One of the best road trips in Australia has to be the Great Ocean Road in the state of Victoria. From scenic beaches, lookout points, and waterfalls, to quaint seaside towns, there are many things to do on the Great Ocean Road.
Opened on November 26, 1932, The Great Ocean Road is 243km (151 miles) long and is part of the Australian National Heritage list. It is a permanent war memorial dedicated to the soldiers who died during World War I.
In my opinion, the best way to see the Great Ocean Road is through a self-drive road trip. This is why I put together a self drive 2 day Great Ocean Road itinerary that includes all the best attractions between Torquay and the 12 Apostles.
Keep reading and discover exactly what you can see on this epic road trip.
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Table of Contents
Before you start your self drive Great Ocean Road Itinerary
Before you start your Great Ocean Road tour, take a look at my list of 17 things you need to know before travelling to Australia. I included information about Australia including applying for ETA, transportation, money and accommodation.
Here are additional travel tips that you may find helpful for your Great Ocean Road 2 day itinerary:
- Before you go on this road trip, check the Parks Victoria website and see if there are any closures along the Great Ocean Road.
- Book your accommodation in advance as this area is very touristy.
- There are many things to see along the Great Ocean Road. Ideally, you will need two full days to see all the best attractions.
- It is possible to see the Great Ocean Road in one day but that would mean a lot of driving in one day.
- If you are not keen on driving alone, join either a Great Ocean Road 2 day tour or a 1 day tour because you do not want to miss this!
Great Ocean Road Itinerary: Self Drive Tips
First of all, there are a few things to be mindful of when it comes to your Ocean Road Road self-drive trip and in Australia in general.
1. Rent a car with your (international) driver’s license
You can hire a car from any car rental company with a valid driver’s license if you are from Canada or the US. And you must be at least 21 years of age.
For residents of other countries, you may want to get your international license before going to Australia.
2. Do not speed on the highway
The freeway speed limit is 100km/hour. Don’t even speed a few kilometres when you are on the freeway. Stay within the speed limit and you will not get a ticket. There are many traffic cameras along the highway and they will snap a photo if you are speeding. The state of Victoria is quite strict with the speed limit so be aware of the speed limit at all times.
3. Drive on the left side in Australia
I saw many signs on the road that said “drive on the left in Australia” with infographics indicating how traffic moves.
Since the Great Ocean Road is a top-rated tourist attraction and attracts visitors from all over the world, the road condition can be chaotic. There have been many accidents on the Great Ocean Road because many overseas tourists drive on the wrong side!
What to bring for a Great Ocean Road 2 day itinerary
Going on a Great Ocean Road road trip is one of the best experiences when you travel through Australia. To ensure you have the best time, make sure to bring the following items:
- Smartphone to use as a GPS and camera
- Overnight bag for all your travel essentials
- Various types of clothing including bathing suits and regular clothing
- Comfortable shoes for the beach and a bit of light hiking
- Water bottle for drinking water and you can refill it with public water fountains
- Beach blanket for suntanning
- Extra towel for the beach
- Lots of sunscreen to block UV rays
- Hat and sunglasses for additional sun protection
- Credit card for all your meal purchases
- Snacks for a few hours of driving
- Best playlist for the most epic road trip
Great Ocean Road Self Drive Itinerary: Start from West to East
Most guidebooks suggest starting the Great Ocean Road itinerary in Melbourne and driving towards Torquay, i.e. along the coastline.
But instead of driving directly to the Great Ocean Road along the coast, my route starts from Melbourne and drives directly to 12 Apostles via all the internal roads.
From Melbourne, take the M1 freeway towards Geelong then the A1 freeway to 12 Apostles. Then continue on Great Ocean Road towards Melbourne, from west to east, so you don’t have to double back on the same road.
Plus, it is faster to take the internal freeways. The Melbourne to 12 Apostles self-drive takes a little over 3 hours.
See the map below for all the places mentioned in this blog.
Day 1: Drive from Melbourne to 12 Apostles to Lorne
My Great Ocean Road itinerary 2 days self-drive tour starts in Melbourne. Start bright and early and leave the city around 7:30 am.
The first day is about seeing the most famous attraction in Victoria, the 12 Apostles, and visiting all the major landmarks in Port Campbell National Park. Then, late lunch in Apollo Bay. And end your day by checking into your accommodation at Lorne.
On the first day, you will see:
- 12 Apostles
- Castle Rock
- Gibson Steps
- Island Arch Lookout
- Loch Ard Gorge
- Mutton Bird Lookout
- Apollo Bay
- Marriner’s Lookout
- Teddy’s Lookout
Day 2: Drive from Lorne to Melbourne
Start your second day around 8:00 am and continue to drive along the Great Ocean Road from Lorne.
Start with a side trip to Erskine Falls then back onto Great Ocean Road to see all the beaches, lighthouses and towns along the way.
