THE LOVE FOR TRAVELLING, THE PASSION FOR PHOTOGRAPHY (MADE IN MELBOURNE AND AROUND THE GLOBE)

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The Great Ocean Road self drive itinerary including the London Bridge and the 12 Apostles

The Great Ocean Road self drive itinerary including the London Bridge and the 12 Apostles

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Although I travel a fair bit, I always love to come back home to Melbourne for a little while. The summer, between December and March, is my favourite time to be in the city. There are so many things to do and things to see in Melbourne and around. The Great Ocean Road self-drive is definitely an experience that I love to do once a year. I will never be tired to see places as the 12 Apostles, the London Bridge or the Loch Ard Gorge.

I have just finished my 2016 trip and once again I found a couple of new incredible spots I never seen before. The first one is the Carisbrook Creek stacked rocks beach and the second one is an awesome Port Campbell High Viewpoint suggested to me by a local I met at the pub. I will talk more about them later.

I like to do this itinerary in reverse order, from The London Bridge and the 12 Apostles to Torquay and Melbourne. The Great Ocean road itinerary is all beautiful however I think the best sector is probably the one around Port Campbell, which is the town I suggest to stay for an overnight stay.

How can I do the Great Ocean Road self drive

There are many ways to experience the Great Ocean Road.

The most physically demanding one is surely walking. The complete Great Ocean Walk is a 104km that can be accomplished in 7 days. There are smaller walks as well to cover only part of it. All in all it must be an awesome experience and sure enough I will do it sooner or later. If interested to this experience I suggest you to check the Regional Tourism GOR website.

Cycling is another option, although it may be dangerous due to the very narrow road

Cycling the Great Ocean Road at sunset

 

The other possibility is by bus and organised tour. This is an easy going option. You jump on the bus in Melbourne and you will be taken to the major spots. The advantage of this solution is that you just have to follow the group you are with at any stop planned by the organiser. The drawback is you will end up seeing only what is planned with the time decided by the driver. If you think that the 12 Apostles is very busy, that is most probably because you will be there around 3pm when all the buses arrive. The same applies to all the other places to see.

My suggestion is to have a go and organise your self-drive itinerary to the Great Ocean Road. If you are in 2 of you it may cost the same as the bus option. If you are in 3 or more people you may end up saving. Moreover, you will enjoy your trip at your pace, stopping whenever and wherever you want.

Melbourne-Photo-Blog-12 Apostles_ Australia_ Great Ocean Road_ Victoria-DSC_6631-min

 

If you love photography and generally speaking travel photography, the Great Ocean Road self-drive itinerary will allow you to visit the planned attractions at the time you want, staying at the place for the time you want. You can even organise your sunset and sunrise as you wish. To my eyes, this is the option to go.

You can rent your car in Melbourne or Adelaide and drive it back to the same city or the other one.

The only question mark is about your driving capability and adaptability. In Australia we drive on the left, the British way. If you decide to drive yourself I can give you just three suggestions

  1. never drive in the night in Australia, unless you are on a freeway or major city (there is plenty of wildlife, especially kangaroos that they suddenly become alive at sunset time)
  2. drive following other cars. If you are alone you will be more likely to begin driving on the other side
  3. if unsure that you drive on the correct lane, just stop on the side of the road and wait for cars coming. You will most likely be on the wrong side.

In this post I assume a Melbourne back trip

Where does the Great Ocean Road start and finish

The Great Ocean Road is actually a route registered in the Australian National Heritage list. It is a road 243km long, or 151 miles, that starts in Torquay and ends in Allansford, a small town between Port Campbell, the major village closed to the London Bridge and the 12 Apostles, and Warrnambool, the biggest town in the area where you can find all you want, including the major chain superstores.

As you probably already know, the Great Ocean Road is the world’s biggest war memorial. It was built by the returning soldiers, between 1918 and 1932, and dedicated to the many soldiers killed during the WWI. You may want to stop at the memorial arch, between Lorne and Aireys Inlet, however this should not be confused with the official start. It is indeed a great place for photos 😉

Melbourne-Photo-Blog-Cycle_ Variety-Variety_Cycle_108_20140330-min

Great Ocean Road in 1 day, 2 days or more

The length of the Great Ocean Road itinerary is by itself 243km. You may want to skip the last 30km between the London Bridge and Allansford, which makes it around 210. If you add also the road from either Melbourne or Adelaide you soon end up with at least 600-650km.

Can I do the Great Ocean Road in 1 day?

Yes you can. This is not the way I would suggest it however. It’s like asking if you can visit Florence in 1 day. It is all doable, but you will miss many things. Moreover you will not enjoy the experience as you will spend most of the time in the car.

If it is true that the road from Melbourne to Geelong (around 80km) is a straight freeway, keep in mind that the speed limit is 100kmh. It is hard to keep an average of 50kmh on Great Ocean Road itself, very beautiful however very winding as well.

If your time is limited and you can spare 1 day only, I probably suggest to drive from Melbourne to Port Campbell the direct way in the early hours (6am) and start the Great Ocean Road self-drive itinerary from there.

Drive_Melbourne_Port_Campbell

The advantage of this solution is that you will enjoy the best part without the crowd of tourists. Most of the buses from Melbourne do the route to Torquay, Anglesea, driving the Great Ocean Road with few stops and arriving at the 12 Apostles around 2-3pm. Some of them will not make the London Bridge at all.

