The Great Ocean Road is one of the most iconic road trips in Australia and its easy to see why. A lot of visitors head straight to the Twelve Apostles on a day trip and miss so many wonderful sights along the way. Make the time to spend a few days exploring this beautiful area and the Great Ocean Road in 3 days makes a great itinerary.
This area is best explored by car giving you freedom to stop where you please. We hired a car from Avis which was easily picked up at Melbourne Airport. Alternatively, if you want to stop for the night anywhere you want, consider hiring a campervan. No matter how you travel the Great Ocean Road drive is a must.
Day 1: Great Ocean Road – Melbourne to Apollo Bay
Rise early and head towards Torquay. Torquay is a popular surf town and the start of the Great Ocean Road. Make sure you make a stop at Bells Beach. Depending on the time of year you visit, you may see the famous big waves and surfing competition. Bells Beach has many viewing platforms and a stairway down to the beach which is beautiful. If you have time and feel like stretching your legs, the Bells Track is a stunning cliff top walk from Bird Rock (just outside Torquay) to Bells Beach. It is an easy 3.2km walk.
Read more: Where to stay on the Great Ocean Road
From Bells Beach continuing driving west towards Angelsea. Anglesea is a small coastal community on the Great Ocean Road. If you feel like stopping, there is a lovely boardwalk around the mouth of the river. Otherwise continue driving to Airleys Inlet where a stop at the Split Point Lighthouse is a must. Tours operate at the lighthouse and you can climb up at certain times of the day. Otherwise there are lookout points that you can easily access free of charge.
Be sure to stop at the Memorial Arch not far from Eastern View to take a selfie with the iconic Great Ocean Road sign.
Lorne is the perfect place to stop for a late lunch which many different cafes lining the main street. The Bottle of Milk offers tasty burgers or if you are up for a quick snack grab a sandwich or cake from the bakery. Before leaving Lorne, make a quick trip up to Teddy’s Lookout for fantastic views of the surrounding area.
From here its less than an hours drive to Apollo Bay which is the perfect place to base yourself for the evening. There are many small hotels to choose from. We choose to stay at the Best Western, which was clean, spacious and located in a great area close to town and the beach.
For sunset head to Mariners Lookout about a 10 minute drive for views over the town. The lookout is a parcel of land that was gifted to the town to allow visitors to the area enjoy the beauty of it.
If you like seafood, the co-op at the Harbour sells fresh delicious seafood and offers casual seating looking over the beach and town.
Day 2: Apollo Bay to Port Campbell
Apollo Bay has a beautiful walking track along the beach and is perfect for an early morning stroll. Enjoy a leisurely morning before setting off for the day. Be sure to stop at the local bakery and pick up some items for the day ahead.
Not too far from Apollo Bay is Maits Rest Rainforest Walk. It is an easy 800m self guided walk through the rainforest and is worth checking out.
From here continue along the Great Ocean Road. Not too far along is the turn off to the Cape Otway Lighthouse. The Lighthouse is about a 25min from the Great Ocean Road back towards the coast. Keep an eye out as you drive though as this area is the natural habitat of many koalas.
The Cape Otway Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse on mainland Australia and is considered to be one of the most significant. The lightstation is open 9am – 5pm daily. Tickets aren’t cheap and cost $16.60 per adult. This includes entrance to climb the lighthouse. If you have extra time, consider staying in one of the Lightkeepers Cottages.
Read more: Best day trips from Sydney
If you have the time there is also a treetops adventure park in the area, however it is recommended to spend at least half a day exploring here.
From the lighthouse continue on until you hit the coastline again. You will first come to Gibsons Stairs. It’s a small carpark on the side of the road. From here take the stairs down to the beach and marvel at the wonderful coastline.
A couple of minutes further down the road, are the Twelve Apostles. Park and walk the pathway out to the viewing platforms. You will no doubt be surrounded by other tourists, but even with all the people it is still a beautiful sight. Sunrise is the best time of day with few people making the effort to rise so early.
The Loch Ard Gorge is another must visit before you finally arrive in Port Campbell late in the afternoon. Port Campbell was one of my favourite towns on the Great Ocean Road and was ideally located for visiting the Twelve Apostles. They were so incredible I visited them 3 times.
Day 3: Port Campbell to Melbourne
If you enjoy short walks, the Port Campbell Discovery Walk is a must when in the area. It is 3.8km in distance and takes around 1.5hours to complete. The walk along the clifftops offers great views over the coastline.
The London Bridge is also a well known attraction in the area, though I found it quite underwhelming. The arch collapsed many years ago and is now separated from the mainland and just looks like a large rock in the water.
The Grotto is another sight which is worthwhile stopping at briefly. You are here you may as well see everything.
If there is one thing you see on your Great Ocean Road visit is the Bay of Islands. Further past Port Campbell and off the day trippers path, there are a lot fewer visitors and the coast is just as stunning if not more so than the 12 apostles.
From here it is approx a 3 hour drive back into Melbourne where you can think about how fabulous your mini roadtrip was. Otherwise continue on The Grampians for some more hiking and incredible landscapes.
If you do decide to do this trip over a few days you will need to find some accommodation. Read here for the best places to stay.