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7 tips for making the most of your Great Ocean Road experience

Road and sign on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia

One of the most popular activities to do when visiting Victoria is to drive the Great Ocean Road. The 250km drive between Torquay and Warrnambool takes you through surf towns, National Parks, hippy communities, and of course to some of the popular limestone rock formations, like the Twelve Apostles and London Bridge, that has made the drive so famous.

During the last week of November my friend from our time working at an American Summer Camp Joc and I took to the road, steeling our nerves against cliff faced roads, a torrential downpour which almost left us sleeping in our car overnight, a view worth taking a photo of from around every bend, and a mind full of tips which we think will help make the most of your Great Ocean Road experience.

Admire the view over Anglesea Beach on the Great Ocean Road

1. Take time to admire the view

A lot of people rush through the Great Ocean Road – their focus set on seeing the Twelve Apostles – and fail to take time to admire the view.
Right from the beginning of the road your drive will take you along the waters edge. As you enter Anglesea the cliffs over looking the beach give you your first proper look at the coastline you’ll be driving along. Further down the road near Devil’s Elbow just before Lorne is a rest stop where you can bask in the knowledge you have completed the most difficult part of the drive – a single laned road with cliffs to one side and the ocean on the other – and looking onwards into the dense treetops of one of the many National parks.
And finally a stop at the famous wooden archway overhanging the road welcoming you to the Great Ocean Road, with memorials to the soldiers who fought for Australia in World War One.

2. Stop in the towns along the way

Along the Great Ocean Road are dozens of towns which offer different experiences for people to explore. If you like surfing head down to Torquay‘s Bell’s Beach where the annual Ripcurl Pro is held during the Easter weekend. If hiking is more your forte Anglesea provides a variety of  beach and cliff hikes which all end in beautiful views down the coast. Perhaps you are a foodie then Lorne is the place to visit with fresh seafood coming straight from the water and onto your plate at a choice of restaurants – delicious!

There’s more to the towns through; whether it be the chilled, hippy vibes of Anglesea or going fishing with the locals in Apollo Bay, by slowing your trip down not only do you get to take your time to really experience the towns and coastline you’re driving, but by stopping regularly you get to switch off and relax which allowing your mental concentration to have a break from driving which makes leads to safer driving when back on the road.

Need suggestions about what to see and do? Check out my guide to the best places to stop on the Great Ocean Road!

Split Point Lighthouse near Airey's Inlet on the Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

3. Don’t just visit the tourist spots

Sure everyone clambers to see the Twelve Apostles to take photos of the natural erosion of the limestone coastline, but there are plenty of other things to see and do.

If you’ve ever heard of the popular 90’s Australian TV show called Around the Twist you’ll want to make a stop at the Split Point Light House located outside of Airey’s Inlet as it is the one featured in every episode of the TV show. Whilst you won’t find writer Paul Jennings nor any of the cast around today you can still climb the lighthouse, have tea in the cute as can be tea house, or see the historical Bark House in one of the parks beneath the lighthouse.

Whilst still quite popular, many visitors will miss the Otway Fly Tree Top Adventure which gives you a chance to go zip-lining or take tree top walks through the Great Otway National Park. If heights aren’t your forte there are still nature walks giving you a chance to bask in the rainforest and perhaps see some local wildlife up close.

Dangerous roads on the Great Ocean Road including the Devil's Elbow

4. Don’t freak out

Yes, the Great Ocean Road is quite a dangerous road if you don’t have your wits about you. Not only is it narrow and with only one lane in many areas, but during certain months of the year – notably winter when it’s raining, and November when for a week Victorian school students make the trek down to Lorne to celebrate finishing school – the road can just be downright dangerous. (There is a growing police presence during these time of year which has made the road a lot safer from drunk drivers.)

After hearing stories of how dangerous the road could  be I decided to be smart and bought some Australian travel insurance just in case. The danger comes when you take corners to fast – the road speed is quite high despite the narrowness of the road – and you cut across the lane. Not only are there blind corners but to your left is cliff face and to the right a short drop into the ocean – there really isn’t too much room for error.

If you aren’t comfortable driving on narrow roads consider driving along the freeway which is just a few kilometres away from the Great Ocean Road. Whilst you won’t have the ocean views you will still go through much of the same scenery, including the Great Otway National Park. Another popular alternative for drivers who aren’t comfortable driving is to take a tour lead by an experienced driver.