On day 2 of the Great Ocean Road road trip, the stops are:
- Erskine Falls
- Memorial Arch at Eastern View
- Fairhaven Beach
- Split Point Lighthouse
- Loutit Bay Lookout
- Eagle Rock Lookout
- Castle Rock
- Bells Beach
- Torquay Beach
Day 1 of the Great Ocean Road itinerary
As the most famous spot along the Great Ocean Road, 12 Apostles is not to be missed.
The magnificent limestone cliff eroded over millions of years due to the strong ocean wind and formed many caves and arches. Eventually, the erosion left twelve 45-metre limestone rock stacks isolated from the mainland. And over time, the pillars continue to suffer from the harsh weather, and only eight are left.
To see the 12 Apostles, park your car at the large parking lot next to the visitor facility, which has a small shop and toilets. Then walk over to the guided path that will take you to the viewing platforms.
Continue on the wooden pathway to Castle Rock. From the lookout point, you can see the rugged coastline of the 12 Apostles to the north and Gibson Steps to the south.
Descend 86 steps down the limestone cliff and experience one of the most beautiful beaches along the Great Ocean Road. Walk along the long beach at Gibson Steps where you can get up close and personal with the limestone pillars and cliffs.
However, this beach is not exactly great for swimming as the waves are quite strong. But this is the closest point to seeing the eroding coastline.
From the 12 Apostles, drive over to the small parking lot of Gibson Steps. I went at the end of summer and arrived early, so parking wasn’t an issue. If the parking lot is full, it is possible to walk from the 12 Apostles parking lot.
Island Arch Lookout
There are many fantastic lookout points in Port Campbell National Park, and Island Arch Lookout is one of them.
At the top of all the limestone rocks is a viewing platform where you can see the cliffs and limestone pillars against the turquoise ocean.
From Gibson Steps, drive for a few minutes heading north until you reach the parking lot for all the lookout points. There are many signs on the road so you will not miss them.
Loch Ard Gorge
Named after a shipwreck along the coast, Loch Ard Gorge is one of the best sites in Port Campbell National Park. I can totally understand why: dramatic cliffs surround the sandy beach which it creates a small nook along the coastal line that you can only access by a steep staircase. It is one of the most picturesque beaches I’ve ever seen.
After taking in the view from Island Arch Lookout, follow the stairs that take you to the secluded beach. The water is perfect for a morning swim.
Other lookouts in Port Campbell National Park
After a quick swim at Loch Ard Gorge, follow the path and look for the viewing platforms at Mutton Bird Lookout. You can see Mutton Bird Island from afar, and you may be able to see the short-tailed muttonbirds if you are visiting the area from September to May.
Then follow the path to Tom and Eva Lookout where you will see Island Arch. And keep following the path to see The Razorback.
Apollo Bay is a quaint little seaside town with quiet beaches. The town is an excellent spot for relaxing, eating fresh seafood and hanging out at the beach.
There are also excellent and cheap accommodation options, especially for budget travellers. You can stay at the affordable YHA hostel in Apollo Bay instead of a hotel in Lorne.
Not far from the town centre is Marriner’s Lookout. Take a short drive up the hill to get a panoramic view of the town and the ocean.
But before you get to Marriner’s Lookout, have a late lunch at either of the restaurants below.
FYI – if you are travelling to Apollo Bay around mid-February, you must go to the Apollo Bay Seafood Festival which happens only once a year. The event is held over a weekend where you can sample fresh local seafood and listen to live music. Check the Apollo Bay Seafood Festival website for specific dates.
And if you want to see glow worms along the Great Ocean Road, stop at Maits Rest, just 17km west of Apollo Bay.
Where to Eat in Apollo Bay
- Apollo Bay Fishermen’s Co-op – The little restaurant is by the water serving the freshest seafood made to order. The raw oysters are fresh and delicious. And the famous fish and chips are to die for! One piece of fried fish is almost the size of my forearm!
- Apollo Bay Seafood Cafe – Australia is known for its meat pies. But have you heard of scallop pies? Try one of the savoury scallop pies!
Probably the busiest and the biggest town along the Great Ocean Road, Lorne is a quaint town with a main street full of cafes, restaurants and shops. There is also a beautiful beach just parallel to the main road.
Also, there are more accommodation options in Lorne and numerous eateries, making it one of the best overnight stops during your Great Ocean Road trip.
And just before approaching Lorne, visit Teddy’s Lookout as it has a high viewing platform that offers one of the best views over the Great Ocean Road.
Where to Eat in Lorne
- Ipsos Restaurant & Bar – A busy and popular restaurant on the main road in Lorne. They serve modern Greek cuisine where you can dine in or alfresco.
- Mexican Republic – The little Mexican restaurant serves a solid burrito and cheesy quesadilla. And they have good Mexican beer like Negra Modelo.
