With jaw-dropping vistas, endless sandy beaches and rugged formations at every turn, it’s the natural wonders that made the Great Ocean Road one of the world’s classic coastal drives. These days, however, there’s another reason to follow this well-trodden path. Craft breweries and creative distilleries have popped up throughout the region, making beers and spirits with an unmistakable local spin. Taste your way from Torquay to Warrnambool with delicious food to match.
The famed surf town of Torquay marks the start of the Great Ocean Road, so it only makes sense to kick the road trip off with lunch at Blackman's Brewery. Living the dream as they brew mere metres from the beach, their technicolour cans house both everyday ales and citrusy sours, nitro stouts, tropical hazy beers and smoked porters. Park up in their spacious beer garden for woodfired pizzas, burgers and surfer-chill vibes.
Half an hour’s drive down the road is Airey’s Inlet, a picturesque hamlet rich in natural attractions and maritime history. The century-old Airey’s Pub is a community success story, revived after closing down by a group of locals and now home to an independent brewery named Salt. Quench yourself after a swim with their namesake beer, a crisp European-style lager that goes down easy with classic beer battered fish and chips. If you’re partial to a good G&T, on the same street is small batch distillery Great Ocean Road Gin, where they’re making craft spirits with locally foraged botanicals from the Surf Coast such as lilly pilly, riberry and saltbush. Go for a tasting then have lunch in their Gin Kitchen, which serves zippy pan-Asian fare ranging from pipis in XO sauce to beef rendang.
You can compare their gins to the ones you’ll find next at Apollo Bay Distillery, another boutique maker flying the flag down the pointy end of Victoria. Their warm grapefruit-infused number makes a great gift to take home, but not before enjoying some woodfired pizza and delicious cocktails on site first. Meanwhile, fans of cider should consider taking a detour inland to Prickly Moses brewery in Barongarook, at the foot of the Otway Ranges. Made with Australian apples, berries and mango, they’re bright and refreshing after a long bushwalk.
Back along the coast, Sow & Piglets Brewery is making German-style beer including dunkel, a dark German lager, and marzen, the malty brew traditionally served at Oktoberfest – get a tasting paddle and transport yourself to Bavaria by the beach. Next, a short drive from the Twelve Apostles to Timboon Railway Shed Distillery will reward you with single malt whiskies that have been lovingly crafted inside an restored railway shed. You’ll hardly be short of a drink with their housemade whiskies, vodka, schnapps, limoncello and boozy cream to taste, but just in case, they’ve also collected the largest display of Australian craft spirits in the country for you to try and buy. Peckish? Stick around for shareplates of beef gyoza, cauliflower pakoras and pork arancini.
If you’ve got time and curiosity spare, there’s even more worth visiting just beyond the end of the Great Ocean Road. The small rural town of Koroit possesses a fascinating Irish charm from its settlement history as well as Noodledoof, one of the region’s most forward thinking brewery-distilleries. They’ve got a sour feijoa spritzer and iced coffee stout beckoning on the beer side of things, while they work with local Indigenous co-operative Worn Gundidj to source native botanicals for their gin and vodka. Few breweries can say they open for breakfast but these folks do, meaning you can get almond chia pudding from the same place you get your Negroni. Well, you are on holiday.
Don't just take our word for it – you could win a road trip experience to sample all the best breweries and distilleries in the region for yourself! Great Ocean Road Tourism is giving away two unforgettable Victorian escapes. Simply head to the Great Ocean Road/Geelong and The Bellarine Facebook or Instagram account, answer a few simple questions, and you’ll be entered into the draw. Good luck!