The Great Ocean Road – Victoria, Australia
The Great Ocean Road was finally here! There is quite a bit of planning that is required before embarking on this journey – enough to fill an entire separate post. If you are interested in the details or are planning on doing the Great Ocean Road, I suggest taking a peak at this post – Road Map to the Great Ocean Road – How to Plan your Trip.
Our morning started early – making sure we had all our stuff packed and ready to go for check out of our lovely Melbourne home and into our car for the adventure on Great Ocean Road. After our journey on the Road to Hana and how great of an experience it was, we were really looking forward to this road trip!
Our plan was similar to Road to Hana and have an overnight trip towards the end of the Great Ocean Road at Port Campbell. This would give us all day Tuesday and a portion of Wednesday morning to complete the Great Ocean Road.
Some considerations as we were completing this journey in wintertime. In order to accomplish everything we wanted, we should have left around 4AM but the problem was that the sun wasn’t up until 730 AM so starting the Great Ocean Road that early did not make sense – we wouldn’t see anything at the beginning of the journey! So we left at 5AM so that the first hour of the drive to get us to the Great Ocean Road would be ok to do in darkness.
Like the Road the Hana, we downloaded the Gypsy Guide to narrate our drive, point out the most important stops, and give advice and history about the journey. The Great Ocean Road and the Gypsy Guide start in the town of Torquay – a popular surf town. It was still pitch black when we arrived there at 6:15AM – even though we drove to the coast, it was impossible to see but we were able to catch some gorgeous stars in the sky.
Bell’s Beach, a famous beach for surfing competitions, was next and we could just start to see the beginnings of the sun. While we could not see the ocean, we could certainly hear it and the waves were extremely loud. We could not wait to catch the first glimpse of the ocean.
We skipped a few stops in order to make up some distance and let the sun rise and ended up in the town of Anglesea. Here, we had an opportunity to see kangaroos in the wild as they seemed to enjoy the golf club grounds. The golf club offers half hour tours for a fee but it was so early, the golf club was not even open yet. So we drove around the parking lot to see if we would get lucky. And at the last section of the parking lot, we saw kangaroos in the distance! Of course the light was horrible for photos but we still tried anyway. We stayed with them for about 15 minutes before heading on to the next stop.
With the sun finally making its way high enough into the sky, we were finally able to catch that ocean! A gorgeous color of aqua blue, crisp white foam, and large waves hugged the coastline. But that did not stay with us for long as the rain set in, but not before giving us our first glance of a rainbow in the sky ahead.
Cold and wet, we were thankful that we spent a lot of time in the car between stops enjoying the view from the heat inside. After three hours on the road, we finally reached our first stop in Lorne. We were an hour behind where I wanted to be at this point in the drive but the weather was certainly making the longer hikes undesirable so I expected we would be able to make up the time. The first stop in Lorne was breakfast at The Bottle of Milk where we shared a Bacon and Egg Roll (bacon, egg, tasty cheese, tomato sauce and mayo), Eggs on Sourdough Toast, and a Hot Jam Doughnut. Everything was delicious – especially the sandwich as the mix of ketchup and mayo reminded me of fat sandwiches from college.
While the longer hikes may have not been feasible today given the weather, I made sure to prioritize the shorter trails. Erskine Falls is a 15 minute drive off the Great Ocean Road but gets visitors very close to the falls themselves. When we arrived at the parking lot, we were the only car there.
Erskine Falls is a 30 meter high waterfall with two viewpoints. We walked to the Upper Falls Lookout (80m) for a high viewpoint of the falls and then walked down the stairs to the Lower Falls Lookout (220m) for a serene view of Erskine Falls among the lush rain forest. The Lower Falls Lookout is definitely worth the stair climb! And one benefit of the wintertime – the falls are gorgeous.
The last stop in Lorne was a trip up to Teddy Lookout. Thankfully the rain held off while we got to take in the view from this high point to see the coastline.
We continued on the Great Ocean Road, taking a few minutes here and there to hop out at various pull offs and enjoy the view. The Gypsy Guide really highlights these so well to help know which are skip-able and which are worth the view.
