Check out our ultimate self drive itineraries for the Great Ocean Road, Australia!
One of the most iconic road trips in all of Australia, if not the world, has got to be the Great Ocean Road drive.
375km of scenic winding roads along the southern ocean will take you through some of the country’s most beautiful UNESCO-listed landscapes.
You can tackle the Great Ocean Road in one long day, or break it up over a few days, which is what we suggest doing.
Having your own vehicle is highly recommended so you can explore all the things to see on the Great Ocean Road on self-drive itineraries, as it really is one of Australia’s top destinations.
If that is not an option though, or you don’t like the idea of driving on the ‘wrong side of the road’, there are plenty of excellent tours like this one that will take you to see all the sights including the Twelve Apostles, Port Campbell, Otway National Park and more.
The best way to get around is to rent a car and explore on your own! We recommend Rental Cars, which has the largest range of vehicles for the best value on the market.
Table of Contents
- Great Ocean Road Drive Itinerary
- Day 1: Melbourne to Apollo Bay
- How far is the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne?
- Day 2: Apollo Bay to Warrnambool
- Day 3: Warrnambool to Port Fairy then Melbourne (or Adelaide)
- How long does it take to drive the Great Ocean Road?
- Where does the Great Ocean Road start and finish?
- Is the Great Ocean Road dangerous?
Great Ocean Road Drive Itinerary
Self drive itineraries are the best option for the Great Ocean Road, Australia. With your own car, you’ll be able to stop when and where you want, spending as long as you need to check out the beaches, taking in the views and having the freedom to explore at your leisure.
Let us help you get started with planning your Great Ocean Road itinerary.
Our particular itinerary starts in Melbourne and finishes in Port Fairy over 3 days, and is the exact route we have personally done numerous times.
|Your Great Ocean Road drive will include the following itinerary:
* Day 1: Melbourne to Apollo Bay (including Torquay)
* Day 2: Apollo Bay to Warrnambool (including the Twelve Apostles)
* Day 3: Warrnambool to Port Fairy
READ MORE: Be sure to plan your best trip to Australia by using our Australia Travel Guide!
Day 1: Melbourne to Apollo Bay
- Distance: 195km
- Drive Time: 3 Hours
- Sightseeing Time: 5 Hours
For most people, driving the Great Ocean Road trip will start in Melbourne and can be done in a loop or a return journey. That’s how we’re going to structure this post for you.
Other options include coming from Adelaide, so if this is you, just read the Great Ocean Road itinerary backwards.
If you’ve hired a car you’ll most likely collect it at the airport. Stock up on essentials, fill up the car, turn up the radio and head towards Apollo Bay!
How far is the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne?
To drive direct from the Melbourne CBD to Torquay, where the road officially starts, is 104km, or 1 hour and 20 minutes.
The first stop when driving the Great Ocean Road will be Geelong. This port city is the second-largest in the state of Victoria and overlooks the gorgeous Corio Bay.
Head for Eastern Beach first. Go for a swim in the southern ocean, soak in the sun or admire the stunning views out over Corio Bay and go for a stroll along the Eastern Promenade. If you want one of the best views in Geelong, grab a seat on the SkyWheel.
For a great post-drive meal check out the Geelong Boathouse for a classic fish & chips by the sea. While wandering around town you’ll surely spot a ton of street art, which is something Geelong is known for.
And to get your fill of more art you can visit the Geelong Art Gallery and The Heritage Center.
There are also several wineries and breweries in the area worth stopping in at to pick something up to enjoy throughout the rest of your trip too.
Not too far down the coast is an iconic must-visit stop on any of the Great Ocean Road drives, Torquay, known for its epic surf beaches.
One of the best things to do on the Great Ocean Road is going out for a paddle at some of the most famous surf beaches in Australia.
Taking a surf lesson is a sure-fire way to have you feeling confident on the board and in the water if you haven’t tried the sport before.
For more experienced surfers, and those looking to set foot onto a world-renowned surf beach, head to Bells Beach.
Made famous for the Rip Curl Pro hosted every Easter, Bells Beach is not only beautiful but a huge part of both Australian and surf culture.
Other good breaks in addition to Bells Beach include San Juc, Winki Pop, Bird Rock and Sparrows just to name a few.
Torquay is also home to the Surf World Museum with tons of history about the sport and its fame in Australia. You’ll also find the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame here as well.
If you’re a hiker more than a surfer, you’ll be in for a treat with the Surf Coast Walk – 44km of trails that connect Torquay to Angelsea and Aireys Inlet along the coast.
The landscape varies depending on which route you take. But all the views are spectacular on this stretch of the Great Ocean Road Trip. For more information on routes and trails visit the website here.
No Great Ocean road trip is complete without making a stop at Memoria Arch, which is less than 30 minutes from Torquay and a real highlight of the journey.
Built in honour of the 3,000 soldiers who worked on this stretch of road after WWI, there is now also a sculpture there to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the arch.
A great photo op spot, this is one of the most photographed spots along the Great Ocean Road.
