Loch Ard Gorge Gr

The Best Road Trip in the World: Two Days on the Great Ocean Road

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How does this sound? You’re driving along the coast in southeastern Australia. The windows are down, and you’re driving so close to the Pacific Ocean that you hear each and every wave as it crashes along the rugged cliffside. Each twist and turn offers another breathtaking sight. When you want, you get out and stretch your legs as you walk through rainforests, down to majestic waterfalls, underneath canopies of eucalyptus trees with koalas clinging to their limbs and at some of the most incredible oceanside cliffs. That is the Great Ocean Road– what I think is undeniably the best road trip in the world!

What is the Great Ocean Road?

For those of you who don’t know what the Great Ocean Road is, it is an incredibly scenic stretch of road spanning 243 kilometers (151 miles) on Australia’s southeastern coast. The highway runs between the epic surf town of Tourquay to Allansford. The road takes you through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the entire country and should be on every roadtripper/vanlifer/anyone’s bucket list.

How do you get to the Great Ocean Road?

For most people, the easiest way to get to the Great Ocean Road is from Melbourne. You can fly to Melbourne directly from the United States, or if you are already down under, it’s easy to get cheap flights to the cultural capital of Australia from other popular destinations like Sydney, Cairns, or Perth.

We flew into Melbourne from Sydney (one of the most popular passenger air routes in the world) on TigerAir. TigerAir is one of Australia’s budget airlines, as it only cost us $90 per person. Sadly, due to the pandemic, TigerAir ceased operations after 13 years of flying Australia’s skies. 

After spending a few days eating and drinking our way through Melbourne, it was time to get the keys to our little Hyundai Accent rental car and head off to explore the famous Great Ocean Road!

What’s it like to drive in Australia?

Driving the Great Ocean Road

Driving in Australia definitely took some getting used to. We picked up our rental car in the middle of Melbourne’s busy CBD. I’ll admit, being someone who has spent a lot of time behind the wheel of a car, it was a little nerve wracking behind the wheel on the opposite side of the car and road in the middle of a bustling city. I was more than ready to get to the scenic highway and start our trip on the Great Ocean Road.

Once you are on the highway towards Torquay (about 90 minutes from Melbourne), the drive is very easy. What isn’t easy is parking against a curb. Kate would, for sure, add this in, if I didn’t include it.

So, we arrive in the surfside town of Torquay ready to grab some breakfast before we begin our real Great Ocean Road journey. As we pull up to the restaurant, I see a spot on the street that I can pull into instead of having to parallel park. As I’m pulling into the spot, a group of three guys are walking on the sidewalk towards the breakfast spot. Not being used to driving on the opposite side of the road and car, I smash into the curb so hard right towards the group. I’m lucky I didn’t hop the curb and take one of them out! I was so worried that we would have a flat tire before we even got on the Great Ocean Road. Luckily us, the guys, and our little Hyundai Accent were completely fine. My pride was not. 

Other than curbs that are closer than they appear, driving in Australia isn’t too difficult. The lanes are well marked, there are an abundance of signs and gas stations. The Great Ocean Road has a ton of twists and turns but just go slow. You’ll want to soak it all in anyways.

How to Spend Two Days on the Great Ocean Road

Day One

Breakfast in Torquay

We picked up our rental car at 6:30 a.m. and decided we were just going to wait until we got to Torquay to grab some brekkie. I’m more than glad we did. We stopped at Growlers, a Travelers Choice Award winning spot not far from the water in Torquay. They had plenty of outdoor seating so we opted to sit out under the morning sun as we sipped coffee and ate some much needed calories before we went out for a surf session.

Go for a surf in Torquay

Torquay, pronounced tor-key, is the surf capital of Australia’s “surf coast”. It’s home to the famous surf brands Rip Curl and Quiksilver and offers some amazing point and beach breaks for all skill levels. 

We figured the perfect way to start our road trip was to get a little exercise. Kate and I went to Go Ride A Wave and rented a board and wetsuits. The shop was awesome, reasonably priced and had great employees. One of the girls there was so laid back and would always say “easy” with just about anything you would say. I definitely recommend them for sure!

From the shop, it was a short walk down over to Torquay Surf Beach. This beach had some fun waves for just about any skill level. Afterwards, if you need it, that beach has a shower and picnic tables nearby too.

Check out the famous Bells Beach

Bells Beach Australia

After shredding for a few hours, Kate had to drag me out of the water so that we could start our journey. But before that, we had to check out the famous Bells Beach. 

