THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD: 23 BEST THINGS TO DO
The Great Ocean Road is one of the most famous coastal routes in the world. It spans 243 kilometers along the southeastern coast of Australia from Torquay to Warrnambool. It was built between 1919 – 1932 by soldiers who returned from WWI, who dedicated the drive to their fallen comrades.
Along the drive are some incredibly popular attractions, small coastal towns and an abundance of wildlife. I drove from Adelaide to Torquay, which is a total of 755 kilometers and experienced the beauty of The Great Ocean Road. Sleeping in the back of my car, eating food I’d brought along, I managed to do it on the cheap. I photographed and recorded the whole journey in the vlog below:
The journey could take you a day, a week or a month. Go at your own pace. These are the 23 best things I did while traveling down the Great Ocean Road.
23 Best things to do on The Great Ocean Road
#1 Blue Lake, Mt Gambier
If you are driving from Adelaide to Melbourne or vice versa you will pass through Mt. Gambier. While it is not technically on The Great Ocean Road it is a natural wonder, which is 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 color will no doubt take your breath away.
#2 Eastern Ramparts Lookout, Portland
Almost by accident I stumbled into the Discovery Bay Coastal Park in Portland. I was looking for a decent spot along the coast that would look back at the sunset. All of a sudden I was driving through the Coastal Park, which is laden with giant wind turbines. I found a sign that read ‘Eastern Ramparts Lookout’ and figured why not. It ended up being an amazing little viewpoint. I felt totally alone, in the middle of nowhere and it was a great way to kick off my Great Ocean Road adventure.
#3 Cape Spencer Lighthouse, Portland
Also in the Discovery Bay Coastal Park, the Cape Spencer Lighthouse sits atop some spectacular cliffs with front row seats to the sunset. Kangaroos hopped about as I pulled into the parking lot before jogging down to see if I was in time to watch the sun fade away on another day. Luckily I had just made it and got to enjoy the sky show from the edge of the cliffs.
#4 Griffiths Island, Port Fairy
I awoke to the sound of my sunrise alarm in the back of my car parked in the main street of Port Fairy. I quickly drove towards the sun and ended up at Griffiths Island. The island is the location of a lighthouse and a colony of Shearwater birds. This little region is an idyllic area to watch the sun rise . I found the morning very peaceful and capped it off by watching two surfers tackle some strong waves as the sun rose behind them.
#5 Bay of Islands
Traveling from Adelaide, this is the first scenery that makes you feel like you have arrived. It is one of the first things to do on The Great Ocean Road. Limestone Stacks litter the ocean, taking the brunt of heavy waves trying their hardest not to collapse like so many before them. On the cliffs I spent half an hour watching a huge swell pummel the islands while anticipating what the rest of The Great Ocean Road had in store for me.
#6 Bay of Martyrs/ Worm Bay
From this point onwards, beautiful beaches become a commonality rather than a spectacle although I tried my very best to enjoy each beach on it’s own merits. Bay of Martyrs is only a short trip down the road from the Bay of Islands. It is a grand stretch of beach and alongside it is another beauty in Worm Bay. This little bay is about as secluded as it gets and takes a bit of effort to get to. A short coastal cliff walk will lead you down to a bay all to yourself.
#7 The Grotto, Port Campbell National Park
Who would have thought a sinkhole would cause such a stir. A giant arch rock formation bends over a sinkhole caused by acid eating away at the limestone beneath. Winding stairs lead you down to the sinkhole, which looks like a beautiful tide pool, however the acidity factor surely is enough to keep most tourists out. This spot is a high energy location when considering the ocean. Waves pound into the rocks and my favorite part about the grotto was standing on top of the archway watching the booming swell lambast the cliffs.
#8 The London Bridge, Port Campbell National Park
Another arch rock formation this time much further out in the ocean. The beaches viewable from this lookout are phenomenal with extremely sheer cliffs. I don’t think it is possible to reach the shore of these beaches as I didn’t see any access points. Another one of the best things to do on The Great Ocean Road and an awesome spot to take in the coastline with expansive views in both directions.
#9 The Arch, Port Campbell National Park
The Arch is well what you would expect.. Another arched rock formation. The beauty of this location is that with two viewing platforms you can get quite low to the water and experience the crashing of the waves from much closer than other locations along the Great Ocean Road.
#10 Thunder Cave, Port Campbell National Park
This is definitely one of my favorite things to do on The Great Ocean Road. The Thunder Cave is a narrow gorge where water rushes deep into the end of the gorge and then makes a loud boom as it tries to flow back out. Little kids shrieked with excitement each time the force of the water created a small explosion, echoing throughout the gorge.
