Winding its way for 243 km from Torquay to Warnambool, the Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s most popular sights, encapsulating coastal stretches, rainforests, quaint seaside towns, wild cliffs and surf beaches. There are plenty of tour companies offering 3 days on the Great Ocean Road, but for the best experience, hire a car and stay in a B&B in one of the many towns along the way. This 3 day self drive Great Ocean Road itinerary will take you through the sights from Torquay to Port Campbell, including the 12 Apostles, Cape Otway Lighthouse, and Loch Ard Gorge, amongst other attractions.
Day 1: Melbourne to Apollo Bay
From Melbourne, pick up your rental car and head down on the Princes Highway towards Geelong. From Melbourne it’s an easy 3 hours drive to Apollo Bay, your final destination for your first day on the Great Ocean Road. First up is Bells Beach, near Torquay, the gateway to the Great Ocean Road. The surf is world class year round, and the annual Rip Curl professional surf competition is held here. Next, stop for fish and chips at the Salty Dog Fish and Chippery in Lorne, then work off the calories on the Sheoak Falls walk, one of many hikes available around Lorne.
The walk takes you to the beautiful Sheoak waterfalls, and even on an overcast day, the waters rushing over the black stone makes for dramatic viewing. After Lorne, the next stop should be Kennett River, where a population of koalas in the manna gum trees peer down on visitors. From here to Apollo Bay, the route traverses spectacular cliff top views – make sure you take the time to stop and enjoy the sunset panaromas.
Day 2: Apollo Bay to Port Campbell
Arguably the most dramatic views are along the stretch from Apollo Bay to Port Campbell. It is along this section that the famous Twelve Apostles are located. On the way there, make the time to visit Cape Otway lighthouse, Australia’s oldest surviving light station, in continuous use since 1848. Great Otway National Park also offers some excellent short hikes, with opportunities to spot koalas!
After spending some time in the Great Otways, head to Port Campbell National Park, where the Twelve Apostles are located. The viewing platform offers lots of opportunities for photos, but to get up and personal with the Apostles, head down Gibson’s Steps to the beach for a closer look. Loch Ard Gorge is also a stunning site, with a dramatic shipwreck and rescue story to go along with it – this area of the coast is also known as the Shipwreck Coast – for good reason! Over 600 shipwrecks have occurred along this jagged, wild coastline. Stay the night in Port Campbell, a sleepy, charming, seaside town.
Day 3: Port Campbell to Melbourne
On your last day on the Great Ocean Road, you can drive to Warnambool and then back to Melbourne; however this will be a long, 12 hour day on the road. Instead, take in the last spectacular sights of the cliffs by hiking the Discovery Walk, a scenic, easy 1.5 hour walk with views over the coast and the town itself, before driving back to Melbourne via Colac. Another alternative is to take the Great Ocean Road to Port Fairy, and take a short boat ride out to Lady Julia Percy Island to see the resident seals before making your way back to Melbourne. Port Fairy itself offers colonial architecture and an old whalers station that is worth exploring for a few hours. The drive back to Melbourne should take about 3 to 4 hours.