Our Fabulous 2-Day Great Ocean Road Itinerary: What To See, Eat And Know

Great Ocean Road Itinerary | The Common Wanderer

Enjoy Victoria’s most iconic road trip with our detailed two-day Great Ocean Road itinerary, featuring what to do, where to eat and accommodation recommendations for all budgets.


One of Australia's most iconic road trips, the Great Ocean Road is a right of passage for any visitor, foreign or Aussie, to the beautiful state of Victoria.

The road, and region, is home to some of the best sights in the whole state, including the instantly recognisable 12 Apostles, the ancient Great Otway National Park, sun-drenched beaches, quaint seaside towns and endless waterfalls.

On top of that, world-class cuisine is never too far away, with excellent restaurants and local cafe's churning out delicious fare at almost every stop.

While a day trip to the region is possible and advisable to those on a tight schedule, we highly recommend making the most of your visit to the region with a multi-day itinerary.

Take it from us, as two Victorians who grew up on these roads, that anything less than two days on the Great Ocean Road is a disservice.

So hire a car (or drive your own), take the trip west, and enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery in the world with our two-day Great Ocean Road itinerary.


OUR GREAT OCEAN ROAD ITINERARY



WHERE IS THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD?

One of the world’s most spectacular coastal drives, the Great Ocean Road stretches more than 240km from the Victorian coastal town of Torquay, just 1.5 hours from Melbourne, to Allansford, right before the rural hub of Warrnambool.

What many people don’t know is that the Great Ocean Road is also the world’s longest war memorial, built by returned WW1 soldiers as a memorial for all those who lost their lives in the war.

Today, it’s one of Australia’s biggest tourist destinations and is extremely popular with both locals and tourists alike.



HOW TO EXPLORE THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD

If you're looking at exploring Victoria but don't have your own car, don't fret - there are a few cost-effective options that allow you to see the best of the state without breaking the bank.


Here are a few of our fave options:

BY CAR

If you're like us, and you'd prefer to stay in a beautiful Airbnb or accommodation, a car is the next best option.

If you need to hire a car, we recommend booking through Rentalcars.com. We've used them all around the world and find they have the cheapest deals, every time.

BOOK | Rentalcars.com


BY VAN

One of the most common sights you’ll see on the roads in summer is the bright green and purple branding of Jucy Rentals vans.

#Vanlifing along this coastline is one of the most popular ways to discover the area — and is something we can personally vouch for having done the very same for a week back in 2017!

BOOK | Book your Jucy Rental


BY DAY TOUR

There are plenty of day tour options for those wanting to explore the Great Ocean Road but without the hassle of having to plan it for yourself or rent a car.

We recommend either this day trip from Melbourne that takes in all the highlights in reverse (great for avoiding the crowds at the big attractions!), or this full-day trip that includes sunset at the Twelve Apostles

BOOK | Search for your perfect Great Ocean Road day trip here


 
Great Ocean Road Itinerary
 



WHAT TO SEE AND DO ON THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD

The Great Ocean Road is a place where world-class surf breaks meet old-growth temperate rainforests, awe-inspiring limestone cliffs burn orange in the sun while the Southern Ocean rages, and sleepy seaside towns are welcoming and friendly.

Unsurprisingly for one of the most spectacular drives and regions in the world, there's an incredible array of things to see and do (and eat).

Whether it’s adventure and nature, gourmet delights, or simply a relaxing few days away you seek here's a list of what to see on your Great Ocean Road itinerary:

  • The 12 Apostles

  • The Shipwreck Coast, including Loch Ard Gorge, The Gibson Steps, The Grotto, Sherbrook River, Thunder Cave

  • The Great Ocean Road memorial arch

  • The world-famous Bells Beach

  • The Otway Rainforest

  • Hopetoun, Beauchamp and Triplet Falls

  • Erskine Falls

  • The Californian Redwood Forest

  • Cape Otway Lightstation

  • Discover Koalas at Kennett River

  • Spend time in seaside towns such as Lorne, Torquay, Anglesea, Apollo Bay and Port Campbell

  • London Bridge and the Bay of Islands

  • Swim at Fairhaven, Lorne, Apollo Bay or Anglesea beach

  • Visit all the lookout points

  • Split Point Lighthouse

  • Timboon (ice cream amazing food and whisky distillery)

RELATED | For more details, check out our post on the best things to do on the Great Ocean Road here.


 
 




GREAT OCEAN ROAD DAY-TRIP ITINERARY

We're not going to lie, a Great Ocean Road day-trip can be quite intense and long, meaning you won't enjoy it quite as much as a two-day (or longer) itinerary. Therefore this guide is designed for a multi-day trip.

