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As one of the most famous coastal routes in the world, the 243-kilometer stretch of winding road, shimmering ocean, and stunning sunsets finds itself on countless Australian postcards.
Linking the popular surf town of Torquay, about an hour’s drive south of Geelong (Victoria’s second-largest city, after Melbourne) to Warrnambool, the state’s largest coastal city outside of the bay, the infamous route offers countless stunning vistas and plenty of opportunities for tourists and locals alike to fill up their SD cards with picturesque sunsets, flowing waterfalls, and uniquely natural limestone formations.
The drive can be done in a day, however, people often spend the night at one of the coastal towns along the way, maximizing the chance to take it slow and appreciate the sights, rather than hopping between them at a lightning-quick pace.
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While technically Melbourne isn’t part of the Great Ocean Road, it’s a necessary starting point to en route so we might as well make the most of the fantastic opportunity. The Victorian capital is a world-class city, offering an incredible array of artistic and cultural festivities, a thorough sporting calendar and a coffee and food scene that can only be described as obsessive.
Most visitors spend at least a few days in Melbourne, exploring its decorated alleyways and hopping through its underground bars and award-winning restaurants before hopping in a car and making the journey to the Great Ocean Road.
There’s a number of ways to entertain yourself in Geelong, from dining in at one of the waterfront restaurants to taking a casual stroll along the picturesque pier sporting a 19th-century carousel. That being said, Geelong doesn’t actually sit on the Great Ocean Road, it’s simply in between Melbourne and the coastal route’s starting point – for that reason, don’t feel bad if you don’t have time to squeeze it in.
If the timeline fits and you don’t want to spend the night here, it’s a great place to stop for lunch – find a classic, old-school Aussie pub and dig into a traditional Parma or a hefty steak before hopping back in the car.
It wouldn’t be a tour down the Great Ocean Road if we didn’t admire a few surfers riding the famous waves at Bells Beach – or better yet, try it for yourself! While Melbourne gets a bit of a bad wrap when it comes to the quality of the beaches (granted, it is by the bay), once you make the journey outside of Port Phillip Bay over to the mainland coastline, Victoria offers some of the best breaks in the whole country.
There are a handful of local shops to rent boards, so don’t worry too much about trying to play Tetris with one in your car.
5GREAT OTWAY NATIONAL PARK
After riding (or, at least, attempting to ride) a few of the breaks over at Bells Beach, we’re hopping back in the car for a couple of hours and continuing down the Great Ocean Road until we reach the immersive Great Otway National Park. If camping is your preferred way of spending the night, there’s no better place than here, surrounded by nature.
Throughout the park, visitors can check out a number of waterfalls, zipline through the trees at Otway Fly Treetop Adventures, or walk from the top of Redwood to Redwood (just don’t look down).
4LOCH ARD GORGE
Once you’ve experienced a thrill high in the treetops, we’re getting friendly with another aspect of Mother Nature – the stunning shorelines. Across the vast land of Australia, there are a lot of good beaches, but there is a handful that are unforgettable. Loch Ard Gorge is certainly the latter.
Visitors descend (and then return) via a narrow stairway that’s attached to the side of the jagged cliffs. Once you’ve reached the bottom, the encompassing limestone stacks create an atmosphere unlike anything else in the region. It doesn’t attract as many tourists compared to our next stop, so it might be a clever place to kick up the feet and relax for an hour or so.
3THE 12 APOSTLES
After checking out one of the most unique beaches in the country, we’re continuing our journey to what is perhaps the most iconic spot on the entire journey – none other than the Twelve Apostles. If you’re searching for postcards of the area, the majority of them will feature this dramatic collection of limestone stacks juxtaposed with some sort of stunning sunrise or sunset color scheme.
The vistas on offer at this Victorian landmark can only be described as enchanting – however, with its captivating allure, it’s become a popular tourist spot, so don’t be surprised when you have to share the view with a few hundred other tourists.
Arguably just as impressive as the Twelve Apostles, however, generally far less crowded, the London Arch limestone structure (formerly known as the London Bridge but changed to avoid confusion with the actual one in the UK) is the next stop on our road trip.
Thanks to a gradual process of erosion, a uniquely impressive double archway was formed. Although back in 1990, unfortunately, part of it collapsed, making the duo archway simply a single archway. Nevertheless, it’s still a worthy stop on our trip and makes for an excellent photo-op.
We’ve checked out a couple of cities, surfed a few waves, and taken likely hundreds of Insta-worthy photos along the way at the various natural limestone formations. About 45 minutes down the road from the London Arch we’ll reach our final stop – Warrnambool.
While you might feel like taking it easy after a long day or two of driving, for those still wanting to get out and about, Warrnambool won’t leave you empty-handed. With whale watching tours, a number of shipwrecks, revered restaurants dotted across the city plus a number of rotating festivities, Warrnambool can be whatever you choose to make of it.