Continue on from this point as there are tons of Great Ocean Road attractions to come.
Lorne is the closest town from the arch and a great spot to grab some lunch at Bottle of Milk, use the facilities and continue on towards Kennett River.
It’s also a fantastic place if you are looking to see some native Australian wildlife.
The Kennett River Koala Walk is the perfect place to get your fix. The whole trail is about 15km, but your best chances for spotting the cute indigenous animals are about 6km in at Grey River. Turn off for this road just before you reach Apollo Bay.
Make sure you visit first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon for the best koala viewing times. You’ll find them sitting up in the eucalyptus trees.
Where to Stay in Apollo Bay
Apollo Bay is a popular place on the Great Ocean Road, so make sure you have booked your accommodation ahead of time.
Our personal recommendation for where we stay in Apollo Bay every time is The Apollo Apartment.
With great facilities, cozy apartment-style suites and great views from almost any room on site, this is your best choice if you’d like a bit of space to stretch out after a big day of driving the Great Ocean Road.
Day 2: Apollo Bay to Warrnambool
- Distance: 160km
- Drive Time: 2 hr 30 min
- Sightseeing Time: 5 hours
Apollo Bay is a gorgeous seaside village, located at the entry to the Otways, and without a doubt is one of the most scenic and picturesque stops on our Great Ocean Road trip.
For the best panoramic views in Apollo Bay head straight for Marriners Lookout. From the car park, there is a short trail that will lead you right to the viewpoint where you’ll be gifted with the most incredible sweeping views of Apollo Bay and the coastline.
If you fancy trying your luck to spot some wildlife head out to nearby Lake Elizabeth.
The lake views here are stunning and if you’re lucky you might even be able to lay your eyes on a platypus or two.
These unique and adorable local animals call this spot home and have been known to use the lake as a nesting ground when having babies so best to keep your eyes peeled.
Great Otway National Park
Not even 15km from Apollo Bay is the incredibly lush and beautiful Great Otway National Park. While the Great Ocean Road covers a ton of coastline, this national park is a gem located more on the inland route.
Covering nearly 200 hectares, this park is one of the few Great Ocean Road highlights that is not a beach. Deep lush valleys, sky-high rainforests, stunning waterfalls and tons of walking tracks make it a great spot to get off the beach and still be in nature.
One of the best walking tracks to visit here is Melba Gulley which is full of gorgeous giant fern trees and home to glow worm caves, which are best seen after dark.
For a shorter track check out Maits Rest which will take you through a beautiful section of rainforest. For more trail information in Great Otway National Park, visit this website.
If you’re looking to do a bit of waterfall chasing, this is a great place to find them!
Stevenson Falls, Triplet Falls, Little Aire Falls, and Hopetoun Falls are just a few of the many highlights here. Keep an eye open as you wander the trails for koalas up in the trees and beautiful native birds soaring around too.
From here you are well on your way to having covered a ton of ground on your road trip. But one of the most incredible Great Ocean Road attractions is just around the corner.
The Twelve Apostles
The Twelve Apostles are one of the most amazing sights within Australia and it’s not hard to see why as you road trip along the coast from Great Otway.
Due to crashing waves over millennia, saltwater and erosion there are now only 8 limestone stacks remaining out of 12. But that does not take away from the impressive views at all.
An absolute must-do for anyone wanting one of the best views of this part of the Great Ocean Road is to book in for a Twelve Apostles Helicopter Ride.
Soaring high above the limestone stacks you’ll get the best views of Victoria’s Shipwreck Coast. Sail through the clouds with only 1 other person for an up-close and personal adventure. This is a highlight of visiting the Great Ocean Road!
You’ll also find the end of the Great Ocean Walk here, which allows you to get some stunning coastal views from a boardwalk before taking to the beach to see these immense stacks from the ground.
Seeing the Twelve Apostles for yourself should be at the top of your Australian Bucket list, no matter the weather. It’s a highlight of a Great Ocean Road itinerary!
If you really want a unique perspective though, and love a bit of adventure, how does skydiving over the 12 Apostles sound?
Jump out of a plane at 15,000 feet above the ground and get the best, most exhilarating views of the entire coastline.
Make sure you book ahead though, as it’s not something you can just show up and do. Reserve your spot here.
And your Great Ocean Road route should not miss out on two other attractions nearby either.
Port Campbell National Park
After the Twelve Apostles, continue along the Great Ocean Road towards Port Campbell.
Loch Ard Gorge is the first attraction on the way, just a stone’s throw from the Twelve Apostles. This stone archway once formed a natural bridge over the gorge, but unfortunately collapsed almost a decade ago.
However, Loch Ard Gorge is still a stunning place for a swim. Now 2 pillars are left standing above the sea and make for an impressive view in Port Campbell National Park.
After the gorge you’ll pass the town of Port Campbell. It’s a small village, but Port Campbell is a nice place to stop for a snack and some fuel.
After passing through Port Campbell, you’ll pass by The Arch and London Bridge. Both are natural, offshore stone archways. The Arch is a giant archway in the ocean, and London Bridge is the same but is more square instead of arched to it looks like a bridge. Both are amazing expressions of natural beauty and are worth checking out.
