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The ultimate guide to the Great Ocean Road

Our round-up of Great Ocean Road stops, including eating, drinking, activities and accommodation
Loch Ard Gorge
Photograph: Mark Watson
By Cat Woods |
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Justifiably one of Victoria’s most popular tourist destinations, the Great Ocean Road snakes all along the southwest coast of the state, starting in Torquay (1.5 hours from the CBD) and finishing up just before Warrnambool. This winding stretch of road provides ample opportunity to reconnect with the ocean, the bush and the sounds and sights of nature whether driving, walking, horseriding, surfing, sailing or cycling.

It's about a four-hour drive without stops, but heed our warning: you'll definitely want to stop. There's just too much happening along the coast not to. Take a day trip, stay the weekend or just pack up and move there – there's plenty going on down the Great Ocean Road.

Read more about Victoria's best getaways with our guide to the Bellarine Peninsula, Ballarat and East Gippsland.

Great Ocean Road must sees

Torquay Beach
Photograph: Visit Victoria

Torquay and surrounds

Eat here

You’ll be horribly jealous of the locals who get to eat and shop at Surf Coast Wholefoods daily, but you can pretend you’re a local for a drop-in visit if it makes you feel better. The Buddha Bowl is fantastic, as is the plant-based taco. Avocado, brown rice, kale and tofu ensure you’re well fuelled for a day of surfing, walking and discovering Torquay.

Drink here

Frontbeach Taphouse & Restaurant is an all-day destination for meals and craft beers. Look out over the Torquay front beach and relish the serenity.

Stay here

Serenity Accommodation provides reliable, meticulously decked out holiday homes whether it’s for a couple or the whole family. Serenity has two identical houses, both located in Torquay. Plus, guests can easily check in via an app rather than fussing with keys and lockboxes on arrival.

Do this

Take a surfing lesson with the professionals at Torquay Surfing Academy. Whether you're entirely new to the sport or your rusty skills could use some refinement, the team here have been operating for almost 20 years so they're experts at getting you on that board. All gear (including fully sealed wetsuits and surfboards) can be purchased and hired here, as well. 

If you only do one thing…

Go for a swim, surf or walk along Torquay’s front beach.

People eating at Captain Moonlite
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Anglesea and surrounds

Eat here

Hitting our shores in 2017, Captain Moonlite (pictured) was a welcome addition to Anglesea's upmarket dining scene. Moonlite is a unicorn of dining in a land girt by sea: a seafood-focused restaurant with views of the waves that doesn't actually suck. If this place were in central Melbourne, it would be heaving. Saying that, be sure to book a table well in advance for a busy weekend. Read our review here.

Drink here

Open seven days a week, Aireys Pub does lunch from noon until 3pm, then dinner from 5.30 until 8pm. The 1983 Ash Wednesday fires burnt this old pub to the ground, but the locals pitched in and saved it when it seemed destined for closure. There's now an open beer garden, live music on Saturday nights and an open fireplace. The onsite brewery, Salt Brewing Co, walks its talk. The brewery runs on a 50kw solar system and officially partners with Sea Shepherd to protect the ocean and wildlife.

Stay here

Barrakee Beach House is a chic, modern beach house that perfectly suits families, small groups or couples who want plenty of space and to host lunch or dinner guests. If you want to bring your dog, this can also be considered. Wi-Fi, TV, pool table, barbecue, outdoor spa and a locked shed for your bikes and surfboards are all part of the deal.

Do this

Go horseriding with the longstanding Blazing Saddles Trail Rides, either along the beach or through the bush. Inland you'll travel via national heritage trails that lead to views over the coastline and the Otways. There are horses and trails for every level of rider, so call ahead and talk through your options.

If you only do one thing…

Pop into Great Ocean Road Wellness to pick up some fresh, locally sourced food.

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Lorne, Great Ocean Road
Photograph: Robert Blackburn

Lorne and surrounds

Eat here

The Bottle of Milk in Lorne on Mount Joy Parade is a must visit. Whether you're craving smashed avocado with fresh chilli on sourdough or a hot rod bagel (scrambled eggs, chilli jam and goat's cheese), they've got you covered.

Drink here

Grab a seat on the wooden deck and catch some live music while you toast to a day well spent at Cuda Bar & Restaurant.

Stay here

Mantra Lorne greets you right as you enter Lorne. Packed with facilities, Mantra has beautiful large grounds, an in-house restaurant and rooms that can facilitate solo travellers through to the entire extended family.

