Great Ocean Road Trip in Victoria, Australia

Great Ocean Road

Like any traveler worth her salt, I enjoy a good road trip (and pretend to when I don’t). You may have noticed; I’ve talked about them once or twice before.

But we haven’t talked about this yet. This, maybe not the mother, but at least the bossy oldest sister of all road trips. This, something that requires little fanfare and little introduction — both of which I’m going to give you, anyway.

This, the Great Ocean Road: a scenic highway stretching for approximately 250 kilometers along the southern coast of Victoria, Australia.

Orange rocks set against blue sea along the Great Ocean Road

Looking out over the sea along Australia's southern coast

The Great Ocean Road is spectacular for several reasons, but I believe the top two are as follows: one, the gorgeous and varied scenery; and two, its proximity to Melbourne.

Day trips from the city by bus are possible, plentiful, and absolutely worth it; but if you’ve got the time, cash, and inclination, I recommend doing an overnight or weekend and driving your own vehicle. 250 kilometers might sound like nothing, but there will be stops. A lot of stops. You will probably spend more time out of the car than inside it — trust me on this.

Small waves heading toward the rocky coastline on a gray day in southern Victoria

A far-off view of people standing on the coast and looking out over big waves

If you don’t have a valid driver’s license, well, join the club — mine expired in 2013 and I hadn’t driven for years before that, anyway. I’m not even sure I remember how. Luckily, Simon does, and he didn’t mind doing all of the driving; so we rented a car and set out!

Because we were both starting and ending in the city and didn’t want to backtrack, we began by taking the inland route from Melbourne to Warrnambool, a town about 12km from the western end of the GOR. We spent the rest of the day and night there, then took the GOR back to the city over the next day and a half. (Of course, you could also do it the other way around, or as part of a longer trip.)

The inland route isn’t particularly exciting, but it got us to Warrnambool in under four hours. That gave us the rest of the day to explore the town and its surrounds.

We took a short drive to nearby Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, where you’re all but guaranteed to see koalas sleeping in the trees. We also saw emus and freaky two-headed lizards, and took a walk called, and I’m not kidding about this, “Journey to the Last Volcano.” The name’s a bit dramatic, but the views did not disappoint.

View over a lake and trees at the Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve in Warrnambool, Australia

Looking out over lakes and hills from our hike at Tower Hill in Warrnambool

The following day, we set out to drive the Great Ocean Road itself.

The GOR winds along the sea, past various red rock formations, and through beautiful forests. Look-out points dot the highway, giving you plenty of opportunities to stop, park, and walk right up to the edge of the rugged cliffs. The 12 Apostles reigns as the most famous of the look-outs, but even if you, um, happen to miss that one somehow (cough), you’ll still have plenty to feast your eyes on.

Calm morning at a sandy beach along the Great Ocean Road

Sun peeking through the clouds over the cliffs along the sea along the Great Ocean Road

Path leading through big trees to the sea on Australia's southern coast

Wave hitting the rocks along the coastline in Victoria, Australia

Besides being a major tourist destination, the Great Ocean Road is also the world’s largest war memorial. It was built by soldiers returning home after the first world war, and is dedicated to those who were killed. (You can read more about the construction of the road here.)

Far-off view of the sea, featuring a wide field of greenery and brush, rocky cliffs, and teeny-tiny people

Driving the Great Ocean Road

Melbourne to Warrnambool via Princes Highway: 269 kilometres (3.5 to 4 hours)
Warrnambool to Melbourne via Great Ocean Road: 348 kilometres (we spread this out over a day and a half, but it could easily be done in one day if you prefer)

Accommodation: Hostels and other accommodation fill up fast during the summer, especially on weekends. Booking ahead is highly recommended.

You can find more info on visiting the GOR on Visit Victoria’s website.

Psst: Looking for other ideas for day trips from Melbourne? I’ve got you covered over here!

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A road trip along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria -- the perfect choice for a day or weekend trip from Melbourne. | #Australia

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