A trip to the Great Ocean Road is an unforgettable experience. Historic fishing and whaling villages, pristine beaches and spectacular rock formations combine with beautiful coastal views from clifftops and by the sea as you drive the Great Ocean Road. Get the most out of every day with these itineraries for 1, 2, 3, 4-6 and 7+ days exploring the Great Ocean Road.
To learn about all of the must-visit sights and activities to do on the Great Ocean Road, including the best time to visit the Great Ocean Road and How to Travel to the Great Ocean Road, see my Planning Guide to the Great Ocean Road here. To find out where to stay on the Great Ocean Road, see my Great Ocean Road: Where to Stay post here. And for everything you need to know about the showpiece of the Great Ocean Road, the Twelve Apostles and all the best Tours to the Great Ocean Road, see my 12 Apostles post here.
Each Great Ocean Road self-drive itinerary assumes that you are traveling from Torquay in the East to Allansford in the west. Remembering that in Australia you drive on the left, this means the passengers get the best views driving East to West. While it’s not strictly necessary, this is generally the preferred direction as you’ll be driving with the coast on your left side, making pulling over much easier.) If you are planning on working whilst travelling, ensure you have the correct visa, this is a great post on the working holiday 417 visa.
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Great Ocean Road Itinerary: 1 Day
With only one day to drive the Great Ocean Road, you’ll likely want to hit the main tourist destinations. If coming from Melbourne, it will take a few hours to reach the beginning of the route, so be sure to leave as early as possible.
Once you’ve arrived on the Road, you can head towards the Great Ocean Road attractions centered around the Port Campbell National Park. This includes the 12 Apostles (of course) and the Gibson Steps that are at the end of the 12 Apostles walkway. The Gibson Steps give you access to the beach below and you can be up close to two of the 12 Apostles. This beach is wild and not for swimming. Signs warn of sharks and dangerous rips. It is a beautiful long beach to walk along, assuming it is not high tide!
Then it’s on to the other spectacular rock formations: Loch Ard Gorge, London Arch (London Bridge), and the Grotto.
Even if you have only one day to take a day-trip from Melbourne, it will be an unforgettable day and you will see the wild Southern Ocean and Shipwreck Coast.
Great Ocean Road Itinerary: 2 Days
Two days is a popular amount of time for a Great Ocean Road trip. You may not be able to see everything along the route, but you’ll get to enjoy those sumptuous views, with plenty of stops offs along the way.
The main advantage of an overnight stay on the Great Ocean Road is that you experience some time to wander along a beautiful beach, linger over dinner and even have a swim the next morning before setting off, refreshed and able to really enjoy your day. One day is just possible, but two days allows at least a sense of Australia’s southern coastline in addition to a good look at the unforgettable sights on the Route.
What to see
From Melbourne, start your journey by stopping at Torquay, Australia’s most famous surfing town. Drop by Bells Beach to watch the pros hitting the waves (or try it yourself), before heading on to Lorne for lunch. Enjoy a long, lazy lunch soaking up the atmosphere.
Lorne has some lovely pubs and cafes with water views and the best restaurants on the Great Ocean Road. It has small designer stores and boutiques with an artisan seaside theme. Apart from Port airy at the other end of the Great Ocean Road, Lorne is the best little town to walk the length of and linger over lunch, a drink, or a coffee.
Stop in Kennett River on your way westwards, spotting some koalas and perhaps meeting some inquisitive parrots. Continue driving westwards to Cape Otway where you can admire the beauty of Erskine Falls and Melba Gully.
It is also the best place anywhere to look upwards and spot koalas sitting in gum trees! You will see cars suddenly veer off the road and stop and areas where a dozen cars have pulled over. You can be sure there are koalas sitting in plain sight at these places. A convertible is the best koala-spotting vehicle for Cape Otway road trips!
Cape Otway is the home of a lonely lighthouse and lighthouse keeper’s cottages. It is a typical Australian headland in the midst of coastal rainforest and a must-see destination.
To see where to stay at the end of Day 1, see Where to Stay on the Great Ocean Road.
On the second day, arrive early to beat the crowds and view the amazing 12 Apostles. After spending an hour or so there, take in the main sights close to the 12 Apostles. This includes the Loch Ard Gorge, London Arch and Gibson’s Steps (note: as of late November 2019, they are currently closed for repairs).
From there, continue along the coastal route, dropping by the Grotto, Port Fairy, and the Allansford Cheeseworld, before turning around to head back to Melbourne.
It’s not necessary to turn back, however, it is also possible to go onward to Adelaide, stopping in at Warrnambool and/or Portland if you’re visiting during whale-watching season.
Where to stay
If you have two days traveling along the Great Ocean Road, then you’ll want to choose somewhere halfway(ish) to stay overnight. This makes Apollo Bay a great choice if you’ve got two days and one night along the Great Ocean Road. Plus, it’s close and convenient for the showstopping 12 Apostles.
