The South West Coast of Victoria, Australia is the area around the Great Ocean Road including the Great Ocean Rd, Surf Coast, and the Otways.
It can more broadly cover Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula, but Wikivoyage covers those two regions under Greater Geelong.
Cities and townsEdit
- 1 Aireys Inlet
- 2 Anglesea
- 3 Apollo Bay
- 4 Lorne
- 5 Peterborough
- 6 Port Campbell
- 7 Port Fairy
- 8 Portland
- 9 Torquay - the state's surf capital
- 10 Warrnambool
- 1 Great Otway National Park along the Great Ocean Road with some waterfalls
- 2 Budj Bim – The earliest evidence of aquaculture in the world is found here. As early as 6000 BC, the Gunditjmara people created a system of channels, dams and weirs trapping eels and fish. The eels were smoked and preserved and were eaten all year around.
- 3 Port Campbell National Park – contains the 12 Apostles
The first British settlement in Victoria was in Portland, in the far west of the South West Coast region, in 1834. Melbourne was founded only a year later. This area has become a major agricultural region in Victoria, with farms for dairy, beef cattle, lamb, and wool, as well as other crops. The only part of this region without significant farming activity is the Otway Ranges, which was once a major source of timber, but is now protected as Great Otway National Park, one of Victoria's largest and most diverse national parks, and a major tourist attraction.
The Great Ocean Road, built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932, is a fantastic drive, not only for the scenery but also for the winding cliff-top roads. Before this road was constructed, the only access for towns on the rugged coastline was by sea. When the first section to Lorne was opened in 1922, road users had to pay a toll, which was abolished in 1936. Not only is the Great Ocean Road an attraction in itself, but it allows road access to virtually all of the region's major tourist drawcards. Its numerous twists, turns, and hairpin bends also make it great fun to drive, unless you're prone to carsickness.
Most visitors start from Melbourne, which is 95 km away from Torquay. Instead of Melbourne's main airport, fly into Avalon Airport near Geelong, which is much closer to the start of the road. There is car hire there, and it is regularly serviced by Jetstar.
V/Line buses run from Geelong along the Great Ocean Road as far as Apollo Bay three times a day M-F and twice a day Sa-Su. On Friday a bus continues from Apollo Bay to Warrnambool. There are also daily V/Line trains to Warrnambool, but they travel inland.
Having your own car gives you the most flexibility in getting around Coach tours are also readily available.
There are many sights to see away from the townships, and along the coast. Getting to them by general public transport is difficult.
There are so many pullouts and sights, that you can fall into a yet another spectacular vista fatigue, when driving the road. Is it worth pulling off the road for another cliff drop, another gorge, or another arch? Make sure you plan your trip, so you can skip some attractions if you need to, but don't miss the truly amazing ones.
At its simplest, you won't need an itinerary, or even a map to drive the Great Ocean Road. Start at Geelong or Warrnambool and follow the signs. The eastern end of the route starts at Torquay, 22 km from Geelong. The sights are well signposted off the road, as well as nearby attractions. Information boards exist at all sights and attractions. The road is well developed for tourism, has regular information, food, fuel and accommodation.
Its possible to drive the length of the road, and see the main attractions in a day's driving. Two days will allow you to see just about all of the coastal sights and towns, if that is what you want to do. Consider three days or longer if you want to stay longer at some towns, and do some walks, relaxation, or other recreation.
If starting from Melbourne, remember that it's almost 100 km to the start of the Great Ocean Road at Torquay and another 264 km back from Warrnambool along the inland Princes Highway. This translates to a minimum of 600 km to get there, drive the road from end to end and come back, and doing this in one day doesn't leave much time for sightseeing — spending at least two-three days is a much better idea.
How many apostles?
The Twelve Apostles are somewhat misnamed: Tourism officials renamed this rock formation the 12 Apostles from the former "Sow and Piglets". Some question whether there ever were 12 Apostles but the coastline changes over time due to the strong waves coming off the Southern Ocean. Seven are visible at any one time from any one point anyway. Following the collapse of one in 2005, there are now only 8 left, although if you add in two to the east you can still scrounge up 10.
- Geelong — The largest city in the South West Coast Area, Geelong has bustling beaches and wonderful art. See the tallest building in the region, Worksafe Headquarters at 40 m. Visit the Botanical Gardens in East Geelong, with lots of green and get a glamorous view of the city. Also visit the construction sites of The Mercer and Miramar, apartment buildings set to be the tallest in Geelong at 80 and 90 m. The library has been nicknamed the Death Star by locals. Geelong has two major shopping centres: Westfield and Market Square, which have heaps of shops across two levels.
- Lara — Considered to be part of Geelong, it is a 15-minute drive from the CBD and has a train station. Lara is continuously growing, with new estates coming everywhere. You can also see the farm side of Lara and the 355-m You Yangs National Park.
- Torquay — A small town 20 minutes away from Geelong and on the Surf Coast Highway, Torquay has many things to see. Torquay is on the end of The Great Ocean Road, next to Jan Juc. There are the beaches full of people during summer, shops and more. Torquay also has the Australian National Surfing Museum. Torquay is still growing, with a plan to be part of Geelong in the future.
- Bells Beach — Surfing mecca - crashing waves, lots of surfers and kangaroos in nearby grasslands in the early morning
- Point Addis Surfing, and an indigenous walk through the bushland to a lookout over the beach. Signs provide insights into how the local aboriginals used the land (approx 30 minutes return).
