Jess Campbell

by Jess Campbell

posted on November 14, 2023

When it comes to coastal drives, it doesn’t get much better than Victoria’s Great Ocean Road day trip. Stretching along the southeastern coast of Australia, this drive follows the spectacular coastline, offering sweeping views of the Southern Ocean and vast, mesmerising landscapes.

From rugged cliffs of ochre that hug the shoreline to incredible beaches with pristine waters of deep blue, you need only experience the Great Ocean Road drive to know why it’s hailed as one of the most iconic driving roads in Australia. With the starting point of Torquay just 100 kilometres southwest of Melbourne, it makes for an easy day trip. But with countless sights to see, including the Twelve Apostles, the only hard part is deciding on the key attractions to visit along the way. 

If you’re looking to experience the beauty of Victoria’s coastline, this Great Ocean Road day trip itinerary ensures you hit all the key attractions.

In this guide, we’ll cover:

  1. An overview of the Great Ocean Road Drive
  2. Top stops along the way
  3. The perfect Great Ocean Road one-day itinerary
  4. Frequently asked questions about the trip

Top Tip: With Turo, you can make the most of your drive by taking yourself on a Great Ocean Road tour and exploring at your own pace, behind the wheel of a unique vehicle that suits your driving preferences. Thanks to Turo’s helpful local hosts, you can even arrange delivery to a location around Victoria that works best for you. 

The Great Ocean Road: An overview

The Great Ocean Road day trip is the perfect way to explore Australia’s breathtaking coastal drive. From coastal towns to national parks and the beauty of the Southern Ocean, skip the guided day tour and experience Victoria’s coastline at your own pace with these expert tips.

Great Ocean Road map

A well-signposted route, this Great Ocean Road map outlines the basic route from the starting point of Melbourne (or, navigate to Torquay and start from there!). Don’t forget to save it, and share it with your road trip fam.

Where is the Great Ocean Road?

Located in Victoria, the Great Ocean Road begins in the charming surfing town of Torquay, which sits 104 kilometres southwest of Melbourne. The drive covers an incredible 243 kilometres of the southeastern coast of Australia before finishing near Allansford. With so many popular attractions along the way and stunning landscapes that draw many photographers to the coast, you can expect to find the Great Ocean Road on every road trip bucket list. 

Great Ocean Road distance

The Great Ocean Road is approximately 243 kilometres long, following the coastline from Torquay to Allansford. Despite this, the distance travelled can vary depending on the route taken and any detours made as you look to visit the numerous attractions along the way. 

Great Ocean Road drive time (and suggested time)

The drive time along the Great Ocean Road will vary based on your starting point, destination, route chosen, and number of stops made along the way. On average, the drive takes approximately three to four hours one-way. 

Given that the route will see you pass sights like the Twelve Apostles and Great Otway National Park, we recommend that you allow for several stops along the way to make the most of your day trip. And with plenty of beaches on the route, including Bells Beach and Apollo Bay, why not add handy extras onto your booking with Turo (like a beach umbrella or roof racks and surf boards).

Great Ocean Road accessibility 

The Great Ocean Road is generally very accessible for visitors, but given the nature of some of the natural landscapes and outdoor sights, it’s important to consider specific accessibility needs ahead of time. 

Attractions like the Twelve Apostles have viewing platforms that are accessible, and larger coastal towns along the route, like Torquay, Lorne, and Apollo Bay, also cater to various needs with accessible accommodations and restrooms. That said, with a number of viewpoints situated within the natural landscape, the terrain can be uneven, making accessibility difficult.  

Great Ocean Road driving difficulty 

With sealed roads, the Great Ocean Road is known for being an enjoyable drive that is generally straightforward, removing any source of stress so you can be free to take in the scenery. You will need to be comfortable navigating curves and hills, though, as the Great Ocean Road is known for winding and narrow roads in certain parts. 

The region is also home to abundant wildlife, so you may encounter animals on or near the road. It’s important to drive at a safe speed to allow adequate time for braking and to never swerve if you see an animal crossing the road.