If you are in the Port Campbell area by 9am you will experience all of these major Great Ocean Road attractions with just another bunch of visitors. Most of the viewing platforms will be empty.

Budget 2-2.5 hours in the area if you want to visit the London Bridge, The Arch, the Loch Ard Gorge, the Razorback, the Tom and Eva point and finally the 12 Apostles. I would personally not skip any of them, they are all beautiful and spectacular in the own way.

Great Ocean Road in 2 days?

This is usually the way I do it (sometime 3 days). My favourite village to stop is Port Campbell. It’s a nice little town and just 15km from all of the major attractions. This means I can go to any of them either on sunset or sunrise.

The sunset at the 12 Apostles is spectacular. The last time I was even able to watch the penguins parade down at the beach (take a binocular with you).

In this case I usually drive from Torquay the Great Ocean Road and I stay in Port Campbell. I leave all of the top sites for the early morning, when they are almost empty.

Riding the Greeat Ocean Road is a unique experience

3 day Great Ocean Road trip

With 3 or more days you can have also a bit of lazy time, experiencing the best of the area. It’s not just about viewing the top sites but also about having some lazy time at the most beautiful beaches in Australia. You can take some surfing lessons. You can go and look for the koalas and the kangaroos or just enjoy some lazy hours with a beer at the pub.

My favourite village along the coast is Lorne. There is a lovely peer with an awesome fish restaurant facing the coast, the best lunch location on the Great Ocean Road. I usually spend the night at the pub opposite the pier, an historic building that takes me back to two centuries ago.

The Arch and the London Bridge

These are the two sites I would start the Great Ocean Road self drive itinerary. They are both 15km west of Port Campbell and 1km from each others.

The Arch is not visible till you walk down to the bottom of the small viewing platform. This is not a site where the buses usually stop. That is because the parking is limited as well as the platform is too small in size. And that is a pity because you will miss a great site. Opposite The Arch is a never ending cliff. Definitely a place for some amazing photos

The Arch at the start (or end) of the Great Ocean Road

The London Bridge is one of the most popular destination on the Great Ocean Road. I went twice there. The first time during a cycling trip I was doing around Australia. I was there at 3:30pm and it was packed. The second time, with a self drive, was at 9:30am and there was nobody there. The viewing platform is gigantic, which tells a lot on the number of people visiting this spot.

The London Bridge

 

Once you arrive at the London Bridge parking area, check the view from all of the main platforms, it’s really hard to say which one is better. The only tip I can give here is to go also to the small platform on the left side (there is a small path taking you down). From there the view is completely different, from the bottom up, as you are getting closer to the beach.

The London Bridge is actually not anymore a bridge, it is nowadays the London Arch. In fact in 1990 the London Bridge collapsed. This video here below, from 1975, shows the entire bridge, the way it used to be

Interesting that you could actually walk on it.

Tourists were there at the collapse time and a couple was lucky enough to be just past the bridge, on what is now the remaining arch. I was reading few days ago the interview of Dave Darrington, the guy that got trapped on the arch “We did what most tourists did, we took a photo and had a look around….she (the wife) noticed small rocks falling and said  that it might fall down….I said ‘no, bits and pieces must fall off’…it just went bang”.

An helicopter rescue mission was needed to take them off the island! This is also to say that many signals are around the area suggesting not to leave the designated path for the same exact reason, ground erosion. Up to you the decision

Port Campbell High Viewpoint

On the way to the 12 Apostles from the London Bridge, I stopped at the Port Campbell High Viewpoint. One of the locals suggested it to me the night before. You can also walk up from the beach. The view to Port Campbell and the river is quite spectacular. Check the exact point on the map below

Port Campbell High Viewpoint

Loch Ard Gorge, the Razorback, Tom and Eva point

Loch Ard Gorge is one of my favourite spot between all of the attractions on the Great Ocean Road, probably only second to the 12 Apostles.

This is the place where I spent most of my time and I could spend even more ahahahah. This is the beauty of any self drive itinerary, you can stop wherever you want spend more or less time, based on your feeling

Loch Ard Gorge is one of my favourite spot on the Great Ocean Road

 

Loch Ard Gorge is named after the ship “Loch Ard” that in 1878 crashed against the nearby Muttonbird island. It was a ship that navigated for three months, from England and destination Melbourne. There were only 2 survivors in that night. A real tragic event.

Beside the history of the place, the gorge is just grand and reminded me the one of “The Beach”, the movie with Di Caprio in 2000. In the film the full bay was actually created with the computer. Here, what you see in the photo is what you get, a grand gorge with two beaches and a beautiful green/blue water.

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Do not be foolish to have a swim there, the sea current can be really strong and you will be in trouble in no time.

Loch Ard Gorge is a fantastic beach, but don't be fooled by the beauty of it, do not take a swim, quite dangerous

If you walk on the left side of the parking area you will see the other two attractions. The first one is the Tom and Eva viewpoint, just 200 meters from the car.

Interesting enough, Tom and Eva are the names of the two survivors from the Loch Arch ship. The names were given only in 2009. The two pillars were actually connected before that year making the so called Island Archway. Again the cliff around looks quite stable, till you read all of these little stories that tell a lot about the ground erosion

Tom and Eva viewpoint, just 200 meters from the car

The last interesting attraction in the area is the Razorback. Walk past the Tom and Eva viewpoint and there is a loop with two platforms. Again an incredible view!

