14 Highlights on the Great Ocean Road & Itineraries

We were really excited to get to the Great Ocean Road for amazing views and beautiful photo opportunities. During our three months in Australia, the GOR was one of our favorite places and we were able to capture some incredible moments. Packed with amazing views, desolate beaches, stunning rock formations, waterfalls, and even Koalas, it should be on the bucket list. The Great Ocean Road is easily accessible from Melbourne, only a few hours drive. We came from Adelaide, an alternative option on a long road trip. Whether coming for three days or seven days our itinerary suggestions will hit all the attractions. The Great Ocean Road is one of the more memorable places to visit in Australia. These are our top 14 highlights.

 

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The 12 Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Victoria

 

 

14 Best Highlights on the Great Ocean Road

 

 

1. Twelve Apostles

One of the most iconic coastlines in Australia, the Twelve Apostles are incredible to see. Although you will most likely be sharing this beautiful experience with a few hundred of your closest friends it is absolutely worth it. Because we were super excited to photograph these giants we went to two sunrises and two sunsets. With limited time, try to go for sunset.

Sunrise at the Twelve Apostles

It is best to arrive 45-minutes prior to sunrise. During the peak season (summer), the crowds are large, so even earlier if possible. My preferred location for sunrise was all the way at the end of the viewpoint. There is a small area enough for 5-6 tripods on each side. One view is of the Twelve Apostles, and turning around presents an entirely different view of Gog and Magog towards the Gibson Steps.

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A cloudy sunrise at the Twelve Apostles

 

Sunset at the Twelve Apostles

Sunset is the most popular time at the Twelve Apostles, so be prepared for the masses. It is best to show up 1-2 hours early to get a tripod set up with the preferred view. The same location I preferred for sunrise is a splendid sunset spot as well. I would start there until the shadows of the cliff became quite dark. Another great spot is the very first viewpoint. This is the most popular view of the Twelve Apostles.

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Twelve Apostles before sunset

 

2. Gibson Steps – Gog and Magog

Located beside the Twelve Apostles, the Gibson Steps are stairs leading down to a beach beside cliffs with beautiful rock formations. The rock formations at this beach are known as Gog and Magog. These two rock structures are also seen from the Twelve Apostles viewpoint. Access to the beach is best at low tide when it is possible to walk towards Gog and Magog and pass around the corner to the next beach. The photo opportunities are bountiful but beware of tides. This beach gets overtaken by ocean swells crashing into the cliffs. Gog and Magog were one of my favorite places to shoot. We went twice, once for sunrise and again in the early morning after shooting the Twelve Apostles, both at low tide.

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Gog and Magog, Gibson Steps

 

3. Loch Ard Gorge

Another goodie on the Great Ocean Road is Loch Ard Gorge. The photo opportunities are endless, with an impressive location by the walkway heading down to the beach. The beach is nice to explore and has a cave on one side. From the Loch Ard Gorge parking area, the pathway continues down the coast for a short walk to several other viewpoints, including the Island Arch and the Razorback. This is one of the best spots and hits several brilliant viewpoints all at one location.

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Loch Ard Gorge, Great Ocean Road, Victoria

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The Island Arch

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Viewpoint at the Razorback

 

4. London Arch

The London Arch, formerly known as the London Bridge, is a popular stop on the Great Ocean Road. The arch was once connected but collapsed in 1990. There are three viewpoints of the arch, all short walking distances from the parking area. The London Arch is a wonderful sunrise location.

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The London Arch, Great Ocean Road

 

5. The Grotto

Located next to the London Arch, the Grotto is a sinkhole that has been carved out by the sea creating a unique arch. Steps lead down to the bottom of the sinkhole for a view of an arch with the sea behind it. It is best to come during low tide when the arch is fully visible with a small tide pool.

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Tide Pool at the Grotto

 

6. The Bakers Oven

For an impressive stop that will have little to no crowds, check out the Bakers Oven. This large rock structure has a small arch in the middle with water streaming down the side. While not as popular as other stops, the Bakers Oven is still really beautiful. A walking path from the parking area is great to explore the surrounding coastal area.

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The Bakers Oven

 

7. Bay of Islands

Just past Peterborough is the Bay of Islands. This is a large bay with dozens of eroded rock structures. There are walking trails to several different lookouts all providing a unique view. The Bay of Islands is beyond where tour buses typically go, but this is a good stop before turning back towards Port Campbell or continuing on to Warrnambool.

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One of the lookouts at Bay of Islands

8. Worm Bay

Worm Bay is a scenic beach with island rock formations in the distance. With some downtime, this would be a good option to relax on a quiet beach.

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Wandering at Worm Bay

 

9. Hopetoun Falls

One of my favorite waterfalls in Australia was Hopetoun Falls. The Great Ocean Road has an inland stretch passing around the remote area around Cape Otway. Hopetoun Falls is a detour off the GOR to the town of Beech Forest. There is a turnoff to Hopetoun Falls as well as Beauchamp Falls, a 10-minute drive. A short walk down leads to a viewpoint of the waterfall. For the best views, hop over the railings at the viewpoint and a trail leads to the base of the waterfall.

