The Great Ocean Road is Victoria’s coastal route to adventure and the longest war memorial in the world. It was built by First World War soldiers in memory of those who lost their lives in war. It is one of the most iconic road trips in Australia and the world. So it’s no surprise that it’s a popular route, but you can still enjoy it away from the crowds if you add these 9 must-see places to your Great Ocean Road itinerary.
Travel 250 kilometers along South West Victoria and let your senses be swept away by the sights, sounds and smells. The Great Ocean Road has the scenery, the beaches, the forests, the best places to hang out, the wildlife in its element and the culture to embrace. It’s the perfect way to travel through Victoria. Start your adventure in Torquay, less than two hours drive from Melbourne and experience the best of Australia.
There are many amazing stops along the way; at Bells Beach, discover the culture of surfing; at Erskine Falls, feel the spray from a 30-meter waterfall; and at Lake Elizabeth, spot rare platypus on an eco-tour. Or you can explore the Otways bushland and the famous 12 Apostles. While each stop is worthwhile and just as fascinating as the one before, these 9 places are must-haves to add to your Great Ocean Road itinerary. Take it easy and spend three to four days discovering this breathtaking landscape.
Swing Bridge Cafe, Lorne
Lorne is a charming, down-to-earth little town with markets, shops and amazing places to eat. The Swing Bridge Cafe is somewhat of a local secret as you have to walk through a campground to reach the parking lot. However, it’s the nicest place to stop for a snack during the road trip and the views are amazing. The beautiful southwest coast of Victoria is right in front of you. After your bite, stop at Teddy’s Lookout to take in the stunning views of the rainforest and turquoise ocean waters.
Marriners Lookout, Apollo Bay
Marriners Lookout sits in the foothills of Apollo Bay, a traditional fishing village famous for its seafood. It offers a scenic vantage point with an almost bird’s-eye view of the Great Ocean Road and its coastline. Don’t miss this hidden gem, which is only a short drive from town and a short walk from the lookout. If the conditions are right, you can even watch a paraglider take off from this point.
Triplet Falls and Hopetoun Falls
Avoid the crowds at the Otway Fly by heading to Triplet Falls instead. Known as one of the most impressive waterfalls in Great Otway Park, Triplet Falls offers a spectacular one-hour loop hike through ancient rainforest. You can hear the roar of the falls even before you reach the viewing platform. A series of elevated viewing platforms give you stunning views of all three falls.
Feel the sea spray on your skin as Hopetoun Falls, located in Great Otway National Park, plunges 30 meters into the River Aire. Enjoy the view from the upper platform or descend 200 steps to the base of the waterfall amidst fern glades. Give your legs a break and rest on the platform bench while admiring the scenery. After resting at the waterfall, you can take the self-guided Maits Rest Rainforest Walk, a walk that winds through rainforest valleys with centuries-old myrtle beech trees.
London Bridge, Port Campbell National Park
The rock structure of London Bridge off the Great Ocean Road is a site most visitors miss due to its unexpected collapse in 1990. Now that the viewing platform has been built, it is well worth the seeing the beautiful rock formation and, if you’re lucky, spotting a few penguins on the shore. When passing the 12 Apostles en route to Peterborough or Port Fairy, you should include this stop in your Great Ocean Road itinerary.
Loch Ard Gorge, 12 Apostles Coast
One of the most scenic places on the Great Ocean Road is Loch Ard Gorge, a safe sandy beach nestled between cliffs. When the swell is strong, the waves weave their way along the coast and through the gorge. The creek also turns smooth and turquoise blue when calm. Plan your visit for sunrise or sunset to avoid the crowds.
The Arch, Port Campbell National Park
This is another arc creation that many tours overlook but is worth a visit. Two excellent viewing platforms are available at The Arch along the Great Ocean Road, allowing you to get remarkably close to the water’s edge and take unique photos looking out towards the 12 Apostles. Try to go there in the late afternoon when the sun is setting and the arch is bathed in a golden glow. This is the perfect photo opportunity.
Whale Watching, Warrnambool
You can see southern right whales, humpback whales, blue whales and even killer whales along this ‘Whale Corridor’, which connects Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Portland. These giant marine mammals migrate each winter to the coast of Warrnambool, a beautiful town located on the Great Ocean Road in Australia. Experience these magnificent creatures up close in the wild.
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Anse Childers, Mepunga
Childers Cove is an undiscovered beach towards the end of the official road and a little off the usual path but a must see place on your Great Ocean Road itinerary. If you’re lucky, you might be the only one in the area. Beautiful sandy beaches with unique surrounding rock formations are found at low tide.
Port Fairy and Griffiths Island
A great reason to continue along the Great Ocean Road is the quaint and sometimes overlooked fishing town of Port Fairy. It is a hub of artistic inspiration due to its reputation for all things artisanal, including its annual folk festival. After watching a sunrise over Griffiths Island, grab a coffee in town and begin exploring Port Fairy’s hidden art galleries, historic structures and craft shops.
Griffiths Island, home to Port Fairy Lighthouse and its colony of shearwater seabirds, is another fantastic spot for spotting local wildlife. An amazing hike leads from the mainland to Griffiths Island, which is connected by a causeway. At the very end of the island stands the charming lighthouse. From May to October, there is a good chance that you will spot wallabies and occasionally a southern right whale at sea.
Andrew Morten is the founder of TravelEssence. TravelEssence creates tailor-made and tailor-made trips to Australia and New Zealand.
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