That being said, it's definitely possible to cram in the best sights in a day with our one-day Great Ocean Road itinerary - you just need to leave Melbourne super early and be prepared for a late arrival home.

Our recommended day-trip stops (this is an abbreviated version of our in-depth two-day itinerary below):

  • Great Ocean Road memorial sign

  • Lorne for brunch/lunch at Bottle of Milk, and explore the main street

  • Quick swim on Lorne main beach

  • Koala sightings at Kennett River

  • Hopetoun and Beauchamp Falls

  • The California Redwood forest

  • Gibsons Steps

  • Loch Ard Gorge

  • 12 Apostles

We recommend doing a Great Ocean Road day-trip yourself - either in your own car or with a car rental. This allows you the freedom to stop where you wish, and play your road trip tunes as loud as you like!

Alternatively, if you're an international tourist you might want to jump aboard a tour from Melbourne (like this one).


 
Sunset on the Great Ocean Road
 


GREAT OCEAN ROAD TWO-DAY ITINERARY


DAY #1 | GREAT OCEAN ROAD ITINERARY MELBOURNE - LORNE

Departing Melbourne early, slowly make your way to the beautiful seaside town of Lorne, 3 hours away.

From Melbourne, take the Princess freeway (M1) towards Geelong, before taking the Geelong bypass towards Torquay. Here, you’ll join the B100 which later becomes the Great Ocean Road.

On the way, we recommend stopping for brunch and coffee at Pond Cafe on Torquay's esplanade. This fave post-surf hangout spot for locals and tourists alike serves up a damn good Aussie brunch and Seven Seeds roasted coffee (delish) right across from the green foreshore.

The menu is tasty and focuses on lots of fresh ingredients and flavour. We opted for the avo toast with chipotle hummus, goat’s cheese and smoked almonds with an added poached egg, and it was a dream!


After Torquay, make a detour to the famous waves of Bells Beach, where the Rip Curl Pro is held each year.

As the road slowly meanders towards the rugged coastline, take it slow - the Great Ocean Road is one of the most beautiful roads in the world, and the section from Fairhaven to Lorne is the most picturesque.

We recommend stopping at these various sights along the way: the famous Great Ocean Road memorial arch for a photo (after all, if you’ve been there but didn’t ‘gram it, did it even happen?), Split Point lighthouse for some incredible views along the whole coast, Fairhaven beach for a swim, and the Aireys Inlet pub for lunch.

 
 


As you make your way into Lorne, head straight up to the stunning Erskine Falls. About 10 minutes drive from Lorne itself, the misty 30m high Erskine Falls tower above lush green gums and moss-laced rock - and are always a dang sight cooler than anywhere else in the area (important in summer, less so in winter!).

During low water, you can cross the river and explore right up to the falls themselves. In summer, it makes for a perfect swimming hole to escape the heat (just make sure the levels aren’t too high).

Arrive at Lorne just in time for a sundowner (and dinner) at the Lorne Pub! Alternatively, head a bit further to Apollo Bay which is quieter and cheaper but with less of the Melbourne vibe.

When the sun falls, check out MoVida (pricey), the trendy Chopsticks Noodle Bar is where it’s at for some tasty Asian food and beer, or IPSOS for some Greek food.

WHERE TO STAY | We recommend Chatby Lane Lorne, or Cumberland River Holiday Park

WHERE TO EAT | Pond Cafe, Torquay, Lorne Pub/Airey's Pub, ****The Bottle of Milk, Chopsticks Noodle Bar, or IPSOS


 
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DAY #2 | GREAT OCEAN ROAD ITINERARY

Start the day in Lorne with a breakfast burger and milkshake at The Bottle of Milk on (we live for ‘The Hulk’). Sit under the yellow/white umbrellas and take in the warm breeze.

We suggest leaving early for this part of the Great Ocean Road, considering the urge to pull over at every single turnout and take photos of the epic coastline will be strong. If you’re inclined, stop and have a swim at one of the deserted beaches you see along the way too, or stop at Kennett River to see koalas in their natural habitat.


On your way to the 12 Apostles, detour through the ancient Otway National Park, one of the most pristine swathes of rainforest in Victoria.

There are a number of things to see within the National Park, including the breathtaking Hopetoun Falls (located just beyond the town of Forrest, follow the signs).

Nestled amongst the thick green rainforest of the Otway National Park, Hopetoun Falls cascades 30m to the rocky pools below. Picturesque as it may be, the wonderfully placed fallen tree at the bottom of the falls provides an ethereal quality that takes this waterfall from good to pure nature froth. The walk down, while steep and slippery, is actually quick and easy.