Located just a few miles from Torquay, Bells Beach is one of the most famous surf breaks in the world. Bells is home to the world’s longest running professional surf contest, the Rip Curl Pro. It was definitely worth the stop to see such a historic surf spot. There were some local guys tearing it up there too!

Climb the Split Point Lighthouse

Split Point Lighthouse

We, here at Schloe Travels, love lighthouses. Like Jupiter, Florida, St. Simons Island, Georgia, and Lake Havasu City, Arizona, we won’t skip the chance to check one out.

The Split Point Lighthouse is located approximately 23 kilometers (14 miles) away from Bells Beach at Aireys Inlet. The lighthouse is a fully functional lighthouse and guides boats in the area called the “shipwreck coast”. 

It was closed the day we visited so we couldn’t climb up to the top, but weather permitting, it is open. The views from the grounds and the balconies nearby were stunning and offer a glimpse of what the Great Ocean Road has in store for you.

Take a selfie with the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch

Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch

The Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch is approximately six kilometers away from the Split Point Lighthouse. The arch commemorates the approximately 3,000 soldiers that built the road by hand in between 1919-1932. The road itself is a memorial to those who have lost their lives in battle, making it the longest war memorial in the world. The Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch also marks the official beginning of the scenic roadway. 

This spot is a super popular tourist location along the route and you will undoubtedly see tons of selfies being taken at the location. There is a parking lot so you can get out of your car and get the right angle. I mean, honestly, is anyone going to believe you did it if you don’t get a picture with the sign?

Walk down to the beautiful Erskine Falls

Approximately 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) away from the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch is the town of Lorne. The drive from the arch is absolutely beautiful with sweeping views of the coastline. Once you get to Lorne, you can stay on the GOR or you can take a detour up to Erskine Falls. I recommend the detour!

Erskine Falls is located 10 kilometers (6 miles) away from the town of Lorne. It is an easy drive and it is well marked. The drive leads you from the coast into the Great Otway National Park which is known for its spectacular waterfalls. Erskine Falls is no exception!

Once you get to the parking lot, you can walk to a nearby lookout and gaze out at the 30 meter waterfall. If you have the time and leg strength, you should definitely walk down 230 steps to the lookout at the bottom of the falls. The view is spectacular, and the effort is well rewarded!

Do the Koala Walk in Kennett River

After checking out the beautiful cascade, return to Lorne the same way that you came. Once you get back on the Great Ocean Road, it is about 22 kilometers (13.6 miles) to your next destination, Kennett River. 

Kennett River is home to the “Koala Walk” and is a wonderful destination if you want to see the adorable furry creatures. Kate and I were so worried that we weren’t going to get to see any because we arrived at the parking lot of the Kafe Koala near sunset.  

We anxiously started walking up Grey River Road from the parking lot and didn’t really know what we were looking for. As we walked up to the first eucalyptus tree, Kate pointed out an adorable koala about 20 feet from us in the branches. We continued the walk and saw dozens of them. It was incredible! 

There were some other people doing the walk, and they informed us that dusk was a good time to see koalas because they would be more active. We saw koalas munching on leaves, climbing branches, and of course, sleeping!

Eastern Grey Kangaroo

We even saw (at this time in the trip) our first kangaroo. It was an incredible wildlife experience! We walked around searching for adorable koala bears until it was just us in the darkness. By far, it was one of my favorite experiences and a great way to end one of my favorite days.

Stay the night in Apollo Bay

After being on a complete nature high, we left Kennett River and headed off to Apollo Bay just 22 kilometers (13.6 miles) away. We decided that Apollo Bay would be a good spot to call it a night and get some rest. 

After checking into the Seaview Motel and Apartments, we walked over to the main street to grab some dinner. We reminisced on our first day on the Great Ocean Road over a round of beers at the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse and went to bed. 

If Seaview Motel and Apartments are unavailable, check out Captains at the Bay and Apollo Bay Waterfront Motor Inn as two other highly ranked locations in the area.

Great Ocean Road Print Ad

Day Two

The next morning we woke up incredibly excited to see some of the Great Ocean Road’s more famous sites. But before that, we decided to grab some breakfast at The Bay Leaf Cafe before we hopped back in the car.

After leaving Apollo Bay, you actually drive away from the coast for quite some time. The drive is still beautiful as you are driving through the Great Otway National Park, but you are away from the beautiful ocean views for about 84 kilometers (52 miles) until you reach the famous Gibson Steps!

Walk down Gibson’s Steps

89 steps were carved into the face of the limestone cliffs by a local settler named Hugh Gibson. Hence the name Gibson’s Steps. A walk down the steps leads you to some of the most beautiful beaches Australia has to offer!

