Great Ocean Road map & highlights

Starting in the southeast town of Torquay and completing 243km west in Allansford, the Great Ocean Road is considered the world's largest war memorial. It was built by returning soldiers and dedicated to those who lost their lives in WWI – although Aboriginal land owners would have had little say in the matter. It's also an exceptionally scenic stretch of coastline and hinterland and shows off Victoria's natural variety to great effect. Try to avoid areas around the Twelve Apostles at peak times and opt, instead, for lesser known beaches like Crayfish Bay, or clifftops, such as the Gables Lookout, from where whale watching, peace and quiet exude.
Angahook-Lorne State Park

1. Angahook-Lorne State Park

Coastal cliffs and coves collide with inland valleys and gulleys in Angahook-Lorne State Park. This gives you a taste of Victoria’s cool temperate rainforests where waterfalls, giant umbrella ferns and blue gum trees provide habitat for swamp wallabies, brushtail possums, bandicoots and cockatoos. The Kennett River Koala Walk and the viewing platforms over the Erskine Falls (30m drop) are an absolute must.
Apollo Bay

2. Apollo Bay

Take a stroll to Marriners Lookout from Apollo Bay village and you might see migrating southern right whales (May to Oct). Otherwise seek out the local brewhouse pub or enjoy the recreational outdoor space in this sleepy seaside setting before hitting the road. The Great Ocean Walk starts from Apollo Bay and spoons the coastline to Blanket Bay via tall forests of eucalyptus complete with clinging koalas and bouncing black wallabies.
Bells Beach

3. Bells Beach

Close to the seaside town of Torquay, Bells Beach has the best breaks and swells in Victoria. This is where pro surfers come to test their mettle every Easter so if you’re looking to surf it’s best to visit at a different time of year unless you’re Mike Fanning or Steph Gilmore. Thanks to SANE, the rugged cliffs, bush, heath and coastal woodlands around Bells Beach are under constant protection.
Castle Cove

4. Castle Cove

Sandy Castle Cove sits at the confluence of the Great Ocean Walk and Great Ocean Road and is a good place to base yourself and to explore. Walks lead from Castle Cove to Johanna Beach, Station Beach and the spring-fed Rainbow Falls that cascade onto the rocky beach below, depending on high tide. Expect wind whipped sand dunes, clifftop trails and blackwoods, beech and pines along the Aire River.
Crayfish Bay

5. Crayfish Bay

In between Blanket Bay and Cape Otway Lighthouse there are a couple of great spots to look out for if you’re not in too much of a hurry. As if. Firstly, take a hike through the mountain ash forests and along the clifftops to Parker Inlet for picture postcard panoramas. Secondly, if it’s a sunny day, or even if it’s not, seek out signs to Crayfish Bay – great for swimming and snorkelling in warm shallows.
Great Otway National Park

6. Great Otway National Park

This protected realm stretches along the coast from Torquay to Princetown and heads into the hinterland and rainforests of the Otway Ranges. The variety of natural beauty on the Great Ocean Road is epitomised within Great Otway National Park. You’ll find everything from mountain ash and manna gum forests to towering fern gullys, plus Blanket Beach, Parker Inlet and the lighthouse at Cape Otway.
Johanna Beach

7. Johanna Beach

Heath-covered hillsides and farmers’ fields roll onto Johanna Beach as effortlessly as the ocean onto the sand. Visit outside of summer and you’ll have the place all to yourself. This is one of the best surf spots west of Cape Otway but swimming is not advised as the beach is not patrolled, and rips can be fierce. Head inland and you’ll find homemade scones, hot drinks and local life in Lavers Hill.
Milanesia Beach

8. Milanesia Beach

The grasslands northeast of Johanna Beach are dotted with eastern grey kangaroos, however it’s the wild and wave smashed beach of Milanesia, beneath the limestone of Lion’s Headland, that’s more likely to take your breath away. No road access ensures that this secret sandy spot is for bushwalkers only, although the discovery of dinosaur prints, preserved in sandstone blocks, proves otherwise.
Port Campbell National Park

9. Port Campbell National Park

Although Port Campbell is best known for the Twelve Apostles the entire coastline is awash with weather-eroded sea stacks. Gog and Magog, for instance, can be reached via the Aboriginal carved ‘Gibson Steps’, just 1km from the Apostles. Loch Ard Gorge, on the other side, is lesser-known but nonetheless impressive with blow holes and sea birds adding to the tales of shipwrecks past.

10. Princetown

The hilltop village of Princetown is virtually cut off by the river Gellibrand, which gives it a preserved sort of vibe where river estuaries, wetland boardwalks and grass tufted sand dunes give way to fishing, birdwatching and sleepy Sunday afternoons. Pop into the local pub that also serves as a bottle-o (off licence), diner, take away and general store.
The Gables Lookout

11. The Gables Lookout

You can expect spectacular sea views from one of Australia’s tallest coastal clifftops no matter when you visit, however walk to the Gables Lookout in winter (June-Sept) and whales might well appear above the ocean. A 20-minute stroll through tea trees and indigenous pines leads to the lookout point from the car park. Wreck Beach and Moonlight Head are also worth a walk if you’re in the area.

12. Warrnambool

The seaside town of Warrnambool is considered the western end of the Great Ocean Road, although it is actually 10km from its official end in Allansford. If you’re visiting during June and Sept you may see whales returning to Warrnambool’s waters to calve. Logan’s Beach has specially constructed viewing platforms in the sand dunes to provide the most responsible way to watch whales, just 100m offshore, without disrupting natural behaviour.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Great Ocean Road or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Great Ocean Road sample itineraries

Great Ocean Road self guided tour (8 days):
Apollo Bay > Blanket Bay > Parker Inlet > Crayfish Bay > Station Beach (Rainbow Falls) > Aire River estuary and wetlands > Castle Cove > Johanna Beach > Milanesia Beach > Cape Otway lighthouse > Moonlight Head > The Gables Lookout > Wreck Beach > Twelve Apostles > Apollo Bay

Melbourne to Adelaide small group tour (3 days):
Melbourne > Geelong > Bells Beach > Lorne > Kennett River > Great Otway National Park > Apollo Bay > Castle Cove > Twelve Apostles > Loch Ard Gorge > Port Campbell > Warrnambool > Tower Hill Game Reserve > Port Fairy > Naracoorte Caves National Park > Padthaway wine region > Hahndorf > Adelaide

Travel times along the Great Ocean Road

The following times give you a rough idea of how long it takes to drive between the towns, landmarks and national parks on the Great Ocean Road:

Melbourne-Apollo Bay: 90mins Melbourne-Twelve Apostles: 3hrs Geelong-Lorne: 1 hour Bells Beach-Apollo Bay: 90mins Apollo Bay-Otway National Park: 90mins Otway National Park-Warrnambool: 30mins Warrnambool-Port Fairy: 30mins Warrnambool-Portland: 90mins
Written by Chris Owen
Photo credits: [Page banner: Diliff] [Angahook-Lorne State Park: Andrea Schaffer] [Apollo Bay: Bernard Spragg. NZ] [Bells Beach: Alex Proimos] [Castle Cove: John Gillmore] [Crayfish Bay: Patche99z] [Great Otway National Park : Philli b 123] [Johanna Beach: wanderingchina] [Milanesia Beach : Ian Cochrane] [Port Campbell National Park : Jorge Láscar] [Princetown: Mattinbgn] [The Gables Lookout: cafuego] [Warrnambool : Warrnambool City Council] [Travel times: Weyne Yew]