Maybe you have driven along the Great Ocean Road before and are looking for a new experience. Or is it your first time and you aren’t sure what attractions to put on your to do list? We have done this drive a few times and discover something new every time we do it, so we have put together a list of our favourite things to do along the Great Ocean Road.
Starting from the Torquay, we list a bunch of fun activities from waterfall walks and wildlife spotting, to finding remote beaches, taking in the history of the Shipwreck Coast and even going on a fun gourmet food trail.
A few stops require a short detour off the B100 but they’re worth doing to get a full picture of the region. We hope this list of our highlights gives you some ideas for your road trip.
Featured Image – Great Ocean Road © William Watt
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- Bells Beach
- Split Point Lighthouse
- Kennet River Koala Walk
- Apollo Bay
- Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary
- Shelly Beach Walk
- Mait’s Rest Walk
- Lake Elizabeth
- Take in the Views on the Waterfall Circuit
- Otway Fly & Treetop Adventure
- The Redwoods
- Cape Otway Light Station
- Wreck Beach Anchor Walk
- Johanna Beach
- Gibson Steps
- 12 Apostles
- 12 Apostles Food Artisan Trail
- Loch Ard Gorge
Whether you are a surfer or not, you should stop by Bells Beach. Home to the world’s longest running surf event – The Rip Curl Pro – the break at Bells has been tackled by the world’s best surfers for over 50 years.
Mark Richards, Tom Curran, Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning and Sonny Garcia are just a few of the legends to conquer the surf here. We don’t surf but we still love stopping here a to take in the atmosphere.
Split Point Lighthouse
Familiar to many from the 90s TV show Round the Twist, The Split Point Lighthouse is not just a fun bit of cultural nostalgia. You can do a tour and climb to the top of the lighthouse and learn all about the history of the light station and the wrecks in the region. The views are great, and the tour is really interesting.
If you have time, you could a spend several days looking around Lorne. It is a beautiful spot with a stunning beach and mountain backdrop. The eclectic mix of boutique shops on Mountjoy Parade will give shoppers plenty to do. A few highlights in Lorne to put on your list include:
- Erskine Falls – you can see these impressive falls less than 100m from the car park, or walk 250m to the lookout at the base
- Jebbs Pool and Cumberland Falls Walk – This generally easy track takes you to some lovely natural swimming holes. Parts of the Cumberland Falls track can be slippery and wet after rain but this is a fun 6.2km return track for walkers. Start at the Cumberland River Holiday Park.
- Live Wire Park – this is one for families or the adventurous at heart. The 525m Shockwave Zip Coaster is awesome!
Kennet River Koala Walk
If you want an intimate and quiet wildlife encounter this probably isn’t for you. But, if you have never seen a koala in the wild, here is your chance. We have seen heaps of koalas, in fact we often have them in our own backyard, but we still loved walking along Grey River Road – aka the Koala Walk and seeing them here.
Read our guide on how to enjoy the Kennet River Koala Walk
If we have a favourite base for exploring the Great Ocean Road, it would be Apollo Bay. Sure, it does get busy here, but it is a great central location for doing a lot of sightseeing. You could spend a week in Apollo Bay doing day trips to the many nearby attractions, several we mention further on.
In Apollo Bay itself, make sure you:
- Have fish and chips from the Apollo Bay Fishermen’s Co-op by the Harbour – yum!
- Take in the birds-eye view of the town from Mariners Lookout
- Go on a walk along the foreshore to enjoy the beach or sculpture trail
- Check out the work being done to protect the Otway flora and fauna on a dawn or dusk tour at Wildlife Wonders
Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary
There is a lot of spectacular coastline along the Great Ocean Road, but much of it is a bit rugged for swimming. This is why we like Marengo Reef, just 5 minutes up the road from Apollo Bay. It is a great place to get your snorkelling gear out.
The outer reef, which is home to seals, provides some protection from the surf so this is a great spot to snorkel or swim. Better yet, Hire a kayak from Apollo Bay Surf and Kayak or go on one of their tours to explore the reef and meet the resident seals.
Shelly Beach Walk
This is a pretty spot. A 1.9km walk takes you through lovely forest to secluded Shelly Beach. At mid or low tide there are lots of rock pools to explore. There is a bit of a gradient to the walk, but you won’t notice it as you gaze skywards at the forest all around you.
Read our guide to the Shelly Beach walk to see why this is a hidden gem on the Great Ocean Road just 10 minutes from Apollo Bay.
Mait’s Rest Walk
A feature of the Great Ocean Road drive is the Otway Rainforests. While there are several walks that let you explore the forest, many have lots of steps, steep slopes or are a bit long for families. You don’t get any of that at Mait’s Rest.
If we had to choose one spot for an easy, relaxing walk through the rainforest, Mait’s Rest would be it. The walk might only be 800m long, but it packs in a lot of forest beauty. There are seats along the way so you can relax and enjoy forest. Come here later in the day and you might have the place to yourselves like we did. Mait’s Rest is 15 minutes from Apollo Bay. Read more about Mait’s Rest here.
We think this is one of the most picturesque places in Great Otway National Park. It is off the Great Ocean Road near Forrest, 40 minutes north of Apollo Bay. Lake Elizabeth is one of the best places in Victoria to spot a platypus – we highly recommend the dawn and dusk tours run by Otway Eco Tours. We did the dawn tour and saw heaps of platypuses.