#11 Broken Head, Port Campbell National Park
After checking out Thunder Cave I continued my walk along the coast, and I stumbled across a secret little beach. The coolest part about this bay was there were stairs that had been carved into the cliffs, which led you down onto the shore. It was like something out of a movie set as I clambered down the stairs to my own private beach.
#12 Sherbrook River, Port Campbell National Park
The Sherbrook River flows out into the ocean although on this day it was several yards short of quite connecting. The adjacent bay has a dramatic cliff scape backdrop with sea-spray creating mist to add to the eerie atmosphere.
#13 Island Arch, Port Campbell National Park
This part of Port Campbell National Park is an area which is one of the most popular things to do on The Great Ocean Road. The Island Arch is one of three huge attractions in the small area. Tour buses are aplenty and you won’t find much peace and quiet here. Lucky you didn’t come for that you came for amazing scenery! The Island Arch is definitely impressive. Two huge limestone stacks stand upright in the middle of a distinct bay.
#14 Razorback, Port Campbell National Park
I thought the Island Arch Limestone rock formations were massive until I laid eyes on the aptly named Razorback formation. So large it almost seems as if it is a fossilized cruise liner, docked in Port Campbell National Park. The viewing platform faces it head on which is unfortunate but it really is quite thin as you can see on the walk.
#15 Loch Ard Gorge, Port Campbell National Park
Visiting Loch Ard Gorge is one of the most common things to do on The Great Ocean Road. This means the crowds are thick and heavy. I decided to enjoy this one from the viewing platform, while I watched two fathers of Asian descent guarding twenty kids from going too deep in the water. They ran towards the men who threw them back in the waves to be washed up. It looked like a great time and had me reminiscing my childhood. The gorge also has some stalactites and other rock formations at the far end. The beach is just beautiful and if you are committed enough, arriving here at sunset would produce a stunning scene for a photoshoot of many sorts.
#16 Gibson’s Steps
I have been to hundreds of beaches all across the world and there are some that you never forget. Gibson’s Step’s lead you down a narrow stairway attached ominously to the side of the cliffs. They guide you on to the shore where you can get up close and personal with some limestone stacks situated out in the water. After a wander I took an unintentional nap directly beneath a 150ft wall of rock. I awoke an hour later startled but with a great tan.
#17 The Twelve Apostles
While there are no longer twelve, this is by far the most popular of all the things to do on The Great Ocean Road. Formerly 12 limestone stacks shot up from the water created an amazing view down the coast. However, several of them have crumpled leaving their remains scattered where they used to stand so tall. I spent the sunset at the Twelve Apostles and made my best efforts with my ND Filter and Tripod to capture the movement in the sky and the ocean. The sunset was good but not great. No rain can’t complain that’s my motto when in Victoria!
#18 Apollo Bay
After the sunset at the Twelve Apostles, I drove to Apollo Bay and found a beach parking lot before crawling to the back of my car for a night sleep. I woke up to the light shining through my car window. I hurriedly rushed out to the nearest beach access and enjoyed the sunrise. Apollo Bay is a small coastal town with a beautiful, long bay the center of attention.
#19 Mariners Lookout, Apollo Bay
One of the highlights of Apollo Bay was a short little trek up to Mariners Lookout. Here I enjoyed the view over the town just after sunrise. I shared the beautiful lookout with only a few sheep. The lookout is on private property but opened to the public by a local couple who made the route and land available as a contribution to the shire. Heartwarming stuff typical of only a cute little town like Apollo Bay.
#20 Apollo Bay to Lorne Scenic Drive
While you might think this is a hard one to miss you may actually do just that. Make sure to pull over at all of the viewing points to enjoy the scenery. Other than that, wind down your window, stick your arm out and enjoy the smell of salt in the air and the wind in your hair. This is living!
#21 Kennett River Koala Walk
If you have never seen a Koala before, you are in for a treat. The Kennett River Koala walk winds along Grey River Road through heavily populated gum trees in the Otway Rainforest.
The hippest coastal town along the route, Lorne has a great vibe about it. A cafe strip to make a hipster drool looks out over an action packed beach. If you are going to stay anywhere along the route for more than one night I would highly suggest you pick Lorne. Even if it is for nothing else other than to try two breakfast spots!
#23 Bells Beach
And we are so close to the end of the road or the start if you are beginning in Torquay. Bells Beach is a world famous surf beach and home to the Ripcurl Bells Pro each year in March. Huge waves cycle one after the other into a large bay, overlooked by several viewing platforms. The carpark at Bells Beach is almost as cool a the surf itself. Kombi vans, transients, nomads and just your casually cool surfer dudes hang post or pre-surf.
Hope you have a great journey along The Great Ocean Road! If I missed any of the best things to do on The Great Ocean Road add your suggestions in the comments below.