Everywhere to stop, eat, stay, and enjoy nature along Australia’s Great Ocean Road, just outside of Melbourne.
Australia is home to countless must-visit destinations, from the Outback’s red sands to the Great Barrier Reef’s vibrant corals—but no trip Down Under would be complete without a drive along the iconic Great Ocean Road.
An hour and a half south of Melbourne, the surfer town of Torquay marks the official start of the Great Ocean Road, which spans 151 miles and ends in the tiny town of Allansford outside the famous Twelve Apostles. The winding pavement hugs seaside cliffs and vast stretches of beautiful beaches. Coastal villages, rainforests, and fresh seafood abound.
“As a proud local living along the Great Ocean Road, it’s truly one of Australia’s most spectacular road trips,” says Matt Jones, owner of Great Ocean Road Private Luxury Tours. “No two days are ever the same. One day it can be a calm, sunny day with spectacular blue water, and the next day a powerful storm swell from the Southern Ocean is impressively crashing against the rocks along the coastline.”
You can visit any time of the year, but expect more traffic from December to February when the road is packed with vacationers. Your best bet may be from March to May when the water is warm enough for swimming, or sometime during October or November. While you can technically zoom through the route in one day, you won’t want to. Plan for at least two nights and three full days to get the most out of one of Australia’s best road trips.
Stop 1: Torquay
Australia’s surf capital, Torquay has that laid-back California beach vibe where flip flops (“thongs” in Australia!) are mandatory, and surfboards are as commonplace as cell phones. Home to the Rip Curl Pro every Easter Weekend at Bell’s Beach, it’s one of the best places in Australia to sit and watch locals surf massive waves or to take a surf lesson. To try the fresh, locally-sourced fare, head to Fisho’s Torquay and try some classic Australian fish and chips.
Stop 2: Anglesea
The Great Ocean Road is made up of dozens of teeny, tiny seaside towns, and Anglesea is one of the most popular. The Anglesea Golf Club is arguably the most reliable place to see kangaroos, typically in the dozens. For a sure sighting, go at first sunlight when the fairways are empty. After you’ve spotted the roos, head to Poppie’s Nursery & Cafe for some coffee and smashed avocado (a typical Aussie brekkie). From November to April, the Anglesea Riverbank Market is in full swing with food trucks, jewelers, clothing, and other goods.
Next to Anglesea, Point Addis Marine National Park has a beautiful beach for basking. The locals know when you get to the sand, you should walk all the way to the right. You’ll see a cave, and once you walk through, you’ll find a secret beach (if the tide is right). Another spot locals frequent is Point Roadknight Beach, perfect for small kids.
Stop 3: Lorne
The largest town on the Great Ocean Road, Lorne is a great spot to stop for sprawling Front Beach and picturesque point Teddy’s Lookout.
Lorne is also a top-notch pitstop for food. For starters, the Lorne Hotel is home to an outpost of Melbourne-famous restaurant MoVida, which serves upscale Spanish tapas using local produce as cockatoos perch nearby. Lorne is also home to The Bottle of Milk, the area’s best burger. For Mediterranean and meat, Ipsos has a fantastic tasting menu and a mean souva (Australian for souvlaki).
There are a variety of places to sleep along the Great Ocean Road, including the Lorne Hotel, from camping spots to motels to monasteries-turned-Airbnbs and rooms suspended in the air. When in Lorne, La Perouse is a small hotel oozing with coastal charm.
Stop 4: Kennett River
One of the best parts of the Great Ocean Road is the Australian wildlife. For your best shot at seeing koalas in the wild, stop at Kennett River and walk along Grey River Road. Drive past the typical tourist car park and head farther down the road until you can safely park on the side. The eucalyptus trees are plentiful here, meaning koalas will be perched up in the trees snacking all day long. Keep your eyes peeled; you could spot as many as a dozen.
Afterward, stop at the Apollo Bay Bakery for a traditional Australian meat pie; you should also sample their famous scallop pie. If you have room for dessert, grab a cone from the award-winning Dooley’s Premium Ice Cream.
Stop 5: Cape Otway
After Apollo Bay, the road turns from windy seaside cliffs with ocean mist to full-on rainforest. Here, you can take the turnoff for Cape Otway National Park. This is an ideal place for nature lovers who want to hike through the Redwoods to waterfalls like Hopetoun Falls and Beauchamp Falls.
If you’re in it for the views and photos, drive down to the end for the Cape Otway Lightstation (you can also stay the night here!) and Parker Inlet for a small, pristine beach.
Stop 6: Port Campbell
Dominating the home stretch of the Great Ocean Road (and the reason that most people drive it) are the towering limestone stacks known as the Twelve Apostles. Although their count is now down to eight, these organic structures protruding from the azure blue water are still a sight to see, especially during sunrise and sunset. Take the Gibson Steps down to the beach for a different view of the mammoth cliffs.
Nearby is Loch Ard Gorge, a beautiful beach with limestone stacks on either side. Past Port Campbell is the London Bridge and the Grotto, both unique limestone structures with stunning ocean views.
Stop at Forage on the Foreshore for dishes grown, produced, and foraged along the Great Ocean Road. You can stay in any one of the backpackers or hotels in Port Campbell including Southern Ocean Villas, but if you’re up for an hour-long drive, stay at Drift House in Port Fairy. Their effortlessly chic boutique suites are worth it.