unfortunately, the weather in September is not the best and the view can be a bit cloudy.
Apollo Bay is one of the bigger towns along the coastal road and you can find some cafés, restaurants, bars, hotels and campgrounds here. I don’t exactly remember the guest house we stayed at, but there are a lot of good choices (see below).
If you’re already in Apollo Bay, it’s worth visiting the actual bay. It is super long, definitely suitable for swimming and is right in front of the Great Ocean Road, which passes the little town.
Accomodation: see Kennett River
Distance from Kennett River: 23km
5. The 12 Apostles
It’s best to see the 12 Apostles at sunrise, so check the times beforehand. It is the biggest highlight of the whole Great Ocean Road: the 12 Apostles – eight huge limestone cliffs, which rise up to 60 metres out of the australian coast.
Honestly – this view has beaten everything we’ve seen so far along the Great Ocean Road. But it’s not only the cliffs, that have left us speechless. We also got extreme goosebumps when we saw this unique panorama for the first time.
But why leave early? Because we didn’t want to squeeze through the masses of people and fight for a photo. This is what happens after 9 or 10 am: countless busses come rolling in, thousands of people arrive and – understandably – everyone wants to take a photo.
We arrived around 6 am, so we had all the viewing platforms almost just for ourselves and could thoroughly enjoy the sight. You know what they say – the early bird catches the worm 🙂 There is also a big parking lot at the entrance, where you can park for free.
Fun fact: The 12 Apostles have never been 12, but nine. Indeed, one of the limestone cliffs collapsed in 2005. Since then, they’re only eight. The name 12 Apostles was chosen because it sounds cool and was supposed to attract tourists.
Accomodation: 13th Apostle Backpackers
Distance from Apollo Bay: 85km
6. Gibson Steps
After the 12 Apostles we went back towards the direction we came from, to see the also very popular Gibson Steps: stairs, which take you down the cliffs to a beach.
The Gibson Steps are the only possibility to get directly to the ocean from the 12 Apostles. You’ll also get a completely different perspective of the beautiful nature, the high cliffs and one of the Apostles from the bottom – again very impressive!
As usual, there is free parking at the Gibson Steps, but it’s very small and fills up quickly. Because of that, try to get here fast after the 12 Apostles.
Accomodation: see 12 Apostles
Distance from 12 Apostles: 1km
7. Loch Ard Gorge
Seventh stop on our Great Ocean Road route: the Loch Ard Gorge – a narrow cliff bay, which is part of the Port Campbell National Park. You can also go here by car and stop at the free parking bays.
There are multiple walkways along the cliffs starting from the parking lot. Besides them, there are stairs leading down one of the cliffs. You are awaited by a paradisaic, little bay. Swimming isn’t possible here though, as the currant around Loch Ard Gorge is unpredictable and accidents have been happening in the past.
Accomodation: see 12 Apostles
Distance from Gibson Steps: 6km
8. London Bridge
Another great sight along the Great Ocean Road is the London Bridge: a natural bridge, which is completely surrounded by water in the middle of the ocean. But that has been different: It was linked to the mainland until January 15th 1990, before it collapsed totally unexpected.
The special cliff formation was famous before the collapse, but picked up a lot more popularity after. And let’s be honest: The beautiful arch looks very pretty and impressive.
Accomodation: see 12 Apostles
Distance from Loch Ard Gorge: 15km
Helpful tips for the Great Ocean Road
Now that you’ve seen the complete route and know a lot of its highlights I’d like to reveal some planning advice.
How much time do you need?
We took two full days. This worked out well in the end, I would recommend three days if you go in summer.That way you can spend more time at each spot and are able to stop at the Bay of Islands.
So better plan two or three nights for the whole trip and all the highlights.
The Great Ocean Road as a driver
No question – the Great Ocean Road is most fun when you’re driving yourself. You’ll be completely independent and are able to stop where and when you want.
If you haven’t rented a car or a camper yet, it’s easiest to rent your vehicle in Melbourne. The large city is super close and therefore your perfect start for your Great Ocean Road trip.
I always search and book rental cars on billiger mietwagen. A camper might also be an option for you. Which vehicle makes more sense is totally up to you and your needs. It’s definitely possible to do the Great Ocean Road via normal car – not like other places – at least if you start from Melbourne. The choice of accommodation is big and oftentimes not much more expensive than a campground plus rental fee for your camper.
Do you have any more questions regarding Australia or the Great Ocean Road? Feel free to drop me a comment!