Ah, the Great Ocean Road! Definitely, one of those must-dos when one thinks of visiting Australia. Arguably not only the most famous road trip in Australia but perhaps the most famous one in the world! And rightly so! The 250-kilometre drive between Angelsea and Warrnambool will likely be one of the most scenic drives you’ll ever experience in your life. This drive is a great way to experience the beautiful coastline of Australia. You will also see beautiful coastal cliffs and rock formations, but you can see wildlife too! Think, koalas and kangaroos in the wild!
I’ve written these stops coming from Melbourne and have included tips and facilities so you can plan your bathroom stops.
I’ve also created a Google Map with the stops for you to check out here.
Where does the Great Ocean Road stop?
Here are the top spots along Australia’s Great Ocean Road. Note that these stops are in the order that you can expect if you are taking a Great Ocean Road Tour from Melbourne:
- Bells Beach
- The Split Point Lighthouse in Aireys Inlet
- Memorial Arch at Eastern View
- Apollo Bay
- Maits Rest Rainforest Walk
- The Twelve Apostles
- Gibson’s steps
- Loch Ard Gorge (read the sad shipwreck story before you go!)
- London Arch
- The Grotto
- Bay of Martyrs
- Bay of Islands Warrnambool
- Logan’s beach, a whale nursery in Warrnambool
- Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve
- Erskine Falls (Optional)
- Kenneth River (koala spotting) (Optional)
Great Ocean Road Stop #1:
This beach is about a 1.5-hour drive from Melbourne. If you are lucky enough to visit during the annual surf event, you will get to watch the best surfers in the world compete. If you’re into water activities and surfing, Bells Beach is a great place to check out. Whether it’s snorkelling, surfing, or just chilling on the beach, this place is worth checking out. Even if you aren’t into water sports, it is fun to watch some incredible surfers riding the waves. Tip: Bells beach is a great place to stop for a light picnic.
Facilities: There are clean public bathrooms for you to use
Great Ocean Road Stop #2: The Split Point Lighthouse in Aireys Inlet
Split Point Lighthouse is not only in a stunning area, but it houses the famous lighthouse from the ‘80s show called Round the twist.
My tour guide kept trying to sing the song to us to see if we recognize it. I didn’t recognize it at all until I heard the theme song from this video.
Regardless, the lookout to the sea is still beautiful because Split Point is a geological wonder. This area was created some 20+ million years ago from volcano lava and sea.
Tip: The drive between Bells beach and the lighthouse is stunning so try to stay awake and take in the beauty! Parking is a bit of a pain in the area. You should also avoid driving into the street that leads to the trail to the lighthouse. The residents in the area seem fed up with tourists and will get upset if you do so.
Facilities: There are no bathrooms that I could see so plan ahead!
Great Ocean Road Stop #3:
You cannot go through the Great Ocean road without seeing the Memorial Arch. This arch was built between 1919 and 1932 to honour the fallen comrades during World War One.
Even if you don’t decide to stop at this monument, make sure to keep an eye out for the Memorial Arch.
Great Ocean Road Stop #4: Apollo Bay
This coastal town of 1,600 people is now a tourist destination and makes for a great stop for lunch and to take a break. There are some picturesque walks to take, so it’s worth carving out two hours of your time to chill in the area.
There’s a small street with a ton of restaurants, ranging from fish and chips to ramen to Chinese food! In fact, there were quite a few Chinese restaurants, which was very surprising to me. It was really funny to see a little street filled with Chinese restaurants.
I will have to admit that the food isn’t very great here
We blew our food budget out the window on mediocre food. Apparently, there is a place known for fish and chips and let’s just say…it was ok. If you’re on a budget and you want to buy food at a grocery store, your best bet might be to shop there instead.
If you like ice cream, check out Dooleys Ice Cream Parlour. They appear to be the real deal considering how they’ve won so many awards for the best ice cream in Australia. I will warn you that it’s super pricey (like everything else in Australia haha). The ice cream is good, but I don’t know if I’d call it the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten.