Do this

Go for a morning walk along the beach, even if it’s just an hour before spinning on your heel and returning. Nothing beats that view of the sun rising over the coastline. Locals and their furry friends are often out to catch the view too, which is always a bonus for dog lovers. 

If you only do one thing…

Visit Live Wire Action Park, a huge adventure playground just outside of Lorne where you’ll climb, swing, leap, wobble and fly through towering eucalyptus forest.

Beauchamp Falls
Photograph: Mark Watson

Apollo Bay and surrounds

Eat here

It's the beach, so of course, you'll be craving fish and chips. Apollo Bay Fishermen's Co-op delivers on the crispy, crunchy potato chips and local seafood goodness. Crayfish, prawns and oysters are all available to eat out on the deck overlooking the ocean. Otherwise, buy a bunch of fresh crabs and fish and prepare your own seafood feast at home.

Drink here

It's a beautiful big red-brick building with outdoor seating, pub meals and a classic pub vibe, so make sure to direct the crew to Great Ocean Road Brewhouse at the end of the day.

Stay here

The Apollo Apartments are located opposite the beach in a super modern glass and concrete building. They're at the mid-point for budgets and have the basic mod-cons of Wi-Fi with parking and kitchen included.

Do this

Without a doubt, the Great Ocean Walk must be on your itinerary. With beautiful bush/coast and sea views, this is the ultimate way to escape modern life and get back into the heart of nature. Make sure to stock up on water. Maps are available online or via the tourist centre. Read our guide to hiking the Great Ocean Walk here.

If you only do one thing…

Head to Cape Otway, the southernmost tip of Victoria's western coast. Veer towards the Cape Otway lighthouse and point your noggin up to the sky to spy koala bums among the native gum trees. You can also go chasing waterfalls – Beauchamp Falls (pictured) and Hopetoun Falls are located in the nearby Beech Forest.

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Twelve Apostles

Twelve Apostles and surrounds

Eat here

Right on the Port Campbell foreshore, head to 12 Rocks Beach Bar for breakfast and lunch, or dinner during the summer season. Beer-battered fish, paprika-spiced calamari and a thorough kids' menu make this a good option.

Drink here

The Sow and Piglets Brewery is a quick hop, skip and a jump from the Port Campbell main beach. Head in for a post-swim pizza and get acquainted with seasonal, limited-edition beers and some German-style brews (their head brewer, Julian Widera, is German). Fun fact: Sow and Piglets was one of the original names for the Twelve Apostles up until the 1920s.  

Stay here

There's plenty of affordable and comfortable accommodation options nearby the Twelve Apostles. By the time you've completed the Great Ocean Road Walk, you'll want to avoid a long trip home. Stay at 12 Apostles Bed & Breakfast.

Do this

Port Campbell National Park is world renowned for its unique and beautiful wave-sculpted rock formations, named the Twelve Apostles. As well as the ultra-photogenic Loch Ard Gorge (pictured) there are plenty of historical natural sites to explore.

If you only do one thing…

Walk the Gibson Steps at Port Campbell National Park for unforgettable views over the Twelve Apostles (bonus: you'll also work up an appetite for a beachside lunch).

Whales spotted near Warrnambool
Photograph: Visit Victoria

Warrnambool and surrounds

Eat here

The spacious and modern Pavilion café has a pretty impressive view over the bay – luckily the food is equally impressive. Arrive early for ginger wild rice porridge with caramelised pear and almonds or the sweet potato waffle with whipped ricotta. There's also a packed lunch and brunch menu and great coffee, so you won't leave hungry.

Drink here

Craft beers and great cocktails make the Dart and Marlin a must visit. It's a great-looking 19th-century stone building complete with a fireplace, courtyard, function space and some great live music performances, too.

Stay Here

Warrnambool Holiday Village offers one-bedroom deluxe cabins through to caravans and camping. It's an easy and accessible option for short stays. You'll also have access to indoor and outdoor pools, plus the botanical gardens and a supermarket are an easy walk away.

Do This

The 37-kilometre Port Fairy to Warrnambool cycle trail is great for those comfortable on two wheels. The sea air and the beautiful coast views make this one of the best cycle trails in Victoria.

If you only do one thing…

The Whale Trail is a drawcard for local and international tourists alike. Keep an eye on the Facebook site for reported sightings, but generally from June to September is key whale spotting season. Read more about where to go whale watching near Melbourne.

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