Taking Corny photos at the Devil's Elbow on the Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

5. Take corny photos

You drove all this way so why not take photos of you ‘holding’ one of the rock stacks at the Twelve Apostles? Or surfing on one of the wooden beams overlooking the beach! Trust me even if you feel silly at the time you will look back and have a good giggle, and the people standing next to you will probably do the same thing!

Litter near the Great Ocean Road's London Bridge

6. Don’t be silly, please try to be green

The area around the Great Ocean Road is home to a number of national and state parks which are trying their best to preserve the flora and fauna of the area. As your drive between Lorne and Glen Aire you will drive through the untamed canopy’s of Ottway Ranges National Park, and as you walk to the viewing docks of all the different limestone formations you will be walking through the home of bird and small animals homes. Whilst the government, the council, and the park trustees do their best to keep the area litter free visitors to the area can do their park by simply taking their rubbish with them or putting it in the bin.

One of the endangered birds, the Plover, lives in this area and by collecting your rubbish, especially plastic, helps to prevent the birds getting caught up in it and potentially dying.

You don’t like to see other peoples rubbish when you visit a place and neither does anyone else, so please take it with you or bin it!

7. Don’t try and do it all in one day

Despite waking up in Torquay early and ready to make the drive to Warrnambool in one day we didn’t take into consideration the time we’d want to spend exploring. We hadn’t consulted a map – so we didn’t know about things like the Airey’s Inlet Lighthouse until Joc pointed it out mid-trip recalling information her Dad passed on from a trip when she was younger, and by the time we’d hit the Great Otway National Park the bad weather had begun to roll in leaving us in a predicament without seeing the Twelve Apostles and London Bridge.

We stopped in every town, and at everything that caught our eye. If you travel like this then my recommendation is to stay overnight in Apollo Bay or Port Campbell. This allows you plenty of time to explore the towns and activities in the area, as well as allowing for plenty of rest to ensure you stay safe when driving the Great Ocean Road.

Let me know in the comments…

Have you ever driven the Great Ocean Road?
What are your tips for great road trips?

Remember to pack these for your trip to Australia:

Lonely-Planet-Australia Lonely-Planet-East-Coast-Australia DK-Eyewitness-Australia North-Face-Condor Havianas-Black Vapur-Water-Bottle

Other posts about great Australian Road Trips

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38 Comments

  • Reply
    David Damen
    January 24, 2012 at 6:24 am

    The Great Ocean Road is one of my favorite drives! We set out from Melbourne and scheduled two days for it and even then found we had to rush a few stops. Another few tips:
    (1) Anglesea has an easy to find golf course with kangaroos on the greens, you can easily them without having to step out on the course itself. Great for photos.
    (2) Just outside of Warrnambool is Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve. We stayed the night at Warrnambool and got up at sunrise to go for a hike at Tower Hill. There’s tons of wildlife to see then though you have to stomach getting up so early.

    • Reply
      Nicole
      January 24, 2012 at 10:42 am

      Thanks for the extra suggestions David!

      I didn’t make it as far as Warrnambool so will have to keep that in mind when I finally make it down there. 🙂 Sounds like it would be a beautiful place to see the sunrise though!

      • Reply
        David Damen
        January 25, 2012 at 5:16 am

        You’re welcome! 🙂
        I got such good memories of that trip. If you ever head back to that part of Australia you should consider going to Kangaroo Island. We stayed there for two days and had a wonderful time.

  • Reply
    Adrian Brien Automotive
    January 24, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Very nice, I did the Great Ocean Road a few years ago with my mates, definitely one of the best read trips I’ve ever been on!

    BTW would it be ok if we refer to this article in one of our eNewsletters?

    • Reply
      Nicole
      January 29, 2012 at 1:50 pm

      It’s a great drive isn’t it! 🙂

      Yeah, feel free to refer to it in one of the eNewsletters. Would you mind sending me a link/copy or the newsletter when it’s done? Thanks!

  • Reply
    Traveling Ted
    January 24, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    These are some great tips that not only apply to the Great Ocean Road, but also all travel in general.

    • Reply
      Nicole
      January 24, 2012 at 3:26 pm

      Thanks for commenting! I agree but find it especially relevant to road trips because so many people just want to see the highlights and often miss the unique experiences because of the time constraint.

  • Reply
    Toni
    January 25, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Great tips hun…I’m definitely writing these down for when I get there and of course, I love the mention of Torquay because I live in the British version 😉

  • Reply
    Maria Alexandra @latinAbroad
    January 27, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    Gorgeous views! A road trip through it is def. on my travel bucket list! 😀

  • Reply
    Matt
    January 28, 2012 at 12:26 am

    Thanks for these great tips on exploring an amazing part of Australia!

