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If you are travelling through southeastern Australia, you must visit all the attractions along the Great Ocean Road. And the best way to experience the world-famous road is through a self-guided road trip. From scenic beaches, lookout points, waterfalls, to quaint seaside towns, there isn’t a dull moment on this journey.
Located in the state of Victoria, the coastal road can be accessed from either Melbourne or Adelaide. Since Melbourne is a bit closer, it makes the perfect start to a great road trip. From Melbourne, it only takes a few hours especially if you take the freeway that takes you directly to 12 Apostles.
And my itinerary makes the perfect weekend trip as you can see the best of the best of Great Ocean Road in just 2 days and 1 night. It is one of the best road trip experiences I’ve ever experienced. And I couldn’t wait to blog everything I know about my Great Ocean Road self-drive itinerary.
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 dedicating to the soldiers who died during World War I.
The long coastal road starts in Torquay and ends in Allansford. The best attractions are between Torquay and 12 Apostles.
I’ll take you through all the best sites and attractions along the Great Ocean Road in my 2-day self-drive itinerary. Two days is the perfect amount of time to see everything you want on the Great Ocean Road.
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Before you go visit the Great Ocean Road
Before you go to Australia, 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.
Driving in Australia
First of all, there are a few things to be mindful of when it comes to driving in Australia. Here are some of the major items I want to share with you.
Rent a car with your driver’s license or international license
You can easily rent a car from any car rental companies with your home driver’s license, especially for countries like Canada, and the US. I’m not familiar with the rest of the world so it might be a good idea to bring an international license with you while you are travelling.
Drive on the left side in Australia
I saw many signs on the road that says “drive on the left in Australia” with infographics indicating how traffic moves.
Since the Great Ocean Road is a top-rated tourist attraction and it attracts visitors from all over the world, making the roads quite busy. There have been many accidents in the area because many overseas tourists drive on the right side in their home country.
So please, be very careful when you drive in Australia. And stay on the left. I cannot stress this enough. There have been many accidents so; please be cautious on the road.
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.
What to bring for a 2-day road trip to Great Ocean Road
Exploring the Great Ocean Road through a self-drive itinerary over 2 days is one of the best experiences! However, you should bring the items mentioned below to guarantee a great time.
- smartphone to use as a GPS and guide you through the entire road trip
- overnight bag with 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 all the suntanning you will do at some/all of the beaches
- extra towel for the beach
- lots of sunscreen to block UV rays while you are on the beach
- hat and sunglasses for additional sun protection
- credit card for all your meal purchases (seems like most establishments take credit cards)
- camera (or your smartphone) to capture beautiful photos for Instagram
- some snacks for a few hours of driving
- the best playlist for the most epic road trip
The best 2-day tour of Great Ocean Road including a map of attractions
A lot of online itineraries will suggest the itinerary to start in Melbourne and drive 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 drive directly to 12 Apostles via all the internal roads.
From Melbourne, take the M1 freeway towards Geelong then A1 freeway to 12 Apostles. Then continue on Great Ocean Road towards Melbourne, so you don’t have to double back the same road.
Plus it is faster to take the internal freeways. It will take a little over 3 hours from Melbourne to 12 Apostles.
See the attached map below for all the places mentioned in the blog.
Day 1: Melbourne to 12 Apostles to Lorne
The most epic 2-day self-drive itinerary to the Great Ocean Road starts in Melbourne.
The first day is all about seeing the most famous attraction in Victoria, 12 Apostles, and visiting all the major landmarks in Port Campbell National Park.
Start bright and early in Melbourne. Leave the city around 7:30 am.
Tour around 12 Apostles and Port Campbell National Park first. Then, late lunch in Apollo Bay. And end your day with 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: Lorne to Melbourne
On the second day, start your day around 8:00 am and continue driving 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, lighthouse and towns along the way.
On day 2 on Great Ocean Road, 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
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 pillars are left.