The Razorback viewpoint is another great location to see the beauty of this coast

I planned to visit the Loch Ard Gorge for sunset however the sun was visible only till 45 minutes before sunset and it was covered by the cliff after that. I will go back in winter as I suspect the sun will be perfectly aligned with the gorge.

The Razorback is better for sunrise

The 12 Apostles

I was here two years ago during a cycling trip, around 2pm. It was literally packed. This year I made it at sunset time and around 11am.

The sunset was quiet. Few photographers and few others with the binoculars looking at the penguin parade.

The 12 Apostles is definitely popular between photographers, probably the most know site on the Great Ocean Road

At 11am the site was already busy but still lots of space to move through the different platforms.

It’s hard to describe the view. I leave the photos below to talk.

To have the best view of the 12 Apostles walk up 50 metres of the main path

How many twelve apostles are left?

This is one of the most interesting questions about the Great Ocean Road. In reality Apostles come and go. Of the original 12 only 7 are left, with the last one, just in front of Razorback, crashed in 2009.

However, as the old apostles go, new apostles come when the arch between two pillars collapses, as it was the case of Tom and Eva and as it will be the case, sooner or later, of the London Bridge.

The most amazing experience would be to see the collapse of one Apostle, from really far away, but the waiting time may last decades…or just minutes 🙂

How did the twelve apostles formed?

Erosion is the simple answer. I was lucky in most of the cases I was there. I had mostly sunny nice weather. However this is not usually the case, especially in winter. The southerly wind can be strong and the weather condition can be really harsh.

The Ocean, with the time, eroded the limestone of the cliffs to form caves which became arch and, after the collapse of the bridge, here they are two huge pillars, 2 new Apostle,

The London Bridge is the typical example. The bridge collapsed in 1990 and once the arch is gone we will see another 2 apostles

Melbourne-Photo-Blog-12 Apostles_ Australia_ Great Ocean Road_ Sunset_ Victoria-DSC_6526-min

If you desire to see the 12 Apostles from the beach, you need to drive your car for another 2 km and park at the Gibson Steps. This is an experience for my next trip

Great Otway National Park

The drive through the park is magnificent. Cycling here is a dream although it can be dangerous as the road has few potholes here and there.

There are few interesting attractions in the Great Otway National Park. The Cape Otway Lightstation is one of them (fee applies), look also for the waterfalls (see map below).

Carisbrook Creek stacked rocks beach

The road from Apollo Bay to Lorne is probably the most scenic part of the Great Ocean Road self drive. A succession of beaches, cliffs, rock formations, majestic waves. I usually take my time and I stop for a break and a swim.

Unfortunately in December 2015 there was a huge fire that destroyed a big part of the forest on the coast leaving a cemetery of black trees. There was also a famous spot for koalas but not anymore as there are no more leaves. The koalas were moved to a different area.

In my last trip I found a new attraction on this part of the Great Ocean Road. I do not think there is still a name for it. I like to call it Carisbrook Creek stacked rocks beach. People stop here and pile rocks one of top each other building remarkable towers of stones. Think of a wish and it may happen! There are thousand of these towers.

Carisbrook-Creek-stacked-rocks-beach

The balance is temporary and I am sure that at the first big storm most of them will crash down. It’s like a dynamic art exhibition.

Lorne Pier and the Teddy’s lookout

Lorne is another nice village where you can stay for the night. The size is almost there to be called town.

One of the top attractions to see is the long Lorne Pier. There are two reasons for that.

It’s a great spot for a walk, a dive, a photo and probably the longest pier in the area too. If you love fishing this is the place to be, based on the number of fishermen around. The second reason is the Pier Seafood Restaurant, an hidden European/Greek corner of the Great Ocean Road

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The second place to visit in Lorne is Teddy’s lookout with its magnificent view of the windy Great Ocean Road.

Memorial Arch at Eastern View

It’s the memorial arch for all the workers that built by hand, literally, this incredible road. The arch is nothing to call back home about however it is the point where most of the photos are taken. This is not however the start, or finish, of the Great Ocean Road itinerary. In saying that, does it really matter where does it start or finish? The most important thing is that we enjoy our self drive itinerary!

Split Point Lighthouse

This is another nice place to visit and possibly take a coffee at the lovely cafe just before the lighthouse. If you come from Torquay you will have here the first preview of the magical Great Ocean Road cliff. Walk down the path to the two platforms to have the best view.

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It’s a popular place and there is a good reason for that. I would add it to any Great Ocean Road itinerary and it is just 5 minutes off the main road.

The access to the area is free however the access to the lighthouse has a fee and you may have to book in advance.

I never went into the lighthouse, it’s not my kind of visit. I just love the view from the lighthouse area, magical.

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Point Roadknight beach

Point Roadknight beach is still one of my favourite beaches on this itinerary. This is the great advantage of the Great Ocean Road self drive experience. You can stop wherever you want, even if just for a quick swim.

This is a beautiful bay covered by the big ocean waves. The water is crystal clear and if you stay on the right side you still have some nice swells, mostly for long boards.

The sea current is not a big problem, however I would never swim too much out. This is a great place for kids too, as the water is shallow for few hundred meters.

