Ever since we could remember, driving The Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia has been high up there on our bucket list. Even though we’ve done coastal road trips all over the world, including in Hawaii, South Africa, California and Tasmania, the world famous Aussie road trip had yet to be explored.
We began our road trip in the city of Adelaide and ended it in Melbourne, but we recommend you do the opposite of what we did, and start your drive in Melbourne and head towards Adelaide. This way you’ll have the coast on your side of the road the whole way.
Here’s our Great Ocean Road road trip guide which includes an interactive map with the best stops, accommodation, tips and travel logistics.
What is The Great Ocean Road?
The Great Ocean Road is a 244km stretch of road running from Allansford to Torquay in Victoria, Australia. The road was built by returned WW1 soldiers and is now a permanent memorial. The road that hugs the shore is met by rugged coastline, the oldest lighthouse in Australia, wild nature, windswept cliff tops, coastal towns, secluded beaches and many, many photo opportunities.
Great Ocean Road Tour from Adelaide to Melbourne
There are many ways of getting from A to B but for this particular stretch, it seems every second person is either in a campervan or caravan. We rented a Wicked Campervan (shown above) which had its pros and cons. You can read our full experience/review in a separate blog post coming soon.
Did you know it is also possible to walk a large portion of the Great Ocean Road independently or with a guide? The walk is 104km long, takes 7- 8 days and begins in Apollo Bay and finishes at The Twelve Apostles (or vice versa). If walking isn’t your thing (I don’t blame you), then you can cycle or take a guided tour.
If you’re pressed for time, day tours from Melbourne are convenient but you will have no flexibility in the schedule and don’t be disappointed when you find yourself at the tourist sites with hoards of other buses. We strongly recommend you self-drive, even if it’s a regular vehicle.
How long do you need for the Great Ocean Road drive?
The Great Ocean Road is approximately 200km so it can be driven in 1-2 days, however, if you’re doing the whole route from Adelaide to Melbourne or vice versa, allow at least 5-7 days to take it slow get the most of out of the journey.
Go to Day 4 if you want to skip straight to the Great Ocean Road Itinerary.
Great Ocean Road Adelaide to Melbourne Itinerary (4-7 Days)
- Adelaide to Robe (335 km, 3 hours 40 minutes)
- Robe to The Grampians via Mount Gambier (285km, 3 hours 15 minutes)
- The Grampians to Port Fairy (158km, 1 hour 50 minutes)
- Port Fairy to Apollo Bay via The Great Ocean Road (187km, 2 hours 50 minutes)
- Apollo Bay to Lorne (47km, 1 hour)
- Lorne to Torquay (46km 1 hour)
- Torquay to Melbourne (133km, 1 hour 45 minutes)
Day 1: Adelaide to Robe (335km, 3 hours 40 minutes)
We left Adelaide after a delicious & highly recommended breakfast at Luigi’s Delicatessen and headed for the coastal town of Robe via the Fleurieu Peninsula. Along the way, wake up your taste buds with wine tasting at D’Aranberg, a 15 million dollar rooftop cellar door + art gallery in McLaren Vale. Grab lunch at Loco Mexican, watch out for the dolphins at Victor Harbour or take a stroll or horse trolley over to Granite Island.
Robe is one of South Australia’s favourite seaside towns. There is ample accommodation from motels to campsites, a small main street with a grocery store, a petrol station, beaches, fishing ports, restaurants, local pubs, coffee shops (go to Mahalia Coffee) and an extremely relaxed vibe. We spent the night in the car park at The Robe Obelisk, watching the sunset and waking up to the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks. A pretty special place to sleep!
Where to Stay in Robe
- Free: The Robe Obelisk – shown above (no facilities, just a killer view)
- Paid: Robe Holiday Park ($30 AUD powered site and use of facilities)
Day 2: Robe to Halls Gap (The Grampians) via Mount Gambier (285km, 3 hours 15 minutes)
After spending the morning in Robe, make your way towards Mount Gambier, inland of South Australia. Most travellers stay along the coastal route and miss this, but if you have the time we would definitely recommend making the small inland detour to visit The Blue Lake & The Umpherston Sinkhole. The Umpherson Sinkhole is an underground garden holding many different plants, trees & hanging vines. The sinkhole which was built in 1886 was once a limestone cave and the sinkhole was created when the chambers’ roof collapsed. If you’re there for dusk, watch the possums appear to feed off fresh fruit.
Drive a further 2.5 hours until you arrive in the mountainous region of Halls Gap, the base for exploring the mountainous Grampians. Once you arrive at Halls Gap, keep an eye out for the masses of Kangaroos soaking up the last little bit of sunshine on the fields. There is one main street with motels, small grocery stores, caravan parks, an ice cream parlour (essential), a petrol station and a handful of restaurants.
Where to Stay in Halls Gap
- Free: Plantation Campground (bush showers, picnic tables, shared firepit)
- Paid: Big4 Parkgate Resort – $30 AUD non-powered site, $37 powered site + use of good facilities)
Day 3: Halls Gap (The Grampians) to Port Fairy (158 km, 1 hour 50 minutes)
The Grampians mountain range is an idyllic setting of misty mornings, rugged mountains, powerful waterfalls, wildlife and endless views. You could spend many days hiking through the various bush tracks in the park but if you are pressed for time we recommend visiting these top sights which are all located just off Mt Victory Road.
- The Pinnacles & Grand Canyon – Regarded as one of the most popular walks in the park, this will take you on a 2.1km round trip walk up a relatively steep incline but it’s worth every breath. If you can, go via the Grand Canyon which is to the left of the car park.
- Makenzie Falls. Victoria’s largest waterfall. It’s a steep 600m climb down paved stairs and path’s but it’s worth it to view from below. There is an above viewing platform if you don’t want to walk to the base.
- The Balcony. In our opinion, this gave the best view of the park! Park in the Reeds Car Park and walk an easy 1km to the balcony. If you’re feeling game, walk out onto the “jaws of death”.
Leave by the afternoon via Coolars Ice Creamery (of course) and reach Port Fairy before sunset. Port Fairy is a historic coastal town with wide streets, boutique stores, art galleries, swimming beaches, coastal walks, old stone churches, award-winning restaurants, a golf course, motels, caravan parks and at dusk, the possibility to see the mutton bird colony (10,000 – 20,000 birds) return to their nesting grounds on Griffiths Island from their 15,000km journey around the world in just 2 months. This happens only between September and April. Pretty spectacular.
Where to Stay in Port Fairy
- Paid: Gum Tree Caravan Park ($25, unpowered with use of facilities)
- Paid: Southcombe Park ($43 powered site/$38 unpowered with use of facilities)
Day 4: Port Fairy to Apollo Bay via The Great Ocean Road (187 km, 2 hours 50 minutes)
Not long after you leave Port Fairy you’ll pass through the town of Warrnambool – the maritime capital of the region. This is a good town to stock up on any low supplies as there are a ton of department stores, large grocery stores, clothing stores, petrol stations, restaurants and cafes. Cheese lovers, keep an eye out for “Cheese World” just past Allansford (you can’t miss it). Plenty of cheese samples, artisan goods, gourmet dips, wine and all the good things in life. We’d suggest stocking up for a picnic lunch in Port Campbell (further down the track).
Top Tip: If you’re visiting during winter (May – October) stop at Logan Beach. Each year southern right and blue whales school their calves just off the shore. It’s best viewed from the designated whale whatching platform!
At last, we’re reunited with the coast! Today’s the day the official Great Ocean Road begins! Don’t get too comfortable in the car, you’ll be getting out every 5 minutes. We were seriously blown away by the sheer beauty of this coastal drive. The bright blue sky against the yellow limestone rocks surrounded by the blue glistening water was absolutely incredible.
Great Ocean Road Driving Map & Itinerary with Highlights & Best Stops to Visit
Here are a few highlights from the Great Ocean Road which can all be reached within a short walk from the car parks.
An interactive map is below the static map.
- Bay of Islands (the least crowded and in our opinion, the most beautiful)
- The Grotto (combines a blowhole, cave and archway. Make sure you walk right down to the water)
- London Bridge (previously connected to the mainland until 1990 when it collapsed, now sometimes referred to as the London Arch)
- Port Campbell (great town to enjoy a swim & picnic lunch by the sea)
- The Arch (can you guess what this may be?)
- Lord Ard Gorge (Loch Ard Gorge is named after the famous 1878 shipwreck on nearby Mutton Bird Island. There are 3 car parks and 4 main walking trails ranging in length. Take note of what car park you park in)
- The Razorback (impressive rock formation constantly changing by the wind and water erosion)
- The Twelve Apostles National Park (The most popular of the stops. Prepare for the chaos and hoards of people, option for a helicopter ride, $145 pp)
- Gibson Steps (great access to view The Twelve Apostles from the beach, without too many people)
Completely mesmerized by what we’ve just seen, we arrived in Apollo Bay just before sunset. Apollo Bay is where the hills meet the sea & we enjoyed this town a lot. There were a lot of good places to eat (Great Ocean Road Brewhouse, Dooleys award-winning Icecream, Apollo Bakery or Apollo Bay Seafood Cafe just to name a few and the beach was right in front of the town. There’s also a great lookout point to walk too, Mariners Lookout or take the lazy option & fly a drone 😉
Note: We skipped over Cape Otway National Park but if we were to do this trip again we would take the detour. Try it and let us know!
Where to Stay in Apollo Bay
- Paid: Apollo Bay Recreation Reserve and Camping Ground ($25 unpowered site + use of facilities) OR BIG4 Apollo Bay Pisces Holiday Park ($39 unpowered + use of facilities)
- Free: There are plenty of public toilets in Apollo Bay as well as a cold free shower located next to Apollo Bay Harbour Car Park.
Day 5: Apollo Bay to Lorne (47km, 1 hour)
Begin your morning with a coffee & breakfast from Hello Coffee and lather up in sunscreen, more coast awaits! Today you’ll continue on towards the coastal town of Lorne. We spent a good amount of the day beach hopping the secluded and untouched beaches and soaking up the Aussie sun. This portion of the Great Ocean Road really hugged the coastline, it felt like an arm’s reach away at all times.
Lorne was our favourite of the towns and we could have easily spent a few days here. There’s plenty to do for the whole family, from great cafes to a patrolled beach, rock pools, fishing, lookouts (Teddy’s) or why not work up a sweat and trek to Erskine Waterfalls which offers 2 lookout points. Hungry? Sit on the beach and indulge in takeaway fish and chips from Salty Dog Fish and Chippery.
Where to Stay in Lorne
- Paid: Lorne Foreshore Caravan Park ($35 unpowered + use of facilities)
- Free: Allenvale Mill Site (non-flush toilets, unpowered, no fires allowed)
Day 6: Lorne to Torquay (46 km, 1 hour)
Once you reach the breezy town of Torquay, the official Great Ocean Road finishes (or begins, depending on which way you’re travelling) but don’t be too upset, there’s still plenty to see between Lorne and Torquay. Just 15 minutes from Lorne, make a note to stop at the Memorial Arch at Eastern View. You can take your signature photo with the “Great Ocean Road” sign and learn about the history and background of this beautiful road. Something we shamefully had no idea about until this trip.
Continuing on in just one direction, you’ll pass by Fairhaven Beach (the longest beach on the Great Ocean Road) Airleys Inlet, Split Point Lighthouse, Anglesea Beach and then one of Australia’s most well-known beaches, Bells Beach – Australia’s premier surf beach where Rip Curl/Quicksilver was born. Surf competitions are held here annually for experienced surfers from around the world.
If you’re just learning, they also have surf lessons available so don’t worry, you’ll get there one day! If you don’t have a fear of heights, why not go paragliding over Bell’s Beach? We did this in Southern Turkey and LOVED it!
Torquay is one of the largest towns on the coast and is very popular for weekend getaways from Melbourne. There is a ton of restaurants, motels, caravan parks, playgrounds and if you’re up for it, a nudist beach. It may be known as the surfing capital in Australia but there are still plenty of other beaches to enjoy a patrolled calm swim. If you’re into surfing, there’s a surf museum next to Surf City which is home to surf shops offering everything from swimwear to surfboards. Love a good deal? Baines Beach Surf Seconds (on Baines Crescent) is a surf factory outlet selling discounted clothes and accessories.
Where To Stay in Torquay
- Paid: Torquay Holiday Park ($39 powered + use of facilities)
- Paid: Juan Juc Caravan Park ($30 unpowered + use of facilities)
Day 7: Torquay to Melbourne (133 km, 1 hour 45 minutes)
Today’s the day we return our Wicked Campervan. En route to Melbourne and still with some time under our sleeve, we drove directly to St Kilda. Melbourne’s closest beach town. We walked along the foreshore, enjoyed a much-needed drink at Pontoon Beach Bar and in the evening, watched the penguins come home at the end of the Jetty. The perfect way to end our road trip. I could continue this #vanlife but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss some luxuries in life. That’s fair, isn’t it?! Please, someone, get me to a hotel.
Top Best Stops & Attractions on the Adelaide to Melbourne Great Ocean Road Drive
In summary, these were our top picks for the Adelaide to Melbourne / Great Ocean Road Drive. Don’t miss these!
- Grampians National Park
- The Umpherston Sinkhole
- Great Otway National Park
- Great Ocean Road (especially Bay of Islands and The Grotto)
- Apollo Bay
- Cosy Corner
- Bells Beach
Top Tips for The Great Ocean Road Drive / Adelaide to Melbourne Tour
- Watch out for wildlife. Especially in the evenings. Save the roos! Avoid driving at night when possible.
- When you see a petrol station, fill up your tank, even if it’s almost full. It could be a while before you see another.
- Stop, revive, survive. It may sound cliche but with the long distances, driving can become extremely boring and tiresome. Pack some snacks and a good playlist to keep you alert.
- Make sure you have your campervans roadside assistance phone number available at all times. Especially if you’re in a Wicked Campervan.
- The Travellers Autobarn app gives you a range of camping options from free to paid and updates based on your location. This helped us immensely in finding where to legally park our car for the night.
- Check if your van comes with linen. Wicked Campers don’t supply linen (they give you a mattress) so we stocked up on a quilt, pillows and a filled sheet from Big W for $70 AUD.
- Bring your laptops and cameras into the restaurants with you to charge, especially if you aren’t staying at a paid caravan site.
- It’s tempting but sleeping in your van in undesignated areas is illegal, watch out for clear signs and if you ignore them, you can pay the price!
- The weather can be quite unpredictable year round, pack for all seasons.
- Please note the prices for campsites quoted above are for our travel through March and can inflate during holiday periods.
- If your schedule permits, try for the 12 Apostles at sunrise or sunset. During the day is pure madness with tour buses.
Is the Great Ocean Road trip on your bucket list? Or have you done it before? We’d love to hear what else to add!