If you’re staying in Melbourne and you can only choose one side trip, I would suggest you pay a visit to the Great Ocean Road. The celebrated route starts in Torquay, about an hour and a half south-west of Melbourne, and extends 243 km (150 miles) along the coastline to Allansford. The road and its surroundings are heritage listed and when you drive along it it’s not hard to see why. Victoria’s coastline is wild and this is the best way to experience it.
Long story short:
Location: Great Ocean Road (between Torquay and Allansford)
Highlights: The Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, London Arch, Otway Ranges
Towns: Torquay, Anglesea, Lorne, Apollo Bay, Port Campbell
Time: The start of the road can be done in a day trip but to do the area justice, allow at least a weekend
Getting there: Driving is best but if you don’t feel confident there are heaps of tours available
When to go: Between November and March is best. If you visit outside of these times just remember it is much colder than in Melbourne so pack accordingly.
Stay: Anywhere along the coast. If you’re on a budget, stay inland a bit, Colac is a cheap town to stay in.
Safety: The roads are very windy. Everytime I’ve been I’ve seen someone veer onto the wrong side having forgotten to keep left. So drive slowly if you’re unsure and pull over regularly to let more confident drivers pass you.
This was the fourth time I’d driven along the Great Ocean Road. I went once with my family growing up, once for our one-year anniversary, one time with a group of friends (which was more drinking than sight-seeing) and now my partner and I were doing it again. The most exciting thing was that it would be the first time I’d visited in good weather. Every other time had been rainy and cold. The weather is super unpredictable here because the road is so exposed to the elements. There next land mass to the south is Antarctica (or Tasmania along some parts of the road) and there’s no bay to protect you from the icy winds . But this time we were going to have excellent weather, around 30˚C each day!
On the first day, we drove from Melbourne to Lorne where we stopped for lunch. We’d been driving for a couple of hours so we also took the opportunity to wander around the town and stretch our legs.
The next stop was to Sheoak Falls. The falls are located 6km on from Lorne and you’ll see signs for the parking lot on the right hand side of the road. I’ve attempted this track once before but last time it was Winter, was disgustingly muddy and I just didn’t have the footwear for it, so I was super excited to see it this time. The track to the falls provides incredible views of the road and the coast before dipping into a valley where you’ll approach the waterfall. It’s only a half hour return walk, if that.
After our little hike we continued along to a quiet beach in Petticoat Creek. We had the entire place to ourselves so we set up our beach umbrella and just enjoyed the peacefulness.
In the late afternoon we drove to our motel in Colac. As I mentioned before, Colac is a much cheaper option than staying along the coast, particularly in the warmer months when it’s busy and prices are higher.
Today we saw many of the places that make the Great Ocean Road so iconic. We left Colac in the morning and headed out to Loch Ard Gorge in Port Campbell. We wanted to get there early before the masses arrived. The gorge is the second most popular attraction along the road but personally it’s my favourite.
When we arrived at about 10:00 it was already sunny and hot but there were only a couple of other people there. When we climbed down the stairs to the beach we were entirely along for a little while. Loch Ard Gorge is an impressive place to be. You’re engulfed by two enormous cliff faces and the waves crash violently on either side. You can wade out a little bit but I wouldn’t recommend swimming.
It’s two choppy with a strong current and you could be pulled out to sea or towed under very quickly. We spent a while there until it got a little more crowded and we headed back up to the car park.
From there we walked to Thunder Cave. This is another gorge, but not one you can walk down to, where the waves crash so loudly it sounds like thunder. It’s a magnificent thing to watch from above though.
Our next stop was a little way down the road to the Twelve Apostles. No matter what time of year you visit, this spot will be teaming with tourists. It’s a magnificent view even though a lot of the “apostles” have collapsed in recent years.
Next we doubled back to Port Campbell for lunch before spending the afternoon at the beach there.