The Great Ocean Road has many amazing attractions. I highly suggest taking a couple of days to drive the road. Because there are just too many stops on the road you are going to have to pick the best ones. Below are my favorite places from the Great Ocean Road drive and why I loved them—or only just liked them.
I’ve organized the list from East to West since most travelers will drive the route leaving from Melbourne. Also, don’t forget to pack your tripod, DSLR Camera, and remote clicker for the journey! If you want to read more about what camera equipment I pack for every trip, check out this article.
Memorial Arch at Eastern View
One of the first 'official' sights you will come upon on the Great Ocean Road is the Memorial Arch. It is said to be the true starting point of the Great Ocean Road. The wooden arch honors the Laborers in honor of their hard work in building the road you are traveling on today.
First off, Lorne is a great town to stop for a coffee or some food. It is one of the last 'big' towns before everything gets a little more isolated.
Right after the town of Lorne is a magnificent viewpoint, definitely worth a stop, called Teddy's Lookout. The drive up the hill is short and ends at a small parking lot. Once you park it is only a short (less than 5-minute) walk to the actual viewpoint. If you prefer to hike there is a 45-minute trailhead at the bottom of the hill.
If you have the time and want to add a single waterfall to your itinerary you should add this one. From Lorne, the falls are only a 15-20 minutes drive. Once you get to the well-established parking lot it is just a 5-minute walk to the stunning falls.
Drive from Lorne to Apollo Bay
Ok, this one isn't a specific point. But as you drive this will be one of the most jaw-dropping parts for sure. Prepare to stop every couple of kilometers. The picturesque scenery that rolls by as you drive along the cliffs will leave you stunned.
Read on: Full Melbourne Travel Guide
Grey River Road (Koalas)
Your next stretch of road will be the best shot of spotting Koalas in the wild. About 23 km from Lorne is a place called Forest Edge. This area is one of the best in the world to view Koalas so keep your eyes peeled. I suggest parking your car in from of Cafe Koala and walking along Grey River Road. An easy way to spot them is by looking for the hoards of people standing on the side of the road. They like to sleep in trees or even hang out in the middle of the road—so be sure to drive slowly.
Tip: If you are running short on time you can skip this one and see koalas on the drive to Cape Otway Lighthouse. Lighthouse road is usually full of koalas sleeping in tree but they can be harder to spot—I talk this more below.
Beauchamp Falls & Hopetoun Falls
If you have extra time, you could diverge from the Great Ocean Road at this point and take C159 to these two falls. Both Beauchamp and Hopetoun Falls are in close proximity to each other and are equally stunning. But the initial detour will take a while. I chose to skip this part since we only had a little more than 48 hours on the road.
Read on: Full Sydney Travel Guide
Maits Rest Rainforest Walk
This wooden boardwalk can be toured (self-guided only) in around 30 minutes. It loops through a rainforest habitat and is a perfect place to stretch your legs. You'll see huge ferns and various animals everywhere. Plus, it is a lesser known spot making it nice and quiet. Very relaxing.
Great Otway National Park
If you have the time, you'll want to exit the B100 to tour theGreat Otway National Park. The scenery changes dramatically here every couple of kilometers and I highly recommend trying to squeeze it in.
Cape Otway Lightstation
One of the few places on the road that has an entrance fee, it is still worth a visit. It is the second oldest lighthouse in Australia and one of the oldest that is still functioning. There is a trail with some striking views that is a must-do. Take your time while here, you won't regret it.
Castle Cove Lookout
Back on the B100 now, this is another lookout that flies under the radar. You can find it empty with a little luck as well! You should know this is the last chance to see the ocean for a bit—until you get to the 12 Apostles that is.
One of the closest attractions to the 12 Apostles are the Gibson steps. This staircase hugs the cliffside and takes you down to the beach for a close-up view of the 12 Apostles. It is an entirely new perspective on the height of the 8 remaining Apostles and the water is refreshing on the numerous hot days.
You should know: The parking lot for Gibson steps are before the 12 Apostles Visitor Center (for most travelers driving East to West). Many people stop here thinking it is the 12 Apostles and get very confused.
This is one of those attractions that is more stunning in person than in pictures—and, I've got to say, it's pretty stunning in pictures. The 12 Apostles are the star of the show on the Great Ocean Road. When planning your trip be sure to take special care at this attraction. You'll want to visit in the early morning or at dusk for the best views. Unfortunately, it is always crowded.
The Visitor center has a huge parking lot for overflow traffic. There are also bathroom facilities, a small cafe/gift shop (that closes at 5), and various officers always on duty to help you with directions.
Loch Ard Gorge
A mere four kilometers to the west of the 12 Apostles is Loch Ard Gorge. Named after the ship Loch Ard, a boat that ran aground on Muttonbird Island, the stairs leading to the beach offer several wonderful viewpoints. This was my second favorite place—right after the 12 Apostles. The beaches are wide and deep so it doesn't seem as crowded as other sights.
Port Campbell National Park
Fantastic hiking all throughout the park. If you have time to spare I would spend a couple of days here. There are also signs throughout the park that give details on the wildlife in the area as well as educate you on the ecological aspects of the park.
Another gorgeous arch, stop here only if you have a ton of time. It's nice but nothing special. The arch is 6 km west of Port Campbell and stands 8 meters high. The sound of the ocean crashing against the arch is quite peacefully and because this stop is less well-known you will find it very peaceful.
Also known as London Arch, London Bridge formed via a gradual process of erosion. Many years ago, you could walk across a bridge attached to the mainland and onto the arch in the middle of the ocean. In 1990 the mainland arc gave away and fell into the ocean. The incident left two tourists stranded on the outer arch and they had to rescued by helicopter.
Regardless of the loss of half of London Bridge three decades ago, I wouldn't miss the attraction.
You've probably seen this place on Instagram. It has become quite famous in recent years. The Grotto is, essentially, a sinkhole. But, a beautiful sinkhole. Make sure to visit at low tide. Follow the steps down and you'll find a pool surrounded by rocks. Completely secluded—except for the mass of tourists.
Bay of Islands and Bay of Martyrs
Bay of Islands, another set of rocks rising out of the ocean, is not as majestic as the 12 Apostles but are still quite magical. Both bays are rarely talked about and hard to find on any Great Ocean Road itinerary so stopping here will ensure a peaceful visit.
Planning a trip to Australia in general, can be overwhelming. Everyone has an opinion on this beautiful location and you may be frozen and unable to plan anything. Rest assured that no matter what you choose to do in Australia or where you choose to stay in Australia you're going to have a beautiful time.
One last thing... even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing an Australian travel guide along with you. Here are some of the travel guides I used during my trip...
And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email (tessajuliette at gmail dot com).