It is possible to do a full day tour from Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road, but the best way to experience it in all its glory is by visiting it over a number of days, whether that be by doing a self-drive or guided tour.
When people think of this magnificent road trip, often the first thing that comes to mind are The Twelve Apostles. These giant limestone pillars, which have been shaped by the elements over the last 10 to 20 million years, are located roughly 4.5 hours from Melbourne and are a highlight of the whole journey. You can admire them from a viewing platform, walking along the boardwalk, or for something extra special, taking a helicopter flight and getting a birds eye view. The best time to visit the Twelve Apostles is at sunrise or sunset, when you may also see little penguins and the crowds are nowhere to be seen.
In addition to the Twelve Apostles, Loch and Gorge, the Grotto, the Arch and London Bridge are all sites that shouldn’t be missed. If you’re keen to get your feet wet, walk down the 86 Gibson Steps to the beach that is backed by 70 metre cliffs.
Short and Sweet
If you have limited time in Melbourne and only have one day to experience the Great Ocean Road, we strongly recommend joining an organised day tour. This saves you from having to focus for extended periods on the road, and allows you to just soak up the stunning scenery.
You will depart from the city centre around 8:00am and return roughly 12 hours later. You will stop at the quaint townships of Lorne, home to the famous Pier to Pub swim, Apollo Bay, and the fishing village of Port Campbell. You’ll also explore lush native rainforest towering with eucalyptus trees, home to the much-loved Koala, and dense ferns at Otway National Park. Speak to your travel specialist about what your options are to add this to your itinerary today!
The Scenic Route
If you have a bit more time, doing a multi-day group tour will allow you to take your time stopping along the way at the aforementioned townships at a leisurely pace. As you make your way through ancient eucalyptus forests, you will have the opportunity to see koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas and many exotic birds, and with the help of your experienced guide, you’ll know exactly where to look!
The longer tours also mean that you can head to the Twelve Apostles first thing in the morning on day 2, when most of the crowds are still en route from Melbourne. We highly recommend tacking on a third day to your journey and visiting Grampians National Park, giving you the ultimate beach and bush experience. There are also tours that travel from Adelaide to Melbourne.
If a self-drive experience is what you are after, consider our Great Ocean Road Classic 5 Day package. This package gives you the chance to immerse yourself in the Australian way of life and spend some extra time in beautiful villages popular amongst locals. From Apollo Bay to Port Fairy, you’ll uncover the history of these fishing ports found along Victoria’s famous Shipwreck Coast.
Port Fairy is one of the busiest fishing ports in Victoria; if you walk down to the local port, you can watch as the fishermen unload their catch of crayfish or abalone. For a new experience, consider joining a surf lesson or test your balance on a stand up paddle board. With a rich maritime history and some beautiful examples of 19th century architecture, Port Fairy is a wonderful addition to your Australia self-drive holiday.
Grampians National Park, included in our 8 Day Great Ocean Road & Grampians Escape, is home to a series of rugged mountain ranges with spectacular flora and fauna, native wildlife, and Aboriginal rock art. Whether walking or paddling, riding or driving, the outdoor enthusiast will be in awe of the clear lakes, lush bush and friendly kangaroos.
When to go
Regardless of how you choose to experience the Great Ocean Road, you will want to consider the time of year you’d like to visit. The most popular time to visit is in the peak of summer, between December and February. If you’re looking for slightly quieter periods, consider travelling in the spring, between September and November. The days are getting longer, the weather is warming up, and the spring bloom is in full force. If you are going to Otway National Park during this time, the waterfalls are teeming with runoff from the winter - all making for sensational views.
Lastly, if you’re happy to plan your trip to Australia during the winter season, you’ll avoid crowds altogether and find better rates across accommodations and often activities. Another bonus of this time of year is that you may get to witness whales on their migration! That being said, you’ll need to remember that the days are shorter, the weather will be cooler and potentially a tad wet.
From East to West or West to East?
If you’re only going to do the drive in one direction, do it from East to West; this means that the views will always be on your left, leaving them unimpeded. Remember to be mindful of speed traps along the way - it is quite easy to lose track of how fast you’re travelling and fines can be pretty significant! If you do get a ticket, you will have to pay it on return of your rental vehicle.
The Great Ocean Road will give you a truly Australian experience and will show you some of the best sights the south coast has to offer. Speak to your travel specialist today about how you can include it in your Australian holiday!