Ultimate Great Ocean Road itinerary: Torquay to Warrnambool

great ocean road

Danny Baggs

Posted April 06, 2023

The Great Ocean Road is one of Victoria’s best road trips. Here is the best itinerary from start to finish, complete with amazing scenery and exciting attractions.

The Great Ocean Road is a 243-kilometre road along Victoria’s South-Western coast, famed as one of Australia’s best scenic drives. The Australian National Heritage listed touring route took over 10 years to build, largely by returned World War I soldiers, and is considered the longest memorial in the world. Making this road trip a part of your next holiday means that you’ll see iconic beaches, sparkling waterfalls, the magnificent 12 Apostles, and serene seaside towns.

Make sure you prepare for the best by taking out Emergency Roadside Assistance or updating your existing subscription before you embark on the Great Ocean Road, so a flat battery or tyre doesn’t put a stop to your driving holiday. Tick the boxes on this essential road trip checklist before heading off too.
If you need a hire car for the journey, RACV Members get more with exclusive offers and discounts at SIXT. On the road, use the free arevo journey planner app to find the cheapest petrol station near you, or sign up to Chargefox to save 10% at all Chargefox ultra-rapid charging stations across Australia as an RACV Member.

The best Great Ocean Road trip itinerary


The Great Ocean Road starts in Torquay, just over an hour’s drive from Melbourne. Start your day off with a beach breakfast at Salty Dog Café overlooking Fisherman’s Beach, then head to the Australian National Surfing Museum to check out the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame, a century of surfboard evolution, and wacky surf culture artefacts.

Put your knowledge to use with a surfing lesson by booking into Torquay Surfing Academy or Go Ride A Wave. If you’re an experienced surfer already, pop down to Jan Juc or Bells Beach to ride some waves. Visit around the Easter weekend and you could even catch the incredible Rip Curl Pro competition, one of the most sought-after titles on the World Championship Tour. If you’re in more of a shopping mood, browse the Rip Curl and Quiksilver surf shops at Surf City Plaza: both popular brands were born in Torquay.


the surfboard room in the Australian National Surfing Museum

Seeing the evolution of surfboards at Torquay might inspire you to go for a surf yourself. Image: Visit Victoria

Stick around another day to try your hand at snorkelling at Point Danger Marine Sanctuary, stand-up paddleboarding, ocean kayaking or hydro foiling along Torquay’s coastline. Thrillseekers can book in for a sky dive or an adventure flight aboard vintage World War II planes with outdoor cockpits at Tiger Moth World. Prefer to keep your feet firmly on the ground? Trek a section of the 44-kilometre Surf Coast Walk, split into 12 distinctive tracks between Torquay, Anglesea and Aireys Inlet.

Stay at the award-winning RACV Torquay Resort to start your holiday off right with stunning views of the coastline and a championship golf course. 
More: Where to eat, drink, stay and play in Torquay


man with surfboard overlooking Bells Beach

Bells Beach is one of the world's most famous surfing beaches. Image: Visit Victoria


Your first stop on the way to Lorne is the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery, a spectacular showroom where you can stock up on treats from the thousands of chocolates on display. Make sure to indulge in an artisan ice cream or a fresh pastry while you watch the talented chocolatiers at work through the giant viewing windows. Chocoholics can book into guided tasting discoveries or chocolate-making classes, or a decadent high tea.

Next up is Split Point Lookout at Aireys Inlet. The Split Point Lighthouse is the iconic lighthouse featured in the Australian children’s TV series Round the Twist, while the multiple viewing platforms along the lookout provides uninterrupted views of Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary, where you can snorkel at low tide. Grab a coffee fix from the Cottage Café next door to the lighthouse before you hit the road again.


split point lighthouse

Split Point Lighthouse featured in Round the Twist. Image: Visit Victoria

Further along the Great Ocean Road, you’ll pass under the iconic Memorial Arch at Eastern View. Don’t be fooled: this arch isn’t the starting point of the Great Ocean Road, but rather a memorial that commemorates its engineer, Major W.T.B. McCormack. In fact, the Great Ocean Road itself was built by 3,000 returned WWI soldiers as a memorial to all those who lost their lives in the war. It took 13 years to build and remains the longest war memorial in the world.


