One of the world's most famous driving routes, Victoria's Great Ocean Road offers scenic surprises at every fork in the road. In signature Australian style, endless stretches of white sandy beaches are flanked by dense pockets of rain forest, charming coastal towns, and canopies populated by koalas.
The best way to take in this spectacular stretch of highway is by car or coach, with the majority of driving tours departing from Melbourne and including a tour guide, round-trip transportation, and a visit to the Twelve Apostles. Activities along the way may include wine tastings in Apollo Bay; spotting wild koalas in Kennett River; hiking along the shipwreck coast to witness the natural splendor of the Loch Ard Gorge; or pulling over at sunset to witness the Great Ocean Road at its most majestic. Day trips on the route tend to run upwards of 12 hours due to all of the driving and can be combined with a trip to Phillip Island for the famous penguin parade.
How to Get There
The Great Ocean Road is set 150 miles (240 km) southwest of Melbourne and 100 miles (165 km) from Geelong. It takes about three hours to arrive from Melbourne by road. Buses from these cities service major Great Ocean Road towns such as Torquay, Anglesea, Lorne, and Apollo Bay; however, a car is essential to take a road trip on the full 150-mile (243-km) route.
When to Get There
In December and January, the road’s small coastal towns are especially popular among Australians from New South Wales and South Australia cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. Crowds can often dampen the tranquil atmosphere of the route; an off-season visit can help you avoid both traffic and the scorching summer sun.
Best Outdoor Experiences Along the Route
The Southern Ocean waves are a paradise for surfers, who flock here from Melbourne in summer. Seaside towns such as Geelong, Lorne, and Torquay (the undisputed capital of Australia’s surfing scene) offer whale-watching and maritime history, while the monolithic rock columns of the Twelve Apostles are an iconic site known around the world.
For nature lovers, the rugged coastlines of Port Campbell National Park and the waterfalls and ancient forests of Great Otway National Park offer opportunities to see kangaroos, wallabies, fairy penguins, and tiger snakes. Snorkelers and scuba divers can also experience the underwater world at Twelve Apostles Marine National Park, an excellent place to swim beneath the rocks that rise above corals and kelp forests.