Australia’s Great Ocean Road by car, a road trip itinerary in Australia.
510 kilometers (320 miles) in total
Tags: Travel guide, Scenic Road, Australia, Short Distance
Drive down one of the most scenic roads on the planet. The Great Ocean Road will take you along the dramatic coast of Western Victoria, located in South Australia. Experience the surf culture, fly in a World War 2 airplane, spot koala bears and admire spectacular natural wonders. This Australia road trip truly has it all!
This travel guide takes you on a South Australia trip starting in Melbourne. Drive southwest until you get to Torquay, the country’s surfing capital.
Catch the waves at Bells Beach and hop on the Great Ocean Road to Apollo Bay through Lorne and Kennett River, where you might just spot furry koala bears.
Next, make your way to the spectacular limestone pillars named the Twelve Apostles. After a helicopter tour of the coast, drive inland across volcanic landscapes until you get to Colac, a quiet countryside town. Relax at the lakes, climb the Red Rock for the best view and head back to Melbourne.
Without a doubt, this is one of the best road trips in Australia you can take.
Before setting off on your South Australia road trip, take a look at some of the essential information listed below.
The total driving distance of this South Australia road trip is around 500 kilometers (310 miles) and can be covered in two days, with one overnight stop in Apollo Bay.
Of course, if you want to thoroughly explore each town consider adding extra overnight stops in Torquay and Colac.
Personally, I found one overnight stop to be sufficient for this trip.
Keep in mind that the seasons in Australia are switched (Summer is between December and February).
It’s best to go to South Australia right before the summer or directly after it finishes, when the weather is still warm enough to swim in the ocean, yet the crowds are smaller compared to the summer when the tourist season peaks.
Go during the Easter Weekend if you’re planning to attend the Rip Curl surfing championship in Bells Beach near Torquay.
Your Australian road trip doesn’t have to finish after driving down the Great Ocean Road. Why not see the East Coast of Australia, too?
In fact, Rentalmoose recommends adding a few extra days to drive up Princes Highway all the way to Sydney in New South Wales. That way, you can see the spectacular East Coast of Australia.
Admire more of the spectacular natural beauty in New South Wales, enjoy whale watching tours or lap a racetrack.
There are plenty of attractions waiting for you, click here for our Sydney to Melbourne travel guide and extend your road trip to see the East Coast.
A rental car is the definite go-to means of transport for this trip. The Great Ocean Road is considered one of the absolute best scenic driving roads in the entire world, providing absolutely spectacular views practically anywhere along the way.
Road trips in Australia are great, you will find yourself stopping at overlooks and pullouts practically nonstop along the spectacular coastal roads.
There are various viewpoints where you can stop that would have been impossible to access without a car. Not to mention the ability to alter your itinerary, detour or extend the trip whenever you please, which is only possible when traveling by car. The best way to see Australia is during road trips by car.
For extra peace of mind during your road trip, Rentalmoose recommends adding excess coverage when booking your rental car.
Once you’ve picked up the car, don’t forget to take photos of the car to qualify for a 50% discount from the excess coverage fee.
Yes! You can drive with your foreign driver’s license for up to 3 months in Australia, as long as it’s in English. If your driver’s license is not in English, you need to obtain an International Driving Permit prior to leaving.
Where can you get an International Driving Permit? How long is it valid for? Check out this blog post on International Driving Permits that answers any questions you might have about this document.
The traffic laws in Australia are strictly enforced. Driving under influence is completely unacceptable and can land the offender in jail.
In terms of speeding penalties, the Department of Transport and Main Roads claims that the average speeding ticket is $210, which equals just below 130 euros. Going less than 13km/h over the limit will cost you $177 (105 EUR).
Traffic in Australia is on the left-hand side of the road.
Now that you’re all set, it’s time to jump into this exciting South Australia road trip itinerary!
Photography by Alf Scalise.