Body riding the small waves is a great fun as they are not that powerful to feel in a washing machine but still have the energy to take your body for tens of metres

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Anglesea Viewpoint

This is on the road and it can’t be missed. It’s a great viewpoint to admire, on the left, the Anglesea village and beach, and on the right the Roadknight bay.

Just behind the viewpoint there is a more elevated point of view. You can easily walk there

If you have some spare 20 minutes drive to the Golf Club to see the big colony of Kangaroos living there. Always a good fun.

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Bells Beach and Torquay

Bells Beach is the mythical surfing beach where every Eastern the Rip Curl Pro Surf & Music Festival is organised. If you are around this time of the year you should not miss it. It’s a lot of fun. The best surfers in the world are there. There is an entrance fee however both times I was there I did not pay 😉

The first time I rode my bike past the gate and I went to the beach through a secondary unsealed road. Nobody asked me for the ticket 🙂 It was my first time there and I did not even know there was a fee. I just wanted to ride my bike as close as possible to the beach 🙂

The second time the crowd was so big that they reached capacity and they open the gates. I had to park my car so far away that by the time I was there I could get in free of charge. Quite lucky!!

Bells Beach is the place to be on the Great Ocean Road if you are in big surfing waves

Torquay is the last, or the first, village of the Great Ocean Road self drive itinerary. There are two things to do in Torquay:

  • visit the surfing village where you can buy surfing clothes and gear at incredible low prices (my favourite shop is the Reef outlet). There is also a surfing museum
  • go to the Torquay beach for a surfing lesson. The waves are nice and gentle however there is a bit of a crowd in summer. Point Danger is one of my favourite spots for windsurfing. Very popular with kitesurfers as well. You can go out on the east side and take the swell back to the beach. Definitely a good fun

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Accommodation

These are my favourite hotels in the area. I tried a few however I usually go in these two nowadays. These are the ones I would definitely suggest

In Lorne I go to the Lorne Hotel, the accommodation behind the pub. It’s not noisy in the night, it has kitchen facilities and it is meters away from the last beer. What can I want more

queen-min

In Port Campbell I go to the Best Western Great Ocean Road Motor Inn. It’s only two blocks from the beach and it has great facilities to cook in as well. They have some special offers from time to time. The price is very competitive anyway for what you get.

PortCampbell

Hot or Not

The Great Ocean Road self drive itinerary is most definitely hot. I usually do it in 2 or 3 days and that is the minimal length of stay I suggest. It can be done in a single day but it’s a bit of a tapas trip, spending most of the time in the car/bus and not really enjoying the place

My best tips are:

  • stay overnight at Port Campbell (2 days trip) and/or Lorne (3 days trip)
  • start your trip from London Bridge and the 12 Apostles area if single day
  • budget at least 2.5 hours for the area around Port Campbell (all of the cliff areas), first thing in the morning
  • stop at Carisbrook Creek stacked rocks beach for the dynamic exhibition 
  • plan a sunset at the 12 Apostles or the London Bridge
  • take a surfing lesson in this great side of the Ocean
  • rent a car and do it yourself

Great Ocean Road drive & highlights map

Map of the Great Ocean Road Self Drive

Click here for a Google Interactive Map

How long does it take to drive the great ocean road

The full drive is over 200km. Here is usually the time I spend at each leg or attraction. This should give you a rough idea of the timing involved with the trip.

  • The drive Melbourne to Torquay in normal traffic condition : 1h and 30m
  • Torquay Surfing Village: 1h (this really depends if you are looking for something particular. I suggest a visit to the Reef outlet, best prices if you find your size)
  • Bells Beach for few photos: 30m (counting the small drive off the main route)
  • Anglesea High viewpoint and kangaroos at the golf club: 45m
  • Point Roadknight beach: at least 1h for a swim (bypass it if the weather is not that good). Showers are available next to the cafe (sign in the middle of the beach)
  • Split Point Lighthouse: 45m without the actual visit to the inside of the lighthouse
  • Memorial Arch at Eastern View: 10m for the photo
  • Lorne Pier and the Teddy’s lookout: 30m for a walk and few photos of the amazing view
  • Carisbrook Creek stacked rocks beach: 20-30m
  • Great Otway National Park: 20m for a coffee brake (few cafes when you start your way down from the peak)
  • The 12 Apostles: at least 45m – 1h (parking is far away from the platforms)
  • Loch Ard Gorge, the Razorback, Tom and Eva point: all from the same parking area, 1h
  • The Arch and the London Bridge: two separate spots, 5m drive from each other. I suggest 30-45m for both
  • The actual drive from Torquay to Port Campbell along the coast: 3h 30m
  • The direct drive from Melbourne to Port Campbell (road M1 + A1, direct way): 3h


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Stefano Ferro
Stefano is a cycling, movie and life style photographer with a big love for landscape & travel photography. When in Melbourne, his hometown, you will see him cycling around at sunset or sunrise looking for the best spot for a photo of this beautiful city. It is quite amazing how much photography gear he can pack on his bike :o

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    • Eiden
    • March 26, 2017
    Reply

    Hi Stef,

    Great post here. Read up all your comments as well. Understand a lot more about GOR during our read up here.
    Planning with a GOR trip this coming May. We plan to stay in Apollo Bay for a 3 days 2 night.
    We will be taking a long drive from Yarra Valley in the morning on our first day. There will be only 1 of us driving.
    Will you still advice us to visit London Bridge or 12 Apostles for sunrise or sunset during our trip to GOR?
    Also, as Cape Otway Lightstation is quite near Apollo Bay, will this be a good place to see sunrise or sunset in case
    we are unable to catch sunrise or sunset at either London Bridge or 12 Apostles?
    On the last day, we will head back to Melbourne CBD area. Should we plan any sites visits or just take a slow drive along GOR back directly?