I like to stay in Apollo Bay unless I am at the far western end of the Great Ocean Road. Four days at Apollo Bay is about perfect, but it is also perfect for an overnight stay midway along the Great Ocean Road. For accommodations in Apollo Bay and all the options for accommodation, see Where to Stay on the Great Ocean Road.
Great Ocean Road Itinerary: 3 Days
With three days, you’ll be able to take in the highlights of the Great Ocean Road at a leisurely pace. This makes three days the perfect amount of time to spend driving Australia’s famous coastal route if it is an activity that you are making as part of a trip to, or within, Australia.
If you have three days for the Great Ocean Road, then you can start off a little more relaxed from Melbourne – there’s even time for a famous “smashed avo” breakfast before traveling southwesterly to Torquay. Here, spend a couple of hours checking out the famous surfing spots, including Bell’s Beach and the National Surfing Museum.
Continuing along the road westwards, the extra time means you can add a couple of extra stops along the way. There’s the charming town of Anglesea, as well as the memorial to the workers who toiled building the Great Ocean Road after WWII. It’s a touching memorial, and also a good spot for a photo as it has a large ‘Great Ocean Road’ sign.
From there, journey onto Lorne, which is arguably the coolest town along the Great Ocean Road. Here, you’ll find lots of great cafes and shops, as well as overall good vibes. Lorne is a wonderful town to spend the evening, watching the sunset across the water from your accommodation or from a restaurant or pub along the waterfront.
After a leisurely breakfast in Lorne, drive to Kennett River and stop to spot the koalas along Grey River Road. Depending on how long you spend spotting these cute and cuddly marsupials, you might want to stay in Kennett River for lunch. There are walks and nearby Wye is popular with campers and holidaymakers.
From there, continue westwards to Cape Otway, where you can spend a leisurely afternoon enjoying the immense natural beauty and the wonderful Cape Otway Lighthouse station. With three days, you’ll be able to choose a few walking trails and enjoy the stunning sights including Melba Gully and Erskine Falls.
You might also like to add on trying out the zip line while you’re there!
After a few hours in Cape Otway National Park, continue on to Apollo Bay. This is a lovely seaside town with a summer carnival on the foreshore. There are a jetty and small marina and a variety of restaurants and cafes on the main thoroughfare.
If the sun is still up, you can head over and enjoy the sumptuous sight of the 12 Apostles at sunset!
The third day of the itinerary is all about checking out the iconic views of the 12 Apostles from above and below, and then the other significant rock formations close by.
Wake up early to start your day at the famous Twelve Apostles, before the crowds arrive. From there, you can also visit the Gibson Steps (note: Gibson Steps are currently closed). Assuming they are open when you visit, taking these steps to the wild beach below will bring you up close to two of the Apostles.
From there, continue along the Great Ocean Road, stopping in at Loch Ard Gorge, London Arch, the Grotto and the charming coastal town of Port Fairy.
Port Fairy is a picturesque fishing village that is a delight to walk around. There are many historical vestiges of the maritime trade in this once remote place.
Allansford Cheeseworld is a great final stop, although you may like to continue on to Warrnambool or Portland if you’re in season to see the whales. Then it’s time to head back to Melbourne.
Where to stay
With three days and two nights, you’ll be able to enjoy a more leisurely trip along the Great Ocean Road. It makes sense to try to break up your trip equally and to enjoy a stop at two beautiful towns along the way. I recommend Lorne, and either Port Campbell (for convenience for the 12 Apostles) or Port Fairy (for the charming historic houses). See here for accommodation options.
Great Ocean Road Itinerary: 4-6 Days
If you are lucky enough to have a few extra days to spend on the Great Ocean Road, then I recommend sticking loosely to the itinerary above – but spreading things out a bit more. With the better part of a week, you’ll be able to spend a longer amount of time at each stop.
You can also add in some visits to the less-known site around the Great Ocean Road, including Johanna Beach, the Gables, and Wreck Beach. You may want to take a beach tent to keep your belongings in.
For example, you might want to add in a lazy beach day by extending your stay in Lorne by a day – this also allows you to take a deeper dive into the town’s bustling cafe culture. Kennett River is a great contrast and also worthy of an overnighter. With a one night stop, you’ll have more time to enjoy the natural beauty and animal attractions.
Similarly, it’s worth extending your afternoon at Cape Otway into a full day, so you can explore a number of the walking trails. With a full day, you won’t have to pick between what’s on offer – you can enjoy all of the main highlights including Melba Gully and Erskine Falls (of course), plus lesser-known beauties such as the Bay of Martyrs, Kalimna Falls and the Bay of Islands.
Of course, the 12 Apostles is the keystone of any Great Ocean Road itinerary so you should definitely add a bit more time here. In particular, there are several beautiful walks around the 12 Apostles, such as the Cliff Walk. From here, you’ll get amazing views over the rugged coastline.
