Picture this: aquamarine waters, pristine white-sand beaches, lush greenery, winding roads and the right amount of sunshine. The main allure of the Great Ocean Road is obviously all of the above, but it’s one of those things that simply cannot be captured until you see it with your own eyes.
The one thing that really surprised me about the drive though was how much countryside there was! Cows, sheep, horses, more cows, more sheep (and at least one or two Emu). I liked it – because it reminded me of home. Evidently the dairy farms here are a plenty, which makes sense, but it was something I hadn’t expected to see so much of on this drive.
And with that – here is a rough one week itinerary to follow that worked out beautifully for us, so I feel confident recommending the same for you!
Day 1 | Leave Melbourne and head to Torquay/Lorne
- We had actually stayed on Phillip Island to watch the Penguin Parade on night one, but there was a very convenient Ferry to which you can porter your vehicle to cut about 2.5 hours from your commute. It’s 80 bucks, but of course we did this because after all – time is money!
- From here, we were in South Victoria and started driving to Lorne, but not without a rest in Torquay. This is the perfect stop-over for lunch and to take in the stunning views of Bells Beach, a surfer’s paradise.
- Jump back on the road after a stroll on the beach and head to Lorne (about an hour out) for another sweet little town offering a smattering of restos and cafes, and a small theatre that we did actually attend! There are two films playing per night, so take a peek for what’s on if you’re looking for some laid-back entertainment.
- Our campsite was at Cumberland River Holiday Park which provided a creek-side set-up to lull us to sleep with a babbling brook outside our tent doors. There is also plenty of hiking here and a short jaunt through the woods to Jedd’s Pool provides the perfect swimming hole for a quick dip on a hot day.
- We tried to hike beyond Jedd’s Pool but the brush was so thick that we decided to turn back – wear long clothing if you plan to go further because you’ll be bushwhacking the whole way no doubt.
- The best part about this campsite I’d say, was across the road following a short path to a secluded beach. If we’d had a bit more sun that would have been a huge bonus! The weather during this stretch was not on our side though, and instead we sat on the rocks at the shoreline for a quick beer before the rain came down.
Day 2 | The Twelve Apostles to Warrnambool
- To get to the Twelve Apostles, you’ll pass through plenty of small towns along the way, noting Apollo Bay was the spot for us to fuel up for lunch (and gas).
- But THIS is the part of the drive that everyone obsesses over, myself included. Enhanced majorly by the fact that I even saw a few Koala’s in Great Otway National Park hanging out in the trees along the side of the road.
- On a technicality, there are actually only 8 apostles left as a few have collapsed over the years, but the beauty remains. The Apostles are limestone formations that jut high out of the ocean having broken-off from the mainland a mere width of the beach away. You can’t quite capture their depth, but the whole thing is simply amazing.
- The Twelve, or should I say Eight, are the start of this amazing drive (heading West), but there are multiple other sites spanning beyond 20+km down the road, so make sure you go to these each as well.
- Loch Ard Gorge | named after a ship that crashed ashore with only two survivors of the fifty-four on board, it’s tragic discovery has opened up the most stunning setting for us to enjoy alongside hoards of other tourists. That being said, you can still catch the right moment of solitude to take in the view in its full, unobstructed glory.
- The London Arch | next stop along the way was another limestone beauty created by erosion over the years and forming into a “bridge.”
- My favourite discovery at this spot though, was a sign that indicated penguin colonies apparently gather nearby! I’d say to go to the pier look-out down on the left to see if you can catch any making their nightly trek across the beach to the safety of their burroughs at sun down.
- The Grotto | potentially my favourite stop of them all – the grotto had a lot to offer by way of cliff-side views, aqua waters, and the perfect peek whole to peer through to the raging ocean on the other side.
- Bay of Islands | our final stop-off being the Bay of Islands was such an expected surprise. Bay of Islands is a collection of jutting limestone ridges similar to the Twelve Apostles, though these ones are lined with greenery, mostly on top, which provides a stunning contrast. It’s clearly a route less travelled, but definitely take the time for this one as it’s breathtaking.
- Overall, this stretch of the Great Ocean Road is easily the most picturesque of the whole drive, so make sure you catch it on a bright, sunny day. Stay an extra night in Lorne if the forecast is grim because trust me, it’s worth it.
- Finally we finished our drive along the coast, through the forest and past the vast expanses of farm-land to post up in Warrnambool for a few nights.
Day 3 + 4 | Warrnambool
- Setting up camp at Surfside Holiday Park, the name doesn’t lie. With a short jaunt through the treeline, you open up onto a nearly private white-sand beach with perfect rolling white-caps for a surfer’s dream come true.
- Bonus points for the paved bike/walking path directly between the camp site and the beach, so you could go for a nice cruise in the morning before lounging for the afternoon, or head out on a mission to the try the many cheese or chocolate shops in the area. AND there were the sweetest little bunnies hopping around the grounds, which, who doesn’t love that?
Day 4, 5 + 6 | Barossa Valley + Eden Valley
I’m going to post a whole separate section on wine country (here) because this was hands down my favourite stop so far and I have so many recommendations to make!
But as you make the 7 hour-drive North, you go from one kind of beauty boasting sand and sun (well, we had rain, but you might have sun!), through the grassy dry-lands North of Adelaide, right into the rolling green vines of wine country. Once you hit it, it’s literally every which way you look – just row after row of grapes and greenery.
- Coonawarra | we made a pit stop in Coonawarra for a tasting on our way to Tanunda where we stayed in Barossa. Coonawarra supplies popular vineyards such as Lindeman’s, Wynn’s, Yalumba and of course an impressive roster of many others to stand alongside. We stopped at Balnaves and I got my first authentic taste of both Australian Riesling + Shiraz, happy girl.
- Tanunda | up, up and away we went driving to Tanunda which is one of the larger towns in Barossa. It was the perfect place to stay and we were quite central which provided an amazing opportunity to create our own itinerary and bike around town. Again, more on that here! I also saw two Kangaroos along the drive as we were heading up at dusk when the Roo’s come out to play, so yay! Another quintessentially Aussie experience ticked off the list.
Day 7 | Up to you!
From here, you can either go to Adelaide as the nearest major city to jump along to your next adventure, or stay a while to get a taste of city life. We skipped Adelaide completely as we’re still on a mission West, so my next posts will outline what to do if you’d like to head on towards the coast from wine country!