    • Reply

      The Yarra Valley to GOR trip is quite a long one. I may only suggest you to have a really early start in order to pass Melbourne in the early hours otherwise you may find yourself in the traffic for 1 or 2 hours. Stay on the M80 and avoid the M1. It looks slightly longer but you will get less traffic.
      The weather in May is quite unstable. If you have a sunny/cloudy day, yes I definitely suggest a sunset at the 12 Apostles, less so at the London Bridge. If it’s cloudy/rainy than you can avoid the trip. Sunrise in May is not as great for both locations because the sun will rise from inland.
      Cape Otway Lightstation is also very good for sunset, less so for sunrise in May
      For sunrise you can checkout the Apollo Bay Coastal Reserve Victoria. Stay on the Pier or even better the breakwater for the best view.
      If you have an early start on the last day I would suggest to drive to Queenscliff and take the ferry to the Mornington Peninsula. Check my comment on the 15th of March where I wrote some suggestions on sites to visit there. It’s really a nice area, as beautiful, however different, as the GOR.

      Enjoy your trip!!

    • Song Ern
    • March 20, 2017
    Reply

    Hey Stefano,
    Just want to say how AMAZING and INFORMATIVE this post is! Finally, I can have a good sense of a workable self-drive itinerary on the GOR. Loving the tip on doing the Port Campbell -> Melbourne route to escape the traffic. Can’t imagine being stuck behind buses on a single-lane road!
    My friend and I will be heading over to Melbourne early June later this year and am excited reading about the amazing sights along the GOR. Basically, we have set aside 1 entire week (arriving Monday morning, leaving Sunday late morning) to explore Melbourne city and the areas around. As I will be the only person at the wheel, I am hoping to plan a road trip that does not require me to be on the road for long periods of time at any single time. Tentatively, apart from the GOR, I am also thinking of checking out Ballarat and Grampians. I’m not that great with Geography, but I was just wondering the feasibility for me to do: Melbourne -> Ballarat -> Grampians -> Port Campbell -> Melbourne (along GOR). If feasible, how many days on the road am I possibly looking at? Also, where should I be considering staying the night in? My priority is most definitely to check out the main sights at the best timings (sunrise/sunset). For Grampians, I am looking at the possibility of fitting in a hike.
    Also, if I’m not mistaken, it is winter during June. Are there anything that I should take note of? I’ve heard that the sun sets earlier during winter.
    Thanks in advance! 🙂

    • Reply

      Hi Song,
      wow, one week around driving, what a great idea. I definitely think you can drive through all of the sites you mentioned, no worries.

      By the way, yes, June is the start of the winter and days are much shorter with sunrise around 7:30am and sunsets around 5pm.

      The first suggestion I can give you is NOT to drive at night. There are lots of wild animals around and it can be dangerous. Keep in mind that the animals, and especially the kangaroos, come out just before sunset for food, so try to avoid driving when dark, and if you have to, than pay extreme attention.

      And now my suggested trip:

      DAY 1: early drive to Ballarat in the morning (less than 2 hours). Stay in the city the all day. Take your time. A visit to Sovereign Hill is a must and it will keep you busy for at least 3 to 4 hours (I suggest to visit also the mines, you will need more time but well worth). Back to the city center to visit the botanical garden, beautiful, and the amazing Victorian buildings. For the night I suggest a stay at the Craig’s Royal Hotel. It will be like stepping back in time to the Gold Era. Just beautiful. It’s really a unique experience, on the luxury side. Another option is Quality Inn Heritage on Lydiard, also inspired by the Victorian age. For dinner I suggest you Rocks on Rosalind

      DAY 2: early drive to the Grampians (Halls Gap, less than 2 hours). If you are looking for some trekking go to The Pinnacle. Budget in 2-3 hours return for that. If you have still some time left you can also check the Chatauqua Peak (more challenging). Sleep in Halls Gap (my favourite accommodations are the Grampians Pioneer Cottages or the Mountain View Motor Inn, for a cheaper option). There is a good reason to stay for the night in Halls Gap. The kangaroos that come at sunset in the village. They come to the camping area and they almost mix with the local population. They are used to the humans and they do not get scared. It’s so much better than a zoo experience.

      DAY 3: Drive to Port Campbell (less than 3 hours). Once there you can visit, driving west, the London Bridge (you can also access the beach side for a different corner and a great walk), the Grotto (another place with scenic view and a good area for kids to play around), Bay of Islands Coastal Park, another underestimated destination which can be, in some respects, comparable, or even better, than the 12 Apostles. And driving east: The Blowhole, Loch Ard Gorge, Tom and Eva Lookout, The Razorback, Twelve Apostles, Gibson Steps. I have described all of the above in the post, including my suggested stay. Breakfast at Forage on the Foreshore 😉

      DAY 4 : Back to Melbourne through he GOR, early start if you are after sunrise at the 12 apostles. Keep in mind this is a long drive. It’s a beautiful one however you will need the all day.