Ideally, you’ll be able to add in all of these extras to your itinerary and really enjoy the good vibes in some of the Great Ocean Road’s most beautiful places. However, if you only have an additional day or two – I recommend prioritizing Cape Otway and the area around the 12 Apostles.
Where to stay
If you have a bit longer to spend on the Great Ocean Road, you have two choices: either spend longer in a smaller number of stops (perhaps Lorne, Apollo Bay, and Port Campbell) or try to add some additional stops along the way. Kennett River and Torquay are both great stops to add if you can.
Great Ocean Road Itinerary: 7 Days+
As above, a week or more gives you plenty of time to just soak in the beauty of the area. With a week you’ll be able to really slow down and take a deep dive into exploring this amazing part of the world.
One tip: don’t be tempted to cram too much in! With more than a week for your Great Ocean Road itinerary, you can take things slowly and really soak in the beauty of the region. Even with a week or more, there’s still the risk of over-committing – and you can always add a few additional stops if you still have time to spare.
I recommend adding in all the additional overnight stops from the itinerary above (Lorne, Kennett River, and Port Campbell), as well as visiting a few hidden gems.
Part of the fun of having a longer time to visit the Great Ocean Road is the opportunity to be flexible and stop where you feel like it. Some hidden gems that are particularly worthy of your time include the Bay of Martyrs, Kalimna Falls, Bay of Islands and Airey’s Inlet (don’t miss the brewery/pub at Airey’s)!
As well as adding in more ‘off the beaten path’ spots to your itinerary, you can also add in some extra relaxing time. Consider adding in a couple of nights in a tucked-away retreat somewhere like Cape Otway – it’s great for the soul! Whether it’s a romantic getaway, solo trip or you’re with a group of friends, you don’t need to feel rushed while spending a week along the Great Ocean Road.
If you’re a fan of walking and have more than a week to see the Great Ocean Road, you might also like to consider walking the Great Ocean Walk. Let’s be honest – lots of people see the Great Ocean Road by car, but how many can say they’ve walked it? Perhaps you can, if the thought of an eight-day, 100-kilometer walk doesn’t scare you off. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s totally unforgettable.
(Of course, I won’t judge if you opt for the comfort of an air-conditioned vehicle and a cozy B&B).
Where to stay
Lorne or Apollo Bay are both worth spending more than one night in, while overnight stops in Kennett River, Port Campbell, and Port Fairy are definitely worthwhile.
Whilst it is, of course, a personal choice, I love Apollo Bay, Lorne, and Port Fairy.
Tips for planning and driving the Great Ocean Road
Hopefully, this Great Ocean Road Itinerary and its associate posts on Great Ocean Road tours, accommodation, sights and when and how to visit, has given you plenty to think about and a comprehensive planning guide! Here are a few final tips to make your road trip perfect.
Be green! You’re sure to be enchanted by the landscapes along the way, however, unfortunately, not all tourists are respectful of the environment. To keep the Great Ocean Road looking amazing, be sure to put all your rubbish away, and be mindful of local wildlife, especially on the roads.
It is especially important on Australian roads to be vigilant for kangaroos at dusk. It is impossible to see a kangaroo moving at speed until it is immediately in front of your vehicle, so keep your eyes peeled as the sun is setting when they are most active.
The Great Ocean Road is still a road – it might sound obvious, but lots of people can’t help but get distracted by those epic views and forget to keep with the traffic. If you see a view you’ve just got to stare at (or a dozen), just pull over safely so you don’t disrupt the traffic too much.
There are times where traffic or a particular car or bus on the Great Ocean Road drive can be slow and there are no overtaking lanes for quite some distance. You are on holiday – relax and be patient – it is not worth the risk attempting to take over vehicles on narrow and windy roads.
Time the 12 Apostles wisely – the 12 Apostles is easily the busiest site on the Great Ocean Road, and around the middle of the day, it does get super crowded (including the car park). It can also be uncomfortably hot. This can decrease your desire to walk along the paths, walkways and down the Gibson Steps to the beach below. If you can, try to visit early or late to get the best possible experience.
Keep your gas or petrol tank full! Australia is deceptively huge, and there can be long distances between gas or petrol stations, even on the Great Ocean Road. It’s advisable to fill up at every service station you see, lest you end up rather embarrassingly stranded on the side of the road!
Further Links and Information
Where to Stay on your Great Ocean Road Holiday? See my Ultimate Guide to Great Ocean Road Accommodation here.
Get Your Guide 12 Apostles activities and tours are here
More detailed information on how to book transport, airfares, accommodation and travel insurance is available on my Travel Resources page
For other great things to do outside of Melbourne, see my blog post on wonderful walk and hikes to the east of Melbourne in the Dandenong Mountains and Yarra Ranges here
For 5 great reasons to visit the village of Gembrook in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, see my blog post here
And for another wonderful destination when you are planning travel to the Great Ocean Road Australia as part of a larger Australian holiday, see my blog post about Canberra’s hidden sculpture garden here
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