664 km/413 miles, about 9.5 hours
One of Victoria's most scenic drives, the Great Ocean Road is a magnificent three-day self-drive touring route from surf capital Torquay to the iconic 12 Apostles, ending at historic fishing village Port Fairy.
Starting from Melbourne, it's an easy drive taking you along cliff tops and surf beaches and through lush rainforest. Along the way, spot koalas, kangaroos and even whales, zip-line your way through a treetop canopy, climb to the peak of a volcanic crater, and relax over regional dining atop a cliff or by the beach.
Most importantly, take the time to stop at the lookouts and watch out for wildlife. It'll be worth it.
Day one - Great Ocean Road Touring Route
Melbourne to Apollo Bay
187 km/116 miles, about 3 hours
Ease into your roadtrip with the leisurely drive from Melbourne to Torquay, just over an hour's drive. Home to some of Australia's best-known surf beaches, Torquay marks the official beginning of the Great Ocean Road. Dose up on surf culture at Surfworld before visiting Bell's Beach, host of the annual Rip Curl Pro.
Stop at nearby Anglesea and take a detour to the golf course, famous for the kangaroos lounging under the trees surrounding the greens.
Magnificent coastal views will dominate the next 30 kilometres as you drive to beach town Lorne, the perfect spot for lunch – fish and chips on the beach is a must.
Another twenty minutes winding along the coastal road will bring you to Kennett River and its most famous locals: koalas. Take some birdseed for their flighty friends then follow the 'koala walk' with your camera ready.
As you make your way to Apollo Bay, you'll travel up along cliff-tops offering incredible views and alongside wild beaches – take time to stop at the lookouts for photos, or beachside for a stroll.
From coastal town Apollo Bay, follow the Great Ocean Road into the lush Otway National Park, and turn off to the Cape Otway light station (about a 50-minute drive). Take a tour of the oldest surviving lighthouse in mainland Australia, climb to the top 90 metres above sea level and see where the Bass Strait meets the Southern Ocean.
Make your way back to Apollo Bay for the night. Dine at Chris's at Beacon's Point, where gourmet food is complemented by spectacular cliff-top views, and sleep next to the beach at Whitecrest. Or escape it all at the Great Ocean Eco Lodge, a conservation centre nestled 25 kilometres away in the Otway National Park, for an extraordinary encounter with native wildlife.
Day Two - Great Ocean Road Touring Route
Apollo Bay to Port Fairy
189 km/117 miles, about 3 hours
From Apollo Bay, follow the Great Ocean Road into the lush rainforest of the Otway National Park and turn off to the Otway Fly Tree Top Walk, an easy hour's drive. Reach for the sky along the treetop canopy walkway – the longest and tallest of its type in the world – or up the adrenaline with a zip-line tour.
Back on the Great Ocean Road, get your camera ready for the spectacular coastline leading to Port Campbell and its famous 12 Apostles, a group of magnificent rock stacks rising up from the Southern Ocean. Descend all 86 of the Gibson Steps to walk down to the wild beach for a ground-level view of the 12 Apostles. Take plenty of time to stop at lookouts over the cliffs of the Loch Ard Gorge and, just beyond Port Campbell, the hauntingly beautiful Bay of Islands. For the best views of this beguiling coastline, take to the skies on a helicopter tour. Unforgettable.
Continue along the Great Ocean Road west, to Warrnambool. Explore the maritime capital's history then head to the viewing platforms at Logans Beach to spot its impressive winter visitors: southern right and blue whales. Catching a glimpse of these giants schooling their calves just offshore is truly awe-inspiring.
From Warrnambool, drive towards Port Fairy and take the turn-off to Tower Hill State Game Reserve, an easy 15-minute drive. Take to the walking tracks, keeping an eye out for koalas, emus, kangaroos and waterbirds who roam freely among the hills and lake-filled craters of this extinct volcano. Visit the Worn Gundidj Visitor Centre to find out more about the reserve's Aboriginal and geological history.
Top off the day with dinner in nearby Port Fairy. Dine on seasonal regional fare at the historic dining room at the Merrijig Inn, Victoria's oldest inn. Book in to stay the night in cosy country-style comfort, or make the short journey back to Warrnambool and stay overlooking the beach in modern luxury at the Lady Bay Resort.
Day three - Great Ocean Road Touring Route
Port Fairy to Melbourne
Spend the morning exploring charming fishing village Port Fairy. Wander along the river, visit the beaches, or follow one of the historic walking trails to see old whalers' cottages and grand public buildings. For more wildlife, take a cruise out to the seal colony just offshore on Lady Julia Percy Island.
From here, choose your own adventure:
- Trace your trip back along the Great Ocean Road, stopping to spend more time at your favourite spots and photo opps.
- Extend your roadtrip by a couple of days and take the Great Southern Touring Route north to Dunkeld and Halls Gap to visit the magnificent Grampians mountain range and the historic goldfields on your way back to Melbourne.
- Go on a culinary crusade via craft breweries and top regional restaurants on the short inland route back to Melbourne via Colac (below).
Inland route, via Colac
288 km/179 miles, about 3.5 hours
Make your way back through Warrnambool and along the easy inland route towards Colac (approximately 140 kilometres). Along the way (about an hour's drive) stop at Camperdown for a cup of tea and for 360-degree views from Mt Leura and Mt Sugarloaf, the highest points between the coastal ranges and the rolling western plains.
Continue on the road to nearby Colac, and prepare your appetite for the gourmet-food and craft-beer detours ahead.
Quench your thirst at craft breweries Otway Estate and the Forrest Brewing Company, nestled in the foothills and hinterland of the stunning Otways.
While away your afternoon with a gourmet meal at Brae, awarded three chef's hats in the Good Food Guide. You'll find Brae near Birregurra, just 20 minutes from Colac.
From Birregurra, head towards Winchelsea and make the easy two-hour drive back to Melbourne.