Ever since we knew we’d be going to Melbourne, I’ve been desperate to see The Great Ocean road, so with a nice four day weekend over Easter we decided to hire a car and do it all properly, as well as a trip up through to the Grampians. I picked Sam up straight from work and we drove the hour out of Melbourne (plus some after a detour around Port Melbourne and insane traffic) to Torquay, which is the town right at the start of the Great Ocean Road so we could get on it straight away the next morning.
We stayed in the loveliest Air BnB, ordered in a curry and snuggled up watching TV, it was such a lovely quiet start to what was going to be a rather busy weekend! We were supposed to be up for sunrise on Bells Beach, but the with the ran and cosy giant bed, sunrise turned into a 10am start – oops.
Our first stop was Bells Beach, really gorgeous rugged coastline right at the start of the Great Ocean Road and it happened to be a surfing comp that weekend, so we grabbed my camera and marched on down to watch some serious pros surf the waves – which was so truly amazing, it might even have inspired me to don a wetsuit and hit the waves… some day.
And then, onto the road! Due to the fact i’d booked our Air Bnb’s a little late we had quite a stretch to cover on this first day, basically the entire stretch of the key parts of the Great Ocean Road and if I had the chance to do it again I’d 100% stop off before reaching the 12 Apostles, perhaps near Cape Otway or Port Campbell. So we had some serious miles to cover today, though we didn’t really register this until we’d stopped off a few places and messed about before realising we’d miss sunset at the 12 Apostles if we carried on!
Driving along the coastline, through the gorgeous town of Lorne, stopping off at all the picture perfect coast views, via the lighthouse from Round The Twist (Sam was beyond excitable when he realised this – also I now challenge you to stop singing the theme tune) then Apollo Bay for lunch. We then quickly realised we needed to step on it, so it was a mad dash through Great Otway National Park (no Koalas, boo!) and onto the GOR highlights.
Once we’d raced through the rest of the Ocean Road, we arrived just in time for sunset at the Twelve Apostles – after cutting up a fellow tourist for a car parking spot and throwing our car into it. It was absolute bladdy mayhem with about a million tourists vying for that perfect picture, but we managed to elbow our way through and watch the blue sky slowly turn into pink as the sun tucked itself behind the sea.
Another race to the next spot, The Arch (which we thought was London Bridge but hey ho)and this time it was much quieter. The whole sky was now orange and black and the waves were going completely mental crashing against the rocks, it was so breathtaking.
Then, finally after some kind fellow travelers lent us their portable phone charger so we didn’t have to sleep at the side of the road due to not knowing how to get to our Air Bnb, we headed to the final stop: The Grotto. Of all rock formations of the day, this was my favourite. A steep walk down some stairs to a tiny enclave, where the ocean just peeks through a circular hole in the rocks, it’s so peaceful and pretty.
And that was the end of the official Great Ocean Road! Here’s my list of spots to stop – some we managed, some we didn’t , but like I said if you stay near the Otway Park half way along the trip and then end at Port Campbell rather than where we stayed, you’ll get it all in.
- Start at Torquay
- Bells Beach
- Split Point Lighthouse (Round The Twist!)
- Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch (do it for the ‘gram)
- Erskine Falls
- Lorne for lunch
- Teddy’s Lookout
- Apollo Bay
- Cape Otway – drive down to the Lighthouse for the best spots to see wild Koalas! Find somewhere to stay here for the night.
- Gibson Steps
- Twelve Apostles (really lovely at sunset)
- Loch Ard Gorge
- London Bridge
- The Grotto
- Stay at Port Campbell for the night
- Timboon Ice Cream factory
- Port Fairy – to end the trip with a quaint fishing town
For our second night on the road we stayed in Warrnambool, just down the road from Port Fairy, for an evening of cheese and wine- purchased in the Yarra Valley of course and a DVD – Up obviously.
We were up bright and early to allow time for a good wander around Port Fairy in the morning and on our way I realised that there’s a place called Griffiths Island with an adorable little lighthouse and amazing ocean views. This place is the perfect final stop on the GOR to have a cuppa and some lunch and just watch the boats come in and out of the Harbour.
Then, we were off on the road again, driving up to the Grampians. This was such a lovely drive, all through gorgeous woodland with sudden views of the mountains and barely another car on the road.
We arrived in Halls Gap, the ‘town’ of the Grampians, filled with tents and caravans and people in hiking gear (and there was me in my dungarees, fluffy cardi and a fedora – eye roll) and we wanted to explore, so we ended up on an accidental hike up a mountain. Yep, I did a 7km hike up a mountain in dungarees. By the time we reached the top we were literally climbing rocks on our hands and knees and I swear I thought I was going to die, but it was pretty spectacular once we got our breath back.
It was getting late once we’d done our hike so we didn’t have enough time to go and see Mackenzie falls, which are supposed to be amazing but we didn’t want to risk driving around the mountains in the dark.
We drove onto our next stop for the night, in the absolute middle of nowhere. I kid you not, there was not even lines on the road and we had to turn around four time before we spotted the scary drive up an off road pathway to our next Air Bnb. As the car wheel span up the drive and we managed to make our way into the house, it was actually really gorgeous – but our dreams of an Uber eats pizza were quickly dashed as the nearest delivery place was 30 miles away. Hmph.
For our final trip, we headed to the town of Daylesford, a gorgeous little spa town (though no time for massages for us, boo) that was buzzing with tourists and brunch spots. Just a nice little place to stop for lunch on the way home – we had pizza obvs and then wandered around the town for a little while before the couple hour drive home! Boo.