Most people may only ever see one part of Victoria with a visit to Melbourne. And as much as I love the city, I don’t think travelers quite realize how many great nature hikes and road trips there are around the territory that are just begging to be explored. I know I sure didn’t until I was at the end of my time in Victoria.
The most popular Australian road trip of all would have to be the Great Ocean Road.
Growing up on the California coast and frequently making the drive from San Diego up to the Bay Area on the coastal Hwy 1, I was skeptical that any road trip could beat my favorite home views. By the time I finished the Great Ocean Road a couple of days later; however, I could easily vouch for the trip being as high in caliber as the Pacific Coast Highway in California, if not more so.
One of my best friends from home was visiting me in Melbourne at the time, so we decided to split the cost and rent a car for a couple of days to see the Great Ocean Road at our own pace. I was happy we did this as I’ve only heard how rushed the guided bus tours are of the famous drive.
If you have the time, try to spend more than just a day on the road so you don’t feel overwhelmed with how much there is to see. It’s also the perfect excuse to try out those skills of driving on the other side of the road if you’re used to life in the opposite lane. Believe me, it’s freaky the first time you get behind the wheel.
I’ve compiled a list of a few of my favorite spots to see on the Great Ocean Road, but the beauty of a road trip of this kind is also the spontaneity that comes with it as well. Although these are just recommendations to keep you on track, I would also welcome you stop whenever you feel like it. No matter where you go or what lookout you pull into, the Great Ocean Road will astonish you with its natural beauty and coastal views.
The ultimate surf town stop on the Great Ocean Road, Torquay is home to the famous surf brands, Rip Curl and Quicksilver, and has one of the best beaches in Victoria – Bells Beach. If you’re a fan of surfing or just appreciate a good beach view, this would be a must-see on your road trip.
Torquay also offers a great spot for snorkeling, sailboarding, and even a skydiving adventure if that’s your thing.
Split Point Lighthouse
Most people outside of Australia probably won’t recognize the famous lighthouse from the Aussie TV show Round the Twist, but this is an iconic spot in its own right. Located in Aireys Inlet, Split Point Lighthouse offers guided tours or you can simply enjoy your own breezy walk along the cliff tops.
Willow’s Teahouse is right next door to the lighthouse if you’re hankering for tea & cake in a stunning location near the sea.
One of the towns where Falls Fest is located each year, Lorne has a lot going on in terms of a bustling arts and events scene. It’s also right next to Great Otway National Park, which is the best nature detour if time permits.
Great Otway National Park is home to Erskine Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in the 103,000 hectare park, and it’s only 10km from Lorne. Another stunning spot to experience nature is Teddy’s Lookout, a place that will provide you with grand views of the multi-hued ocean down below.
Grey River Road
On your way from Lorne to Apollo Bay, make a quick detour to Grey River Road in Kennett River to get your fill of cuteness overload with the local wild koalas that inhabit the eucalyptus trees here. Drive slowly, don’t forget to look up, and chances are you will come across some snoozing (or if you’re lucky) active koalas hanging out.
If you’re looking to stay the night on the Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay is a great halfway point to stop in at. I stayed at Surfside Backpackers while I was in town, and we basically had the whole hostel to ourselves since it was off season. It was inexpensive and right next to the beach, there’s not much more I could ask for on the Great Ocean Road!
Apollo Bay is also known for its foodie scene, especially in the seafood realm, they even have a Seafood Festival in February. This is also where the popular Apollo Bay Music Festival takes place each year. What I love about Apollo Bay is how relaxing of a town it is, which is why I always recommend it as the perfect stopover point on your road trip. Just taking a walk along the beach at sunset was absolute perfection to end a long day of sightseeing and driving.
The Twelve Apostles is the most recognizable spot on the Great Ocean Road, and the only reason that some people make the road trip in the first place. Although it looks like a calm place in the pictures, it’s probably the windiest lookout I’ve ever experienced. Seriously, I thought I was going to blow right over the hand rail. The good news is the scenery is well-worth the wind, it is one of the most attractive spots I found along the coast in Victoria.
The Twelve Apostles are natural limestone stacks that are located right off the shore of Port Campbell National Park. Although they’re called the Twelve Apostles, only 8 are still visible as the other ones have already been lost to the ocean. All the more reason to see them now before they completely crumble away.
The London Arch and Loch Ard Gorge right near the Twelve Apostles are a great way to end your road trip before heading back to where you came from. If you’re looking for the most awe-inspiring shot from your time on the Great Ocean Road, you will probably find it at one of these three locations. If you have the extra time, make sure to walk down to the Grotto as well, a hallowed out cave that allows you to see the limestone rocks up close.
Where would you go on the Great Ocean Road? What are your favorite spots on the coast of Victoria?
Mimi founded The Atlas Heart to create a community of travelers inspired to see the world. Follow her on The Atlas Heart for more great stories and photos of a worldwide adventurer.