By Chris Burns, Hop To It Tours
Most people that travel to Melbourne try to fit in a trip down the Great Ocean Road to see the iconic Twelve Apostles. Known as one of the world’s best road trips (just Google that phrase to prove it), people look for a quick way to do it, take their selfies at the key spots and thus tick it off their bucket list. They look on Google Maps, see it’s doable, see all of the tour companies offering one-day trips and away they go.
A four hour plus road trip awaits you just to get to the Twelve Apostles direct and another three hours back along the Princes Fwy. These times assume no stops, no enjoyment; just driving. Yes, the drive is beautiful, but obviously you want to do more! As such, hopefully you now realise that, unless you have no other option due to time constraints, this is foolish. After all, this is one of the World’s Best Road Trips!
A two-day option is definitely more reasonable. Doing the Great Ocean Road drive, stopping in Lorne or Apollo Bay overnight and then continuing on to the Twelve Apostles the next day before taking the freeway back to Melbourne is manageable. Having said that it is still quite a rush and won’t let you enjoy everything the Great Ocean Road has to offer. The Great Ocean Road should be seen more as a region rather than a road. A lot of the amazing things to do are just off the road and you won’t properly explore them if you feel the rush.
Thus here is why you should do a 3 day road trip (at least) instead.
The Great Ocean Road can almost be divided into three sections, all of which need equal time. Those sections are known as the Surf Coast, Otway Rainforest and the Shipwreck Coast. Because of this we are going to look at an itinerary that spends roughly a day at each.
The Great Ocean Road starts in Torquay, just over an hour’s drive from Melbourne and home to surfing in Australia. Here brands such as Rip Curl and Quicksilver were founded in 1969 and you can visit all of the outlets and the Australian Surfing Museum to prove it. Torquay is also home to one of the best beaches to learn to surf at. As such it’s worth spending a few hours enjoying the beach, hiring a surfboard or taking a lesson.
From there Bells Beach (home of the Rip Curl Pro every Easter and made famous by the movie Point Break) is only fifteen minutes down the road. Bells Beach is definitely only for experienced surfers. Known as one of the world’s best breaks it’s worth spending some time at the lookout points watching the surfers weave their magic.
The Surf Coast is synonymous with surfing towns and as you drive along you will pass Jan Jac, Angelsea and Aireys Inlet before hitting Lorne. Each of these have great beaches, good cafes and craft beer and are worth a stop to break things up. On the drive along the way you’ll pass the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and also the iconic Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch. We recommend ending your first day at Lorne and if you have time check out Erskine Falls and Teddy’s Lookout for a taste of what day two has to offer. Lorne itself is beautiful. The birdlife is amazing, cockatoos, kookaburras and red parrots are everywhere and help it provide an ambience unmatched anywhere else.
Once you leave Lorne you hit the Otway Rainforest, an area that is lush, with beautiful rainforest walks, waterfalls and fun activities. It is here we especially recommend detours off the Great Ocean Road to make the most of it. Firstly though continue onto Kennett River where your first good chance to spot koalas is. Continue past Apollo Bay and make your choice to visit Cape Otway lighthouse (the southernmost point on the trip) or bypass it. It is a 40 minute detour each way and isn’t that exciting but you do pass koalas again!
The best parts of the Otways though are just beyond it (Mait’s Rest and Melba Gully hour walks) and then above it near the town of Beech Forest. Here there are two more walks highly recommended – Triplett Falls and Hopetoun Falls, and also the Otway Fly, an adventure centre in amongst the redwoods. Here you can do a zip line course or do
the 25m high treetop walk and tower observatory. This place is special not just because of the fun activities but because it goes through rainforest and redwood forest, giving a diverse experience.
After finishing up here we recommend driving on to your accommodation at Port Campbell or Peterborough. Then you have a choice, you could do the 12 Apostles for sunset or head over to the Bay of Islands. Both are amazing but we’d recommend the latter so you can spend longer at the 12 Apostles the next day!
We’d recommend heading back to the Twelve Apostles and starting day 3 there. The benefit of doing it early – no tourists! Also the sun is behind you so the photos are nicer. Also you get the chance to do the 12 Apostles helicopter ride without having to wait in line!
From there you are going to want to spend anywhere up to an hour at the following places: Loch Ard Gorge, The Arch, London Bridge, The Grotto and if you haven’t done it yet, the Bay of Islands. All are spectacular rock formations carved out of the sea and worth their own visit.
Early afternoon you are going to start the trip back through the town of Timboon, where you can visit a cheese factory, ice cream factory and local distillery. The town has a quaint, turn of the twentieth century feel and is worth relaxing at for an hour or two before the three-hour drive back to Melbourne.
Three days on the Great Ocean Road, busy but manageable. Hopefully now you can see to do it in less won’t do it justice.
Hop To It Tours spends three days on the Great Ocean Road as part of our 4 day campout. The itinerary is similar with a few modifications, taking into account we are coming from the Grampians. For more information click on the tour link in the menu above!