The Grotto is one of the most impressive sections of the coastline, and essentially a sinkhole. What is a partial cave, archway and blowhole, The Grotto is definitely something to marvel at.
The weather can play a huge part in what is visible and how close you can get to this area. On a clear sunny day and depending on the tide you can get pretty close. However, when the winds pick up it is best to stay above the Grotto.
Where to Stay in Warrnambool
Before making your way onto day number 3 of your adventure-packed Great Ocean Road trip you’ll be looking for a place to catch a good night’s sleep.
Quest Warrnambool is the perfect place to do just that. Conveniently located a little ways from Port Campbell, these serviced apartments have great rooms, a gorgeous pool area and make for a great stopover.
We personally stayed there when we travelled across Australia, and highly recommend it.
Day 3: Warrnambool to Port Fairy then Melbourne (or Adelaide)
- Distance: 30km to Port Fairy, then 312km to Melbourne
- Drive Time: 30 minutes to Port Fairy, 4 hours to Melbourne
- Sightseeing Time: 4 hours
With the last day of your Great Ocean Road itinerary upon you, there is still so much to be seen and experienced.
After a late arrival into Warrnambool, you’ll want to see a few of the sights the city has to offer.
To get you fueled up for your last day head to Bohemia Cafe & Bar for a takeaway coffee or a wicked and delicious breakfast.
Brekkie tacos, smoothie bowls and a full lunch menu to eat in or take away will please anyone visiting.
As Victoria’s 5th largest city, Warrnambool is a lot bigger than most of the seaside towns along the Great Ocean Road drive.
However, the views aren’t affected by the bigger cityscape.
Cannon Hill is a great place to start if you want to get the lay of the land. This lookout gives you the chance to see right out to sea and over the entire city.
The Foreshore Promenade is a great place for a stroll as well and stretches on for about 6 km.
From Warrnambool Breakwater all the way to Logan’s Beach this is a great spot to take in the coastal views and even pass a little penguin breeding ground. So you may get lucky to lay your eyes on some of these cute local beach dwellers.
While it is a large city the laid back beach vibe is very present here and you could wind up spending more time here than you planned.
Once you’ve had your fill, hop in the car for a quick drive and to the next and last destination of your road trip.
Your Great Ocean Road itinerary may be coming to an end, but don’t worry, you’ll finish up with a dreamy little visit to Port Fairy.
Port Fairy is a tiny town on Victoria’s iconic shipwreck coast with a charming vibe and an exciting causeway that leads you out to an island worth exploring too.
One of the best things to do here is take a walk out on the Port Fairy Wharves.
Head down to the Moyne River and stretch your legs along the wharves. This is a great place not only to catch some stunner views but also to watch the fisherman come in with their catch, which you likely can find in the restaurants in town.
Griffiths Island can be accessed by a footbridge nearby to the wharf and is a great place to do a little bird watching.
There is a walking track around the island and on the most westerly point you’ll find a lovely little lighthouse and a pretty viewpoint too.
Battery Hill is a great spot to get a view from on high of the town and see some pieces of Port Fairy history like the remnants of a Russian invasion from the 1860s.
The Port Fairy Botanical Gardens are a lovely spot for an afternoon walk and to admire the plants and flowers.
What used to be a swamp was reclaimed and turned into these pretty gardens in 1858. Over time it has been improved to create a peaceful and beautiful space to be enjoyed.
One of the most adventurous things to do on the Great Ocean Road drive is to do a bit of scuba diving.
Port Fairy offers great locations for scuba diving including The Thistle. This dive spot is actually a ship that was wrecked off the eastern beach in Port Fairy in 1849.
Now you’ll be able to find the wreckage in shallow waters, which makes it great for divers to explore.
While your stop here signals the end of your epic 3 day Great Ocean Road itinerary, you’re now on to new and exciting things.
Back to Melbourne
At the end of your Great Ocean Road itinerary, you can leave Port Fairy and head back towards Melbourne on the M8 National highway to take on your next series of Aussie fun.
Along the way be sure to stop off at one of the small towns for a late afternoon-snack or coffee, or you can take a detour up to Ballarat for the night to learn about the gold rush.
If you’d like to continue travelling Australia beyond the Great Ocean Road, you can head northwest to Adelaide.
You can do this in one big day (it’s almost 600km direct), but we personally recommend breaking the trip up into 2 or 3 days, spending some time in Mount Gambier and Coorong National Park.
How long does it take to drive the Great Ocean Road?
You can drive the entire length of the Great Ocean Road in one long day (about 8 hours return), but we recommend splitting the journey up into a few days.
Where does the Great Ocean Road start and finish?
The road starts in Torquay, and finishes in Allansford.
Is the Great Ocean Road dangerous?
No, the Great Ocean Road isn’t particularly dangerous to drive, as long as you take proper precautions. The main issues can be poor visibility due to fog, slippery roads in wet weather, and traffic from vehicles and pedestrians in the busy sections.
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