‘I have seldom seen a more fearful section of the coastline’, explorer Mathew Flinders said about half the stretch starting from Cape Otway known as the historic shipwreck trail that show some sites where foul play caused more than 160 ships to be wrecked. Before you embark on this Great Ocean Roadtrip, learn about the historic significance so you’re more familiar with the points of interests on every nook and cranny along the road.
With long and winding roads, magnificent ocean views and charming towns dotted along the rugged coastline, the Great Ocean Road is one of the most iconic road trips in the world.
The Great Ocean Road Trip
The Great Ocean Road is a 244km stretch of coastal highway starting from the town of Torquay to Allansford near Warrnambool. It was built by soldiers returning from the First World War in memory of their fallen brothers in arms and is considered as the world’s largest war memorial. This stretch is a mix of everything you’ll want to see during a road trip – from amazing views where the sea meets the forest, historic lighthouse, the cliffs at the Port Campbell National Park to places where you can spot Kangaroos and Koalas.
Read Now: If stopping by Cape Otway Lighthouse, read this untold story of the Cape Otway Lighthouse.
You’ve heard me rave about road trips and this was one of my favorites. The Great Ocean road trip can be easily done in 3 or 4 days from Melbourne with the onward journey taking the coastal highway and the return via the inland and more direct route through Colac. If you’re short on time, you can even do it in 2 days taking the coastal road on your way to the 12 Apostles that takes approx. 4+ hours because of the winding roads and depending on the number of stop overs and on your return the direct route through Colac that is pretty much a straight road will take about 3 hours.
Torquay to Lorne
Our destination for the first day was the coastal town of Lorne. We stopped over at Torquay to grab a bite. Torquay is a surfers’ paradise with some great beaches and ever better waves. After a quick peek around this beautiful city, we left Torquay on our rear view mirror and were immediately greeted by the iconic B100 road sign. The Great Ocean Road has begun.
Stop Over at Split Lighthouse and Willow’s Tea House on Aireys Inlet
Though I missed a peek the first time, the second time around we wandered down to the tip of the split to get a first glimpse into Australia’s shipwreck coast. Just on the way to the lighthouse is the Willow’s teahouse, a cute and charming cafe housed in an English style cottage. Since it was winter, we treated ourselves with hot chocolate and cappuccino with caramel shots for take away.
A word of caution for all the city dwellers, while you start on the coastal road, it won’t be a bad idea to take it a little easy at the start. The road is two lane and winding, and takes a little getting used to. So while you may be tempted to have a look at the beautiful ocean views, its best advised to wait for a road side stop to do that. But when you do get the chance to have a look at the scenery its easy to understand why this is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. The turquoise blue waters of the ocean on one side and the unending green of the bush line on the other is sure to make you fall in love with nature all over again.
Our stop for the night was Lorne, a beautiful seaside town and a popular destination on the Great Ocean Road tourist route. While you’re at Lorne, don’t miss Teddy’s lookout for a fine panoramic view of the town, coastline and the Great Ocean Road.
Lorne to Port Campbell National Park
On the drive from Lorne you pass through some beautiful coastal towns like Wye River and Apollo Bay. Then the road turns inward to enter the Great Otway National Park.
Boardwalk at Maits Rest Rainforest
In just a span of 2 years, I’ve done plenty of forest walks but the beginning of it all was the very easy stroll in Mait’s Rest Rainforest. We walked through the tree-fern gullies and moss-covered rainforest trees – giving an amazing rainforest experience to anyone who hasn’t been to one before.
One moment you are out in open watching the coast, next you are surrounded by dense forest. Our next destination was the Otway Light Station at the tail end of the national park. This is Australia’s oldest working lighthouse and made for a beautiful setting for some great photography. Next we headed back to the B100 and continued westward towards Wreck Beach.