Weather conditions can also impact driving conditions. Along the coast, you may experience heavy rain, fog, and high winds. In these adverse conditions, adjust your speed accordingly and check the weather forecast ahead of departure. 

Expert tips and things to consider

  • Depart early: If you’re planning to tackle the entire Great Ocean Road in one day (and make the return trip back to Melbourne), be prepared for over 500km of driving. Our tip? Leave before 7 am to ensure you’re not rushed and have time to stop for breaks, walks and swims along the way.
  • What to bring: With many walking trails and sights to see, we recommend wearing comfortable clothing and sturdy shoes for exploring outdoors. Pack sunscreen and a hat to enjoy the countless coastal beaches safely, along with plenty of water and snacks. 
  • Mobile reception: Along the Great Ocean Road, mobile reception is generally very reliable. In larger towns like Torquay, Lorne, and Apollo Bay, you can expect strong network signals. However, reception can be limited in more remote areas and national parks like the Great Otway National Park. 
  • Best vehicle to drive: With sealed roads, a small vehicle or compact car will easily get you through the Great Ocean Road. Whether you want the comfort of a larger SUV or want to trial a sleek EV, on Turo you can easily find the perfect ride to tackle this Great Ocean Road trip.
Speaking of the comfort of a larger SUV, why not book Rita’s Mercedes-Benz GLC-CLASS 2021 in Melbourne on Turo?
David’s Kia Sportage 2018 in Melbourne on Turo – this ride will easily get you through the Great Ocean Road.

Top stops along the way

With no shortage of stops to visit along the way, the hardest part of your Great Ocean Road day trip will be deciding what to see. The drive offers a range of beautiful landscapes, with detours available that are sure to get you up close and personal with the coastal, rainforest, and cliffside scenery. 

Whether you’re looking for some time to relax on the beach or want to explore Australia’s national parks on foot, here are the top stops on the Great Ocean Road drive that are worth a visit. 

Bells Beach

The world-famous Bells Beach is better known as the surf coast. Located near Torquay, it’s home to the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, one of the world’s longest-running professional surfing competitions. Framed by rugged cliffs, you can hike to the lookout point Bells Beach Cliff Walk, which offers stunning panoramic views of the coastline (as well as being a great spot to watch the surfers as they tackle big waves). 

Memorial Arch

This historic monument is located near Eastern View on the Great Ocean Road. Originally constructed as a tribute to the World War I servicemen who built the Great Ocean Road, the arch honours their contributions. Memorial Arch has since become a popular tourist attraction, offering local and international travellers a place to reflect on its history, while also taking in the beautiful surrounding scenery. 

Aireys Inlet and Split Point Lighthouse

The charming coastal town of Aireys Inlet is certainly worth visiting, especially when you take in Split Point Lighthouse. With its relaxed atmosphere and coastal scenery, Aireys Inlet is a great stop for morning tea (we recommend stopping into Onda Fooda House or The Lighthouse Tea Room). Take a coastal walk through the natural landscape or venture to Split Point Lighthouse, which towers on the cliffs and offers incredible views of the Southern Ocean. 

Lorne

As far as seaside towns go, it doesn’t get more beautiful than Lorne. A popular spot for swimming, Lorne Beach has sandy shores that are made for soaking up the friendly atmosphere. You’ll be treated to great food and local artisans on the main street of Mountjoy Parade, or come for the Lorne Foreshore Market which falls on the first Sunday of the month from November to April. 

You can also walk or drive to Teddy’s Lookout, which offers views of the coast and surrounding areas. Just outside of Lorne, you’ll also find Erskine Falls. Here, you can take a walking track that leads to the lookout points of the rainforest or simply hike to the waterfall. 

Great Otway National Park

An ideal spot for nature enthusiasts and those looking for a beautiful hike that takes you through ancient rainforests to coastal cliffs, the Great Otway National Park has it all. With both coastal and forested areas, take a rainforest tour that explores Maits Rest Rainforest Walk or visit Triplet Falls.

For those searching for pristine beaches, Blanket Bay and Parker Hill offer scenic viewpoints. The former also offers camping facilities and beach access. For the adrenaline junkies, consider Cape Otway Treetop Walk, which offers a unique perspective of the rainforest canopy with an elevated walkway. 

