The Great Ocean Road is widely accepted as being one of the best drives in Australia and you will encounter some of the most unique attractions in the country.
Stretching from Torquay just outside of Melbourne over 250 kilometres to Nelson, The Great Ocean Road is the stuff of travel dreams.
Beautiful beaches, incredible national parks filled with natural wonders and one stunning scenic town after another, if the Great Ocean Road isn’t on your travel to do list, it should be.
However, with so many things to do and see along the Great Ocean Road, it can be difficult to navigate your way to the most popular attractions if you’re a visitor.
The easiest way to experience this spectacular coastline is to join an organised tour from Melbourne.
8 Best Great Ocean Road Combo Tours from Melbourne
1/ Eco Tour
Enjoy all the natural attractions on the Great Ocean Road as you make your journey to the 12 Apostles.
This full day narrated tour will have frequent stops so you can experience places like Apollo Bay, Great Otway National Park, and Port Campbell National Park.
After seeing the amazing 12 Apostles, you’ll also have the opportunity to descend the famous Gibson Steps to witness panoramic ocean views on an isolated beach.
Lunch will be included on this tour and dinner is optional at the end of the day.
2/ Penguin Parade plus Melbourne Attractions Pass
Along with the Great Ocean Road, this deal includes a tour to Philip Island and a choice of a main attraction within Melbourne CBD.
Both additional offers are on separate days so you don’t have to rush.
As you make your way to the Penguin Parade on Philip Island, you’re guaranteed to see more wildlife, with stops at Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park and Koala Conservation Centre.
You’ll be able to hand feed kangaroos, take photos with koalas up close and see other popular Australian native animals.
There’ll be other highlights including Churchill Island, where you can learn about the Australian farm life, and Seal Rocks, where you can see wild seals basking in the sun.
The main attraction though is the penguin parade, where you can see the cute cuddly penguins marching onto shore at night.
Make sure you bring warm clothing as it will get very cold at night.
3/ Mornington Peninsula plus Melbourne Attractions Pass Combo
On this separate day trip to Mornington Peninsula, you’ll discover a variety of treasures hiding just 1 hour outside of Melbourne.
Your guide will take you to the famous bathing boxes, scenic beaches, and see the breathtaking views from Point Nepean National Park.
A traditional Aussie lunch will be included, before taking off to a strawberry farm or chocolate shop, depending on seasonality.
Your final stop will be at The Enchanted Adventure Garden, where you can enjoy or the outrageous slides, mazes and take photos of their beautiful garden.
4/ Wilsons Promontory plus Melbourne Attractions Pass Combo
One of Victoria’s more popular national parks is the Wilsons Promontory.
On this day trip, you’ll get to explore the luscious rainforest on a casual bushwalk and even spot a native animal or two.
You’ll witness amazing coastal scenery and hear the unique sounds of nature at Squeaky Beach.
5/ Healesville Sanctuary and Puffing Billy plus Melbourne Attractions Pass Combo
Perhaps the best option for families with young kids, you won’t go wrong on this exciting trip to Healesville Sanctuary.
First, hop on board a traditional Puffing Billy tour as the train takes you through a rainforest of Eucalyptus trees.
Hang your feet out the window and breathe in the fresh clean air and smell of Eucalyptus.
The Puffing Billy will take you towards Healesville Sanctuary where you’ll see all the native Australian animals including koalas, kangaroos, echidnas, and wombats.
Both are must visit attractions after experiencing the Great Ocean Road.
6/ Helicopter Tour
If you don’t mind spending a bit of extra money, there’s no better way than flying directly to the 12 Apostles along the coastline of Great Ocean Road.
This once in a lifetime opportunity will treat you to some of the most amazing scenic views you’ll see in your lifetime.
Treated like a VIP, a limousine or range rover will pick you up from your hotel and you’ll have some refreshments before boarding the helicopter.
You’ll be landing next to the 12 Apostles boardwalk for an inclusive lunch before flying back to Melbourne to see more of the Great Ocean Road coastline.
7/ 2-Day Camping & Surfing
The 2-day surfing tour via Great Ocean Road is a great option for young adults.
Join a small group and meet new people as you stop by a number of tranquil towns before stopping for a surf lesson at one of the coast’s most popular beaches.
Lunch and dinner will be included on day 1.
On day 2, you’ll make your way to the iconic 12 apostles and Loch Ard Gorge, then head back to Melbourne on a relaxing journey.
8/ 3-Day Great Ocean Road and Grampians
While seeing all the natural sights along the Great Ocean Road, this tour will detour to the popular Grampians for visitors to experience more of Victoria natural history.
On this 3 day tour, you’ll stop at Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Split-Point Lighthouse a few small towns including Lorne, before arriving at the highlight, the 12 Apostles.
At the Grampians, you’ll have a relaxing guided bushwalk towards Mackenzie Falls and see breathtaking views from Reeds Lookout.
Great Ocean Road Attractions
There are so many things to see and do along the Great Ocean Road, which is why we recommend a guided tour to maximise your time.