Even if you can’t do the tour, doing the loop walk around the hauntingly beautiful lake is a great experience. Created by a landslide, the lake is dotted with the grey trunks of dead trees and ringed by enormous tree ferns.
Checkout our guide to Lake Elizabeth and Forrest.
Take in the Views on the Waterfall Circuit
If you enjoy the sights and sounds of the Otway rainforests and the seeing a nice waterfall, head off the Great Ocean Road again and make your way to Hopetoun Falls and Beauchamp Falls near Beech Forest. They are both short walks, although there are a few steps involved, but if that doesn’t put you off these year-round falls are worth seeing.
Our favourite walk and waterfall are Little Aire Falls which is part of the Triplet Falls Walk. The moderate difficulty 4.5km walk to Little Aire is breathtaking. The colossal mountain ash trees on this walk are as big as we have seen anywhere in the Otway forests and the waterfall at the end is gorgeous. Read our guide to the Little Aire Falls and walk.
Otway Fly & Treetop Adventure
If you are travelling with kids, this is another fun stop. In fact, we visited here without our kids, and we had a great time! You can either go zip lining through the forest between enormous trees, or there is an excellent skywalk too. The Otway Fly is near Triplet/Little Aire Falls so worth a look if you are in the neighbourhood. Read about our Otway Zipline experience.
This really is a must do stop, you won’t see anything like it unless you go overseas. Located near Hopetoun Falls, the stand of Californian Redwoods is an awesome sight. They are enormous – and they still have a lot of growing to do.
If you get to walk between their huge trunks on a grey, foggy day it would be like something out of a fairy tale, but they are a great sight anytime. Read more about the amazing Redwood Forest.
Cape Otway Light Station
If you enjoyed the stop at the Split Point Lighthouse, you would want to stop here as well. Look for the turn off to the Cape Otway Light Station 20km west of Apollo Bay.
From the turn off, you drive through an amazing avenue of towering eucalypts. Keep an eye out for koalas as there are lots around here. You can tour the light station and tours are generally available of the lighthouse. Cape Otway is also a great spot for whale watching in winter.
Wreck Beach Anchor Walk
Most people drive past this stop as you go along the Great Ocean Road – we have a few times but on our last trip we finally turned off to check it out – and wow, it is amazing!
The coastline here is rugged and beautiful. We had the beach to ourselves as we walked to the sites of two anchors which are the remains of the Marie Gabrielle and Fiji.
The two main things to know about this stop is you need to go at mid or low tide to see the anchors and you need to walk down, then back up, 375 steps to get to the beach. If you can negotiate that, this is a great stop, one many people don’t do.
Read more about getting to Wreck Beach and finding the anchors here.
Just a quick mention of Johanna Beach. If walking on a long, windswept beach is your idea of a relaxing time, or if you like beach fishing or surfing, take the turn off to Johanna Beach. We have camped at this is a spot which has big views of sea cliffs, the ocean, and potentially some big surf. Amazing spot.
These are not really a secret but if you have never been on the Great Ocean Road before, you have to stop here. The 85 steps take you down on to the sand where you get a ground level view of a couple of the Apostles. It can be a busy spot but the perspective from the sand is amazing. In bad weather or a very high tide the steps can be closed. Find out more about the Gibson Steps.
A couple of things to know about the 12 Apostles…first, these days, there are only 7 of them. Two have collapsed (and there were only ever 9 of them to start with). Second, it can get insanely busy here. If you can avoid school holiday periods, particularly in January, you won’t regret it – otherwise arrive early in the day for a more peaceful experience.
12 Apostles Food Artisan Trail
If you find the crowds at the 12 Apostles too much – this is a relaxing option. We had a fantastic time following the 12 Apostles Food Trail that goes inland from the 12 Apostles or nearby Port Campbell.
By 10.00am we were getting into a waffle cone from Timboon Fine Ice Cream. We thought the day couldn’t get better, but every stop was fun and yummy. Distilleries, breweries, chocolates, lollies, berries, fudge, cheese and wine -they are all on the menu. Even if you are only a bit of a foodie like us, following the trail is a lot of fun and the drive is very pretty.
Loch Ard Gorge
When you can get down onto the beach at Loch Ard Gorge (beach access was closed for our last visit), this is one of the most spectacular sites on the Great Ocean Road. Again, get here early if you want to enjoy the place on your own.
If you want to see all the sights in this precinct, learn about the Loch Ard and walk between the lookouts, allow up to 2 hours to see everything here.
Marking the western end of the Great Ocean Road, Warrnambool is the biggest town on the route and is deserving of a few days to look around. See our full guide of things to do in and around Warrnambool.
- Learning about the history of Warrnambool at the Flagstaff Hill Pioneer Town and see the amazing Tales of the Shipwreck Coast sound and light show in the evening.
- Explore the coast on the Thunder Point Lookout Walk beginning at Stingray Bay. The wilder the weather, the more spectacular the walk!
- Kids will love exploring the adventure playgrounds, flying fox, mini golf, maze and motorboats at Lake Pertobe
- Go whale watching at the impressive Logans Beach Whale Watching Platform
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