Kennett River Koala Walk

Situated in Kennett River, halfway between Lorne and Apollo Bay, the area is home to a big population of wild koalas. With abundant eucalyptus trees, the Kennett River Koala Walk lets you spot koalas resting in the trees, particularly during daylight hours when they are most active.

You don’t need a tour guide or to attend Great Ocean Road tours to make it a memorable trip. In fact, you’ll find plenty of information boards along the way to keep you informed. 

Apollo Bay

With a sandy beach providing the ultimate backdrop for the beautiful scenery, the coastal town of Apollo Bay boasts friendly locals and a vibrant culture. The harbour is a popular spot for fishing, but you can also stroll along the pier or enjoy some fish and chips. 

Just a short drive from Apollo Bay, you’ll find Maits Rest Rainforest Walk, which takes you through towering tree ferns and eucalyptus trees. 

Twelve Apostles 

Standing as one of the most iconic natural landmarks along the Great Ocean Road, the Twelve Apostles are a collection of limestone stacks that rise out of the Southern Ocean. Erosion has caused several of them to collapse over time, but their appearance is no less striking. 

Located near Port Campbell National Park, you’ll find viewing platforms that are easily accessible from the Great Ocean Road and take in a number of angles. While a popular tourist attraction, the site makes for a particularly beautiful experience during sunrise and sunset with the dramatic coastline in the background. 

Expert Tip: If you want to experience the Twelve Apostles from a unique perspective, you could consider a helicopter ride over the rock formations and Shipwreck Coast. Tour operators are able to customise the experience with flights that vary in duration to suit your needs.

Port Campbell 

The coastal town of Port Campbell offers several outdoor activities along the stunning coastline. Situated near Port Campbell National Park, you can hike to attractions like Loch Ard Gorge and the Razorback, all while taking in the coastal formations, cliffs, and expansive scenery. 

Here, you’ll find London Arch, which is another formation along the coast. The arch was originally a double span until one section collapsed, but it still proves popular with local and international tourists. Throughout the year, Port Campbell is home to a number of festivals and events, all of which celebrate its vibrant culture and community. 

The ultimate Great Ocean Road day trip itinerary

Ready for a scenic journey as you take in the Great Ocean Road’s stunning vistas and many a charming seaside town? We’ve got the ultimate day trip itinerary to ensure you see all the best sights.

Stop 1. Melbourne to Torquay

  • Distance: 104.5 kilometres
  • Driving time: 1 hour 7 minutes

From Melbourne, visit the sandy beaches of Torquay where you can stop for a spot of swimming or surfing. You can take a walk along the 44-kilometre Surf Coast Walk or stock up on any snacks you might need for the rest of the journey. 

Stop 2. Torquay to Bells Beach 

  • Distance: 6.9 kilometres
  • Driving time: 8 minutes

In a short drive, you’ll find yourself at Bells Beach, home to the famous Rip Curl Pro competition. 

Stop 3. Bells Beach to Memorial Arch

  • Distance: 27.8 kilometres
  • Driving time: 32 minutes

Drive to the Memorial Arch, built to commemorate the gruelling work of 3,000 soldiers who completed the 243-kilometre stretch of road. 

Stop 4. Memorial Arch to Split Point Lighthouse

  • Distance: 5.9 kilometres
  • Driving time: 9 minutes

If you want the best panoramic views of the Southern Ocean and Australia’s coastal beauty, take the walk to Split Point Lighthouse. 

Stop 5. Split Point Lighthouse to Lorne

  • Distance: 18.6 kilometres
  • Driving time: 29 minutes

A great spot for swimming, Lorne offers a taste of coastal living with local produce and a relaxed atmosphere. Take morning tea at one of its delicious eateries or simply stroll along the beach. 

Stop 6. Lorne to Teddy’s Lookout

  • Distance: 2.4 kilometres
  • Driving time: 4 minutes

Teddy’s Lookout offers incredible views across the ocean. You’ll be able to take in rugged cliffs and mountains, as well as stunning gorges. 