Facilities: There are clean public bathrooms. Expect a wait and bring toilet paper in case your stall runs out. It’s a high traffic area and I don’t think they restock the toiletries fast enough.
Great Ocean Road Stop #5: Maits Rest Rainforest Walk
If you like rainforests and you like being in nature or would like to stop by somewhere for a short walk, the Maits Rest rainforest walk is worth the stop. The entire trek is well maintained and takes about 30 minutes to walk through.
Facilities: There are no bathrooms in the area!
Great Ocean Road Stop #6: The Twelve Apostles
If you haven’t figured it out already, the twelve apostles are the HIGHLIGHT of the Great Ocean Road. And for good reason! These limestone structures are over 45 meters and were created over 20 million years ago. Unfortunately, you are not allowed on the beach near the Twelve Apostles. That’s where you should check out Gibson’s steps, which is a short drive from this area.
Take your time and walk along the walkway. If you are keen on counting the apostles, you’ll notice that there are only eight apostles left!
Tip: Watch the sunset at the Twelve Apostles and be in awe of the beauty
Facilities: There are clean bathrooms right by the parking lot
Great Ocean Road Stop #7: Gibson’s steps
Gibson steps refer to the staircase that leads down to the beach near the Twelve Apostles. These staircases are famous for a good reason; they are one of the few access points to the beautiful coastline. The 30-meter cliff line and offshore stacks are beautiful, and worth checking out. There are two offshore stacks in the area called Gog and Magog that you may have seen from the Twelve Apostles. In case you are curious, they are not part of the Twelve Apostles.
It’s only a two-minute drive from the Twelve Apostles and definitely worth the stop if you are able to walk down a long flight of stairs (86 steps, to be exact). It’s mesmerizing to see the strength of the waves and be up close to the cliff lines.
I’ve been told it is hard on the knees so if you have knee issues, make sure to take that into consideration. The steps do get muddy and slippery when wet too so be careful.
Swimming is not allowed unless it is during low tide as waves can reach as high as 1.5 meters high. For that reason, visitors should not turn their backs against the ocean.
The story behind Gibson steps
The cliff steps were first carved by the local Kirrae Whurrong people. A local settler named Hugh Gibson spent his time carving steps and maintaining them so that he can access the Gibson beach.
Facilities: I don’t remember toilets in the carpark so make sure to use facilities at the Twelve Apostles.
Great Ocean Road Stop #8: Loch Ard Gorge
Loch Ard Gorge is a sight to be seen and was an important backdrop for many movies. The Pirate Movie and the TV series Journey To The Center Of The Earth used Loch Ard Gorge as the backdrop.
Did you know there is a crazy story behind the place? In 1878, a shipwreck killed all but two survivors. There are two unconnected stone pillars inside the gorge, aptly named Tom and Eva after the two survivors. The gorge is also named after the sad shipwreck story.
Loch Ard gorge shipwreck story
First off, I want to mention that there are 638 recorded shipwrecks along Victoria’s coast, of which, only 240 of them have been discovered. This story is perhaps one of the most famous, and my personal favourite.
In 1878, a clipper ship set sail for a three-month voyage from England to Australia. After a long and arduous journey, the captain saw the coast. The only problem was that the captain thought the ship was about 50 miles away from the coast. This mistake left the ship crashing into rocks near Muttonbird Island, leaving the 1700 tonne ship to sink under the rocks.
Sadly, only two of the 54 people onboard survived the crash
Two teenagers, Tom and Eva were the only survivors of this tragic event.
Tom was washed ashore while Eva was left in the water clinging on for dear life for over five hours. Once Tom realized there was another survivor, he rushed back into the water to save her. Eva was unconscious but luckily, a case of brandy made it to shore (I’m not kidding!) and helped revive her! There, the two spent the night in the cove as shelter.
Come morning, Tom somehow managed to climb the cliff to get to the top of the road, and was able to find help for the two. In fact, it was the Gibsons (yes, the same family who built the Gibson steps!) who gave the two shelter after this ordeal.
Eva eventually returned to Europe while Tom lived died at sea at the ripe age of 49. Crazy to think he survived this shipwreck, only to die at sea later on in life.