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Hopetoun Falls

 

10. Beauchamp Falls

Another picturesque waterfall, Beauchamp Falls, is 10 minutes from Hopetoun Falls. There is a free campground located here and a walking trail to the falls. The path is an easy 3 km walk, a 1.5-hour return.

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Beauchamp Falls, a one and half hour walk

 

11. Drive Between Lorne and Apollo Bay

This stretch between Lorne and Apollo Bay is the best scenic stretch of the Great Ocean Road for driving. Almost the entire drive is directly on the coast with stunning views. There are a few spots to pull over and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. In the middle of the drive, stop at the Kennett River for a chance to see some wild Koalas.

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Great Ocean Road near Lorne

 

12. Kennett River Koalas

Halfway between Lorne and Apollo Bay is the small town of Kennett River. Dozens of beautiful exotic birds are residents here. Purchase bird food at the general store and watch them flock to you and be prepared for them to get up and personal. Then drive up the Grey River Road for 5-10 minutes. Koalas live in the eucalyptus trees and can be found dozing off in their half-drunken stupor. Apparently eating all that eucalyptus makes them very sluggish. Drive slow and spot them in the trees, or park the car and take a walk around. We spotted 5 koalas all within 10 minutes from the main road.

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Koalas at Kennett River

 

13. Split Point Lighthouse

The Split Point Lighthouse was our first stop on the Great Ocean Road. It is a short drive off the highway into a parking area. It is a 10-minute walk to the lighthouse. Past the lighthouse is two pathways to scenic lookouts.

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Overlook at Split Point Lighthouse

 

14. Lorne Pier

Located behind the Lorne Pier Seafood Restaurant, the Lorne Pier is a very long jetty that is perfect for black and white photography and long exposure shots. This is a great location for sunrise or sunset, but it is worth the stop for a quick photo any time of day.

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The Lorne Pier

 

3-Day Itinerary Suggestion: Standard Tourist Route

Day 1: Melbourne to Port Campbell National Park, 300 km

For those short on time or making a weekend trip from Melbourne, three days is enough to see all the major highlights. It will be a little rushed, so some stops may need to be cut out due to time. Head out of Melbourne on the M1 to Geelong and onwards to Bells Beach. This is the start of the Great Ocean Road. Drive down to the small town of Kennett River for a quick stop to spot Koalas. Continue towards Apollo Bay, and drive inland on C119 to Hopetoun Falls. After witnessing one of the best waterfalls in Australia, drive to the Twelve Apostles Visitor Center. Stay for sunset at one of the most remarkable locations in Australia. The total driving time is around 5 hours.

Budget Stay: Camp at Princetown Recreation Reserve with unpowered $20 / powered $25 for two people and $5 per person after that. Port Campbell Hostel has dorms starting from $34.

Mid-Range StaySummers Rest Unit Apartments has 1-bed and 2-bed apartments from $100 to $150.

 

Day 2: Explore Port Campbell National Park, ~50 km

Today is a full day of exploring the best of the Great Ocean Road. All stops are in Port Campbell National Park, a 30 km stretch. Start early for sunrise at the Twelve Apostles. Make sure to look up when it is low tide to visit the Gibson Steps and to walk along the beach for the best views of Gog and Magog. Make sure to hit all the best stops including Bakers Oven, London Arch, The Grotto, Bay of Islands, and finish with sunset at Loch Ard Gorge.

Budget Stay: Camp at Princetown Recreation Reserve with unpowered $20 / powered $25 for two people and $5 per person after that. Port Campbell Hostel has dorms starting from $34.

Mid-Range StaySummers Rest Unit Apartments has 1-bed and 2-bed apartments from $100 to $150.

 

Day 3: Port Campbell National Park to Melbourne, 300 km

Finish off the visit at Port Campbell National Park with one last sunrise. If it is low tide in the morning, Gog and Magog (Gibson Steps) is a great location, otherwise, check out the London Arch. Return to Melbourne to complete an epic 3-day trip.

Budget Stay: Greenhouse Backpacker is located in CBD with dorms for $28 and private rooms for $65.

Mid-Range Stay: Ibis Melbourne Little Bourke Street Hotel is located in CBD with rooms for $100.

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Aerial View of the Great Ocean Road Coastline

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Princes Pier, Melbourne

 

7-Day Itinerary Suggestion: A Photographers Journey

Day 1: Melbourne to Lorne, 150 km

After kicking it back and sipping on some delicious coffee in Melbourne, check out the Princes Pier in Port Melbourne before driving down the coast to Bells Beach. Stop at the famous surf break before getting back on the road. The Great Ocean Road has officially started and gets more scenic as the day goes on. Have a quick break at the Split Point Lighthouse and then stop at Teddy’s Lookout in Lorne. After soaking in the views, watch the sunset from the Lorne Pier.

Budget Stay: Sharps Camping Area is a free campsite in the forest a few minutes from Lorne.

