Car driving along the Great Ocean Road
Road trip

Top Spots And Sweet Stays Along The Great Ocean Road

The blockbuster coastline, lush forests and pretty little towns along the Great Ocean Road are waiting to be discovered. Ready to go? Here’s how to drive it in five days.

By Shell on Nov. 18, 2021

DAY 1: Melbourne

Australia’s capital of culture, coffee and cosmopolitan cool is the default starting point for a Great Ocean Road trip, so why not take a day to explore the city and stock up on supplies? Wend your way through the city’s laneways, stopping at cult cafes such as Brother Baba Budan and Dukes Coffee Roasters, then feast your eyes at one of the National Gallery of Victoria’s two locations (one contains Australian art, the other is mostly international). In ever-funky Fitzroy, grab dinner at bohemian fave Vegie Bar or splash out at fine diner Cutler & Co. Then check in to Discovery Parks – Melbourne or Crystal Brook Tourist Park and get some rest before a big Day 2.

DAY 2: Melbourne to Apollo Bay via Torquay

About 90 minutes from Melbourne, Torquay is one of Australia’s most characterful coastal towns and a mecca for surf enthusiasts. If you’re confident on a board, head straight for Bells Beach and prepare for a wild time; or paddle with the kids at the protected Torquay Front Beach. There’s also great snorkelling at the Point Danger Marine Sanctuary. While you’re in town, check out the Australian National Surfing Museum and grab a feed at cool-as Miami Torquay or super-fresh Samesyn. Then it’s back on the road for an easy 90-minute drive to Apollo Bay, which has a sleepier vibe and gorgeous, unspoiled beaches. It’s also the gateway to the rainforest and waterfalls of Great Otway National Park. After a forest walk or sunset dip, bed down at Apollo Bay Holiday Park.

DAY 3: Apollo Bay to Portland via Warrnambool

The three-hour drive from Apollo Bay to Portland takes in some of the Great Ocean Road’s loveliest stretches, so factor in some extra time for stopping along the way. At Warrnambool, there’s something for everyone: the sprawling Warrnambool Golf Course, punchy Warrnambool Art Gallery and immersive Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum are just three of the options. Get back on the road after a classic coastal lunch (try Parker’s Fish & Chips) for the 90-minute drive to Portland, then seek out the beautiful Portland Botanical Gardens. A stroll through the grounds is the perfect way to make room for your afternoon snack: one of Heywood Bakery’s world-renowned pepper-steak pies. Take the evening to recharge at Portland Tourist Park, set on four and a half hectares of bushland, and set your alarm for an early start on Day 4.

DAY 4: Portland to Peterborough

The two-hour drive back to Peterborough is full of ‘wow’ moments as the coastline becomes more rugged again. But nothing can top the majesty of the 12 Apostles, which are located about 20 minutes from the village. There are several great vantage points atop the cliffs, and confident travellers can take the steps down to the beach. For an even bigger thrill, book a tour with 12 Apostles Helicopters, or partake in some serious exercise on the 8km Bay of Martyrs coastal trail. On your way back to the Great Ocean Road Tourist Park, stop at Childers Cove Cheese Company to pick up supplies for an indulgent evening picnic.

DAY 5: Peterborough to Lorne

The last section of the Great Ocean Road wends its way to Lorne, a laid-back cultural haven with majestic nature to boot. Refresh with a dip, either at the patrolled Lorne Beach or at Shelly Beach, a local’s favourite where you’ll find cute rockpools. Then head into town and stroll the compact shopping district, which is packed with independent retailers such as the eclectic In The Skies, which sells vinyl records, artist’s supplies and more. Visit the Great Ocean Road Heritage Centre to learn more about the trip you’ve just taken, then feast on local produce, cooked Greek-style, at Ipsos. Tonight, kick back at Lorne Foreshore Caravan Park, and tomorrow morning, before you head home, seek out one or more of the 10 secluded waterfalls that surround the town (our favourite is Erskine Falls) to end your road trip on a calm note.

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