Just down the road is the Otways Californian Redwood Forest, one of the best-kept secrets in Victoria (like the Warburton Redwood Forest used to be!).

The 85-year-old plantation is left over from the logging industry that used to operate here in the 1930s. Today, the 60m high trees make for an enchanting, peaceful place to wander through.

If you have time (probably not... sorry!), the Otway Fly Treetop Adventure is close by (book your tickets here), where you can go zip lining or explore the forest from the treetops - an hour-long 25m high treetop walk amongst the magnificent forest of giant Myrtle Beech, Blackwood, and Mountain Ash trees.


 
 



The next stop is one of the very best things to do on the Great Ocean Road, the ubiquitous 12 Apostles & Port Campbell National Park.

Here in the Port Campbell National Park, wild beauty is the order of the day: the iconic stacks rise precariously from the powerful Southern Ocean, and rugged clifftops give way to pretty coves and golden sand beaches. Truthfully, the region still manages to take our breath away, and we've both visited it regularly since we were young.


First up, head to the beautiful Gibson's Steps. One of the few places in the Port Campbell National Park that allows for proper beach access, walk the 86 narrow steps to the beach below where cliffs tower above as you wander along the sand, foamy waves pummel the shore, and the limestone stacks of the remaining Apostles loom overhead just a few metres away.

It’s an awe-inspiring place to be, and unsurprisingly is one of the most popular things to see on the Great Ocean Road.

After Gibsons Steps, bypass the 12 Apostles (for the time being) and head to Loch Ard Gorge (read our guide here!) , one of the most popular stops along the Great Ocean Road beckoning visitors with epic views of the crumbling cliffs that almost encase the pretty beach below.

It was here that in 1878, an iron-hulled ship, the Loch Ard ran aground. There were only two survivors: wealthy 17-year-old Eva Carmichael who had travelled with her family for a new life in the colonies, and Tom Pearce, a teenage ship’s apprentice.

And while the views are worth the visit alone, the long-ago story of survival that played out here adds a sense of awe and mystery to the place too. Standing in the gorge today, particularly at beach level, it’s hard to imagine the scene playing out, or the bravery of a teenage Tom scaling the crumbling and unstable 11m high ochre cliffs — which makes it an even more fascinating place to explore.

 
 


As the perfect end to your day, and two-day Great Ocean Road itinerary, head to the 12 Apostles to watch sunset and watch mother nature paint the sky all shades of pastel.

From the Visitor's Centre, follow the main 12 Apostles boardwalk to enjoy many of the best viewpoints of the Apostles and the stunning coastline surrounding them, with plenty of epic photography opportunities.

We recommend following the boardwalk’s entire length and taking your time to see them from each angle, before heading back to the main viewpoint looking west for sunset.

Unfortunately from here, it's a long drive on the Princess freeway (M1) back to Melbourne (3+ hours), so buckle in and put on your favourite playlist. We recommend breaking up the trip with a stop into Airey's Inlet pub for a typical Aussie pub meal.

Alternatively, there are a number of taking away places in Apollo Bay or Lorne.


WHERE TO EAT | The Bottle of Milk, Airey's Pub, Chopsticks Noodle Bar, or IPSOS

 
 


AN EXTRA DAY ON THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD?

Honestly, if you're not in a rush we recommend spending at least another day on the Great Ocean Road to enjoy a few more must-see places in the area.

Port Campbell is a lovely little town with a beautiful beach and amazing surrounds. Walk the high street and stop by Grassroots Deli Cafe, a weatherboard, homestead style cafe with a wide sun terrace out front serving up fab coffee, tasty food. Enjoy a coffee, a delicious brekky burger, or their signature frittata. They also have delightful muffins... grab one for the road.

Close by is the famous London Bridge rock formation. The views from the London Bridge lookout over the limestone arch and pristine beach below are beautiful and definitely one of our favourite places to see on the Great Ocean Road.

From Port Campbell, you can follow the road north towards Timboon, a cute town famous for its dairy industry and in turn, ice cream. In town, you'll find an array of really delicious cafe's (our pick is Fat Cow Food or Timboon Corner Store), as well as the Timboon Whiskey Distillery, Timboon Cheesery, and the famous Timboon Ice Creamery. Sample the local produce (ie. have all the ice cream) and sit in the local park to enjoy the surroundings.

The benefit of an extra day on the road is stopping for another swim or two. Some of our faves include Port Campbell, Wye River, Lorne or Fairhaven - just be wary of the conditions and always swim between the flags.

 
 



GREAT OCEAN ROAD ESSENTIAL INFORMATION


WHERE TO STAY ON THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD

Accommodation can be hard to find along the Great Ocean Road, especially during peak seasons, so we recommend booking in advance.