Mid-Range Stay: The Grand Pacific Hotel & Apartments has double rooms for $135 or stay at one of the several Airbnb options such as this 2-bed apartment for $85.

 

Day 2: Lorne to Beauchamp Falls, 100 km

The drive between Lorne and Apollo Bay is the best stretch of the Great Ocean Road. Take in the scenery, as most of it is directly along the coast. There are a few pullouts to enjoy the views. Halfway to Apollo Bay is the small town of Kennett River. Drive up the Grey River Road to see Koalas in the wild. Continue on to Apollo Bay, a large sweeping bay that is a great place for lunch. After filling up on some fish and chips or fresh seafood, drive to Hopetoun Falls. This is one my favorite waterfalls in Australia. The walk to the viewpoint is only 5 minutes, but it is best to get your feet wet by the base of the falls. From here it is a short drive to Beauchamp Falls campground. Set up for the evening, and with enough time before sunset, walk the hour and a half return to Beauchamp Falls. If short on time, check out the waterfall first thing in the morning.

Budget Stay: Beauchamp Falls campground, free

 

Day 3: Beauchamp Falls to Princetown / Port Campbell, 130 km

Rather than driving back to Beech Forest, drive south through the forests in Cape Otway National Park to the Cape Otway Lightstation. This road is not suitable for big trailers, especially after rain. This lighthouse is a beauty, along with a rocky coastal area in Victoria. After spending some time exploring the lighthouse, drive to the Twelve Apostles. You made it to the best part of the Great Ocean Road! Check out the Gibson Steps and the Twelve Apostles for sunset.

Budget Stay: Camp at Princetown Recreation Reserve with unpowered $20 / powered $25 for two people and $5 per person after that. Port Campbell Hostel has dorms starting from $34.

Mid-Range StaySummers Rest Unit Apartments has 1-bed and 2-bed apartments from $100 to $150.

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View of Gog & Magog

 

Day 4 – 6: Port Campbell National Park & Vicinity, ~300 km

The next three days are all about exploring the best highlights of the Great Ocean Road as well as some nice attractions within the vicinity. Plan all sunrise and sunset shots with the best locations at the Twelve Apostles, Gog and Magog (during low tide), Loch Ard Gorge, Island Arch, London Arch, and the Bay of Islands. In between those sunrise and sunset shots, make sure to check out all the other recommended stops.

In addition to the viewpoints and walking areas around Port Campbell National Park, there are some great stops in the vicinity to break up some time. Apostle Whey Cheesery, Timboon Fine Ice Cream, the Timboon Distillery, the Princetown Wetlands Boardwalk, as well as Warrnambool are all worth a visit. In Warrnambool, Logans Beach is great for whale watching and Thunder Point is a rocky coastal area great for long exposure ocean shots.

Budget Stay: Camp at Princetown Recreation Reserve with unpowered $20 / powered $25 for two people and $5 per person after that. Port Campbell Hostel has dorms starting from $34.

Mid-Range StaySummers Rest Unit Apartments has 1-bed and 2-bed apartments from $100 to $150.

 

Day 7: Return to Melbourne or Continue to Adelaide

From Port Campbell, the Great Ocean Road is complete. From here either return to Melbourne or continue into South Australia. If heading towards Adelaide, don’t miss the Grampians. They have some notable day hikes and some wonderful waterfalls to explore.

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Overhead views of the Great Ocean Road

 

 

Tips for the Great Ocean Road

  • There is no free camping anywhere near the 12 Apostles. The closest place is 45 minutes away at Beauchamp Falls.

  • Drive very careful around sunrise/sunset times and in the middle of the night. There are a lot of wallabies and kangaroos in this area.

  • The 12 Apostles can get very busy, especially at sunset. I recommend arriving 2 hours before sunset to get a good spot to set up a tripod. I would arrive 45 minutes before sunrise.

  • The beach directly in front of Gog and Magog (Gibson Steps) is only accessible at the absolute low tide.

 

Apps

There are two useful apps to download before heading to Australia. Campermate is a free app that provides information on campsites, things to see, petrol, and lots more. WikiCamps Australia is paid app that has tons of information and user comments. The comments can be downloaded so they are available offline. WikiCamps is great for its extensive list of campsites and comments to help provide information and suggestions. It is a one-time cost of $7.99 AUD.

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Exploring the beach at Gibson Steps

 

Things to Do in Melbourne

  • Check out all the cafes and graffiti near Flinders Lane

  • Get a skyline picture on the South Yarra River

  • Visit the State Library of Victoria

  • Brighton Beach huts

  • Walk the St Kilda Pier

  • Watch the sunset from the Princes Pier

  • Day trip to Phillip Island (hike the Pinnacles overlook)

  • Explore the Mornington Peninsula (Cape Schanck, Portsea, wineries)

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The Pinnacles on Phillip Island, 2 hours from Melbourne

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State Library of Victoria in Melbourne

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Flinders Lane in Downtown Melbourne

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Cape Schanck, an hour and a half drive from Melbourne

 

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Visited in November 2017.

 

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