memorial arch on great ocean road

The Memorial Arch reminds travellers that the Great Ocean Road is actually a memorial. Image: Visit Victoria

As you pull into Lorne, don’t miss the Swingbridge Café for a light lunch. In good weather, you can hire paddle boats to explore the family-friendly river and estuary beach. Alternatively, Live Wire Park is just a short drive away and offers thrilling ziplines and high rope courses among the Otway Ranges canopies. If there’s still some light left in the day, finish it off with a walk at the scenic Teddy’s Lookout, where you may spot Australian native animals like koalas and kookaburras amid coast and river views. Then grab a classic feed of fresh coastal fish and chips from one of Lorne’s cosy restaurants before ending your day at the recently refurbished Lorne Hotel.

More: How Live Wire Park became Australia’s most sustainable adventure park


man and woman at Teddys Lookout

Teddy's Lookout offers spectacular views. Image: Visit Victoria

Apollo Bay

There’s walks and waterfalls aplenty on today’s itinerary as you wind your way down to the Great Ocean Road’s midpoint, Apollo Bay. Your first stop is the Sheoak Picnic Area just a ten-minute drive out from Lorne. From Sheoak, you can choose from six different trails that showcase cascading waterfalls, coastal vistas, old timber tramways and moss-capped cliffs: Henderson Falls (3km return), Phantom Falls (8.6km return), Sheoak Falls (5.2km return), Kalimna Falls (8.4km return) and Castle Rock (5km return). The Sheoak Picnic Area has gas barbeques, toilets and a picnic shelter if you’d like to break for lunch before tackling a second trail.


Sheoak Falls

Sheoak Falls Picnic Area leads to multiple waterfalls. Image: Visit Victoria

Enjoy the scenic coastline as you drive an hour down the Great Ocean Road to Apollo Bay. Stop at Marriner's Lookout for a panoramic view of the town in all its coastal and hinterland glory before you hit the beach to soak up some sun. Apollo Bay kicks off the Great Ocean Walk, which stretches all the way to the Twelve Apostles for over 100km and takes about 8 days to complete, but you can walk a small section of it yourself to get a taste for the real thing.

Apollo Bay is renowned for its seafood, and numerous commercial fishing boats bring their daily catches into its harbour. To make the most of the town, book dinner at a restaurant that focuses on fresh, seasonal seafood. Try Chris’s Restaurant at Beacon Point for South European and Middle Eastern style seafood, La Bimba for a South American take, or Casolingo for a quality Italian iteration. End the evening in luxury at Chocolate Gannets or Seafarers Getaway for a quality night’s rest.


seafood at apollo bay

Apollo Bay is renowned for its fresh seafood. Image: Visit Victoria

Cape Otway

Make sure to bring an esky and stock up on dinner supplies before you leave Apollo Bay, because where you’re heading there aren’t many restaurants or cafes. First on the list today is a guided seal kayak tour by Apollo Bay Surf & Kayak, departing from the nearby town of Marengo. You’ll paddle out to the Australian fur seal colony’s haul-out in the Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary, where you can watch over 150 inquisitive seals swim, bark and play together. If you’re lucky, they might even come right up to your kayaks!


kayakers at Marengo

Australian fur seals might swim up to your kayaks at Marengo. Image: Visit Victoria

After Marengo, the Great Ocean Road moves away from the coastline and plunges into the deep rainforests of the Great Otway National Park. Experience this majestic ecosystem up close with a stop at Maits Rest, a gentle rainforest boardwalk through tree-fern gullies and giant 300-year-old Myrtle Beech trees. It’s an easy 30-minute return walk from the car park, and you might glimpse koalas, swamp wallabies, grey kangaroos, ring-tailed possums, long-nosed potoroos or carnivorous Otway Black Snails.