And in case you are curious, the two did not end up together. For whatever reason, there was speculation that the two should get married (because you know, surviving a shipwreck together means romance haha). Tom did offer to break his engagement to another woman and offered to marry Eva.
Great Ocean Road Stop #9: London Arch (formerly named London Bridge)
These days, you can only admire this beauty from afar. But did you know that the London Arch was once a natural double arch where you could walk out to the edge of the arch?
Yup, London Arch was once called London Bridge, until one fateful day in 1990, the central arch collapsed. The crazy thing is that there were tourists on the arch when the central arch fell! Fortunately, no one was injured and the individuals who were stranded at the edge of the arch were airlifted to safety.
How crazy is it!? You can read more of the interesting story and the rescue here.
Great Ocean Road Stop #10: The Grotto
The grotto is another favourite attraction of mine during the Great Ocean Road. To get to the Grotto, you have to take a set of steps until you reach the bottom of the cliff. Once you arrive at the bottom, you’ll find this beautiful grotto that will honestly take your breath away. Make sure you visit during low tide so that you can see the ocean behind the Grotto.
I definitely felt like this was one of my favourite scenic spots… minus the tourists.
Make sure to budget some time here because it can get pretty busy with other tourists.
Great Ocean Road Stop #11: Bay of Martyrs
This area is one of the most beautiful sights to see in the country. While not as impressive as the Twelve Apostles, I’d still recommend stopping by the area to have a look.
Sadly, the area has other associated names – Massacre Point or Massacre Bay. The story goes that when the European settlers came to the area, they killed off a huge group of Karrae-Wurrong Aboriginal men. How? By walking them off the cliff of course. Yup. The chief of the Aboriginal group did not want to resort to violence in defending their land. The preyed on that and walked them off the cliff to their death.
And the women? Well, they were killed in a nearby swamp along with the children.
It indeed is a sad story about how the population of the Aboriginal people dropped from a few thousand to virtually none.
Great Ocean Road Stop #12: Bay of Islands Warrnambool
If you’ve already seen the Twelve Apostles, you might not find this to be as much in awe. But it is still worth seeing and still worth stopping! I’d reckon that this place gives the Twelve Apostles a run for its money, especially since the Twelve Apostles is getting way too crowded.
Great Ocean Road Stop #13: Logan’s beach, a whale nursery in Warrnambool
A nice and beautiful place for surfing. If you go in the wintertime, you can see whales arriving to nurse their young! Unfortunately, we visited the beach when the whales are swimming somewhere else so no whale sightings to report.
Great Ocean Road Stop #14: Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve
The drive will be three hours from Melbourne. It is far indeed but the last stop on the Great Ocean Road. The area has many trees and plants thanks to its fertile lands and is actually a large, sunken volcano. Another interesting thing is that there are no white swans in Australia and New Zealand, only black swans. It reminds me of my favourite book, the Black Swan where I learned about the black swan theory.
The Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve was fun – that’s where I spotted a koala bear, two emus, and three kangaroos. Gary was actually the first to spot the kangaroo that was lying in the shade.
We learned that there are 47 different types of kangaroos in Aussie.
BONUS: Other stops to check out on the Great Ocean Road
While I didn’t have the chance to check out these falls, the photos online make me want to go chasing waterfalls (haha ok, I’ll cut the cheesiness). Definitely, a picturesque place and the walk from the carpark is only five minutes.
Kenneth River for koala spotting
Apparently, this place is great for koala bear spotting and worth checking out if you’re into wildlife. There are also tons of parrots to see too, which is quite incredible. Kenneth river also serves as a holiday park for those who are camping.
What towns are along the Great Ocean Road?
There are so many towns that you can stop by and rest when driving the Great Ocean Road. Here are the five towns you can visit during your trip:
- Kennett River
- Apollo Bay
- Port Campbell
Plan your trip:
- Bring warm clothes and layer up. Certain places can get pretty windy and chilly
- Bring snacks
- Keep an eye out for wildlife. You can see emus, koala bears and kangaroos! Keep an eye out for snakes too because they are around…dun dun dun