Kate and I wandered around on the beach for a while and felt sooo small amongst the gigantic limestone cliffs. It truly is a magnificent location! Fortunately, for us it was low tide so we were able to walk on the Gibson’s Steps Beach. However, conditions at this location can change rapidly, definitely check out the Parks Victoria page for updates.

Stare at the famous Twelve Apostles

Twelve Apostles Great Ocean Road

Located just one kilometer away from Gibson’s Steps are the world famous Twelve Apostles! Which should now be called the “Eight Apostles” because eight of these 150 foot tall limestone columns are still standing. Either way, there is a reason why this site is one of the most famous sites in all of Australia. It is breathtaking!

Great Ocean Road Twelve Apostles

The location offers numerous viewing platforms which each offer different vantage points of the Twelve Apostles. Another option for viewing the Twelve Apostles is by helicopter. We saw a few helicopters zip by while we were there, and I can’t imagine how scenic of a flight that would be. 

Also, the location is completely handicapped accessible, has an interpretive walkway, restrooms, and a small kiosk which has basic items for sale.

Head down to the beach at Loch Ard Gorge

Four kilometers away from the Twelve Apostles is Loch Ard Gorge. Loch Ard Gorge has quite the history and got its name from a ship that wrecked at that location in 1878. Only two of the 54 passengers survived: 15-year-old Tom Pearce and 17-year-old Eva Carmichael, whom Tom rescued from water. 

Though Loch Ard Gorge has a dark and dreary past, this location was my favorite spot on Day 2 of the Great Ocean Road. The area offers numerous walking trails, but if you are pressed for time, don’t miss out on walking the steps down to the beach. The view from sea level is absolutely spectacular and can’t be missed!

Check out Australia’s London Bridge

London Bridge Great Ocean Road Road Trip

Recently, when we were in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, we were able to check out the original London Bridge. The London Bridge in Australia was a little bit different.

Located 15 kilometers (9 miles) away from Loch Ard Gorge is Australia’s London Bridge. Part of a natural rock bridge, the section that connected it to the mainland collapsed in 1990. Crazy enough, the collapse stranded two tourists who were later saved by helicopter. 

The London Bridge is worth a quick stop, and it is a short and easy walk down a pathway to the viewing platform.

Enjoy some peace and quiet at The Grotto

The Grotto Great Ocean Road

A short two kilometers away from the London Bridge is The Grotto. The Grotto is a significantly smaller, quieter, and more peaceful location than the nearby Twelve Apostles and was a great last attraction for us. 

There were only a few people around, and like almost all of the locations listed, you really need to walk down to the bottom and check it out! 

Sadly, The Grotto, marked the end of our two-day Great Ocean Road trip. That evening, we had to drive back to Melbourne for our flight to Cairns to go explore the Great Barrier Reef (more on that later)!

Great Ocean Road Print Ad

If I could change anything about our time in Australia, I would’ve added an additional day to explore the Great Ocean Road. Two days is certainly doable, and by all means, if that is all you have, do it! However, I think three days would be just the right amount of time to not feel rushed for time. 

If you only have one day and want to see the highlights of the Great Ocean Road, you could certainly do a Great Ocean Road Tour!

Planning to do your own Great Ocean Road trip? Chances are, you will spend some time in Melbourne, so check out our post on Melbourne! We also did one about our time in Sydney which you can read here!

Book for the trip

Operation Playboy

I picked up a copy of Operation Playboy at the airport in Sydney and couldn’t put it down. It is a thrilling read about drug trafficking and it would be an epic movie or TV series.

Two Days on The Great Ocean Road Itinerary

DAY ONE

* Day one total driving distance from Melbourne = 206 km (128 miles)  

Breakfast in Torquay

Surf in Torquay

Check out the famous Bells Beach

Climb the Split Point Lighthouse

Take a selfie with the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch

Walk down to Erskine Falls

Do the Koala Walk in Kennett River

Stay the night in Apollo Bay

DAY TWO

*Day two driving distance (not including drive back to Melbourne) = 105km (65 miles)

Walk down Gibson’s Steps

Stare at the Famous Twelve Apostles

Head down to the beach at Loch Ard Gorge

Check out Australia’s London Bridge

Enjoy some peace and quiet at The Grotto

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Andrew Schloe

I love surfing, scuba diving, and soaking in a good sunset at the beach. There is a good chance you will find me by water. Favorite Destination: Great Ocean Road, Australia.

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