I have been doing Great Ocean Road tours from Melbourne for the last 15 years, on my own and organised. It was actually my first multi-day experience when I moved to this beautiful city.
I packed up my van and I drove from Melbourne for a 12 apostles tour, then Adelaide, and back home. I will remember it forever. So beautiful, and still is.
There are different ways and tours to experience this amazing attraction. In this post, I try to answer all the questions I have received from the many readers. You can do it on your own or you can join an organised one
Table of Contents
Whatever way you decide to go, just make sure to visit the following places:
- 12 apostles: best view of the tour, however also the most touristy one
- Loch Ard Gorge: have a walk down to the beach, but do not swim too far as the current is really strong
- Gibson Steps: probably the most scenic beach in the Great Ocean Road
- Koalas sighting: harder than ever after the fire in 2015. Kennett River used to be a great spot. I found a big group a few months ago on the way (check the map here) to the Cape Otway Lightstation
- Kangaroo sighting: a lot of them can be spotted at the Anglesea Golf Club.
- Great Otway National Park: at least for a short walk. It’s not a priority stop, however a good one to have
- The memorial arch: for photos and historical reasons, also in this case, not a must, just a nice to have
Great ocean road tour from Melbourne
I start by saying that there are many ways to experience the Great Ocean Road with a tour from Melbourne.
The most physically demanding one is to walk along it. As you can imagine it is an amazing experience, however, be ready to spare a few days and some training before attempting it.
You can read more on this detailed wiki page. It is a great experience, definitely in my bucket list 🙂
Another way is to organise your own Great Ocean Road self drive. You can read more on this extremely popular post I wrote about driving along the coast.
Besides a map, the article provides the list of sites to visit and a couple of great tips to experience the sites almost on your own, avoiding most of the tourists.
Renting a car may be also less expensive. I usually rent my cars from DiscoverCars, a website that compares local and global rentals providing the best deal.
The drawback of renting your car is that, obviously, you have to drive it and it can be really tiring, especially if you plan to make the Great Ocean Road tour in 1 day.
I would personally discourage it (it’s over 7 hours driving) unless you share the car, and the driving, in 4 of you and you are used to drive on the left side.
The Great Ocean Road is actually a route registered in the Australian National Heritage list. It is 243km long or 151 miles. It starts in Torquay to finish in Allansford. Most of the visitors make it to the 12 Apostles only, 60km from the end.
The trip from Melbourne to Tourqay takes one and half hour alone. Add another 2-3 hours from there to the 12 Apostles.
The tour can also be organised from Adelaide however in that case you really need to plan a 2 nights/3 days journey.
In this post, I focus more on trips from the Victoria capital.
12 Apostles tour from Melbourne
I usually suggest doing this tour in at least 2 days and 1 night. Rent your own car and stop at Port Campbell for the night. Read more here for my full trip and itinerary description.
However, I fully understand that sometimes this is not possible, the timeline is tight, and you have just spare time for a one day tour of the GOR.
If this is the case, based on the season you plan to visit, go for one of these Great Ocean Road one day tours to have a simple, effective and good overview of this marvellous part of Australia
The Great Ocean Road day tour in summer
From October to April I suggest taking a tour that goes straight to the 12 apostles, through the internal road, in the early morning.
I like to call it the reverse experience.
Why does it work best?
Summer can be really busy. Most of the tours start from Melbourne around 7-8am, they stop for a tea-break in Torquay, and they drive along the Great Ocean Road to arrive at the 12 Apostles around 4pm.
The road from Torquay to the 12 Apostles becomes actually quite busy and it is not unusual to get stuck in a queue.
Once arrived, you will share the platforms with lots of other people, mostly from other day tours. During high season is not unusual to wait 5-10 minutes to get a good view. Yeah, a bit crazy isn’t it.
This is why I suggest getting a tour that drives direct, through the inland road, to the 12 Apostles. You will arrive there around 10am. It will be not crowded (most of the bus arrive at 4pm), not hot, you will have more of a personal experience.
Moreover, the way back through the Great Ocean Road will not be as busy as most of the visitors, cars or buses, tend to drive it in the other way.
The price is similar, doesn’t matter which way you do it. I am aware of only Autopia Tours organising the reverse way.
The Great Ocean Road day tour in winter
From May to October, the Great Ocean Road is still a popular destination, however, it is nowhere as touristy as in summer.
The main reason is obviously the weather and mostly the temperature that in the early morning can go down to single digit.
The great thing about winter is that, besides the 12 Apostles, other sites are almost empty and more enjoyable.
You will be very unlikely also to experience any traffic which makes things smoother and simple.
I winter I suggest to take the “usual” Great Ocean Road tour from Melbourne that drives through Geelong, Torquay, the main attractions to end at the 12 Apostles around 4pm.
Basically, you will be there just before sunset, if not at sunset time, the best part of the day. It can be really magical. And it will not be that busy either.
I suggest one of these 3 following tours, they are quite similar.
- Bunyip Tour: they charge slightly more however they stop also at the Cape Otway Lightstation, the oldest lighthouse in Australia immersed in a beautiful park. This is my favourite tour, the extra stop is really a beautiful spot that should not be missed in my opinion
- Go West Tours: it’s more of a Boutique Tour. They run only with small groups, which makes it easier throughout the day. You will still get to experience most of the attractions on the Great Ocean Road, spending more time at each site, which is great. They charge as in the previous tour, however, they do not include the lightstation. They have sometimes special deals
- Wildlife Tours: a similar tour (without the Lightstation stop). Groups are bigger and for this reason, they are Cheaper and Good Value, great if the budget is a concern (you save around $15).