- The Bottle of Milk – The cute little restaurant serves a strong flat white and hearty breakfast. It is particularly lovely to have breakfast on one of their picnic tables outside while the sun peaks out from the beach.
Where to Stay in Lorne
Accommodations along the Great Ocean Road aren’t cheap. But if you have to pick a spot to stay overnight, Lorne is one of the best places as the quaint little town has character and many eateries to choose from.
There are plenty of hotels and resorts to choose from. Here are my top picks:
- Lorne Coachman Inn ($$) – As much as the suite looks like it remained in the ’90s, the room is very spacious and clean. And the unit includes a kitchenette and a sitting area as well. The 3.5-star hotel is a great place to stay for the night and has ample parking.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Mantra Lorne Resort ($$$) – The 4.5-star hotel is near the beach and has clean, modern and contemporary rooms. The luxury accommodation has an indoor swimming pool, fitness centre, spa facilities and an outdoor area for lawn bowling and putting green.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
Day 2 of the Great Ocean Drive itinerary
Day two of your Great Ocean Road tour starts with a visit to Erskine Falls. Follow the signs and GPS to Erskine Falls. The drive from Lorne is about 10 minutes or so. There is a parking lot where you can leave your car.
The 30-meter waterfall has two lookout points. Walk 5 minutes from the parking lot and see the waterfall from the upper lookout. Then walk down a flight of stairs (240 steps to be exact) to view the waterfalls from the bottom.
Erskine Falls is not a huge waterfall, but the waterfall is pretty and the surrounding nature is rather peaceful.
As the longest beach on the Great Ocean Road, Fairhaven Beach is very popular with surfers. The east end of the beach has the best surfing conditions for those of you who want to try surfing. Also, the beach lines a small coastal village and is a popular holiday destination.
Before you arrive at the beach, there is a Memorial Arch, which is dedicated to the soldiers who lost their lives during World War I. You might want to make a quick stop here and see the Memorial Arch.
Split Point Lighthouse
After you leave Fairhaven Beach, you will find Split Point Lighthouse at the southern end of Aireys Inlet. The lighthouse was constructed in 1891 and is still being used today to guide ships along the coast.
You can simply walk around the guided path to take in the view or join a guided tour of the lighthouse.
There are four guided tours each day which include learning about the history of the lighthouse and also climbing to the top of lighthouse.
After marvelling at the lighthouse, walk over to Loutit Bay Lookout and get another view of the coastal town. Then walk past the lighthouse until you reach Eagle Rock Lookout and Castle Rock where you can see views of limestone rock formations along the coast.
Bells Beach is home to the Rip Curl Pro Surfing Competition, the world’s longest-running surfing competition. Since 1962, surfers have been competing every year around Easter time.
The beach is surrounded by dramatic cliffs with many vantage points for great photos. After you descend the wooden staircase, you will find a long stretch of beach with the finest sand. It is one of the best beaches along the Great Ocean Road for swimming, suntanning and of course, for surfing.
After you leave Aireys Inlet, follow the signs and look for Bells Beach or Winkipop. The parking lot is the same for both beaches.
Winkipop is a popular beach with surfers. There’s not much sand between the wooden staircase and the water. You pretty much jump from the stairs and into the water. So not the best beach for sunbathing but an absolutely cool spot for all you surfers out there.
For relaxing on the beach, go to Bells Beach, which is just next to Winkipop.
Last but not least is Torquay, a small town known as the “surfing capital of Australia” and is located at the east end of the famous road.
It is also the home for Rip Curl, Quiksilver and other surfwear brands. There are several outlet stores in town where you can get discounted surfwear and accessories.
Check out Torquay Beach as it is the last beach on your Great Ocean Road trip. The beach is excellent for swimming, surfing and fishing.
Return to Melbourne
After 2 days of driving on the Great Ocean Road, it is time to head back to Melbourne. Keep following the signs and they will take you back to the city.
More road trip ideas from Melbourne
If you enjoy taking a road trip, there are other places you can visit while visiting Melbourne. One of them is Grampians National Park.
Drive to a national park that is part of the Australian National Heritage List, Grampians National Park and enjoy the gorgeous scenery of rugged mountains and rich forests. Don’t miss MacKenzie Falls and Reed Lookout.
Complete guide: Great Ocean Road Itinerary in 2 days
I did a lot of research before visiting the Great Ocean Road, so I wanted to put together a 2 day itinerary for anyone who wants to drive alone to the Great Ocean Road.
It is completely doable for solo travellers to go on a road trip to the Great Ocean Road. But if you really feel you don’t want the hassle of renting a car and driving yourself, you can join either a Great Ocean Road 2 day tour or a 1 day tour because you do not want to miss this epic trip!
I hope you found this Great Ocean Road itinerary helpful. Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions.
Thank you for reading my Great Ocean Road itinerary post
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