Walking the Wreck Beach
Many ships have come to their unfortunate demise on these shores and Wreck Beach is one of the many spots where you can walk among some of the wreckage littered along the beach. The walk to the beach is around 2 hours return and can be at times tedious, but for the view, totally worth it.
Stay Near the Twelve Apostles
Our next destination was going to be the 12 Apostles, the highlight of the trip and we had booked ourselves in at the 12 Apostles Motel. We reached the 12 Apostles parking lot around 4pm and the place was packed with tourists and we decided to abandon our plan to walk down to the beach for sunset views and instead come back for sunrise.
On my second visit to the Twelve Apostles, we were looking at a luxurious stay as we had our family visiting us from Dubai. The Southern Ocean Villas was a perfect double storey villa with 4 bedrooms for 6 people and was pretty spacious with a kitchen and a private balcony – great for large families.
If you’re staying close to the Apostles, head to the 12 Rocks Beach Bar cafe at Port Campbell. I highly recommend this place for their hospitality, the amazing view and their amazing food – whether its for their dinner or for their brekkie. When I’m on a road trip or heading out for a barista take away, I order a cappuccino with shots of caramel. At most cafes, you barely get the taste of caramel or at some there is just too much of it. The 12 Rocks Bar and cafe had me right then and there! The cafe was only 2 minute drive from the Southern Ocean Villas so headed there for dinner and brekkie.
The Twelve Apostles Lookout
Next day we left early and found the 12 Apostles car park nearly empty in the morning. We walked to the viewing deck and had pretty much the entire place to ourselves. The morning views of the 12 Apostles are truly breathtaking and the walk along the beach in the morning breeze is a perfect way to start the day.
The Apostles were formed due to the erosion – the harsh and extreme weather from Southern Ocean eroded the limestones with time to form cliffs and arches to slowly collapse leaving rock stacks. The waves continue to further erode the stacks so there is currently the Apostles are down to 8.
Walk Down the Beach near Loch Ard Gorge
Our next destination was the famous Loch Ard Gorge, the magnificent naturally formed arch standing tall in the ocean. The sound that the waves make as they splash into the gorge can make your heart skip a beat – it’s similar to the sounds of the thunder.
Possibly the second most iconic spot in the Great Ocean Road is the London Arch near Port Campbell, which is a short 20 minute drive from the Loch Ard Gorge. Previously called the London Bridge, the span connecting the land mass to the mainland collapsed in 1990 leaving the arch to now stand alone in the ocean.
After a day full of photo stops and sight seeing it was time to head to Warrnambool, the official end of the Great Ocean Road, and call it a day.
Day Trip to Port Fairy from Warrnambool
But we didn’t yet end the day; we had an additional day to spare so we headed to Port Fairy – about 25 minutes from Warrnambool. Stretching from Cape Otway, Port Fairy is the last destination on the Shipwreck Coast.
Being a charming fishing village, you can spend hours watching the fishermen unload the crayfish. We also took a stroll to the Port Fairy lighthouse that still send its light out to the sea.
Warrnambool to Colac
The next day’s return drive was inland via the Princes Highway with a quick stop over at Colac for brunch. The city of Colac situated on the shores of the lake by the same name, is a perfect spot to grab a bite from one of its many charming cafés and enjoy a stroll along the shores of the beautiful lake. Once we bid adieu to Colac it was an easy drive all the way back home to Melbourne to wind up what has been a memorable road trip!
The entire stretch of the Great Ocean Road is dotted with many view points giving you fantastic coastal views and soon you will find yourself getting out of one sight seeing spot and straight into another.
Most of our resources found the Twelve Apostles not worth a visit as they see them as just a bunch of rocks. But if you read about the roads historic significance – from the shipwrecks to the world war 1, as well as enjoy the drive rather than hitting the attractions, you will see the Great Ocean Road and the Twelve Apostles from a different perspective. Have you been and what do you think? Share your comments below.
This is not a sponsored post nor am I paid to promote any cafe or hotels. These are genuine recommendations.