On each tour, you may come across some of the following recommended attractions.
The Great Ocean Road is among the best drives in Australia cause of its stunning views every kilometre.
Although there are literally hundreds of little details, both natural and man-made, to explore along the way, it is in many ways the drive that most impresses.
Set on the stunning Victorian coast, the Great Ocean Road is littered with scenic lookouts offering jaw-dropping views of the area’s natural beauty, as well as the visual poetry of the road.
Here are some of the best lookouts along Great Ocean Road.
This lookout is located in Lorne and is highly recommended. You’ll see stunning views of hills, St George River and the blue waters along the coast on a high platform. There is a dedicated car park for this lookout and it’s located at the end of George St.
A very steep 5-minute walk from a specified carpark (Marriners Lookout Road), the Marriners Lookout, between Lorne and Apollo Bay, offers panoramic views of Apollo Bay and far out to sea.
A stunning platform that appears to hang 70-metres above the water, the Gable is located between Apollo Bay and Warrnambool, with views to Moonlight Head.
A unique wildlife spotting opportunity, Cape Bridgewater, between Warrnambool and Nelson, is a view across Cape Bridgewater and a panoramic sight of rock formations home to 650 Australian fur seals.
Along such a glorious coastline, it’s no surprise that the Great Ocean Road is home to its fair share of amazing Australian beaches.
With a variety of patrolled and non-patrolled, calm and wild beaches, there’s opportunities for everything from rough surfing to easy swimming and snorkelling.
Swimming is usually recommended in the warmer months only, as seasonal changes can cause cold currents and rough conditions.
One of the first along the road, located in Geelong, Eastern Beach is perfect for families with a famous art deco sea-bathing complex with a swimming pool and promenade.
Parking with various facilities is also located at same site.
Perfect for both swimming and surfing, Ocean Grove is fully patrolled during the summer, and on weekends from November to Easter.
Facilities include a cafe, kiosk and parking.
Home to the Rip Curl Pro, longest running pro surfing event in the world.
Suitable for experienced surfers only, it has sandy beaches but very large swells are common as well.
There are a number of surf breaks also surrounding this beach.
A safer option for families and beginner surfers, with sandy beaches and sand dunes offering wind protection.
Lifeguards are on patrol during the summer months.
Most popular beach resort areas on the Great Ocean Road, the beach is large and sandy with some gentle surf making it safe for swimming and surfing.
Lifeguards patrol in the summer.
Large, crescent-shaped beach with good natural protection for swimming.
Apollo Bay is popular with families and patrolled in the summer only. There are some surf breaks nearby.
Along the Great Ocean Road are some of Victoria’s most impressive national parks, protecting some of the most beautiful natural settings in the area, and making them available for visitors to explore in full. These parks are spread out over the course of the Great Ocean Road journey and offer a variety of experiences and activities for potential visitors to enjoy.
Port Campbell National Park
Famed for its natural rock formations and the many walks that visitors can take along the stunning cliffs, Port Campbell National Park hosts many tourists attractions including the 12 Apostles, London Arch and Gibson Steps.
Great Otway National Park
An enormous natural space, is the home of Triplet Falls as well as a range of nature treks through the fern gullies amongst some of the world’s tallest trees.
You can enjoy a board walk through the Maits Rest Rainforest or a quiet picnic near the Cape Otway Lightstation overlooking the ocean.
Tower Hill Game Reserve
Perfect for animal lovers this unusual park (which sits on an extinct volcano) is filled with amazing Australian wildlife in a gorgeous green setting.
There are five different self guided walks for visitors to enjoy the natural scenery.
Keep an eye out for kangaroos, koalas, emus, echidnas and turtles around the volcanic crater.
Brisbane Ranges National Park
Well known for its colourful wildflower habitat, it has unique geography that makes it popular for scenic drives as well as bushwalking and camping.
There are a range of short and long bushwalks for eager adventurers.
Spend time at some of the picnic areas within the national park and see if you can spot Australian wildlife.
Of course what many people will immediately recognise about the Great Ocean Road is one of its most visited natural wonders: the Twelve Apostles.
In reality, this natural rock formation is one of a number of formations contained within the Port Campbell National Park area.
Thanks to many visitor viewpoints in the park, all of these can be experienced from ideal viewpoints and are easily accessible.
The Twelve Apostles
Famous limestone stacks just offshore that have impressed and captivated tourists for decades.
There are 8 limestone rocks left due to erosion and extreme weather conditions, with some still standing up to 50 meters high.
The ‘Twelve Apostles’ is the main highlight of the Great Ocean Road.
86 steps lead town to the beach for an experience of being tiny amidst the enormous vertical cliff, and almost within reach of two offshore limestone stacks: Gog and MaGog.
It is only a 2 minute drive from the Twelve Apostles and is generally part of the itinerary on most tours.
Loch Ard Gorge
From the cliff-top this natural opening will amaze, but in rougher seas the crashing waves are a sight to behold.
You can walk down a set of stairs and enjoy the naturally enclosed beach or even go for a swim.
