The Great Ocean Road spans 243 kilometres from Melbourne to Port Fairy and features stunning coastlines, majestic limestone formations, traditional lands, unique cultural heritage, and excellent views of the Southern Ocean.
Halfway through its stretch is a fine seaside town that boasts attractions, spectacular views, and tons of seafood; and it’s called Apollo Bay.
Here’s what I found to do when cruising through the town on my Great Ocean Road trip.
A Glimpse of Apollo Bay
This amazing town is not just among the most picturesque in Victoria but in all of Australia as well, dating back to 1845 when Captain Loutit gave it its name after his trading vessel. If you come from Melbourne, getting to Apollo Bay is a 197-kilometre nonstop drive for approximately two hours.
With a population of 1,598 at the 2016 census, this place is quieter and calmer than Lorne and Torquay and most of its neighbouring towns, making it a perfect base for family camping trips and solo road trips. Aside from its amazing views and activities, it’s a delight to see Southern Right Whales that flock to the area in the winter to take their young to warmer places during migration season. Add to that some humpback whales that can be seen off the coast, though not very frequently.
When you come for a visit, Apollo Bay can also show you its artistic side through its two museums–plus the Bass Strait Shell Museum, which features an astounding collection of corals, local and overseas shells, and preserved specimens from the ocean.
With camera in hand, I explored the area during my trip around Australia. Below are some of the spots to check out if you’re visiting.
Restaurants in Apollo Bay
If you’re like me, I like to check out first the restaurants in a new place that I am visiting just so I know where to go in between explorations. And Apollo Bay doesn’t disappoint. Below, I have categorised my favourite places to dine at.
If you’re not up for some heavy eating, let Sandy Feet Cafe take care of your coffee fix. Open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week (although make sure you check as opening times may change!), with a diverse menu, this cafe serves delicious coffee, cakes, fresh juices, and a variety of food.
Sandy Feet Cafe also serves dinner three times a week, offering local seafood dishes and Australian bush foods. And if you’re living on the healthy side, try their gluten-free and vegetarian alternatives.
Make this bakery your breakfast stop and devour their salad rolls, sandwiches, or sausage rolls (unless like me you’re of the vegetarian persuasion). If you haven’t tried a scallop pie, Apollo Bay Bakery’s is a must-try!
There is also a range of healthy options, including vegan-friendly rolls, pies, and cakes.
Established in 1887, the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse is considered a cornerstone in Apollo Bay and has been serving and welcoming tourists and locals alike since then.
This restaurant has expansive beer gardens and a vibrant atmosphere that let you just sit back and relax while enjoying their food and drinks, including their Light, Pale Ale, and their Prickly Moses XPA. Make sure to visit their tasting room and bottle shop, the Tastes of the Region, for an incredible experience of tasting their selection of local and international craft beers, gins, wines, and local produce.
Things to Do in Apollo Bay
After enjoying a hearty meal, why don’t you check out these recommendations of things to do in Apollo Bay?
Witness the grandeur of the Apollo Bay Seafood Festival
Ok. So full disclosure… I’m not a seafood fan. BUT… some of my readers are, so here’s some tips for tasting the local seafood treats during your stay.
Since Apollo Bay is a popular place for seafood, you can expect nothing less than a smorgasbord of marine delights that come from the town’s waters. The Apollo Bay Seafood Festival also features the locals’ fresh produce like shitake mushrooms, raspberries, meats, vegetables, cheeses, olives, and wines. Held every February, you’ll get to witness live entertainment and demonstrations from chefs and also find beer, wines, market stalls, and an abundant flow of seafood.
Spot Southern Right Whales
Don’t be the last to see the endearing Southern Right Whales, which can be spotted as you travel along the Great Ocean Road. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find 25 species of migrating whales on the Otways coastline each year, including Killer Whales, Blue Whales, and Humpback Whales. While many of these whales come to socialise and breed with each other, the Southern Right ones choose these sheltered bays to give birth to their calves.
Admire the glorious beauty of the Cape Otway Lightstation
The oldest surviving and most significant lighthouse in all of mainland Australia is here in Apollo Bay–the Cape Otway Lightstation. No visitor should ever skip exploring this attraction in one of the many unique tours being offered in the town.
Also nicknamed the ‘Beacon of Hope’, the lightstation was built in 1848 and stands 90 metres above the Bass Strait ocean. It offers spectacular views of the sea, but behind these views is the sad story of lives lost on this coast, which led to the building of the Cape Otway Lightstation.
Immerse yourself in the beauty of the Great Otway National Park
Everyone who comes to the Great Ocean Road region should never miss visiting the Great Otway National Park. This is the perfect way to experience Australia’s ancient rainforests, complete with the park’s mossy forest of Melba Gully, giant beech trees, Californian Redwoods, and the magical waterfalls in the area. Another can’t-miss here also is the abounding local seal colonies.