Great Ocean Road 2 day tour
This is the most popular option to experience the GOR with more time for all of the attractions.
Sometimes I hear visitors complaining that they do not have much time with a one day tour to stop and actually experience the place.
For example, in the one day tour of the Great Ocean Road, you will be quite unlikely to walk down the Gibson Steps and walk along the marvellous beach. There is just not enough time. It’s a long drive after all.
Believe you me, you will be happier than ever, if you can allocate 2 days for the Great Ocean Road tour.
You can rent your own car and drive it yourself. It can actually be a cheaper solution, if in a group of 3-4 people.
You may want to read on the best places to stay on the Great Ocean Road (another popular post I wrote myself). It includes all the attractions, to visit at your pace, towns and villages to explore, places to see kangaroos and koalas, best beaches and much more.
Alternatively, you can join an organised tour which makes things a bit easier as you would not have to worry about the accommodation and the drive.
There are a few tours which differ in budget, quality and activities done in the two days.
- boutique tour: organised with a small van and up to 11 people. This is one of my favourite options. It gives lots of flexibility and time at the sites. The overstay is in Apollo Bay and you need to organise it on your own
- luxury tour: even smaller van with up to 6 people. Accommodation and dinner are both on the luxury side and included in the price which make this tour a great value
- camping tour: the overnight stay is in Apollo Bay in a Native American Teepee next to the beach (perfect for the summer). This tour is more dedicated to the young crowd and includes also 2 hours surfing lesson.
2 day Great Ocean Road tour (Melbourne to Adelaide)
If you are travelling around Australia it may be worth thinking to start the tour from the Victoria capital to end in the South Australia capital, and maybe from there go north to Uluru. Part of the trip will be on the GOR, so you may be able to kill two birds with one stone.
In this case, renting a car can be an expensive option so an organised tour is just the perfect solution.
Autopia Tours has a Great Ocean Road Tour from Melbourne to Adelaide that goes through all the major attractions, including the 12 Apostles, and they stop for the night at the Grampians, one of my favourite places around Melbourne.
First, because of the big kangaroos population that comes to the village at sunset time and in the early morning (free in the wild, not in a zoo, unique experience). Secondly, because of the viewpoints. Stunning.
Great Ocean Road surf tours
The Great Ocean Road has so many spots which are absolutely perfect for surfing.
The awesome thing is that they cater to any need.
If you are a real expert then Bells Beach has to be the spot to visit (and to watch too). If you are around at Eastern time then plan to attend to the world famous Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach with the most popular surfers of the world. You can watch photos and videos of the 2019 edition here.
Between Lorne and Apollo Bay you can park the car and easily walk down to the beach for some advanced surfing
However, if you are a beginner or just want to have a try, there is no better spot then Torquay.
You have two possibilities to make this happening. Do it on your own or book an organised tour.
Self-organised surf tour
If you decide to do it on your own then rent a car and just explore the area. There is no need to drive to the 12 Apostles unless you want to see this beautiful site of course. Just follow these easy steps:
- rent a car in Melbourne. I usually use DiscoverCars for the best deals
- drive to either one of these locations and book your surfing lesson
- all of the above tours provide all you need for a 2 hours experience, from the board to the wetsuit, besides a teacher
- if you plan to spend the day at the beach and you do not need a teacher, then head to one of the surfing shops in either Torquay, Anglesea or Lorne and rent your board. As easy as that.
I haven’t mentioned Apollo Bay in the above list as you would need to budget an extra hour for your drive. It is, however, a nice easy beach.
Torquay Beach is the easiest option, being quite close to Melbourne. The beach, however, can be quite busy.
Anglesea is a better alternative in my opinion, not as busy and a more spectacular beach (and you just need 10 minutes to drive on top).
I like Lorne for the village character. Lots of cafes, small restaurants and shops to stroll around after surfing. Budget another 20 minutes drive though.
Organised Great Ocean Road tours from Melbourne
I know the feeling, you are in Melbourne and you want to go surfing but no waves at the beach. Unfortunately, we are in a bay and there is no surfing here.
The Great Ocean Road, besides a great area to experience, has also a few great spots to surf.
If you prefer to have everything organised for you from Melbourne, without having to rent a car, then you have a couple of options.
Book a one day trip. It works great if you have limited time. Unfortunately, you will not be able to see the 12 Apostles as the tour ends in Lorne (there is no physical time to drive more than that, after a 2 hours surfing session).
Book an overnight trip. This is a great tour that will allow you to experience most of the Great Ocean Road attractions, including the 12 Apostles, and at the same time have a 2-hours surfing session each day. I like this great ocean tour because it gives a real Aussie experience
Great Ocean Road tour from Adelaide
There are not as many tours starting from Adelaide as from Melbourne. For this trip, you would have definitely to budget at least two days.
It can be also convenient to plan the start of the tour from Adelaide to end in Melbourne. In this way, you can also fit in a trip to the Grampians.
You would still see all of the GOR attractions however you would be able also to visit the scenic waterfalls and viewpoints of the Grampians. Quite certainly you will come also in contact with the huge population of kangaroos roaming around the town at sunset and in the early morning.