Leave 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.
After seeing the 12 Apostles, 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 see the eroding coastline.
Unfortunately, Gibson Steps is closed until further notice. The closure information is on Parks Victoria website.
After visiting the 12 Apostles, drive over to the small parking lot of Gibson Steps. I went at the end of summer and arrived pretty 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, there is a viewing platform where you can see the cliffs and limestone pillars against the turquoise ocean.
From Gibson Steps, drive to 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 it.
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, thus creating a small nook along the coastal line where 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 set of stairs that takes 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, shopping on the main street, eating fresh seafood and hanging out at the beach.
And if you are travelling to Apollo Bay around mid-February, then 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 their website for specific dates.
There are also excellent and cheap accommodation options here, especially for budget travellers. The popular YHA hostel in Australia has a location right in Apollo Bay.
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 make your way to Marriner’s Lookout, have a late lunch at either of the restaurants below.
And if you want to see glow worms along the Great Ocean Road, stop at Maits Rest which is 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 and only cost $16AUD!
Apollo Bay Seafood Cafe
Australia is known for meat pies. But have you heard of scallop pies? Try one of the savoury scallop pies at the Apollo Bay Seafood Cafe. If you didn’t like pies before (like me), you will now!
Probably the busiest and the biggest town along the Great Ocean Road, Lorne is a quaint town has 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 along the Great Ocean Road.
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 the best modern Greek cuisine where you can dine in or al fresco. A great little spot for a lovely dinner.
The little Mexican restaurant serves a solid burrito and cheesy quesadilla. And they have good Mexican beer like Negra Modelo.
Cuda Bar and Restaurant
After a long day of driving, you deserve a drink! Enjoy a James Squire Orchard Crush Cider at one of the tables facing the main road.
The Bottle of Milk
The Bottle of Milk is a cute little restaurant and 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
Staying along the Great Ocean Road isn’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 a lot of character and also a lot of eateries to choose from.
Lorne Coachman Inn
As much as the suite looks like they are from 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 it has ample parking.
Check for the current rate and reviews on Agoda.
Mantra Lorne Resort
The 4.5-star Mantra Lorne Resort hotel is one of the best hotels in Lorne. Located near the beach, the hotel has modern and contemporary rooms that are comfortable and clean. The luxury accommodation has an indoor swimming pool, fitness centre, spa facilities and outdoor area for lawn bowling and putting green.
Check for the current rate and reviews on Agoda.
Airbnb in Lorne
As one of the bigger towns along the Great Ocean Road, there are a few more Airbnb selections to choose from. An average Airbnb accommodation costs about $275AUD but you can get something as cheap as $90AUD.
If possible, book as soon as you can to secure the best price and the best Airbnb unit. As always, check reviews and make sure to read all the fine prints before booking.
And if you are not part of Airbnb yet, please use this code to claim your $35 Airbnb discount.
Day two 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 base of the falls.
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.
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 includes learning about the history of the lighthouse and also climbing to the top of the 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 of 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 Great Ocean Road.
It is also the home for Rip Curl, Quiksilver and other big names in surfwear. 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 the road trip. The beach is excellent for swimming, surfing and fishing.
Return to Melbourne
After two days of driving, it is time to head back to the city. Keep following the signs and they will take you back into Melbourne.
Need more road trip ideas from Melbourne?
Grampians National Park
Take a road trip to a national park that is part of the Australian National Heritage List, Grampians National Park. Enjoy the gorgeous scenery of rugged mountains and rich forests. and look for MacKenzie Falls, Reed Lookout.
Are you ready to take one of the best road trips ever?
I love an awesome road trip and the Great Ocean Road has to be one of my favourites!
Are you inspired to take a road trip to Great Ocean Road through my self-drive itinerary? Let me know in the comment section below!
Where to go in Australia
Wondering where you should go in Australia? Check out my guides to the best cities to visit in Australia, including: