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What Are Things To Do On The Great Ocean Road, Melbourne?

It's no exaggeration to say that the Great Ocean Road is among the world's most well-known seaside drives. It stretches from Torquay to Warrnambool, a distance of 243 kilometres along Australia's southeastern coast. Between 1919 and 1932, it was constructed by returning World War I soldiers who named the avenue after their fallen comrades.

One of the world's most breathtaking drives, Australia's Great Ocean Road passes by untouched beaches, verdant forests, and breathtaking lookouts. Learn about the top attractions, restaurants, accommodations, and transportation options along Australia's Great Ocean Road.

The Great Ocean Road, which runs along the coast from Allansford to Torquay, is now something of a pilgrimage for tourists who want to see the best of the area.

We Victorians are bound to be a bit partial, but the Great Ocean Road truly is one of the most beautiful stretches of road and coastline anywhere in the world.

Old-growth temperate rainforests touch the shores where world-class surf breaks are found, awe-inspiring limestone cliffs burn orange in the sun as the Southern Ocean rages, and sleepy seaside towns are welcoming and friendly.

Whether you're looking for a few days of relaxation or a few days of action-packed exploration, the Great Ocean Road has something for you. As true Melburnians, we've visited many of the Great Ocean Road's most famous attractions over the years, and as a result, we feel qualified to compile this comprehensive guide to one of Victoria's most beloved regions.

Even though the things to do on the coast may seem overwhelming (you should see what we had to leave off the list!), many of them are within a day's drive of each other and can be accomplished with a car and a few days' time.

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Favourite Great Ocean Road Attractions

From seeing the eight that remain of the 12 Apostles to sipping a chilled beer at Airey’s Pub, the 10 top things to do on the Great Ocean Road include koala or kangaroo spotting and a treetop walk as well as visiting a dramatically-sited lighthouse and seeing ancient shipwreck ruins.

Take A Road Trip Along The Great Ocean Road

Taking a road trip along the Great Ocean Road kind of goes without saying; full of bends and epic views, actually making the drive is probably the greatest attraction of the whole Great Ocean road.

The whole 243km stretch of road between Torquay and Allansford is stunning and varied, from rugged coastlines to thickly forested roads — but our personal favourite is the stretch between Lorne and Apollo Bay, where the views are insanely epic the whole way. 

Make good use of the viewpoint turnouts, and ensure your camera batteries are fully charged; you’ll want to capture every breathtaking bend! If you need to hire a car, we recommend it. Keep an eye out for both our Great Ocean Road road trip itinerary and our guide to what to know before driving the Great Ocean Road - both dropping soon!

Beech Forest

A drive down the Great Ocean Road might be all about coasts and cliffs, but take a 40-minute detour inland from Skenes Creek - 15 minutes past Wongarra - and you'll find yourself within an enchanting forest of giant Californian Redwood trees, also known as Beech Forest. Stroll through the towering trees, sit for a picnic, and soak in the otherworldly landscape. 

Go Koala Spotting At Kennett River.

Don’t miss a trip to Kennett River if you want to see native koalas in the wild. Around 40 minutes drive from Lorne will take you to the Grey River Reserve just beyond Wye River. Wander along Grey River Road, and you are bound to spot koalas in the eucalyptus trees, as long as you look carefully. The cute marsupials can also be seen around town if you don’t forget to cast your eyes upwards.

Blue Lake, Mt Gambier

Gambier if you are driving from Adelaide to Melbourne or vice versa. While it is not technically on The Great Ocean Road, it is a natural wonder on the route. During the summer period, the Lake is a vibrant blue, while during winter and other months of the year, it is a pale blue/grey. The Lake is in a large volcanic crater, and the colour will undoubtedly take your breath away.

Kennett River

If seeing a koala in the wild is high on your wishlist, you've come to the right place. From Lorne, keep following the Great Ocean Road southwest, and in around 30 minutes, you will come to the township of Kennett River. 

This has become known as one of Australia’s koala-spotting capitals, thanks to the large numbers of these native animals that make their home in the blue gums that line the main road. So take a stroll around the Koala Walk and keep your eyes peeled for our furry friends sleeping in the trees. 

Surf City Torquay

Torquay is famous as the starting point of the Great Ocean Road and as home to two big Aussie surf brands: Rip Curl and Quicksilver. These surf brands started as backyard businesses back in 1969, started by local surfers, and have become two of the world’s most famous surf brands.

Both companies still have their headquarters here in Torquay and have large retail outlets at Surf City. You will also find plenty of other iconic brands within the shopping plaza, including Oakley, Billabong, Patagonia and more.

If you’re in the market for a new pair of board shorts, a surfboard, wetsuit, baseball cap or clothing, make sure this is your first stop on the Great Ocean Road. But, of course, the best souvenir to take home from your time on the Great Ocean Road is your skill in catching waves. So try a 2-hour surfing lesson at Anglesea, where you’ll get a full briefing, equipment hire and tips and tricks to help you catch your first break.

 Suitable for adults, teens and children over 8, this is a fun activity that you’ll remember forever. You can take your class at either Anglesea or Torquay.

Fly Through A Rainforest Canopy In The Otways

A selection of treetop adventures is yours to experience in Weeaproinah. Within the Otway rainforest, visitors can take in the sights and sounds via the elevated Treetop Walk. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can take an adrenaline-filled Zip Line ride. 

The Treetop Walk stretches for 600 metres and is thus the world’s longest and the highest at 35 metres tall. The one hour walk can be reached via an hour’s drive from Apollo Bay.

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Hike The Great Ocean Walk

The Great Ocean Walk is a highly rewarding way to see the sights of this iconic coastline. Create your route as you follow over 100 kilometres of the path, walking along pristine beaches, elevated cliff-tops and under towering trees. The route between the 12 Apostles and Apollo Bay takes around eight days on foot.

Get A Photo At The Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch

Did you even go to the Great Ocean Road if you didn’t get a photo of the Great Ocean Road sign?! they think so! Erected in honour of the 3,000 returned WWI soldiers who built the road by hand between 1919 and 1932, the wooden arch marks the start of the road and is probably the most iconic and Instagrammed section of the entire Great Ocean Road.

There’s a carpark to the left of the arch where you can safely park, and there’s space along the side of the road to take photos. However, the area does become chaotically busy during peak times, so please be careful!

Bell’s Beach

Once you have all the gear and are up-to-speed with your surfing knowledge, head to Bell’s Beach to watch the surfers in action in real life. One of Australia’s most famous surfing beaches, Bell’s Beach is renowned for having one of the world’s best surfing breaks.

You can go down to the beach here, but it's not a beach I’d choose to spend much time on. So you come here to surf – or watch others catch some waves.

Hopetoun Falls

Among the Great Ocean Road’s vivid green forests are a collection of flowing falls, each with its charm. Hopetoun Falls is one of the most photogenic, just a 15-minute drive from Beech Forest. Marvel at it from the viewpoint above or stroll through the forest ferns to see – and hear – the full force of the 30-metre falls plummeting into the stream below. 

Cumberland River And Cumberland Falls

This route near Lorne is perfect for adventurous types who don’t mind a spot of river crossing and rock scrambling. However, it’s worth the effort, as you can take a refreshing dip in the tranquil pools when taking a break from the strenuous 3-hour return trip. Along the way, enjoy seeing the majestic cliffs that line this river valley.

Gibson Steps

Hugh Gibson, a local settler who carved the steps into the cliff-side, is named this location. A visit to Gibson Steps emphasises the sheer size of the limestone pillars and cliff faces this area is known for. The steps can be accessed via the 12 Apostles or Gibson Steps car parks. From the former, the walk starts behind the kiosk and is just over two kilometres return, while from Gibson Steps’ car park, the trip is just 50 metres return.

Discover The Shipwreck Coast

The burly stretch of the Southern Ocean coastline that severs mainland Australia from the island state of Tasmania (the last stop before Antarctica!) is rugged and breathtaking — and infamous for its treacherous seas too. So infamous that the 130 km stretch of the Great Ocean Road from Cape Otway through to Port Fairy is known as the Shipwreck Coast, where almost 700 ships and their crews met their end during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Of these, only about 200 have ever been recovered again, and the most famous of which is the Loch Ard (see below!).

For many early European settlers looking to make their fortunes in the goldfields or pastures of colonial Australia, this coast was their first — and last — sighting of Australian land. Rugged and breathtaking on sunny days when the turquoise waves beat against the sheer sandstone cliffs, it’s not hard to see how ships could be swallowed whole and splintered by the violent and unrelenting conditions in bad weather.

Even the British explorer, Matthew Flinders, claimed he had “seldom seen a more fearful section of coastline”.These days, explorers of a different kind can explore the Shipwreck Coast by land (a much safer vantage point!), and admire the epic coastline, visit places like the infamous Loch Ard Gorge, or take in some of the shipwrecks at Wreck Beach, Apollo Bay, and more.

Childers Cove

If you loved the 12 Apostles, Childers Cove is another one to add to your list. Perched metres away from the white-sand beach are an assortment of craggy limestone cliffs standing up to 70 metres (229.6 feet) high above the ocean. With a junior 12 Apostles essence – minus the crowds – Childers Cove might be the crown jewel of the Great Ocean Road’s secret gems. So visit at low tide, and be sure to pack your camera. 

Take In The Majestic 12 Apostles

Of all the very best things to do on the Great Ocean Road, the number one and hands-down most popular is, of course, the 12 Apostles. While it’s worth noting that there are no longer twelve, four having eroded and crashed into the ocean below, the eight remaining limestone stacks are still an incredible sight to witness. 

More than 20 million years ago, the stacks were formed and were once part of the mainland. As the wind and water gradually wore down the coastline, these stacks were left in the wake of the retreating land. There’s a boardwalk here that takes you all along the best viewpoints of the Apostles and the stunning coastline beyond it, with plenty of epic photography opportunities.

Both sunrise and sunset are magical here, and if you're a keen photographer or want to enjoy the place without the insane crowds (especially in the summer months), we recommend getting here super early. Plus, you’ll be treated to sweet birdsong and views over a much calmer ocean at this time, too!

Visit The Loch Ard Gorge

Just a few minutes drive from the 12 Apostles is the Loch Ard Gorge, one of the most popular stops along the Great Ocean Road, beckoning visitors with epic views of the crumbling cliffs that almost encase the pretty beach below. 

But while the views are worth the visit alone, a long-ago story of survival that played out here adds a sense of awe and mystery to the place. On June 1 1878, a soupy fog caused the crew of the Loch Ard to become confused and lost, and the iron-hulled ship was wrecked at the base of nearby Muttonbird Island.

There were only two survivors: wealthy 17-year-old Eva Carmichael, who had travelled with her family for a new life in the colonies, and Tom Pearce, a teenage ship’s apprentice. After making it safely ashore thanks to an upturned lifeboat, Tom heard cries from the water and spotted Eva drifting, barely conscious, at the gorge’s mouth. Swimming back out, he bravely struggled for an hour to drag her to shore. 

Once there, they took shelter in a cave before Tom eventually scaled the sandstone cliffs to seek help from the nearby Glenample Station. Standing in the gorge today, particularly at beach level, it’s hard to imagine the scene playing out or the bravery of a teenage Tom scaling the crumbling and unstable 11m high ochre cliffs — which makes it even more fascinating place to explore. 

Wander down to the beach to feel the power of the ocean and see the cave in which they sheltered, admire the views from the main lookout point, visit the Loch Ard Cemetery, or head left towards the Tom and Eva lookout point to take in the area from a whole new angle.

Visit Sherbrook River

In a region where nature’s beauty is all around, the place where the meandering Sherbrook River meets the Southern Ocean is where all its wild, powerful glory can be felt full-force.  

It’s hard to adequately describe the rawness of 12ft waves pounding against the rocks on one side of the bay and crashing like thunder on the sandy shoreline on the other, except to say that it’s a stop you need to add to your Great Ocean Road itinerary.

It is possible to walk out along the limestone rock outcrop, but a word of extreme caution is necessary: freak waves and huge sprays occur at random and are extremely powerful. Therefore, staying a safe distance from the edge is recommended! Sherbrook River is just a short walk from the Thunder Cave and can be accessed from the same car park. The walk down is tarmacked, fairly easy and well-maintained. 

Flagstaff Hill

The Great Ocean Road’s Warrnambool is well-known for its wildlife wonders, from the native animals at Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve to the thousands of whales that pass by Logan’s Beach every winter. But wildlife’s not the only drawcard to this beachside town. 

The region’s also known as the Shipwreck Coast, and at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and Village, you can find out why. Witness shipwrecks beneath the depths of the ocean, immerse yourself in 1900s life in the village and lay your eyes on ancient artefacts.

Admire The Views From The Grotto 

The Grotto is a super unique spot to see on your Great Ocean Road travels, a pretty sinkhole caused by the erosion of the surrounding limestone cliffs. As the cliffs have fallen away, they’ve left a kind of window in their wake, through which you can take in the beauty of the calm rock pool (it almost looks like a soothing spa bath!) offset by the rolling sea behind it. The stairs down to the cave are reasonably steep but fine for anyone who can manage stairs normally. 

Erskine Falls

There are lots of different Great Ocean Road waterfalls to visit in the Lorne area, and Erskine Falls was our favourite walk we did here. Despite us visiting during a dry spell, there was still enough water cascading over the falls to make it a beautiful spectacle.

The fall's upper lookout can be reached within a 5-minute walk from the car park. For a more fun adventure with the kids, brave the 250ish steps down to the lower lookout for an up-close view of the waterfall. As water levels were low when we visited, we got to scramble over the rocks to the bottom of the waterfall. Great fun for the kids!

See The Thunder Cave

You’ll see the power of the Great Ocean Road everywhere you visit on your travels here, but at the Thunder Cave, you’ll hear it too. The Thunder Cave is a narrow cave and gorge that the ocean rushes quickly into and then booms like a crack of thunder as it folds back on itself and the cave walls. So while there’s not too much more to the lookout, it’s still mesmerising watching the water swell and anticipating the thunder sound! 

The Thunder Cave can be accessed from the Loch Ard Gorge car park. Along the Great Ocean Road, you’ll find beguiling natural attractions from the 12 Apostles to Umpherston Sinkhole, not to mention the endless coast of breathtaking beaches.

 Thunder Cave is one of the lesser-known spectacles, just a few minutes away from Lord Arch Gorge; formed over 20 million years, it’s certainly another of Mother Nature’s artworks worth visiting. So if you’re wondering why it’s called ‘Thunder Cave’, listen out, and you’ll soon discover why.

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Point Addis Marine National Park

The Great Ocean Road is littered with breathtaking views, but the seascape at Point Addis National Marine Park is among the best there is to see. View breathtaking vistas from atop the Koori Cultural Walk's Jurassic-like rugged cliffs.

You'll get your first taste of the liberating open road experience here if you haven't already. The best part is that the horizon will likely be empty save for the occasional kangaroo and a few surfers in the waves below.

FAQs About Great Ocean Road in Melbourne

This is a great photo op spot, and this is one of the most photographed spots along the Great Ocean Road. Continue from this point as there are tons of Great Ocean Road attractions to come. Lorne is the closest town from the arch and a great spot to grab lunch at Bottle of Milk, use the facilities, and continue towards Kennett River.

The Great Ocean Road begins a 90-minute drive from Melbourne's city centre. It spans 400 kilometres (249 miles) from Torquay to Nelson on the South Australian border. Victoria's dramatic southwest coastline covers an incredible range of scenery. See the world-famous waves at Bells Beach or laze on the sand at Anglesea.

Torquay Beach. At the official start of the Great Ocean Road, Torquay is an excellent place to get your bearings and soak up some traditional Aussie beach culture at the same time. The first stop should be the helpful Torquay Visitor Information Center.

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