Our next stop was Kennet River for a chance to see koalas in the wild, something that many Australian do not get to see as they are quite rare to spot. We parked at the Koala Cafe as instructed and jumped out for a walk down Grey River Road. I was hopeful my bird spotting luck would help us see a koala but after a half hour of walking and too many eucalyptus trees to count, we headed back to the car. Before leaving, I gave one more attempt at the trees closest to the entrance and low and behold, I found one!
I couldn’t believe it!!! I am a really sleepy koala. Of course we saw no one the entire walk and as soon as I spotted this one, several groups popped up out of nowhere to crowd the area. We got our photos and continued along the Great Ocean Road.
Before the next stop, the sun took a peek out from behind the clouds and created a perfect rainbow! For our second rainbow of the day, pulled over to take it in and see that gorgeous water again.
Mariners Lookout was next and while I thought we would skip it, Gypsy Guide highly recommended it so we took the advice and walked to the stop. The view gives expansive looks in both directions, along with the rolling hills, and the next town of Apollo Bay where our next stop would be.
Minutes away at Apollo Bay, we stopped for lunch. Apollo Bay Bakery is known for their pies – specifically their scallop pie – so we grabbed one of those to enjoy. It was so delicious! The inside sauce had such a great flavor and texture, the scallops were surprisingly not over cooked, and the crust was buttery and flaky.
While we would have gotten more food here, the Gypsy Guide instructed us to get some fresh fish and chips so we followed the recommendation. Down the street was Apollo Bay Fishermen’s Co-Op and that seemed to do the job and do it well. On our way there, the rain turned to hail and we really started to wonder what the heck was going on – hail?!?!
A short break in the hail allowed us to run inside and order our fish and chips made with the fresh catch of the day. As we sat enjoying our food, the hail reached a new level of crazy. The fish was excellent, batter was flavorful but not overpowering of the fish, and the chips / fries were delightful. The table next to us took advantage of the half lobster special and while we were tempted, our fish and chips were very satisfying. Thanks to Gypsy Guide for the recommendation – this one really hit the spot!
It was after 1230PM so it was time to make some decisions about the longer extensions to the Otway National Park for various waterfalls and trails, as well as the Cape Otway Lighthouse. We decided to skip both as we wanted more time for the sights at the end of the Great Ocean Road.
On our ride out of Apollo Bay, I could not believe it but I spotted a koala in a tree – something that is very difficult to do from a moving vehicle! Kevin turned us around and got us parked on the shoulder to spend a few minutes with this koala who was much more awake and alert to us being there.
Since we decided to skip the longer adventures off the Great Ocean Road (there are so many great longer hikes in the Great Otway National Park), we decided to enjoy the Maits Rest Rainforest Trail. for an 800m loop through the rain forest.
Read about our walk through the Maits Rest Rainforest – here!
As we pulled out back onto the Great Ocean Road, the road was covered in hail as if it was snow – it was really unbelievable this weather we were having for this road trip.
Skipping the Cape Otway Lighthouse and the hiking trail in Otway National Park, we had a bit of a drive before the next set of attractions. We learned about the history of this region as well as how fertile the land is here. We passed so much farmland and rolling hills full of cows and sheep. Apparently there is the 12 Apostles Food Artisans Trail that I wish we had more time to explore. If all went well with the rest of our drive, I was hoping to experience just a little of it.
After cutting through the countryside, we made it to the main attraction of the Great Ocean Road – the Twelve Apostles! With the weather being as poor as it was, I was just hoping we would be able to see the rocks in the distance. After a short walk, we reached the viewing platform and wow, it was as incredible of a view as I was hoping for!
So many photos, it needs its own post- see all the photos of the Twelve Apostles here!
Instead, we made a run for some of the food stops on the Twelve Apostles Food Artisans Trail. They all close so early so it was a compromise to cut seeing the entire thing in one day since sunset was around 530PM. The first stop was Schulz Organic Creamery and Cafe.
We made it there before the close at 4PM and they were happy to serve us a cheese plate. We ordered the “Here to Enjoy” which included five Schulz organic dairy cheese, Lana’s Garden rhubarb relish, housemade lavosh and biscotti, with fresh fruits and nuts. The five cheeses were herbed quark, monas washed rind, botanical butter, marinated feta, timboon brie.