  • Reply
    LandLopers Picks of the Week | LandLopers
    January 28, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    […] 7 tips for making the most of your Great Ocean Road experience Share this:EmailPrint Tags: top travel blog […]

  • Reply
    Ree @ Little Aussie Travellers
    February 12, 2012 at 12:12 am

    Thanks for this, we’ve spent quite a bit of time researching for our Great Ocean Road drive, and I’m glad to see we’re on the right track as far as where to stop and what to see. The GOR followed by Kangaroo Island has to pretty much be one of my DREAM holidays, so very excited to be heading off next week! Will have to stop and look at the “round the twist” lighthouse, used to watch that as a kid!

    • Reply
      Nicole
      February 12, 2012 at 1:21 pm

      Glad to hear that I could help a little bit. 🙂 There’s also a great memorial and sign hanging over the road that says ‘Great Ocean Road’ – great pit stop and really nice photos. 🙂

      Oooh Kangaroo Island huh? I’m from Adelaide and haven’t been so can’t wait to hear what you have to say about it.

      Enjoy your trip and happy driving!!!

    • Reply
      6 Robertson St, Peterborough
      September 23, 2012 at 10:33 pm

      For Nicole on your next trip, and Ree on your upcoming one – don’t miss out on the beautiful section of the Great Ocean Road betwee Port Campbell and Warrnambool, including Peterborough. The beaches are amazing and the sights (the Arch, London Bridge, Peterborough’s beautiful front beach (drive up to the monument on Irvine St), the Bay of Martyrs, Bay of Islands and Childers Cove to name a few!) are well worth a visit. Safe travels!

    • Reply
      6 Robertson St, Peterborough
      September 23, 2012 at 10:37 pm

      For your next trip Nicole, and Ree for your upcoming trip, be sure to make time for the stretch of the the Great Ocean Road between Port Campbell and Warrnambool, including Peterborough. There are some really spectacular sites along the way that are well worth a visit – The Arch, London Bridge (Arch), Peterborough’s beautiful front beach (drive up the monument at the end of Irvine St), the Bay of Martyrs, Bay of Islands and Childers Cove to name a few! Safe travels – Sally

    • Reply
      Irna Spigariol
      October 26, 2013 at 6:52 am

      My husband and I are doing this road trip in December, I had no idea about the lighthouse so must watch Around the Twist again!

  • Reply
    Si @thedepartureboard.com
    February 23, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    Hi Nicole, I love this drive, and you made some very valid points. However, I feel you forgot the most important thing. Have a superb soundtrack on the stereo! Icehouse – Great Southern Land on repeat would do the trick. Feel the shivers down your spine.

    Love the blog, kind regards, Si

    • Reply
      Irna Spigariol
      October 26, 2013 at 6:53 am

      I like that idea, I hope the rental car we are hiring has an AUX cord!

  • Reply
    Ticking off ‘The Checklist’ – Sunset on Uluru
    September 5, 2012 at 11:14 am

    […] a Toyota Echo and my best friend and I took what was one of the scariest drives of my life down the Great Ocean Road, and I’m about to do it again; but I’d all but forgotten the other items I needed to […]

  • Reply
    Greg
    September 5, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    Great advice there in not trying to do the Great Ocean Road all in one day. There is a lot to see and you need time to relax. There are great cafes, empty and secluded beaches, the Great Ocean Walk. Have a look at the iPhone App to see how much there is to do.

  • Reply
    Sofie
    November 23, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    Wow I’d never heard of this! I’m saving this page for when I finally get around to visiting Australia:-)

  • Reply
    Joe
    July 30, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    Hi Nicole, Hi everyone!
    We are planning a driving tour from Melbourne to Adelaide, of course taking the Great Ocean Road. We don’t want to rush it – realistically how much time should we plan for the trip? We are thinking either 4 or 5 days – is this about right? And which towns are best to overnight in? We are thinking of stopping in Anglesea or Lorne; Port Campbell; Portland (unless Warrnambool is recommended) and maybe Robe.

    Thanks & Cheers!
    -j

  • Reply
    Ram
    August 10, 2013 at 7:37 am

    ?I haven’t seen the place.
    i hop today

  • Reply
    Gezi Rehberi
    August 27, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    One of the best places in Australia I have ever seen, specially passing thrıugh this road early morning or around sunset, amazin view. Campervan is the best way to get best Great Ocean Road experience.