Maits Rest rainforest walk

At night, Maits Rest comes alive with glow worms. Image: Visit Victoria

A few minutes down the Great Ocean Road from Maits Rest, turn off onto Lighthouse Road to get to Cape Otway Lightstation. This large heritage precinct features mainland Australia’s oldest and most significant surviving lighthouse, built in 1848 to guide migrants through Bass Strait and the ‘Shipwreck Coast’, which claimed hundreds of lives before the Cape Otway ‘Beacon of Hope’ Lighthouse was built. There is also an original Telegraph Station, built in 1859 to lay a submarine telegraph cable between Tasmania and mainland Australia. When the cable failed within six months, the Telegraph Station became Lloyd’s Signal Station, which telegraphed Melbourne the details of all vessels passing Cape Otway.

Nearby is an original World War II radar bunker, which was built by the Royal Australian Air Force to detect and intercept German and Japanese activity after several Australian and US ships were blown up by mines off Cape Otway. Operators in radar bunkers like this one all over Australia and the Pacific Islands used new radiolocation technology to identify hostile aircraft, ships and submarines, then sent the data by wireless telegraphy to the top-secret Air Defence Headquarters in Melbourne so that aircraft could be dispatched to investigate and engage.

If you visit between May and October, Cape Otway is a perfect vantage point for whale watching. 25 species of whales migrate past the Lightstation each year, including Humpback Whales, Blue Whales, Southern Right Whales, and Killer Whales (Orcas).

Stay onsite overnight in heritage accommodation built for Cape Otway’s Lightkeepers in 1959, with solid sandstone walls and old-world charm. There’s limited mobile reception, encouraging you to rest and recharge. Book the Lighthouse Lodge for large groups, Lightkeeper’s Cottage for smaller groups, and Lightstation Studio for couples.


Cape Otway Lightstation

Cape Otway Lightstation has saved hundreds of lives. Image: Visit Victoria

Port Campbell

Today you’ll tour the much-anticipated Twelve Apostles and other breathtaking rock formations along the coast between Cape Otway and Port Campbell. The Twelve Apostles is considered the jewel of the Great Ocean Road and is one of Australia’s most popular tourist attractions. A 45-minute walking path provides brilliant views of the seven limestone stacks still standing. Visit at sunrise to see the massive formations change from dark shadows to brilliant yellow under the full sun.

Only about 1km down from the Twelve Apostles is Gibson Steps, where you can descend the 70m vertical cliffs to the beach and see the giant limestone stacks Gog and Magog up close. The 86 stone steps were carved into the cliff by local settler Hugh Gibson, who worked on the traditional Kirrae Whurrong people’s route.


12 apostles

The Twelve Apostles is the jewel of the Great Ocean Road. Image: Visit Victoria

After Gibson Steps, stop at Loch Ard Gorge and The Razorback, both of which can be accessed from the same carpark. The Razorback is a giant limestone stack erupting from the sea, almost impossibly thin, tall and long from the Southern Ocean’s forces of wind and water. You may notice a cave forming in the Razorback’s cliff face, which may one day transform into a blowhole or archway. The nearby Loch Ard Gorge is named after the famous 1878 shipwreck, which spawned one of the world’s most famous shipwreck stories. After the Loch Ard ran into Mutton Bird Island and broke apart, everyone on board perished except for two teenagers, Tom Pearce and Eva Carmichael, who were swept into the only safe gorge on the coast: Loch Ard Gorge. You can descend into Loch Ard Gorge yourself and see where Tom and Eva sheltered overnight before seeking rescue and walk to the cemetery where their less fortunate shipmates were buried.


Loch Ard Gorge

Loch Ard Gorge is named after a famous shipwreck. Image: Visit Victoria

Once you reach the small seaside town of Port Campbell, consider a swim at the family-friendly beach. It’s the only sheltered inlet between Apollo Bay and Warrnambool, making it one of the few swimmable beaches along the Shipwreck Coast. The 4km Port Campbell Discovery Walk is another great option, taking 1-2 hours to complete and rewarding trekkers with views of Loch Ard, Sentinel Rock, the Twelve Apostles, and Port Campbell itself.

