Activities - Explore
- Port Campbell National Park
- Twelve Apostles
- Great Otway National Park
- The Otway Fly
- Lookouts and Light Houses
- Mountain Biking
- Horse Riding
- Events and Festivals
It’s possible to drive the length of the road and see the main attractions in a day’s driving, but you’d be mad to. Two days will allow you to see just about all of the coastal sights and towns but that will simply frustrate you. Consider three days or longer if you want relaxed shoulders and neck muscles and some real enjoyment. Guaranteed, you will want to stay longer at some towns, do some walks, visit and fully explore the natural attractions or just bloody relax in this rejuvenating environment!
Coastal towns in order from east to west, with driving distance from Torquay:
- Torquay (0 km) The Great Ocean Road's surf central.
- Anglesea (18 km) A popular family beach town.
- Aireys Inlet (28 km) A small town with exceptional beaches.
- Lorne (47 km) One of the most popular resort towns with quality accommodation and food.
- Apollo Bay (90 km) A little more laid back than trendy Lorne, but it still has its fair share of boutique shopping and cafes.
- Port Campbell (188 km) A beautiful, quaint coastal town with a postcard bay and the gateway to the 12 Apostles and other stunning natural features.
- Warrnambool (253 km) By far the largest town in the region, and more of a regional commercial centre than a pretty holiday one. Nevertheless, it retains a large dose of country charm.
- Port Fairy (283 km) A lovely little heritage town known for its classy food culture.
- Portland (356 km) An historic seaside town, excellent for whale and seal viewing at the right time of year.
All the towns, aside from Anglesea and Aireys Inlet, have a Visitor Information Centre, so you can drop in there or give them a call if you need help with accommodation or would like some more detailed information on local attractions. They’re usually on the main strip and the towns are pretty small so you can’t miss them!
Port Campbell National Park
The Port Campbell National Park is a place of winding coastal scenery, limestone cliffs, coastal heath and green forest. Famous for the Twelve Apostles rock formation, the park also features natural limestone and sandstone rock formations including Loch Ard Gorge, Gibsons Steps, The Grotto and the London Arch.
It provides an excellent range of options for a day trip; you can swim, fish or canoe in the estuary, go birdwatching or take one of the many walks through the forest and along the coast. There are three self guided walks well worth taking at Loch Ard Gorge that introduce you to the shipwreck history of the coast, its geology, and the coastal ecology. The facilities withing the park include a Visitors Centre, picnic grounds, car park and toilets.
Located within the Port Campbell National Park, the Twelve Apostles are a group of craggy monoliths; sandstone rock formations rising out of the ocean close to the beach. There were created by the relentless, powerful waves of the Southern Ocean pounding away day after day, eroding the rock over countless years to the dramatic shapes they form at present.
They are stunning abstract art pieces custom designed by nature! With the wild ocean and unpredictable weather in this region of the world putting on a natural drama daily, it’s no wonder the Apostles are the most viewed and visited attraction on the Great Ocean Road, with many tours culminating here. If you are keen for another perspective, consider 12 Apostles Flight Adventures, they have light plane tours that fly along the coast so you can see them from above, as well as other sights like the magnificent Otway rainforest and lighthouse.
Interestingly, the Twelve Apostles are somewhat misnamed: it's a marketing name to replace the former rather less sexy name "Sow and Piglets", and there never were more than nine, with no more than seven visible at any one time from any one point anyway! Following the collapse of one in 2005, there are now only eight left, although if you add in the two to the east (Gog and Magog as they’re known locally) you can still scrounge up 10.
Great Otway National Park
The Great Otway National Park is comprised of a number of national and state parks, state forest and crown land. All up it covers 103,000 hectares, and represents all that is beautiful in this area! A casual drive through the Otways on a sunny day transports you to a wooded green world of towering eucalypts, deep gullies thick with tree-ferns and, hidden amongst it all, spectacular cool waterfalls. It truly is a special area. There are places for camping within the park, and activities such as mountain biking, bushwalking, horse riding and fishing are popular.
Sights to see within the Great Otway National Park are:
Cape Otway Lighthouse Where Bass Strait meets the Southern Ocean, this point provides views from the oldest light-station on mainland Australia. You can climb the tower, visit the telegraph house or the lighthouse keepers café and restaurant. Open daily 9-5pm.
Stevensons Falls Visit these falls via a one hour return walk from the Stevensons Falls Campground, 7 km off the Skenes Creek-Forrest Road at Barramunga. Or, for a shorter walk, drive over the second bridge (after the campground) to a carpark where a footbridge crosses the Gellibrand River and heads towards the falls. It follows the river upstream to the falls.
Melba Gully What makes Melba Gully so special is the glow worms that live there. Visit after dark to see the inspiring spectacle of thousands of pin pricks of light glowing and illuminating the dark mossy forest. This is a magical sight, but make sure you take a torch so you can get in and out of the forest - it really is pitch black in there! To get there turn off the Great Ocean Road onto Melba Gully Rd, 3 km west of Lavers Hill. The Melba Gully car park is a further 1.5 km up the road.
Triplet Falls is located a 20 minute drive east of Lavers Hill via the Lavers Hill-Beech Forest Road. Take the 1.8 km return walk from the end of Phillips track to the falls, taking in the Myrtle Beech forest and some other cascades on the way.
Little Aire Falls is located off the Triplet Falls track. You get there via a two to three hour 4.5 km return walk through mountain ash and fern, viewing the falls from an eight metre elevated platform in the canopy.