Welcome to one of the largest cities in the country and the capital of Victoria, Melbourne! Melbourne is a great starting point for different road trips in Australia.
The vivid city is known for its cultural scene, multicultural diversity, vibrant nightlife, and trendy vibe. Pick up your car directly from Melbourne Airport and begin exploring this fascinating city.
Observe the daily life of Melbourne at Queen Victoria Market. Wander around the busy stalls selling anything from fresh produce to antiques and precious collectibles, all while catching a glimpse of the historical venue.
COVID-19 Update: The Winter Night Market may return in June 2021.
If you’re in town around the summer, attend the seasonal Night Market held every Wednesday from 5 PM onwards.
Queen Victoria Market is open until 3 PM on weekdays and 4 PM on weekends, closed on Mondays and Wednesdays.
A car park is available along Queen Street between Therry and Victoria streets.
Melbourne is packed with cool laneways and shopping arcades lined with local bars, restaurants, and shops, all of which are just begging to be explored.
No matter which laneway you stumble upon, you will experience the trendy vibe of Melbourne.
Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens.
Stroll down the colorful gardens, admire the diverse and exotic flora or go for a picnic in the vibrant green lawn. In the summer, catch a movie at the outdoor cinema or dive into the local art scene when you examine pieces at an outdoor exhibition.
Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens are open daily between 7:30 AM and 6:30 PM.
Admission to the gardens is free.
Looking for more attractions in Melbourne? Check out the Sydney to Melbourne Travel Guide, where I highlight some of the best Greek cuisine in town as well as Melbourne’s best hotspot for art lovers.
Melbourne will surely keep you busy for a few days, that’s why Rentalmoose recommends spending at least one night in town before setting off on your road trip.
Luxury seekers should consider spending the night at the 5-star Park Hyatt Melbourne. The elegant hotel offers over 200 stylish rooms and suites overlooking Fitzroy Gardens, as well as luxurious amenities such as an indoor pool and a spa and wellness center. The hotel’s location in the heart of Melbourne makes it the perfect spot to set out and explore the city. A private car park is available at an extra cost.
If you’re looking for a hotel that offers panoramic views and luxurious facilities without breaking the bank, consider checking into the Imagine Marco Hotel.
The resort features modern serviced apartments with panoramic city views, a convenient location near the city center and extra amenities such as an outdoor pool and barbecue equipment.
A private car park is available at an extra cost.
Next on your Australia road trip: Torquay, 1 hour 20 minutes
Your first stop is a coastal town around an hour west of Melbourne. Torquay is one of the country’s hotspots for surfing, and the watersport culture has become a crucial part of the local heritage. It is also the beginning of the Great Ocean Road.
Torquay is known as the country’s capital of surfing, be sure to pay a visit to the Australian National Surfing Museum. Discover the history of Australia’s surfing and beach culture, examine historical surfboards or walk down the Hall of Fame.
The museum is open between 9 AM and 5 PM all week. Admission costs below $15 AUD (8.4 EUR).
Adrenaline junkies should go to Torquay Airport, where they can book thrilling Adventure Flights over the coast in a vintage WW2 open-cockpit airplane.
Admire the coast from above or get spun around during an aerobatic flight. No matter which flight you pick, it will surely be an unforgettable experience.
Browse through available packages on the Adventure Flights website.
Head out of Torquay and continue along the coast. After just a couple of kilometers, you will reach the famous Bells Beach.
The beach is a well-known surfing spot, if you’re an experienced surfer you will absolutely love it. The beach is surrounded by cliffs, providing a spectacular backdrop to admire.
Visit Bells Beach during the Easter weekend when the Rip Curl Pro surfing event takes place and spectate as the world’s best surfers ride the enormous waves.
Next: Lorne, 50 minutes
Drive along the absolutely breathtaking Great Ocean Road, there are plenty of lookouts on the way where you can carefully watch the dramatic coastline.