Stop 7. Teddy’s Lookout to Kennett River Koala Walk

  • Distance: 22.4 kilometres
  • Driving time: 29 minutes

Get up close and personal with the wild koalas at Kennett River Koala Walk as you hike amongst the eucalyptus trees. 

Stop 8. Kennett River Koala Walk to Apollo Bay

  • Distance: 22.6 kilometres
  • Driving time: 25 minutes

At Apollo Bay, walk up to Mariners Lookout for a stunning view of the region. 

Stop 9. Apollo Bay to Gibson Steps and Twelve Apostles

  • Distance: 84.4 kilometres
  • Driving time: 1 hour 6 minutes 

A must-see attraction for anyone on a Great Ocean Road tour, the Twelve Apostles are worth a visit. Take in the majestic limestone formations and sandy shores as you gaze from one of the many viewpoints. From here, a three minute drive will take you to Loch Ard Gorge – another must visit stop along the Great Ocean Road.

Stop 10. Loch Ard Gorge to Port Campbell

  • Distance: 8 kilometres
  • Driving time: 9 minutes

Take in the charming coastal town of Port Campbell or head down to the bay for a relaxing swim. With its vibrant culture and local cafes, it’s the perfect place to end a great day’s trip.  

Return Trip: Port Campbell to Melbourne

  • Distance: 231 kilometres
  • Driving time: 2 hours 52 minutes

From Port Campbell, your adventure of the Great Ocean Road comes to an end. Take the direct highway route back to Melbourne, which takes just under three hours.

Frequently asked questions about the Great Ocean Road drive 

Where does the Great Ocean Road start and end?

The Great Ocean Road begins in the surfing town of Torquay, which is located 104 kilometres south of Melbourne. It then ends in Allansford, however there are plenty of places to stop and sights to see along the route.

When is the best time to visit the Great Ocean Road?

Choosing the best time to visit the Great Ocean Road will depend largely on your own preferences and the activities you’d like to do. For those who want to soak up the beauty of the beaches, the warmer months might be preferable, with September to April being a popular time to visit. However, the drive is no less beautiful in winter (June to August). 

Where are the best spots to refuel along the Great Ocean Road?

Expect to find petrol stations located in the major coastal towns along the Great Ocean Road. Look out for the Ampol at Apollo Bay, the Shell at Anglesea as well as the Shell in Lorne. If you’re driving an electric car, expect to find EV charging stations in Torquay, Apollo Bay, and Aireys Inlet.

How long is the Twelve Apostles walk?

At just over 100 kilometres, the Twelve Apostles walk takes in coastal cliffs and the remains of shipwrecks that are embedded in the fabric of our national history. Each route along the walk takes in stunning views. 

Do you need a 4WD for the Great Ocean Road?

Thanks to sealed roads, a 4WD isn’t necessary when driving the Great Ocean Road. Thanks to Turo, you can explore a wide range of rides and find one that suits your travel needs and preferences. 

Is the Great Ocean Road worth it?

Absolutely! No matter what your travel preferences, the Great Ocean Road offers something for everyone. From stunning landscapes of rugged cliffs and sandy beaches, to charming seaside towns with delicious food, there are plenty of things to see and do. 

Can you do the Great Ocean Road in one day?

If you’re looking to maximise your time, you can absolutely do the Great Ocean Road in one day. Be sure to leave early and share the drive as you’ll be on the road for upwards of 8 hours.

Ready to embark on your Victorian road trip? With Turo, you can explore at your own pace and ensure you tick off all the sights you want to see in the day. Book a car in Melbourne or beyond.

Jess Campbell

Jess Campbell

Jess is Sydney-based and loves the outdoors. While she likes to think she has what it takes to compete on ‘ALONE’, her survival skills need some work. Born in Singapore and raised in South Africa, she’s hiked across Ireland, surfed in Hawaii, spent six months in Kenya and covered much of Africa. Having spent a year in the north of Spain, she’s resolved to come back to tackle the Camino de Santiago. Until then, you can find her providing the best snacks and playlists on Aussie road trips.

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