Loch Ard Gorge is just a short 3-5 minute drive from the 12 Apostles and is also generally included as part of most Great Ocean Road tours.
Once known as the London Bridge, this now partially collapsed archway is a coastal wonder, located about 30 minutes from 12 Apostles.
The mid section collapsed due to natural causes in 1990, leaving 2 tourists stranded on the other side of the cliff structure.
Fortunately they were rescued and no one was harmed.
An unusual geological formation created when sinkholes in the cliff collided with the eroded cliff line, contrasting the calm waters of the Grotto with the seas.
It’s gradually formed into an archway and still resembles a cave somewhat.
Located about 13 minutes from 12 Apostles, you’ll find a convenient staircase leading visitors to the Grotto where there’s a small rock wall, blocking unsuspected waves.
Located just 15 minutes from the 12 Apostles, the impressive Arch, standing eight metres high is best viewed in spectacular rough seas.
A walkway descends towards a viewing platform where you can see the rough waves crashing into the arch rock formation.
There are so many natural wonders on the Great Ocean Road that it’s easy to bypass the wonders contained in the area’s interesting towns.
Each with their own unique vibe and particular local attractions, from gourmet foods to beautiful scenery, there’s something at every town for every visitor.
Here are a few recommended towns to stop by on your journeys along Great Ocean Road.
Learn about Australia’s surfing culture in famous Torquay, the start of the Great Ocean Road, and hometown of both Rip Curl and Quicksilver.
It’s the perfect location for surfing and relaxing at the beach.
Alternatively, you could enjoy a casual walk along the coast.
Enjoy some time away at the popular resort town that has a great cafe culture and lovely coastal walks.
To get a better view of Lorne, head to Teddy’s Lookout, or check out the natural waterfalls including Erskine Falls and Sheoak Falls.
A perfect base to see the 12 Apostles, this seaside village is at the foothills of the amazing Otways and surrounded by many beautiful Great Ocean Road walks.
You can also explore the nearby Great Otway National Park where you’ll find a lush rainforest and waterfalls.
Famed for its historic town centre, featuring Victorian-era constriction and a focus on fine dining, art galleries and some of the finer things in life.
To learn more about the area, visit the Queenscliff Historical Museum or Queenscliff Maritime Museum.
The Great Ocean Road isn’t just interesting in a natural sense, it also has a historical depth missed by many visitors. Read up on the areas vibrant and rich history, and take some time out of your admiration of the area’s natural wonders to see what history has left behind.
Barwon Park Mansion
A majestic 42-room bluestone mansion, a true relic of the past that visitors are encouraged to step into, leaving them wondering whether they’re in rural Australia or the lawns of colonial England.
Cape Otway Lightstation
Mainland Australia’s oldest lighthouse, 90 metres above the sea, provides both jaw-dropping views to day visitors and the unique experience of a few nights spent inside the Lighthouse Keeper’s cottage.
For those visiting during the day, this is a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch or pause for a short break on your way to the 12 Apostles.
- Duration – There are a lot of ways to experience the Great Ocean Road, and it is entirely up to each individual visitor to decide that. Many visitors, particularly the ones who choose to travel with tour guides, make their way along all (or part) of the Great Ocean Road in just one day, while others take as long as two to three weeks experiencing each aspect of it. In the end, it depends on the kind of experience you’re looking to get on the Great Ocean Road, what you’d like to see and your time limits.
- Driving v. Touring – There are a number of tour companies offering Great Ocean Road tours, and many of these are perfect for first time visitors, especially non-drivers. That being said, there is a freedom of self-driving that many past visitors have appreciated, or wished they had. The ability to stop at any time, and to make changes to an itinerary at each different section of the Great Ocean Road is worthwhile, particularly if inclement weather of overcrowding means one location isn’t at its best.
- Direction – Again, this comes down to the situation and personal preference of each visitor, but it is certainly recommended that those driving the Great Ocean Road travel from East to West, that is, from Torquay onwards. The reason for this is that following this direction drivers will be on the left side of the road, allowing them to stop more easily at viewpoints and to admire the many vantage points along the road.
- Busyness – The Great Ocean Road is a very popular place to be, which means that at peak times (particularly during the Australian summer between December and February) it can be very busy. This might not be noticeable along the road, but it can cause shortages in accommodation and overcrowding at specific attractions leading to lock outs.
- Car – The Great Ocean Road is located 2 hours from Melbourne’s CBD via the Princes Highway over the West Gate Bridge towards Geelong. From there, start at the Bellarine Peninsula or travel onward via the Surf Coast Highway to Torquay.
- Train – Non-drivers or those wanting to trek along the Great Ocean Road will find that V-Line trains travel frequently from Southern Cross Station to both Geelong and Warrnambool.
- Train + Bus – For better access via public transport, visitors can take a V-Line train to Geelong and then an onward bus to Apollo Bay and Warrnambool. Alternatively trains can be taken to Warrnambool and then onwards by bus to Port Fairy and Portland.