Apart from seeing the Opera of Sydney (not very impressive), driving the Great Ocean Road is probably the most famous thing to do in Australia. Whenever something gets this hyped I develop a natural aversion and don’t really want to do it. Most of the time the things that are this popular are completely ruined due to the masses of people jumping on the hype.
A good example was the Machu Picchu… I love archeology and history but I hated the time in the ancient ruins. The Great Ocean Road is an exception though – I would do it again anytime and recommend anyone (with a car) to do this.
In no other place in the world have I seen so many amazing sights in such a small density. And if you time it right and have a bit of luck you will even see some of them all by yourself. There are many itineraries out there to ensure you will get the best experience on the Great Ocean Road. We followed this one and it was great. If you want to know which places we liked most (and which were a bit overrated) read on:
Day 1 On The Great Ocean Road:
Torquay: Surf Outlets
We started in the morning on Saturday, went to get our rental and drove from Melbourne over the highway A3. You will most likely do the same. When you head off the highway the first town you come through is Torquay. It is a good place if you are looking for Surf equipment on sale but has not much else to offer. We checked out a couple of stores and went on.
Bells Beach: A Nice Sight To Get Started
The first real stop on the Great Ocean Road was Bells Beach. Since it was the first one we were appropriately impressed – it is a nice clean beach and you have a nice view right from the parking lot. Easy entertainment. Once you get further into the trip this beach doesn’t seem so spectacular anymore… because everything that comes after is just a bit more stunning. But as a starter, it is a really nice beach 🙂
Split Point Lighthouse
We headed on and stopped next to the Lighthouse. It is a bit off the main road but you should definitely make that detour. There are several spots around the lighthouse circuit (maybe 10 minutes walk from the parking lot) that will give you great views and lots of picture opportunities. We didn’t actually go into the lighthouse, we came for nature.
Lorne: Small Town For Lunch?
In Lorne, all the tourist buses stop for lunch so we just drove through. It was pretty crowded. But depending on the time you pass through there you might see a different side of the town. There is, however, two things that make Lorne interesting: Teddys Lookout and the Lorne Pier.
From the center, you should head up straight the mountain and follow the signs to Teddys Lookout. It is a different view than all the ones before because you can see the actual Great Ocean Road and the elevation make it even more impressive. You will also see what is inland – and that is a view by itself.
Two Bars mark the entrance to the Lorne Pier. I would say that the Pier is mostly average of a stop. It is a pretty long jetty into the ocean… but the views are just not very impressive. The pier was also crawling with people so someone was most of the time standing in the way. For us, the stop was still rewarding because a huge seal decided to play model for the tourists. It was swimming all around it and did some good posing 😉
In my honest opinion, you can easily skip this landmark and never be sorry you didn’t stop there. But if you want a shot with the Great Ocean Road sign in the background you gotta go there. Chances are you will have lots of cars and other tourists in the background so think about it if you really need this shot.
So, between Lorne and the 12 Apostles, you can’t find many spectacular lookouts anymore. It’s almost as if the Great Ocean Road wants you to get extra excited before its most famous attraction. But just a few 100 meters before the Apostles you should stop at the Gibson Steps. Technically the spot already is part of the 12 Apostles because you see some of them from there. But other than the 12 Apostles look out at the Gibson steps you can get down to the beach and appreciate their size better. I really liked this spot, the sun was already low and the light was amazing for pictures. It was also a bit crowded, so you might wanna go during a different time than right before sunset.
As said before, the 12 Apostles are THE attraction of the Great Ocean Road. They are on all the pictures and the crowds that come to see the sunset here are ridiculous. We joined them since the sunset there is supposed to be amazing. It really was quite nice – but the crowded lookout ruined the mood completely. In retrospect, I would recommend you to see the sunset at one of the spots below. The 12 Apostles do look really impressive – but they were not the highlight of the Great Ocean Road in my opinion.
Spending The Night: Port Campbell
Because we stayed at the 12 Apostles lookout until the sun was set all the way we came to Port Campbell after dark. I can therefore not tell you anything about the town itself 😀 There is a small lookout though if you want to see the river and ocean from above. If you are not in a hurry it is a nice spot to stop, not compared to any of the other breathtaking views though. The accommodations along the Great Ocean Road are pretty pricey, so we decided to spend the night in a tent at the Port Campbell Holiday Park. It cost us 36 Dollars and we cooked our own dinner – this is probably the cheapest option you get. The holiday park was quite nice so if you have a tent this might be a good alternative to expensive motels.
Day 2 On The Great Ocean Road
After the long period without sights between Lorne and the 12 Apostles, the amount of sights around Port Campbell is almost ridiculous. We saved all of those for the second day.
The London Bridge is the furthest from Port Campbell and we wanted to watch the sunrise there. We got up super early in the morning – which was good because it gave us enough time to head to another location after realizing that the sunrise was not visible from the London Bridge 😀 The lookout is still pretty spectacular, especially with the history behind it. The London Bridge fell in the 90s, leaving just a huge pillar a bit off the shore. Two visitors got stuck on the pillar and had to be rescued by helicopter. All the rock formations along the Great Ocean Road are pretty unstable, the ocean and winds are heavily working on them. Therefore you will probably never see the exact same view if you visit it years later.
The London Bridge formation is huge and the bay it lays in will make you feel how very small you are in comparison. Btw. We were the only people here, so getting up early will definitely pay off.
For the sunrise, we finally went to London Arch. It is not far from the London Bridge, therefore it was our best second option. The sunrise was really nice and the Arch itself is stunning. But If I would’ve seen the sights we saw after these I would’ve picked another one for the sunrise. But again, we were the only people.
The Gorgeous Highlight: Tom & Eva, Loch Ard & The Razorback
Finally, we went to the most spectacular part of the Great Ocean Road. The Razorback, Loch Ard and Tom & Eva sights are all reached by the same parking lot. Again we were the only people here although it was not that early anymore. All three spots are absolutely gorgeous:
Tom & Eva
It is named after the only two survivors of a ship that sunk in the bay in the 19th century. The lookout is around 7 minutes from the parking lot.
Is the whole bay and you can descend to the beach via a set of stairs. Being in the Gorge you will have a super nice view of the rocks and can even check out the cave in which the two survivors spent the night.
Last but not least – this one was my absolute favorite spot on the whole Great Ocean Road. I am sure that the sunrise here would’ve been amazing… but I will have to come back for that one day. Hopefully, the Razorback will wait for me. The formations around the Razorback are so cool – you can imagine all kinds of shapes and come up with cool stories. I think that this spot is actually much more interesting than the 12 Apostles.
The drive along the Apollo Bay is probably the most scenic part of the Great Ocean Road. Many little parking lots are along the road. After a while on the Great Ocean Road, however, we had a bit of an overkill and didn’t stop at all of them. Some of the views are so gorgeous that you become a bit numb to views that are just beautiful. On any other day they would probably be awesome but after seeing a Razorback or Gibson beach you are not easily impressed anymore 😀 Anyways, Apollo Bay is a nice stop for lunch or dinner.
Final Words On The Great Ocean Road
It is a bit tricky to come up with the right itinerary. Everyone has a different amount of time and energy. I would’ve liked to stay longer on the Great Ocean Road and spend more time at certain lookouts… but the number of people coming through makes it very unrelaxing. Some people already call it a day in Lorne and spend another night in Port Campbell – I think that is a bit long. So it is really subjective. All we want to accomplish with this list is to show you how amazing these spots are so you can make up your own mind on how many you want to see. Let us know if you need any more advice on this trip in the comments, we are happy to help you out.
Also published on Medium.