We’ve written a complete guide to the best Airbnb’s on the Great Ocean Road, which you can read (and book) here.

While we'd recommend staying in Airbnb's along our Great Ocean Road itinerary, we totally understand a lot of you may want to save money and camp, or maybe driving with a campervan/Jucy Van and want a holiday park, so we've provided multiple accommodation options for each destination on this itinerary.



LORNE/APOLLO BAY ACCOMMODATION

AIRBNB/MOTEL

LORNE | Chatby Lane Lorne

APOLLO BAY | Apollo Bay Waterfront Motel, Captains at the Bay, or Marengo Motel



HOLIDAY PARKS

LORNE | Cumberland River Holiday Park

APOLLO BAY | BIG4 Apollo Bay


RELATED | We’ve written an extensive guide on the best Great Ocean Road Airbnbs

 
Overlooking the Great Ocean Road near Apollo Bay, Victoria
 

WHEN TO VISIT THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD

To be honest, the Great Ocean Road is pretty visitable at any time of year; wild and powerful during the colder months and the ultimate Aussie beach destination in the summer.

We recommend visiting outside of the peak season (December - late January) as the weather is likely to be fairly hot and the crowds absolutely insane.

With this comes huge traffic delays, difficulties parking, and a generally just unpleasant experience with thousands of other people everywhere you go.

Timing your visit for the shoulder season (Spring and Autumn), or shifting your visit to winter means you’re more likely to enjoy each location without having to jostle for a position at a lookout.

If you can avoid weekends, head down during weekdays as the crowds will be less and therefore key sights far more enjoyable.

GREAT OCEAN ROAD TRIP SAFETY

Australia is one safe country and if you take the necessary precautions you’ll have no issues. However, if embarking on a road trip, you do need to take necessary safety measures while driving on the open road.

These include:

  • Follow the speed limit

  • Don’t drink and drive

  • Rest if you’re tired

  • Be careful on windy, coastal roads

  • Watch out for wildlife, including Kangaroos, at dusk. This is peak grazing time, and you’ll see them lining the roads in rural areas.

  • Always be prepared for the worst-case moments (but expect the best!), and travel with adequate travel insurance.

We recommend World Nomads, which we've both used personally on our travels. 

DRIVE ON THE LEFT

Yep, in Australia, you drive on the left-hand side of the road, so if you’re not from a country that drives on the left-hand side (aka the normal side!) of the road, you’ll have to remember this every time you drive. It shouldn't be too hard, just follow everyone else!  

 
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TRAVEL INSURANCE | STAY SAFE IN AUSTRALIA

We firmly believe that if you can't afford travel insurance, you really can't afford to travel. As the current pandemic has taught many; things can go wrong anywhere in the world and insurance is often the only way of mitigating any issues with minimal expense or stress for you.

For all travellers | HeyMondo - COVID-19 coverage, comprehensive travel + medical insurance, an app with 24-hour medical support, and no out of pocket fees. *Get 5% off your policy by booking through our link here.

For digital nomads | SafetyWing - COVID-19 coverage, comprehensive travel & medical, and policies can be purchased while already abroad.

Car Insurance | Insurance4CarHire - a great annual car insurance policy

*In normal times, we recommend using World Nomads travel insurance, but unfortunately they're not currently covering COVID-19 related claims.


TRAVEL BETTER WITH THESE ESSENTIAL POSTS

GREAT OCEAN ROAD | The best things to do on the Great Ocean Road, and the ultimate guide to visiting Loch Ard Gorge, plus 10+ incredible Airbnbs on the Great Ocean Road

DAY TRIPS | 9 amazing day trips from Melbourne

THE BEST OF THE OTWAYS | Our guide to Hopetoun Falls and the mystical Otway Californian Redwoods

DAYLESFORD | Our favourite things to see, eat and do in Daylesford, plus our guide to the perfect Daylesford weekend

YARRA VALLEY ESCAPE | The complete guide to the Yarra Valley, our travel guide to Healesville, plus the best Airbnbs in the Yarra Valley, our complete guide to the beautiful Warburton and the East Warburton Redwood Forest

PHILLIP ISLAND | Top things to do on Phillip Island, and the best Airbnbs on Phillip Island

LOCH | A guide to the pretty town of Loch, Gippsland

AIRBNB GUIDE | Our essential guide to getting the best out of Airbnb

TRAVEL INSURANCE | Don’t leave home without travel insurance (seriously, don’t!). Click here to get the best deals with World Nomads, our trusted travel insurance provider

ECO FRIENDLY PACKING ESSENTIALS | Don’t leave home without our favourite eco-friendly travel essentials



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That, and you're officially a legend.