      If you have another spare day I would consider spending half day more in Ballarat and half day more in the Grampians (June is great for the waterfalls). As an alternative also consider taking the ferry in Queenscliff and spend a day in the Morning Peninsula (read more in the previous comment for that)

      Have an amazing trip!!!

    • Victoria
    • March 15, 2017
    Reply

    Hi Stef,
    I am from Singapore & am heading to Melb in May for 9 days.
    I have some questions & appreciate your advice.
    1. I am looking to doing a “rural” kind of 1 or 1 nights, perhaps a cottage in Gippsland…do you have any recommended accomodation?
    Or would you have any recommended region to stay?
    2. How would I be able to slot in Gippsland on a GOR drive? (i intend to do a 2 or 3 day GOR…actually not sure where to start).
    3. Would you recommend to do Wilsons Promontory?
    4. Current intention is to stay a night or two in Melbourne city..

    Thanks!

    • Reply

      Good day Victoria,
      sure you will enjoy your time here and, based on your comments, you will be pretty busy as well.

      Gippsland is east of Melbourne, meanwhile GOR is west of the city. You can do both however you will have to come back to Melbourne, unless you go through the Mornington Peninsular and you take a ferry there.

      Wilson Prom is absolutely an amazing experience however you can only camp there, no hotels available.

      If you want to do both Gippsland and GOR I may suggest to start your trip from Melbourne and head to Port Campbell. Once there you can visit, driving west, the London Bridge (you can also access the beach side for a different corner and a great walk), the Grotto (another place with scenic view and a good area for kids to play around), Bay of Islands Coastal Park, another underestimated destination which can be, in some respects, comparable, or even better, than the 12 Apostles.
      And driving east: The Blowhole, Loch Ard Gorge, Tom and Eva Lookout, The Razorback, Twelve Apostles, Gibson Steps
      I have described all of the above in the post.
      Stay for the night in Port Campbell, either at the Best Western Great Ocean Road Motor Inn or at the Anchors Apartments.
      On Day 2 you can go back to the Twelve Apostles for another quick visit (different light in the morning) and from there drive back through the GOR to Torquay where you can spend the night. I suggest a stay at the Beachfront Cottages.
      On Day 3 you can drive to Queenscliff, a beautiful old Victorian style town. I suggest you to take 1-2 hours to wonder around. From there you can take the ferry to Sorrento , on the other side of the bay. It takes about 30 minutes.
      Sorrento is another nice town to visit. Another lovely village to check and stay is Mornington, a bit of a sleepy town with a nice beach. The Brooklands of Mornington is my favourite accommodation. Have a pizza at the DOC Pizza & Mozzarella Bar Delicatessen.
      You can actually spend two nights and take your time to visit some of the most famous Aussie wineries in the area. My favourite is still “Ten Minutes by Tractor“. You can also spare half a day at the Peninsula Hot Springs.
      From there, on day 5 (or 4) you can drive to Gippsland. My favourite town is Walhalla. There are many reasons.
      > the drive through the Gippsland forest, really amazing
      > the old gold mine under the mountain that you can still visit on a tour
      > the tiny village with lots of character and still a tea room 🙂 and ofcourse the pub, now more upscale
      > the steam train
      > and the cemetery, really unique, an experience by itself, right on the side of the mountain, into the forest (to be checked during the day 😉 )
      You can spend the night at the Walhalla’s Star Hotel. You will feel like going back to the 18th century, really fascinating.

      I hope I was able to help.
      Enjoy your amazing trip!!

    • WJ
    • February 27, 2017
    Reply

    Hi stef, I have been told that it’s preferably to drive down the GOR in the direction of Melbourne -> port fairy so that the ocean will be on the left for ease of stopping our car. Is that necessary?

      • Stef
      • February 27, 2017
      Reply

      Good day WJ,
      I personally do not find that necessary. That’s my personal opinion of course. The road can be busy but not mad busy. Moreover, on the major point of interest there is usually a parking spot on both sides (like the 12 apostles or all the villages along the coast).

      Also, driving from Port Fairy towards Melbourne you will find less traffic in the morning than on the other direction, where most of the busses drive, and sometime you may get stacked for many km behind one.

      I hope I was able to help 🙂

      Cheers
      Stef

    • Mohamed
    • February 13, 2017
    Reply

    Hi Stef,
    planing a two day self drive on GOR in mid april with my family.As you ve suggested port campbel for the stay, should we drive directly there and come back to Melbourne through GOR?
    please advise..
    Thanks

    • Reply

      Hi Mohamed,
      I am sure you will have a great time on the GOR. It can be really magnificent in April.

      If you have two days I would personally suggest to stay in Port Campbell. You can drive directly there from Melbourne on the M1 and A1. It should take around 3-4 hours based on traffic. You can have lunch there. One of my favourite place is Karoa (Mediterranean food). Another I would suggest is Forage on the Foreshore, just in front of the beach, fantastic on a sunny day.

      Once in Port Campbell you can visit, driving west:
      >> The London Bridge, you can also access the beach side for a different corner and a great walk.
      >> The Grotto is another place with scenic view and a good area for kids to play around
      >> Bay of Islands Coastal Park, another underestimated destination which can be, in some respects, comparable, or even better, than the 12 Apostles
      and driving east:
      >> The Blowhole
      >> Loch Ard Gorge
      >> Tom and Eva Lookout
      >> The Razorback
      >> Twelve Apostles
      >> Gibson Steps
      I described all of the above in the post.

