The Great Ocean Road in Victoria spans nearly 250 spectacular kilometres from Torquay to Allansford and is undoubtedly one of Australia’s best drives. As if there weren’t already enough reasons to visit, we’ve put together a list of some of the best activities on offer and even included a few to help you avoid the crowds.
Follow the sun
Make it your business to track the rise and fall of the sun while travelling the Great Ocean Road and you’re likely to witness some of the most spectacular scenes of your life.
While it’s not hard to find the popular sunrise and sunset spots, most of our best experiences were at lesser-known places, including one truly unforgettable sunrise near Wye River. A special mention must also go to Teddy’s Lookout near Lorne. Visit at first light for breathtaking views of coast and mountains.
Walk among giants
Back in the 1930s, hundreds of Californian redwoods were planted near Beech Forest as part of a logging experiment. Oceans away from their natural habitat, these trees have grown to around 60 metres, and it’s believed their height could double in the next 70 years.
It’s well worth a detour on unsealed track in the Great Otway National Park to experience the magnificence of this forest. So different from other Australian bush landscapes, you’ll be awed by the velvety stillness of these towering giants broken only by the crunch of leaves underfoot.
Marvel at natural wonders
No Great Ocean Road adventure is complete without a visit to the Twelve Apostles. They’re well worth a geeze even with the hundreds of other tourists flocking around. Our tip? Tackle Gibson’s Steps at first light for an up-close-and-personal experience with Gog and Magog.
While you’re in the area, don’t miss the other scenic drawcards including London Bridge and the Grotto. Our favourite side trip was Loch Ard Gorge, where we spent time on the beautiful beach and learned about the tragic Loch Ard shipwreck.
Take a coastal walk
Travellers of the Great Ocean Road are spoiled for choice when it comes to beautiful coastal walks. Among the many on offer, the Bay of Martyrs walk near Peterborough is an unexpected gem made all the better by a conspicuous lack of crowds and the fact it is dog-friendly.
The walk forms part of the Bay of Islands Coastal Park which includes the nearby Massacre Bay. Read up on the history of the area before arriving so you fully understand the scale of the tragic events that took place here and can pay your respects.
Go beach fishing
While there’s good catching to be had right along the Great Ocean Road, serious beach fishermen and women should make a beeline for Aire River at Hordernvale or Johanna Beach for a chance to reel in huge Australian salmon, gummy sharks, snapper and the occasional mulloway.
Autumn and winter visits are best for fishing but Johanna Beach is absolutely worth a visit regardless of the season. It feels a world away from the rest of the road and you could be forgiven for thinking you’re back in the age of the dinosaurs when taking in the sweeping views of this beautiful stretch of coast.
Forage for fungi
Hardy travellers tackling the Great Ocean Road in winter can take advantage of the abundant wild produce on offer. Venture inland to the Otway Forest Park to find a range of edible fungi, free for the taking. Expect your mushroom haul to include saffron milk caps, grey ghosts and slippery jacks.
While it’s immensely satisfying to gather your own food, be sure to do so only under proper supervision. There are hundreds of species of fungi growing in the area and while a few of them make a mouth-watering meal, the rest can be downright dangerous.
Swim, surf or splash around
There’s plenty of spectacular choices for swimming and surfing along the Great Ocean Road. Special mentions go to Torquay Front Beach and Apollo Bay Beach while surfers and surf enthusiasts, of course, shouldn’t miss the world-famous Bells Beach.
However, if calm water is more your thing, our pick of the bunch is Port Fairy. We had an absolute ball at the tidal rockpools here, lazing on volcanic rocks warmed by the sun and swimming in crystal-clear waters just metres from a raging swell. Better yet, the beautiful Griffiths Island lighthouse walk is nearby, as well as abundant wildlife and more than 50 buildings classified by the National Trust. We give a big thumbs up to this quaint little town.
Track the festival trail
From seafood to ocean swimming, cycling, sculpture, folk music, kelpies, road running, horse racing, surfing or gourmet food and wine, there’s a festival on the Great Ocean Road to suit every taste and interest.
The organised holidaymaker will enjoy checking the yearly events calendar in advance and tailoring their trip around a festival or two. That said, if you’re more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of traveller, no matter what time of year you visit, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to partake in a festival along the way regardless.