After around 40 minutes, you will reach the seaside town of Lorne. This tiny town only has around a thousand inhabitants, but during the peak of the tourist season those numbers rise up to over ten thousand.
Guests can feel the ocean breeze at the outdoor seating area or listen to live music on weekend nights.
Open daily from 12:30 PM.
As you drive out of Lorne and get back on the Great Ocean Road, be sure to drop by Teddy’s Lookout.
The viewpoint offers panoramic views of the dramatic coastline, the turquoise ocean and Lorne’s Scenic beach. Drop your car off at the nearby car park and hike for just a couple of minutes to the viewpoint itself.
Next on your Australia road trip: Kennett River, 30 minutes
Continue along the Great Ocean Road for another half hour until you reach Kennett River. Although not the biggest town along the coast, the area is a popular stop among tourists for one specific reason: wild koala bears.
Spotting wild koala bears is, much like seeing kangaroos, an absolute must if you’re planning one of the best road trips in Australia.
Kennett River is the best place along the Great Ocean Road where tourists can spot koala bears in the wild. The region’s large population of furry koalas can be spotted just a hike away from the main road.
Stroll down the Grey River Road, walk across the Manna Gum forest as the bears will likely be sleeping up in the gum trees. What’s more, the forest is packed with all kinds of exotic birds and colorful parrots that are worth mentioning as well.
Continue up the Grey River Road, after roughly 5 kilometers you will reach a scenic picnic ground in the Grey River Reserve. The grounds are equipped with wooden barbecues where you can grill your meat.
Keep an eye on the nearby trees, you might spot more furry koalas! The picnic ground itself is often visited by fascinating wildlife, get ready for unique encounters.
Relax after the hike at Kafe Koala, a local cafe near the coast and just off the Great Ocean Road. Enjoy freshly-made delicacies, an affordable and tasty lunch, or an aromatic coffee in the colorful outdoor garden frequently visited by exotic parrots.
Open all week from 7 AM to 7 PM.
Next on your Australia road trip: Apollo Bay, 30 minutes
Follow the twists and turns of the Great Ocean Road for another 30 minutes until you reach Apollo Bay, the final stop for the day.
Hikers will surely enjoy their stay here, as Apollo Bay is the beginning point of the 91-kilometer Great Ocean Walk. The trail leads all the way to the monumental 12 Apostles and takes hikers across sandy beaches, bushlands, and rainforests with spectacular views at every step of the way.
Those who want to experience the walk without dedicating 6 days to hike the entire trail can try out shorter segments.
Be sure to drop by the Cape Otway Lightstation. The station was built back in 1848 and remains the oldest surviving lighthouse in all of Australia.
Learn about the lighthouse’s fascinating history, including why it was named “The Beacon of Hope”, during a daily history talk at 11 AM, 2 PM and 4 PM.
Then, photograph the spectacular views of the ocean from atop the tower.
Book your tickets online right here.
The tower is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM.
Before you decide to call it a day, go to La Bimba for dinner. The restaurant strongly supports local produce, essentially anything on the menu is locally-sourced, freshly-prepared and absolutely delicious.
La Bimba serves dinner from 6 PM to 9 PM, closed on Tuesdays.
Spend the night at the beachfront Seafarers Getaway. The beachfront resort features 20 lodges and units with spectacular ocean views, an outdoor deck, barbecue facilities, and beach access. The convenient location right by the Great Ocean Road is worth mentioning, too. Plus, a free car park.
When you stay in Apollo Bay, you can enjoy the perks of a beachfront location without breaking the bank.
Travelers on a budget should check-in at the Apollo Bay Waterfront Motor Inn, a beachfront resort that features oceanview rooms and villas. A car park is available at no extra charge.
Next on your Australia road trip: Twelve Apostles, 1 hour 20 minutes
Make your way down the Great Ocean Road for a little over an hour until you reach the main highlight of any road trip in Australia, the magnificent Twelve Apostles.