      This should take you busy for the entire day LOL If time runs out leave the 12 Apostles and Gibson Steps for the day after. If you can, have a sunset/sunrise at the 12 Apostles (also based on the weather forecast)

      Accommodation wise, in Port Campbell you can check at the Best Western Great Ocean Road Motor Inn or at the Anchors Apartments for a real unique stay with an amazing view.

      Enjoy your trip and let me know how it goes!!
      Cheers
      Stef

    • Sarah
    • February 12, 2017
    Reply

    Hi Stef!

    Will be heading to Melbourne in mid april, and will do as you have suggested on your website. Am thinking of spending a night on GOR, however I’m not sure where I should stay. Would you also suggest going to Grampians right after GOR? I was thinking if we stayed a night on GOR, then head to Grampians, would you recommend staying at Port Campbell or Warrnambool? Am not sure if doing Grampians right after GOR might be too tiring as well. What would you suggest?
    Thank you so much!

    Sarah

    • Reply

      Good day Sarah,
      sure you will have a fantastic time there. April is one of my favourite time to drive there too. The weather is still good however it is not as popular as in January and February (read crowd LOL)

      I would suggest straight away Warrnambool if your trip was in July August. In that time of the year the female Southern Right whales return to the waters of Warrnambool’s Logans Beach to calve. There are few watching platforms there. It can be really magnificent. Warrnambool itself is more of a busy town with a nice beach and port area. I had there one of my best breakfast ever at the Pavilion Cafe 🙂 . It is not really a touristic center. It is more of a business town.

      Port Campbell is coastal village with a great beach, some nice small restaurants and very close to both the 12 Apostles and the London Bridge, actually right in the middle. I would personally stay there.

      I stayed previously in Warrnambool but it did not excite me. I used it more as a stop-over on the way to Adelaide.

      Most of the time on the GOR you will be in your car with several stops on platform views and possibly the beach. It’s not really physically demanding, unless you are planning a walk somewhere, like in the Great Otway National Park. So it could be done together with the Grampians, which is more physically demanding.

      This would be my 2 days plan.

      – DAY1: early start from Melbourne and drive to the Grampians. Spend most of the day there. There are some fantastic walks and view point. I was there for a week few years ago and I enjoyed the area so much. Drive to Port Campbell for the night (around 2.5 hours from Halls Gap). If you arrive before sunset, head to the 12 Apostles to enjoy the last minutes of the day.

      – DAY2: start with the London Bridge. From there you can drive the GOR through the 12 Apostles (or bypass it if already done on sunset). It will take the all day with so many stops!!

      This would be my 3 days plan.

      -DAY1: drive to the Grampians and plan few stops like the viewpoint and waterfalls around. Book in Halls Gap (my favourite accommodations are the Grampians Pioneer Cottages or the Mountain View Motor Inn, for a cheaper option). There is a good reason to stay for the night in Halls Gap. The kangaroos that come at sunset in the village. They come to the camping area and they almost mix with the local population. They are used to the humans and they do not get scared. It’s so much better than a zoo experience.

      -DAY2: Drive to Port Fairy, one of the most beautiful town on the South Cost of Victoria. Have brunch or lunch there. Drive towards Port Campbell stopping at London Bridge and other amazing sites around. Stay the night in Port Campbell but try to go to the 12 Apostles for sunset.

      -DAY3: drive back to Melbourne along the GOR

      I hope I was able to add some value….hopefully not too much information and new question marks LOL
      Cheers and enjoy your trip

    • Etienne
    • January 29, 2017
    Reply

    Etienne,
    hi Stef, I am from Paris and I am not really sure if driving on the left is a good idea. What do you think?
    Do you have alternatives to self driving? Do you know any good operator that could take me in the Great Ocean Road.
    Do you suggest to go for a day trip or maybe 3?
    Many thanks

    • Reply

      Good day Etienne,
      difficult to say or suggest. Driving on the “other” side, whatever is the “other”, can be challenging at the beginning. The Great Ocean Road has plenty of signals reminding to drive on the left side, especially when coming out from side streets and from parking area.
      If you do not feel confident you may book one of the organised tours leaving Melbourne, probably the best option in this case.
      You can do it in 1 day, a very tiring and long one, or in 2-3 days. Usually accommodation is provided with the tour, therefore it is all very relaxing.
      The Great Ocean Road Reverse Experience is a day tour that starts from Port Campbell, as I usually suggest. This is probably the best option as you will avoid most of the afternoon crowd. It’s an early start though
      The other option is Great Ocean Road & Rainforest where they include some trekking, however less sites stop. This is an option for the more active people. They do include also meals which make it a great value.
      If you can spare 2-3 days for the Great Ocean Rod you may have a try to these two options:
      The 3-Day Great Ocean Road Small Group Eco-Tour is the luxury option with boutique accommodations, an introduction to the Aboriginal world and walks in the wild looking for koalas and kangaroos.
      The 3-Day Great Ocean Road & Grampians Tour from Melbourne. A very affordable tour including also a trip to the Grampians, remarkable sandstone mountain ranges with an amazing viewpoint. You will be very likely to spot a few kangaroos at the camping ground, especially around sunset time when they all come out to eat. I still remember when I was there and I had one kangaroo almost with the head inside my tend looking for food LOL

      I am sure you will have an awesome time, either with a self drive or a tour operator itinerary.
      Cheers

    • Jamie
    • January 29, 2017
    Reply

    Hi Stef,
    great post. Lots of amazing tips. I think I will try as well to go first to Port Campbell. It looks the way to go to avoid most of the crowd.
    I am planning to stay in the area for 2-4 days and I was wondering if you have more suggestions on hotels along the drive.
    I was thinking about a stop in Torquay or Queenscliff.
    Any suggestion on any special activity in the area?
    Thanks!!