  • Reply
    Victor
    January 2, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    The Great ocean road is very spectacular and these are great tips. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Danielle
    February 4, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Hi, my partner and I are thinking of heading down to do the Great Ocean Road in April (around easter). We will be driving from Byron Bay and am wondering how much time you think we should give ourselves? We are hoping to be able to go all the way to Warrnambool and back. Any timeframes anyone could provide would be great. As well as places to stop/stay overnight (that aren’t mentioned above). Would appreciate any feedback anyone has. we are thinking of driving down slowly and then home on the highways to ensure we can get as much time heading down as possible. Love all the tips and places mentioned above! Thanks 🙂

  • Reply
    Kate
    March 9, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Hi,

    My hubby and I are planning on doing the great ocean road in the next month and we have a caravan. I was just wondering if anyone knows if the great ocean road is suitable to drive a caravan down or should we go another way?
    thanks 🙂

  • Reply
    Great Ocean Road
    May 1, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Kate, you can drive a caravan down the Great Ocean Road. There are lots of “Slow Vehicle Turnouts” that you can use to let traffic go past.

    Danielle, I would allow a few days for your trip. It is a windy road. Download our App or look at our website as well and that will show you lots of things to see along the way. The App will geolocate you as you go.

  • Reply
    Jane
    August 5, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    I used to run a small backpacker tour bus along the Ocean Road, taking 2 days and taking it as slow as possible. If you can, take 3 days or more… But, if you only have 2 days and prefer to be driven… go with ride tours.com.au . (Closed in August) They take 2 days and are clearly passionate, when I was mooching about in a backpackers in Melbourne recently, the guy on the desk quietly recommended them over any of the other 2 days companies that operate now.
    If you only have one day… don’t drive! It is over 500kms and tiring, take it from experience – I would not recommend anyone to drive in a day if they do not know the area as you may miss too much. BUT- be sure to book a small bus tour – not a big coach.

  • Reply
    louisa klimentos
    December 8, 2014 at 12:09 am

    It is nice to see such wonderful comments about the great ocean road.i have read some travel blogs ,where people have found the great ocean road underwhelming.i don’t think they spent enough time exploring the region,to appreciate it.There was a documentry called the Art of walking about three peoples experiences doing the Great Ocean walk and boy ,the beaches were beautiful.You can watch it on You tube.Ten years ago,after visiting the Grampians,we drove to the Twelve Appostles and then onto Wilsons promontory.i didn’t do all the great ocean road,but I thought it was rather nice.People have to learn to arrive at a place with no expectations,because if you picture a place in your mind and find it was not what you thought it would be ,then you will be disappointed.Thanks for your posative thougts on the great Ocean Road.

  • Reply
    Emma
    January 28, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    Thank you for the great blog! I am planning on setting off on the Friday evening and returning to Melbourne on the sunday! Where are the best two places to stop?

    Thanks 🙂

    • Reply
      Nicole
      January 28, 2015 at 2:48 pm

      Exciting news Emma!

      It really depends on what you want to see but you should have time to stop at all the highlights along the way.
      I really enjoy Torquay – because I’ve spent a lot of time there – and Apollo Bay; but Warrnambool is a bigger city and well worth exploring.

      To help you decide where to stop check out my Great Ocean Road Guide.

      • Reply
        Emma
        January 28, 2015 at 2:51 pm

        Thanks so much for the reply! I have decided to book anglesea for the Friday night and drive through to Warrnambool for Saturday night! Its for my boyfriend’s birthday so I hope he loves it! and I will check out your guide for sure!!

        x

  • Reply
    Lehia
    July 21, 2015 at 11:22 am

    Some great tips there – looks like you had an amazing road trip!

  • Reply
    Mable Rose
    October 12, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    Amazing article! 🙂 Great photos! I love your tips. Taking time to admire the view is the most important thing. It doesn`t matter if you are in a hurry. I have always wanted to move to some place like this. Best regards!

  • Reply
    LAURIE MAC KINNON
    February 14, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    could i have the dimentions of the lighthouse for the purpose of building a scale model please . laurence mackinnon 8 pethajohn pde grovedale. 3216.

  • Reply
    Ray
    March 14, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    Thanks for the tips! I just moved to Melbourne and been here a couple months. A friend from Texas is visiting and reading this article got me even more excited for the roadtrip in a couple days!!

    Thanks again!!

  • Reply
    Gezi
    January 17, 2017 at 12:16 am

    Some great tips there. Thanks for helping my next trip.

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