Hopping on a road trip with your family or friends is one of the exciting things we want to do in this lifetime. However, it’s even more exciting (not to mention adrenaline-rushing) when you do it alone, with just you and your own car or campervan. And if you haven’t decided on where to go, below you’ll find a list of destinations to guide you along a trip from Geelong to Port Fairy.
What is The Great Ocean Road Trip?
Known as the greatest scenic drive in all of Australia, the Great Ocean Road extends from Geelong all the way to the South Australian border, passing through the west to Nelson. Starting in Geelong, it meanders through an inland route, making its way through some of the country’s most famous surf beaches, breathtaking seaside towns, and some wild beaches, all with breathtaking natural beauty. The stunning coastline and the sound of the crashing waves accompany you throughout the 243-kilometre drive if you start in Torquay.
Now, are you ready for the ultimate ocean road adventure? Read on for an itinerary of must-see places to visit along your Great Ocean Road trip. Read on 🙂
The Great Ocean Road Itinerary
For this trip, I started in Geelong and explored the many stops along the way to Port Fairy. Stopping for photos, of course 🙂
Start Here: Geelong
Geelong is Victoria’s second-largest city and is a great start to your trip. It is only about 30 minutes from the Great Ocean Road. If it’s your first time in Geelong, you can try and experience Eastern Beach, where you can take a swim and soak in the sun while admiring the stunning views over Corio Bay. Board the Skywheel for even more intense views before enjoying some fish and chips at the Geelong Boathouse. And if you love wines, there are tons of breweries and wineries here, where you can buy wines for your evening campfires. Just do make sure not to drink while driving!
From late 2022, the Spirit of Tasmania will be departing from Geelong, so all you travellers coming to the mainland from Tassie can bypass the busy Melbourne traffic and head straight out on your Great Ocean Road tour when you drive off the boat.
It’s time for the fun to begin. But, first, make sure you have a full tank, so you don’t have to miss the stunning scenery while worrying about where the next gas stop is. In Torquay, there’s a Caltex station at 55 Surf Coast Hwy.
You’ll love this charming seaside town as it brims with family-friendly beaches and blooming surf culture. In fact, the famous Australian Surfing Hall can be found in Torquay! Bells Beach is also popular for its amazing swells and breaks, making it the favourite destination of pro surfers during Easter for the Rip Curl Pro Surfing Competition.
And yes, as you’re on your way to seeing more Great Ocean Road highlights, you should also stop and shop at the famous Australian surfing gear outlet, Rip Curl. They offer tons of bargain deals to let you have an awesome experience.
Some 82 kilometres from Melbourne and just south of Torquay is Jan Juc. It’s another seaside town that boasts world-class yet rougher beaches and larger waves. Because of its larger swells and rips, it’s even more popular among seasoned surfers and swimmers.
If you don’t want to go swimming, you can stand on its cliffs and breathe in the magnificent views of the ocean before walking down several steps to get to the beach. A great escape from Torquay’s beaches, you can stand on its viewing platforms, or you can also stroll on the Surf Coast Walk and visit the Bird Rock Lookouts to better appreciate the place’s biodiversity and stunning surrounds.
Just 10 minutes west of Torquay is another surf town that boasts coastal walking tracks, an epic coastline, white beaches, and tons of scenic nature–Anglesea. Moreover, its 44-kilometre coast walk can elevate your energy not just from the walk itself but also from the woodlands, various plant species, and animals native to Australia that abound in the area, such as the wallabies and kangaroos.
But if you want something more challenging, then conquer the 100-kilometre Surf Coast Century course, which is a running trail that takes you through remote wilderness and dramatic cliffs that will take your breath away. Anglesea is also a great stop for mountain biking at the Anglesea Bike Park.
This town is also home to the famous Great Otway National Park, which you can explore through its named tracks throughout the park as well as through the track around Eumeralla.
This season hamlet of the Great Ocean Road is known for its rich maritime history and natural beauty. Head west to the surf beach of Fairhaven, where you can surf or swim, or to Step Beach or Sandy Gully if you feel like being more adventurous snorkelling and exploring the rock pools.
More than Aireys Inlet’s charm, it also has a deep maritime history as exhibited by the Split Point Lighthouse, which was built in 1891. Standing 70 metres above sea level, it holds ghost stories and fascinating maritime legends. What makes this lighthouse even more interesting is that it is still working, operating each night on an automated system to provide guidance to the vessels that navigate the dangerous Bass Strait.