One of the most popular activities here is the Great Ocean Walk, which is a long-distance walk that extends up to 101 kilometres, passing through scenic destinations such as the Port Campbell National Park and the Twelve Apostles. It’s not an easy walk, but it’s definitely worth your time.
Then, visit the Otway Fly, a fun and thrilling park within the Otways. The Treetop Walk is 600 metres long, with a height of 20-30 metres, where you can walk on an elevated walk to see the wondrous beauty of the fauna and flora of the Great Ocean Road region.
The Great Otway National Park is a part of an Aboriginal cultural landscape that recognises the traditional owners of the land in the area, making it a clear effort for fostering genuine and lasting partnerships with them.
Keep your swing in check at the Apollo Bay Golf Club
Take a break and check your swing at the Apollo Bay Golf Club. Drive to Point Bunbury and experience this golf course that offers you challenges that vary with each passing day. This is because it is exposed to the elements, making the level of difficulty change, depending on the weather and type of day.
The five par four and four par three holes comprise the 9-hole course. But more than the facilities are the fabulous sea, bay, and hill views that let you appreciate Australia’s stunning coastline.
Spot platypuses in Lake Elizabeth
Located deep in the Otways, on the East Barwon River, is Lake Elizabeth, which was formed in 1951 when a landslide formed a natural dam. It’s placid and serene, characterised by calm waters, timbered flanks, and dead tree trunks. People who have visited the lake have spotted the elusive platypus either at dusk or at dawn.
If you are thinking of camping, there’s a campground right on Barwon River’s east branch’s banks, which is only a 20-minute walk to Lake Elizabeth.
Enjoy the views from Marriners Lookout
Nope, you did not just see a typo. That’s what it is–the Marriners Lookout. Located in the Otway Hills, it gives you breathtaking views of the seaside village below. You can get here by walking for a mere 10 minutes from the parking area, or you may opt for the healthy way of walking 1.5 kilometres from Apollo Bay along the Great Ocean Road or the beach. Then, you climb the steep hill for another 1.5 kilometres to get to the viewing point.
Nature lovers will definitely love the sight of the white folds of crashing waves and the sounds of nature. But if you are more of an adventurous type, this spot is perfect for paragliding and hang gliding.
Need to know more about the things to do in Apollo Bay? Here are some FAQs to check out.
Can we camp in Apollo Bay?
Certainly! There are numerous camping spots in the town–both paid and free campsites, on the beach facing the sunset, by the waterfalls, or in the rainforests.
The Apollo Bay Camping Grounds, Apollo Bay Recreation Reserve, Marengo Family Caravan Park, Big4 Apollo Bay Holiday Park, Beauchamp Falls Reserve Campground, Dandos Campground, and Allenvale Mill Site Campground are among the most popular here.
For camping sites along the rest of the stretch of the Great Ocean Road, you can choose from a variety of options too.
Where are the public toilets in Apollo Bay?
Don’t worry about nature calls because public toilets are scattered all over the Great Ocean Road, with five of them located in Apollo Bay. The locations include Caltex Apollo Bay, Pascoe Street Car Park, Apollo Bay Boat Ramp, and two more within Apollo Bay.
You can check this public toilets map for more options as you continue your journey along the Great Ocean Road.
Is there a visitor information centre in Apollo Bay?
Yes, there is. You can visit the Apollo Bay Visitor Information Centre at 100 Great Ocean Road.
Is there free wifi in Apollo Bay?
There is no public wifi, but more independent restaurants and cafes are offering free wifi in Apollo Bay. Check out WiFi Cafe Spots, so you can find places where you can stay connected.
Is there any festival to look forward to in Apollo Bay?
Come to Apollo Bay in February and witness the exhilarating Apollo Bay Seafood and Produce Festival. There’ll be tons of local fruits from the forest and sea that the festival will showcase. Add to that the exciting cooking demonstrations, market and food stalls, dancing performers, and live entertainment. It’s truly a festival that you should experience.
Are there petrol stations in Apollo Bay?
You can find at least two petrol stations in the town, but there are tons more along the entire stretch of the Great Ocean Road. Fuel cards can be used at major operators.
You can go to Caltex at 177 Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay, and they are open every day from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM.
The other station is Ampol Foodary Apollo Bay, also located at 177 Great Ocean Road. Their hours of operation are from 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM from Wednesdays through Tuesdays.
Where are the supermarkets in Apollo Bay?
For your supermarket needs, you can choose between FoodWorks at 4 Hardy Street and IGA at 103-109 Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay.
Where can I go to buy prescription meds?
For pharmacy services, you can go to Community Care Chemist at 121-123 Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay. They are open from Monday to Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM and on Saturdays from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM.
When on the Great Ocean Road, make a stop at Apollo Bay. This place never ceases to amaze everyone with its views of the Southern Ocean, attractions, coast and sea views, and local history. It’s highly recommended!