Oh this cheese plate was beautiful! Everything was delicious and honestly, a good cheese plate can really hit the spot. While all the cheeses were great, our favorite combination ended up being the brie with the homemade biscotti that had nuts and dried fruit throughout. In retrospect, I would have gotten a wheel of the brie with those biscotti from breakfast the next morning. It was so good!
We ate quickly to be respectful of the closing time of the creamery and to make it to the next stop before they closed at 5PM. The whole day was a race against time! Luckily Timboon Fine Ice Cream was just down the road. Yes, it was freezing outside but a legit creamery in the countryside with all these cows? This had to be good ice cream.
And good ice cream it was. I got the honeycomb and chocolate, Kevin got the apple pie and vanilla. All the flavors were delicious and so well made. An excellent stop on the Great Ocean Road and it made me wonder what other delicious treats were hiding here.
With some daylight still in our midst, we decided to knock out a few stops past Port Campbell where we would be staying. The first was The Grotto for a short walk down stairs to a viewing platform that presented a window to the ocean.
Seeing the waves and the massive midst that spewed into the air with each crash, it felt crazy to walk down into the grotto. Once again, we had the place to ourselves. I can only imagine how nuts some of these spots are in the spring and summer time. The fact that we had the entire Great Ocean Road to ourselves with no one around and no line to get the perfect photo is pretty amazing.
London Bridge is located next to The Grotto so we stopped there as well. The ocean was getting more aggressive and the wind was reaching crazy speeds – it was a bit scary looking out into the ocean and the weather that was going on.
We could see another wave of dark clouds making their way towards us so after several minutes taking in this epic view, we made our way to the Airbnb in Port Campbell before we got stuck in the storm.
This Airbnb was the perfect stop to spend the night and I wish we had more time to enjoy it and the property. While it was dark when we arrived, we were greeted by the quacking of the ducks. Shortly after our arrival, the clouds opened and more hail, rain and intense wind dumped onto the Great Ocean Road. This was a good cue to turn in for the night but I will say, it was difficult to sleep at first as it sounded like the roof was going to collapse.
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Like yesterday, we could not start the day too early as we would not be able to see anything but I did want to time the Twelve Apostles for sunrise, which was only 20 minutes away from the Airbnb. We only had a few hours left on the Great Ocean Road before we had to head back to Melbourne and catch our flight at 2PM – return the car at 12PM, a three hour drive to the airport, so we had to leave at 9AM. We packed up and left around 7AM to try and fit everything in this short two hours.
Our first stop was the Gibson Steps to walk down to the water. The cloud coverage was thick and the wind was absolutely insane. I did not think it was safe to walk down stairs 86 steps to the base of the cliff and thankfully, so did whoever closed off the steps. Saving time here, we moved on to the next stop.
When we made it to the Twelve Apostles, the sunrise was nonexistent and the rain continued on from the night. The difference between our visit yesterday and today was how epic the wind was – knock you over kind of wind. It was the closest thing to the free falling sensation in sky diving as it gets – that is how windy it was here. The ocean waves were so enormous and intense. But once again, we had no one else around us – we had the Twelve Apostles to ourselves a second time.
After a final goodbye, we headed to the final area on our Great Ocean Road itinerary, the Loch Ard Gorge.
Read about our time at Loch Ard Gorge here!
The final stop in this area is Thunder Cave which after seeing everything else in this area of crashing waves it was no surprise there was a thunder cave here.
As with the other sights, everything here was experienced by only us which is still hard to believe given this is one of the great roads in the world. Before we knew it, 9AM arrived and it was time to head to the airport for the final leg of our journey in Sydney.
What an incredible road trip on the Great Ocean Road! We had the entire journey to ourselves which is something I definitely did not expect but that was a wonderful trade off to the weather and the shortened days. I can only imagine the lines at these attractions for the perfect spot are significant which adds to the duration of the trip. If you want to learn more or are planning a trip, make sure to check out Road Map to the Great Ocean Road – How to Plan your Trip.