The Otway Fly
The Otway Fly is a canopy treetop walk in the Great Otways National Park, 48 km out of Apollo Bay. It's a steel suspension bridge strung 25 m above the ground, giving you a lofty sense of what life in the upper branches must be like. It’s $22 for adults and $9.50 for children. There is also a zip line tour, a 3.5 hour flying fox adventure, jumping from platform to platform through the trees! This thrilling little experience it a tad more expensive, however, at $115 for adults and $82 for children.
Lookouts and Light Houses
Teddy’s Lookout is at the end of George St, just off the Great Ocean Road in Lorne. It provides towering views of the coast and where the St. George River spills out into the ocean. The elevated viewing platform is only a short walk from the carpark.
Mariner's Lookout in Apollo Bay is located at the northern end of town, off Mariner’s Lookout Road. Panoramic views of Apollo Bay's town centre, the harbour and beaches up and down the coast can be seen, as well at the silhouette of the SS Casino, a steamship which sank in 1932 while trying to dock at Apollo Bay. You will spot it when the weather and the ocean are clear - look east over the caravan (trailer) park in the waters close to the shore.
Split Point in Aireys Inlet is home to some magnificent views and the Split Point Lighthouse, affectionately known as ‘The White Queen’ to the locals. This lighthouse was the setting for the much loved Australian children’s TV show Round the Twist. Tours operate everyday on the hour 11am-2pm, or you can just do your own tour of the rock pools along the beach below ‘her majesty’.
Many of the natural features have surrounding walks, there are literally hundreds in the parks and forests of the Otways and these include developed paths for long multi-day treks:
- Surf Coast Walk Coastal walkway of 30 km (extension to 60 km under construction) from Jan Juc Beach near Torquay through Bells Beach, Pt Addis, Anglesea and Aireys Inlet to Moggs Creek in the Angahook-Lorne State Park. It takes you through various country including beach, cliff and bush, which provides lovely vistas of all three. Walking this distance takes about 11 hours and can be comfortably done over two or three days, but there are many access points so it can be done in smaller sections if that suits.
- Great Ocean Walk A highlight of Victoria's coastline! In 2004 the Great Ocean Walk opened, connecting 104 km of walking trails that follow the coastline near the Great Ocean Road, stretching from Apollo Bay to the Twelve Apostles. If you’re in Melbourne and want a quintessentially Victorian experience while you burn calories, this walk showcases the best of the coastline, wildlife and forest the state has to offer. Walkers camp at hiker-only campsites provided by Parks Victoria, or take advantage of the private tour companies and their drop off and pick up services. You will need to book the campsites as they’re limited and fees apply.
- Great Ocean Road Marathon Not a walk, but worthy of a mention as it covers as much ground as an overnight walk! Besides standard vehicular travel, a 45 km section of road between Lorne and Apollo Bay is used for the annual race. As of 2010, the marathon record is two hours, 29 minutes and 41 seconds, you can try and beat that or watch others trying. Watching sounds good!
There are some brilliant and exciting places to go mountain biking in the back of Apollo Bay, around the town of Forrest and the Great Otway National Park, where the Otway Odyssey Mountain Bike Race is held. A tour company that offers guided scenic mountain bike tours is Otway Expeditions Tours. Otherwise you can rent mountain bikes from Apollo Bay Surf & Kayak for $25 a day. They also provide surf lessons, snorkelling gear, camping gear and kayaks.
Bimbi Park in Cape Otway offers horse trail rides for beginners to experienced riders. Bush and/or beach trail rides available.
SeaReach Horse Treks in Lower Gellibrand offers rides along Johanna Beach and the Shipwreck Coast.
Events and Festivals
From wine tasting to surf lifesaving, folk music and cycling races, you’ll find a diverse array of events and festivals in the towns along the Great Ocean Road. As a coastal area, most of these events are centred around the summer months.
- Pier to Pub Swim At 1.2 km, this is the largest open water swim in the world! Run by the Lorne Surf Life Saving Club, the course runs from the Lorne Pier to the foreshore in front of the clubhouse. Over 4,000 people compete each year and you can go watch and enjoy the energetic atmosphere.
- Moyneyana Festival is Port Fairy’s Summer community festival. It has a range of events based around the town from exhibitions, races, a float parade and music events. There’s always something on.
- Otway Odyssey Mountain Bike Event and Forrest Festival is a 100 km mountain bike race starting in Apollo bay and traversing the forests of The Otways. At the finish line in Forrest is a little festival with food, entertainment and more.
- Apollo Bay Music Festival is a large (considering the size of the town very large) music festival, attracting thousands of visitors over a weekend to Apollo Bay. It’s folky, jazzy, rocky and bluesy with a great friendly vibe.
- Port Fairy Folk Festival An even bigger independent music festival held over four days in Port Fairy, featuring folk, country, celtic, blues, jazz, bluegrass, traditional, contemporary, singers, songwriters, acoustic rock and world roots music. It’s a fantastic festival with a lovely vibe and great for those not inclined towards the big rock festivals. Even the babies love it!
- Rip Curl Pro World Surfing Titles Bells Beach in Torquay is home to the Rip Curl Pro, the world's longest running professional surfing event and one of the most sought after titles on the ASP World Championship Tour.
- Lorne Sculpture Exhibition A three-week festival of contemporary sculpture to in the form of a sculpture trail starting at the pier, hugging the coastline and finishing at the river in Lorne.
- High Tide Festival Torquay is a community festival with artwork installations, live music, food stalls etc.
- Falls Music Festival A HUGE camping music festival held over New Years Eve every year in Lorne. It attracts the biggest and coolest international bands, as well as the local ones. Lots of fun if you can handle the crowds.