One of the most popular tourist attractions in Australia is the Great Ocean Road. This 240 km scenic coastal drive makes for a great road trip from Melbourne for example. There was no doubt on our mind that this had to be part of our three month road trip through Australia.
During our trip over the Great Ocean Road, we stayed at two different caravan parks, but it’s perfectly possible to see its most popular views in one (long) day. On day one we started in Melbourne and ended at Bimbi Park, about halfway the GOR. On the second day we did the most popular stops and slept at Great Ocean Road Tourist Park, where we stayed for five nights in total to catch up on some work. Our third day on the Great Ocean Road, if you forget about the working days, we pulled over at the last three lookouts on our way to Portland. Here we’ll share with you the stops we made and if they were worth it.
The Great Ocean Road – Day 1
The Great Ocean Road starts at Torquay, a 100 km drive from Melbourne, where we started that morning. Bells Beach, a popular surfers’ spot, was our first stop on the GOR. We took in the beautiful view and continued to the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch. After the First World War returning soldiers had difficulties finding work, so they were set to build the Great Ocean Road. The Memorial Arch is a tribute to them, and a popular photo spot, marking the start of the GOR.
The next stop was not on our itinerary, but hard to miss when you drive by: Carisbrook Rock Stacking. Where the Carisbrook Creek meets the ocean, there are small rock piles beyond count. As most tourists, we made a pile ourselves, our little contribution to the stunning view. We ended our day at the Marriners Lookout, with a failed geocaching attempt, but a beautiful view over Apollo Bay.
The Great Ocean Road – Day 2
We spent the night at Bimbi Park, a caravan park in Cape Otway National Park, where we met our first koalas, albeit in the dark. In the morning we headed over to Cape Otway Lightstation. We paid $19.50 per person to enter the grounds, a big mistake. Admittedly, we didn’t do our pre-visit research too well. After seeing the entrance fee, we were having our doubts and wanted to consult TripAdvisor for some reviews. Conveniently for Cape Otway we had no service at the reception, so we decided to give it a go.
The Cape Otway Lightstation itself was nice and the view from the top was great. There’s even a free guide who you can ask for information. Other attractions are put up, but the lighthouse is by far the most interesting, so definitely not worth the steep entrance fee in our opinion. In winter you can supposedly spot whales there, but there are lots of viewpoints where you can spot them for free as well.
The trip to and from Cape Otway Lightstation is through Great Otway National Park. If you like to see some koalas, it’s worth taking a drive along this road. There are a lot of koalas in the national park and occasionally you’ll see a couple of cars parked in the grass next to the road with a bunch of people looking up. They spotted a koala, so feel free to pull over and check out the beautiful fluffy creature for yourself.
Further down the road Port Campbell National Park houses the most beautiful rock formations we’ve ever seen. The first ones we encountered were the most famous ones: The Twelve Apostles. You can check them out from the beach by going down the Gibson Steps or admire them from up high, after parking at the busiest car park on the Great Ocean Road. When we passed them for the first time, we went to the high viewpoint, a 5-10 minute walk from the car park where there’s an information point and a little snack shop as well.
During our stay at the Great Ocean Road Tourist Park, we returned one night to watch the sunset from the beach. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t that great during our stay, always cloudy and rainy. The ocean was quite rough as well that night. We didn’t want to stay too long at the beach, as the waves kept creeping closer and closer to the cliffs. A sign (and the website) warns you to keep an eye on the ocean at all times, as it can change in a couple of minutes and you can get stuck on the beach. We headed over to the high viewpoint, but unfortunately the clouds blocked the view.
Our next stop was Loch Ard Gorge, a small beach separated from the ocean and enclosed by steep rock formations. While other girls might strike a dozen poses in front of a great view like this, asking if their hair looks good, I’m the girl reading the information signs while her boyfriend takes pictures of the sight, preferably without people. When I’m lucky, the information is quite interesting, like at Loch Ard Gorge. I learned this gorge is named after the ship called Loch Ard that was wrecked close by. One of the survivors washed ashore at this beach. He heard a fellow survivor, a woman, in need and braved the rough ocean to save her. This was definitely one of my favourite views on the Great Ocean Road.
The next three stops are the last three of the most popular viewpoints: The Arch, The London Bridge and The Grotto, all stunning. I could stand there for hours, just watched the ocean water playing around the rock formations, gushing and splashing. Amazing!
The Great Ocean Road – Day 3
Our final night on the Great Ocean Road was spent at the Great Ocean Road Tourist Park. On our way to Portland we enjoyed the last few wonderful viewpoints of the GOR. In the Bay of Islands Coastal Park we stopped at the Bay of Martyrs and Boat Bay. I really liked Boat Bay, its beautiful rock formations reminded me of cruise ships. This is probably not the reason for the name of the bay though, rather because of the fact you can launch your boat in the water here.
Our last stop on the Great Ocean Road was in search of a geocache, at Childers Cove. You can take the small path on the left side of the car park and climb the small slope. At the top you’ll see a pile of rocks on your left. If you walk just a little bit further towards the edge of the cliff (don’t go too close of course), you’ll be rewarded with a great view. At the right of the car park you can find stairs leading down to a small beach. Must do stop and you’re probably the only one around!
We loved driving the Great Ocean Road. It’s something you just cannot skip when you’re in Australia. If you just go to the main attractions like the Twelve Apostles for example, it’s definitely doable in one day. Take enough time though to dream away watching the water slowly breaking down what remains of these beautiful rock formations.