The Great Ocean Road along Victoria, Australia’s southwestern coast is arguably one of the most stunning drives in the world. The road winds past verdant rolling hills, lush sub-tropical forests, dramatic cliffs, pristine beaches and Victoria’s most popular attraction: the Twelve Apostles. It is possible to join a day tour of the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne but unless you’re short on time, it’s better to hire a car and explore the region at your own leisure, stopping by the forest reserves and spending one or more nights at the various quaint towns that dot the coast. The day tours leave Melbourne in the early-morning and return past eight in the evening, making it a long, arduous journey.
Great Ocean Road day trip from Melbourne
My first visit to this spectacular stretch of the Victorian coastline was unforgettable. It was a cold, windy day but the sun shone at times (the weather in Victoria is very fickle). When we arrived in Torquay, a quaint seaside village (which is where the famous Aussie surfwear like Billabong come from), the sun was shining brightly and it was quite warm. We continued to Bells Beach, a surfer’s haven, to see the big surf. Stunning scenery here: gentle, green rolling hills that end at the coast with dramatic cliffs, long stretches of sandy beaches, little coves, quaint villages and finally the vast green ocean.
We left Torquay behind us and passed a spot where the guide stopped. He led us up a path and we were greeted by a burst of colour! Brightly-coloured parakeets and rozellas flew past us, and up in the trees, we spotted a sleeping koala! We also visited the Great Otway National Park, where we went for a quick walk (it started to rain so the guide upped the pace!). The rainforest was simply enchanting: towering Myrtle beech and mountain ash trees, and at their feet, giant ferns, mosses and little cascading streams.
We passed several beautiful coastal villages along the way such as Anglesea, Lorne and Apollo Bay. The stretch between Lorne and Apollo Bay was absolutely breathtaking. We made a brief stop at Apollo Bay, a gorgeous town packed with inns, restaurants and cafés. Sitting at a terrace, we watched as dark, threatening clouds rolled in from the ocean.
The Twelve Apostles
When we finally arrived at the Twelve Apostles (a series of limestone outcrops that had separated from the mainland due to erosion), it was storming. The sky was black, the ocean pounded the coast with huge thunderous waves (I’ve never seen waves this big before. I’m sure some of them were at least five meters high) and the wind howled fiercely like a hurricane.
The wind tossed me around like I was made of paper (with my skinny frame, that’s not too hard to imagine I guess!) and hail didn’t drop from above; carried by the high winds, it flew straight at you, yes, horizontally! I braved it (along with two others) and fought my way to the edge of the cliff while the busloads of tourists huddled together in the safety of the visitor centre. The hail hit so hard till my face felt bruised while the hood of my raincoat slapped my cheeks incessantly.
When we got to the edge of the cliffs, the wind was so strong and the hail was hitting so hard, we could only afford 2-3 second peeks of the Twelve Apostles before covering our faces again!! I figured, this is so much better than seeing this dramatic coastline on a clear blue day. The fierce weather just made the whole experience so much more intense.
Miraculously, the wind died down for a moment and the sun broke through the dark clouds and there I was, alone on the viewing platform (the other two had disappeared), with this magnificent sight in front of me: the towering cliffs, the pounding waves below and the dark sky punctured by a single ray of light. Absolutely breathtaking!
After the Twelve Apostles, we continued on our way to other spectacular rock formations along the coast. The most noteworthy were Razorback, London Bridge (that collapsed in 1990) and Loch Ard Gorge.
On our way back to Melbourne, we made a brief stop at Port Campbell, a pretty village located at the mouth of Campbell’s Creek. I arrived back in Melbourne that evening feeling totally exhausted but exhilarated! I later did the Great Ocean Road trip again, this time with friends in a rental car, and we spent a night at Apollo Bay. It was absolutely gorgeous and the weather was beautiful but I’ll never forget my first trip during that stormy day.
Read about Discovering Melbourne’s Hidden Secrets
Read about my solo road trip in Victoria
Check out the official Great Ocean Road website for more information.
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[…] my last trip in 2008, I drove along the Great Ocean Road, arguably one of the most spectacular drives on the planet, and one I’ll never […]
Glad you had a great time on the Great Ocean Road. It’s stunning and happy for you that the weather broke. It can be wild down that way!
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I loved the Great Ocean Road when I was in Oz last month – definitely one of my highlights.
We did it as a day trip out of Melbourne and managed to get as far as Apollo Bay before turning back – very doable for anyone hiring a car from Melbourne.
I also suggest stopping off at Geelong to check out the waterfront, even if it’s just to visit the Spanish guy that runs “the Mussels Boat”. Awesome fresh moule frites!!
The Great Ocean Road cannot be missed if you’re in Oz!!! Btw, Torquay is one of my fave cities in the world–it’s so quaint and pretty. Great review and gorgeous pics. Thanks for bringing back some lovely memories today. 🙂
Wow, had no idea. Planning a trip for Australia in the next year and will have to add this to this list. Cool.
Thanks Kirsty! Have a great holiday there. I’m sure the weather will be better in Dec/Jan, unlike in September when I was there. 🙂
Hey, we’re heading this way for our summer holidays. (Dec – Jan ’10) Plan to head along the Great Ocean Road (not been that way for a while) and then will continue on to camp at Warrnambool for 10 days. Plenty to see down that way as you have pointed out in your post. Only concern is the weather! It’s good and bringing on wind & horizontal rain. :-S
[…] The Great Ocean Road I wouldn’t have missed this drive for the world! […]
Thanks for your comment Erica. Hope you get to drive it one day. It really is worth the effort!
Thanks for sharing this experience! Ever since I first read about the Great Ocean Road in a travel magazine as a teenager I’ve wanted to drive it one day.
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It takes about 24 hours from Western Europe as well. From here, it’s ideal to stop over in Dubai or Southeast Asia though. I love Australia: the food, the people, the amazing sights!
Thanks for your comment.
Just so beautiful!! The only thing that’s keeping me from going to Australia is the length of flight! From East Coast North America, I think it takes, like, 24 hours!!!