As you continue along your Great Ocean Road tour, make a stop at the tiny town of Lorne, which is also the largest town on the Great Ocean Road. Aside from its fresh sea breeze, stunning ocean views, and white beaches, its art community and unique Mediterranean atmosphere make this place a favourite holiday destination for centuries.
The Lorne Surf Beach should be your first stop, moving towards the refreshing Loutit Bay or Shelley Beach, where you can find tons of rock pools. And since the town is also close to the Great Otway National Park, you can experience the Otway Fly Treetop Adventures and imbibe the natural vibe of its lovely waterfalls and ancient forests. Not to mention the Erskine Falls, the most popular falls in the Otway, which you can access either by driving from Lorne or taking the 7.5-kilometre walk!
Another popular destination in Lorne is Teddy’s Lookout, characterised by a scenic walkway that takes you to the viewing platform from where you can take in unforgettable, sweeping ocean views.
To the east of Apollo Bay is a small town called Skeenes Creek, a surf beach that’s perfect for relaxing and enjoying the beautiful surroundings. With camping grounds, you can just pitch a tent and breathe in the refreshing salty sea breeze.
The main beach of Skeenes Creek is wide, allowing you to bask on its soft sand while reading your favourite book. You can also take a dip in its inviting waters, but do make sure to be careful as there are no lifeguards patrolling the area.
A little rainy when I arrived 🙂
If you want to go to a secluded bay, you simply have to walk to the east side past the rocky headland, where you can find different shells and more.
Located at the foothills of the Otways is the village of Apollo Bay. Get ready to get lost in its beautiful rainforests where ferns, waterfalls, and clear streams abound. Relax and get refreshed as you dip in the beach waters or be more adventurous by swimming, diving, paddling, or surfing in the coastal waters. And if that’s not enough, get on a surfboard or kayak and go see the colony of seals or enjoy tee time at the Apollo Bay Golf Club.
Then, you can enjoy the drive to mainland Australia’s oldest surviving lighthouse, the Cape Otway Lighthouse. However, do check to see if it’s not temporarily closed prior to visiting to avoid disappointment.
If you visit in May, you can get the chance to join the Great Ocean Road Marathon, which is a no-ordinary marathon because it is one of the world’s most spectacular foot races. With participants from across Australia and all over the world, it sure is a tough competition. Afterwards, enjoy a drink at a local brewhouse pub before heading to your next destination.
And if you need to fill up your van with fuel, there’s a Caltex station in Apollo, located at 177 Great Ocean Rd, Apollo Bay. Check out the list of petrol fuel cards to convince your friends and family to buy you for your birthday, Christmas and any other celebration you can think of – fuel prices in Australia are crazy right now!!!
The main street of Apollo Bay is full of photo opportunities. You might even see a giant koala 🙂
Castle Cove Lookout and the Great Ocean Walk
Moving up to Glenaire, the Castle Cove Lookout waits for you. Aside from its location (at the junction of the Great Ocean Road and the Great Ocean Walk), its sandy nature and the great views that are visible from it make it a great stop in your itinerary.
It’s a great base for exploring the nearby attractions, with walking tracks that take you to Station Beach and the Rainbow Falls. Johanna Beach is also accessible from here, but it is not ideal for swimming due to the strong currents. However, you can stop by the Johanna Beach Campground, which features 25 sites with non-flush toilets.
The Great Ocean Walk is also nearby. Though it starts in Apollo Bay and ends at the Twelve Apostles, passing through two national parks–the Otway National Park and the Port Campbell National Park, you have the option to start it where you’re comfortable depending on your hiking skills. Spend a few hours admiring the natural beauty that surrounds the area.
Along the walking trail, you’ll have the chance to spot koalas resting in the eucalyptus trees, some rockpools, lush rainforest gullies, and Southern Right Whales in migration.
What makes the Great Ocean Road Tour a truly iconic road trip is that the views and stops seem endless. As you continue making your way, you will find the world-famous Gibson Steps, situated within the Port Campbell National Park.
This attraction features 86 steps that were carved into the cliff’s face by Hugh Gibson, a local settler, and leads you down to the beach where you can look up and marvel at the towering limestone stacks named Gog and Magog.
Now, you have arrived at one of the most popular Great Ocean Road highlights, the Twelve Apostles. The limestone pillars that were once connected to the main dramatic cliffs were carved by the wind and waves into caves and eventually into the 45-metre tall columns that now stand gloriously on the Southern Ocean.
Step on the viewing platform and understand how these pillars were formed through the interpretative displays that you can see as you venture along the boardwalk. And if you come either at dawn or at dusk, you may spot some penguins making their way out to start their day or returning home for the night.
Port Campbell National Park
As you drive further, you will arrive at another one of the famous Great Ocean Road attractions–Port Campbell. Its coastline has created various formations that have attracted thousands of visitors from around the world. So, when you take the Great Ocean Road itinerary, your eyes will feast at stunning sights, including the Grotto, the London Bridge, the Twelve Apostles, and the Loch Ard Gorge.
However, Port Campbell is not just all about the scenic view of the ocean and the limestone formations, but it is also as much about the animals that have made the national park their home for years. Think about penguins, ducks, swans, pelicans, and the peregrine falcons that make their way back to their burrows.
And if you need to fill your tank, make sure to stop by the gas station along Lord Street in Port Campbell.
Loch Ard Gorge
Sitting on the Shipwreck Coast some three minutes west of the Twelve Apostles is Australia’s most famous shipwreck–the Loch Ard Gorge. In 1878, the Loch Ard ran aground and crashed into Mutton Bird Island.
However, this Great Ocean Road highlight isn’t all just about maritime history, as it is also about coastal wilderness. Explore the area by taking the walking tracks, which lead you to amazing blowholes, towering cliffs, and limestone stacks.
If you take a short walk from the shipwreck, you will arrive at Mutton Bird Island, formerly called ‘The Sow’. Visit during the spring and summer to hear the noisy colony of muttonbirds or the Short-tailed Shearwaters that fly home to feed their hungry chicks every day at dusk.
The London Bridge
The London Bridge along the Great Ocean Road was a natural limestone formation that connected an arch of land to the mainland. Its likeliness to the one in the UK has earned it the same name just before it was changed to the London Arch.
Unfortunately, in January 1990, the structure collapsed, leaving a chunk of it out and alone in the ocean.
To enjoy the views of London Bridge, step onto the viewing platforms, from where you can imbibe the breathtaking views of the Southern Ocean.
To get to the Grotto, you can walk a few minutes from London Bridge or a few hundred metres from the car park while marvelling at the local native flora that has crept up and survived despite the environment’s harsh conditions.
What makes the Grotto a favourite stop among travellers is that it offers great views of the sea thanks to its being a part cave, part blowhole, and part archway. There is a decked staircase from the platform at the top that leads down to where you can admire the formation at eye level. Many visitors share that the best way to enjoy the views of the horizon and the views at the same time is from the lower viewing platform.
If there’s one unique thing to do in Logans Beach, it would have to be whale watching. With the Southern Right Whales nursery conveniently located in Victoria, you can easily spot these lovely creatures as they begin their migration. You can see them either from the sandy dunes some 100 metres away from the whales, or you can stand on the viewing platform to enjoy not just the sight of them but also the incredible views of the ocean.
One of the other popular destinations in this area is the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, which details the stories of the crewmen and passengers who unfortunately perished in the 19th century on the Shipwreck Coast. An amusement park, it strategically recreates the 19th-century port, allowing visitors to see and better understand the lives of people living in a port city.
Arrive at the charming fishing village of Port Fairy–the end of the Great Ocean Road. All that travelling in your campervan leads you to the last stop of this itinerary, rewarding you with old stone churches, Norfolk Pines, and 19th-century cottages.
Not to be missed is the Port Fairy Folk Festival, one of the largest music festivals celebrated in Australia, as well as its boutiques and antique stores. Blessed with a beautiful coast, you can head to the local port, where the local fishermen unload their catch of abalone and crayfish. And if you want more, book a fishing trip or enjoy a cruise to the Lady Percy Julia Island, with the opportunity to spot Southern Right Whales in the winter. Other fun water activities include standup paddleboarding, swimming, and surfing.
That’s a wrap
There are so many things to enjoy doing in this part of Victoria. But your journey shouldn’t stop here. So, do make sure to continue exploring and feed your hunger for adventure.