- Split Point — Aireys Inlet.
- Angahook-Lorne State Park. The park has many walking trails particularly in the Aireys Inlet and Lorne areas.
- Teddy’s Lookout, Lorne — Provides a view of the Great Ocean Road as it winds along the coastline.
- Wye River and Kennett River villages for koala sightings, Wye River — Both small villages have excellent koala populations in trees easy for visitors to see.
- Marriner’s Lookout in Apollo Bay — Views of the township and the 3 bays that make up Apollo Bay.
- Otway National Park. At Mait's Rest there is a 30-minute loop walk through lovely rainforest. Glow worms can be found in gullies on night walks. This National Park also includes a number of beautiful waterfalls including Hopetoun Falls, Triplet Falls and Beauchamp Falls.
- Cape Otway Lighthouse. In operation since 1848, it's the oldest lightstation on mainland Australia, and saved the lives of sailors in this treacherous part of the Southern ocean and Bass Strait. You can climb to the top and get a view over spectacular ocean to see passing whales and ships.
- Melba Gully State Park. There are picnic facilities and toilets below the carpark and a 30-minute walk through the bush. The boardwalk provides a unique opportunity to walk among the tree ferns. Glow worms can be seen along the tracks at night.
- Port Campbell National Park. Near Port Campbell, including the 12 Apostles, London Bridge and Razorback rock formation.
Walk. Many of the natural features have surrounding walks, but there are developed paths for longer walks.
- Great Ocean Road. It's more than a road – it represents a coastal region of south-west Victoria, running from Bellarine Peninsula near Geelong to Portland near the border with South Australia. The Great Ocean Road was built as a work project for veterans returning from World War I and was completed in 1932. The core of the Great Ocean Road, highway B100 from Torquay to Allansford near Warrnambool, runs for 243 kilometres. One of the most scenic parts of the road is the stretch between Port Campbell and Peterborough. This is the section contained by Port Campbell National Park and has the major rock formations.
- Surf Coast Walk. Coastal walkway of 30 km from Jan Juc Beach near Torquay through Bells Beach, Pt Addis, Anglesea and Aireys Inlet to Moggs Creek in the Angahook-Lorne State Park. The total distance takes about 11 hours but there are many access points so it can be done in sections.
- Lake Elizabeth, Forrest. Enjoy the beauty of the rainforest in this easy walk or take a canoe tour at dawn or dusk to visit the elusive platypus in its natural habitat. A place to see the famous and elusive 100-million-year-old egg-laying mammal.
- Otway Fly Tree Top Adventures. Walk through the treetops on the 25-metre-high elevated tree-top walk. This sky walk takes you through a magnificent stand of cool temperate rainforest featuring Myrtle Beech, Blackwood and Mountain Ash. A spiral stairway takes you even higher with zip lining also available.
There are also some great places to go mountain biking in the back of Apollo Bay around the forest and the Otway National Park. There is one tour company that offers 5- to 7-day tours based out of Apollo Bay.
Tour. Many tourists prefer to take a tour rather than drive themselves. There are many operators who provide day and multiple day tours along the Great Ocean Road. Tours also range from small group tours, private tours to bus tours.
Port Campbell has many cafes and restaurants and it is the only place to get food near the Port Campbell National Park.
- 1 Aire Valley Restaurant and Guest House, 2590 Great Ocean Road, Hordern Vale, ☏ +61 3 5237 9223. Aire Valley Restaurant has its own restaurant garden where it grows its own vegetables, herbs and fruits. While you are driving the Great Ocean Road your dinner is still growing. Dinner 6-10PM. Lunch by arrangement.
- 2 Bayleaf Cafe, 20 Gardner Street Beech Forest, ☏ +61 3 5237 6470. Good quality and reasonably priced food.
- 3 Gardenside Manor Tearooms, Lavers Hill. Bird-feeding gardens are right beside the tearooms. This is a great place to see beautiful king parrots and crimson rosellas coming in from the wild. There are some short paths through the gardens.
A wide range of accommodation is available in towns along the Great Ocean Road, but most of it is clustered at the eastern end near Melbourne, particularly Torquay, Lorne and Apollo Bay.
As the area is such a popular weekend getaway, prices are considerably higher during the weekend and many places (especially B&Bs) have two-night minimum stays. In the summer peak season and during holidays, many places will sell out completely and it can be hard to find even a motel room.
Some of the beaches along the road have dangerous currents. Observe local signs, and seek local advice about the best places to swim. For tips on beach safety and to understand the signs see BeachSafe
There are virtually no overtaking lanes on the Great Ocean Road. Rather the road has turnouts for slower vehicles so if a faster vehicle catches up to you, be considerate and pull over at the next turn out. Frustration causes accidents, let faster vehicles past. If you catch up to a slower vehicle, stay back at a safe distance and wait for the other vehicle to pull over in the next slow vehicle turn out. Don't tailgate.
Many areas on the road experienced significant bush fires in early 2016, with many travellers needing evacuation.
The speed limit along the Great Ocean Road is 80 km/h to 100 km/h. In towns, the speed limit is 50 km/h to 70 km/h.
Given the volume of traffic that can traverse the Great Ocean Road, especially weekends and holidays, don't assume that it will be a quick trip. Allow yourself plenty of time to see everything so that you may enjoy your drive.
You can travel back to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road or take the inland route via Colac which although a similar distance saves time.