The natural wonder is best admired during the sunrise and sunset when the dramatic light adds to an even more magical experience. During that time you might be able to spot little penguins as well, if you’re lucky.
Admire the Apostles from the main viewing platform and observe as the water crashes into the massive limestone pillars. Some travelers might be surprised when they start counting the Apostles, as only eight of the pillars remain today.
Photographers looking to get the perfect shot will be happy to hear that the viewing platform can be visited nonstop 365 days per year. Admission is free of charge.
Get a view from above during a scenic helicopter tour. Head to the heliport near the Twelve Apostles Visitor Centre just across the road from the viewing platform and book your sightseeing helicopter flight.
Guests can choose from a selection of different packages that vary in flight length, the longer tours offer more sightseeing opportunities along the coast such as the Otway Lightstation or the Moonlight Head. Check the official website and book your unforgettable tour.
As you continue along the Great Ocean Road, stop for lunch at 12 Rocks in Port Campbell, just 10 minutes from the Twelve Apostles.
The family-run bar offers some delicious meals made from local ingredients, a cozy and welcoming atmosphere, and panoramic views of the Port Campbell Foreshore.
Open daily from 9:30 AM, lunch service begins at noon.
Don’t miss some out on some of the other landmarks around the Twelve Apostles, such as the famous London Bridge.
Drive a few minutes west of Port Campbell to see the monumental landmark. Originally a natural bridge connected to the mainland, the London Bridge collapsed in 1990. In effect, two tourists were stranded on the just-formed island and had to be rescued by air.
Photograph the formation from the viewing platform 24 hours per day, all year. Admission is free of charge.
Next on your road trip in Australia: Colac, 1 hour
Photograph from Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons.
Get off the Great Ocean Road and head inland on your way back to Melbourne. This part of the journey, although not as dramatic as the coastal road, is a fascinating look inside the Victorian countryside among volcanic plains and lakes.
Alternatively, you can travel back to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road once again and revisit some of your favorite attractions along the coast.
Colac, a small town around 150 kilometers south-west of Melbourne, is known as “the gateway to the Otways” surrounded by volcanic landscapes.
Be sure to visit Lake Corangamite, the largest salt-water lake in the country. The natural setting is completely different from the dramatic coastline along the Great Ocean Road, hence it is definitely worth a visit for the total change of scenery. Admire the views, observe as local fishermen try to catch fish or go for a dip in the lake.
Admire the panoramic view of 30 volcano crater lakes from the Red Rock Scenic Lookout. The green lake-filled landscape makes for a perfect backdrop for photos. There are also BBQ facilities and a children’s playground near the lookout, where you can unwind before continuing on to Melbourne.
Post your pictures from the lookout with #Rentalmoose for a chance to win a rental car free of charge! Click here for details! The lookout is open to the public 24 hours a day, there is no admission cost.
Relax at Lake Colac, a large lake right by the town itself. The lake is the center for fishing and water activities of all kinds. Swim in the lake (the average depth is below 2.5 meters), sunbathe on the shore or have a go at fishing. The shore near the town is the busiest, head away from Colac to find more secluded parts of the lake.
Wander around the vibrant Colac Botanic Gardens. Hike down the trails, examine the colorful flora or have a picnic in the green lawns. Take your kids to the local playground, spend time with friends at the barbecue area near the east end of the gardens or go to the local Botanic Cafe located inside the historic curator’s cottage from the 1920s.
The park is open daily between 10 AM and 4 PM.
For maximum convenience, drop your car off directly at the Melbourne Airport when leaving. Lots of car rental companies support airport drop-off, browse through available options via Rentalmoose.
Your Australian adventure doesn’t have to finish here! Extend your trip and continue along Princes Highway up to Sydney, seeing the picturesque East coast of Australia along the way. Click here for the Rentalmoose travel guide from Melbourne to Sydney.
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