When you’re tuckered out, tuck into authentic Italian at Nico’s Pizza and Pasta just off the foreshore, or book into Forage on the Foreshore to experience a meal with all its ingredients produced, grown or foraged along the Great Ocean Road. Stay at Port O’Call Motel on the town’s main street for restful all-white rooms surrounded by a beautiful garden.


Forage on the Foreshore

Everything at Forage on the Foreshore is taken from the Great Ocean Road. Image: Visit Victoria


On your way to Warrnambool today, there are several more gorgeous viewpoints and rock formations to explore along the Great Ocean Road. First up is The Arch, a massive natural rock arch shaped by thousands of years of waves crashing against the limestone. The walkway down to its viewing platform provides a lovely view back to the Twelve Apostles.

London Bridge is your next stop – and unlike the real London Bridge in England, it actually fell down! This rock stack was once a natural double-span bridge that tourists could walk on from the mainland, but in 1990 its middle collapsed, leaving two visitors stranded on its remaining offshore arch! Luckily, they were rescued without injury by a police helicopter a few hours later. Now, you can stay safe on the upper and lower viewing platforms.


London Bridge

This London Bridge really did fall down. Image: Visit Victoria

After London Bridge is The Grotto, arguably one of the Great Ocean Road’s most interesting and beautiful spots. This geological gem is a unique sinkhole, cave and archway all in one that can be accessed at low tide via steep wooden steps winding around a cliff face. From the sinkhole, you can look through the archway onto calm limestone rock pools and the rough ocean behind them.

Make sure to also stop at the Bay of Islands Coastal Park on your way to Warrnambool. The 32km-long coastal reserve has several beautiful lookouts to choose from, including the Bay of Martyrs, the Bay of Islands, Three Mile Beach, and Childers Cove.


The Grotto

The Grotto is a well worth a stop on the way to Warrnambool. Image: Visit Victoria

The Great Ocean Road officially ends in Allansford just outside Warrnambool, where it becomes Princes Highway. Warrnambool is famed for its ocean wildlife, particularly the Southern Right Whales that calve just off Logan’s Beach to protect their young from the aggressive males that patrol further out. Spot them from June to September at Logan’s Beach Whale Watching Platform.

Grab gourmet burgers from the trendy bistro Simon’s Waterfront Restaurant, then creative cocktails and Spanish-style share plates from The Hairy Goat Tapas and Cocktail Bar before retiring for the night at the restful Deep Blue Hotel.



Warrnambool lies at the end of the Great Ocean Road. Image: Visit Victoria

Back to Melbourne

The next morning, head downstairs to the award-winning Hot Springs Sanctuary for some geothermal mineral bathing. Paddle between cleansing waterfalls, aromatherapy pools, sensory caves and open-air rock pools to soak in the therapeutic waters. The onsite Nourish Dome Café is great for stocking up with a healthy brunch before you leave.

In the afternoon, drive over to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and Village. This living museum tells the stories of hundreds of ships sunk along the notorious Shipwreck Coast and hosts Australia’s most significant shipwreck artefact collection, including the $4 million Loch Ard Peacock. After the sobering maritime museum, you’ll step into the replica village of Flagstaff Hill, treading the cobblestoned streets and exploring more than 40 19th-century buildings while interacting with in-character volunteers that describe what life was like for the coast’s first European settlers.


woman and man bathing at Deep Blue Springs

Enjoy the therapeutic waters off the Deep Blue Springs. Image: Visit Victoria

Finally, visit the Warrnambool Library and Learning Centre, which is one of Victoria’s best libraries. If something at Flagstaff piqued your interest, you can research Warrnambool’s local history materials here, or simply curl up with a magazine in front of ocean views. This library reopened in late 2022 after a $20.25 million upgrade and is worth the visit to see what the future of Australian libraries looks like.

When you’re ready to head back, Melbourne is about a 5 hour drive via the end of the Great Ocean Road, or 3 hours and 15 minutes using the most direct route. If you're keen to get home via the most efficient route possible, use the free arevo journey planner app.


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