    • Reply

      Hi Jamie,
      indeed most of the tour operators start the trip from Melbourne through Torquay to end in Port Campbell. From there they go back to Melbourne through the main road (not the GOR). The 12 Apostles tend to be crowded from 2-3pm to 6-7pm.
      Sleeping a night in Port Campbell allows you to visit the site also during sunset, which is the best hour in my opinion. It’s really a quick drive from there. If the Best Western is booked out in Port Campbell you may also try the Anchors Apartments. This is a lovely boutique type accommodation with spa and everything to relax after a long day exploring the coast. Definitely a big plus. The Portside Motel is instead an affordable alternative, especially if you arrive very late and leave very early, basically when you need just a comfy bed 🙂

      Torquay is one of my favourite town along the coast. Surfing is quite amazing there, although it can be quite busy on weekend. If you are already a surfer you may try Jan Juc beach. I slept there in the van too but there was a talk about stopping that, which is a pity. Waking up with the waves sound and walking down to the beach was just awesome.
      Torquay has a quiet beach for families and another one for surfing. There is also possibility for windsurfing and kitesurfing, it’s actually one of my favourite spots for that. Point Danger has amazing waves however the name says it all. You can rent the gear from one of the many shops in town.
      If you are not familiar with surfing I suggest an intro course (you can book it at the beach or in one of the shops). It’s absolutely fun.
      In Torquay, on the main road, you can find all the surfing shops and outlets. I suggest the Reef one for the best deals, small shop however with very cheap options, if you can find the size.
      Accommodation here tend to be booked out quite quickly, especially in the weekend and school holidays. Have a look at the Beachfront Cottages. When available they are a good boutique option. Alternatively the Bells Beach Backpackers is famous to provide affordable and good quality accommodation.
      If you are thinking about a surfing intro activity you may also have a look at Lorne or Apollo Bay, both fantastic bays with an easy wave to surf.
      If you need more Adrenaline you can also contact the Great Ocean Road Skydive. They run in St.Kilda (where also I usually live, when not travelling 🙂 ). They offer also free transportation to the Great Ocean Road as part of the activity. This is definitely a different way to see the GOR, from the top 😉
      Queenscliff is not anymore on the Great Ocean road however it is a place I suggest to pass by. It’s one of the oldest towns in Victoria with lots of character.
      You can add it to the Great Ocean Road itinerary and this is the best when you do a self-drive trip, you just add, or take away, destinations as you please. If you have 3-4 days, you can start your trip from Port Campbell, drive down through Lorne and/or Torquay (where you can sleep). The day after you can drive to Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove (lovely beach there, one of my favourite) and you may spot Cadel Evans around 🙂 and have a sleep at Queenscliff. Have a look to the Vue Grand for an hotel with lots of character, like stepping back in time to the Victoria era or the Queenscliff Inn, cheaper, but again, with lots of character.
      The day after you can take the ferry to Sorrento, on the other side of the bay, and drive back to Melbourne through the morning peninsula, another awesome area to visit with lots of wineries and the amazing hot springs.

      I hope I was able to help Jamie…happy travelling

    • Lucie
    • January 16, 2017
    Reply

    Thank you so much for this wonderful insite into this beautiful area. We took your advice and started from port Campbell and worked our way down. This was the best as we avoided all the tourists and were able to take pics at leasure.

    • Reply

      So happy you enjoyed your trip. Port Campbell in the early morning is magical and tourist-free…almost LOL

    • Janelle
    • December 23, 2016
    Reply

    This post is excellent, thank you! I am from Canada and plan on doing a 1-day whirlwind trip from Melbourne to the 12 Apostles + stops in between. It will be myself and my partner. Would you be able to estimate the cost of a rental car and gas? I have seen one-day guided tours to be around $95-$120/person.

    Thanks!

    • Reply

      Hi Janelle,
      probably the guided tours will be a better option money wise, however you will not experience tha GOR in the same away, stopping wherever you want and at your own pace.
      A return trip is around 500km and at least half of it is along the winding coast. If you decide to drive there I suggest you a very very (yes, twice) early start and drive down to Port Campbell for sunrise. It will be a very tiring day (in this respect the bus works better as you can sleep on it).
      Cost wise. Extremely difficult to say. Cars can be rented from $30/day however it really depends on the period and day you want to rent it. Petrol is currently $1.25/litre and the consumption is based on the car you rent.
      I hope it helps
      Enjoy the awesome trip
      Cheers
      Stef

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Stefano Ferro
Stefano is a cycling, movie and life style photographer with a big love for landscape & travel photography. When in Melbourne, his hometown, you will see him cycling around at sunset or sunrise looking for the best spot for a photo of this beautiful city. It is quite amazing how much photography gear he can pack on his bike :o