One of the world’s most iconic scenic coastal routes hugs Australia’s southwest coastline, with such magnificence that you’ll instantly recognize why it’s been voted one of the world’s best scenic drives.
Your Australia vacation to explore this self-drive destination starts the moment you board your Air New Zealand flight, which provides an enjoyable, comfortable journey, along with award-winning service.
Great Ocean Road, with its panoramic views of gorgeous beaches, lush rainforests, misty waterfalls, and quaint towns, is the stuff of travel legends. The world-famous highway is carved into sheer cliffs that drop away into the ocean, hugging 320 kilometers of dramatic Victoria coastline. Many travel the road for the sheer excitement of cruising its winding cliff-top roads and feeling the corners. The spectacular vistas that seem to unfold at every turn are a feast for the eyes that will compel you to pull the car over and marvel at the wonder of it all.
First built as a work project for veterans returning from World War I, and completed in 1932, the Great Ocean Road is a one-in-a-lifetime route best taken by self-drive, small group, or coach tour. You won’t really need much of an itinerary, or even a map to drive the Great Ocean Road. Most visitors start from Melbourne, located 95 kilometers away from Torquay. Though it is possible to drive the length of the road and see its main attractions in a day’s driving, two or three days allows you time to explore some surf towns, enjoy local food and wine, and interact with some of the delightful creatures that make the Great Ocean Road region their home.
The 12 Apostles
These iconic rock formations rise up out of the foamy sea, practically begging to be photographed. For many, the sight of these rocky limestone stacks is the biggest attraction of the trip along the Great Ocean Road. The 12 Apostles were formed some 20 million years ago as the sea gradually eroded the soft limestone cliffs between Port Campbell and Princetown. Follow the boardwalk within Port Campbell National Park and stop at the spectacular vista points. You can take a helicopter ride over the dramatic shipwreck coast to get a bird’s eye view of these famous natural wonders. You’ll see the London Arch, which was London Bridge before half of it collapsed in 1990, and enjoy breathtaking aerial views of the 12 Apostles, Moonlight Head, The Cape Otway Light Station, Gibson’s Steps, and Loch Ard Gorge.
During your journey along Great Ocean Road, you’ll find the most perfect surf breaks, which are great for riding the waves or simply relaxing and taking in the epic views. Torquay seems like a township dedicated to surfing. Surfworld Museum in West Torquay has exhibits on surfboard design and surfing history. Just down the road, Bells Beach is a world famous surfing mecca – with crashing waves, lots of surfers, and kangaroos in nearby grasslands. Rent a board, take a lesson and ride some waves if you dare!
Koalas, Rainforests & Kangas
The Great Ocean Road region is brimming with wildlife, and its ancient rainforests are home to hundreds of fascinating and cuddly creatures. Take a guided walk through the Australian bush and spot adorable koalas in their natural habitat. If you time your visit for the late afternoon, you’ll see koalas eating leaves, grooming themselves, or seeking new food trees (they rest throughout most of the day). Some of Australia’s best rainforest scenery is found in the Great Otway National Park. Walk among tall trees and giant tree ferns, beautiful waterfalls, and see the Melba Gully glow worms. Experience the Otway Fly Treetop Walk, with breathtaking views and abundant plant and birdlife. Inside an extinct volcano at Tower Hill, you can see koalas, kangaroos, and emus. Take a canoe trip at dawn or dusk to view platypus in the wild, on a beautiful mountain lake in the Otway Ranges. Go whale watching from the dunes of Logans Beach, and spot southern right whale and blue whales as they migrate to the coast of Victoria each year.
Great Ocean Walk
Get out of the car and stroll along Victoria’s west coast, through stunning national parks. The Great Ocean Walk stretches 91km (56 miles) from Apollo Bay to Glenample Homestead (near the 12 Apostles), overlooking the Marine National Park and Sanctuary. The Great Ocean Walk trail is designed so you can “step on” or “step off” at a number of places, traversing through national parks, deserted beaches, and rugged coastal scenery. You can hike for a couple of hours or all day here.
Theatre, Music & The Arts
The Great Ocean Road region has a vibrant, creative culture that will interest art lovers, shoppers, and music fans. From local markets and boutiques, to artists’ studios and galleries, and music festivals, Victoria is full of art, inspired by the sea and landscapes. Travellers will be impressed by the Warrnambool Art Gallery, the Whale Bone Gallery in Port Fairy, and the Lorne Festival of Performing Arts.
Gorgeous Food & Wine
Feast on fresh seafood, regionally produced cheeses, and fantastic local wines during your journey along Great Ocean Road. This region of Australia gives culinary connoisseurs lots to get excited about, with fertile farm country, friendly craft breweries, and scenic wineries. In quaint seaside towns you can stop into award-winning restaurants, cafes, and tea rooms for local culinary delights.
In Victoria’s premier holiday town, Lorne, enjoy freshly roasted coffee, delectable pastries, and spectacular beach views. Sample gourmet delights along the Otway Harvest Trail and the 12 Apostles Gourmet Trail. Get into the hustle and bustle of local markets to pick up fresh fruits, berries, and olives – grown just around the corner. Visit one of the many vineyards up and down the coast, and sample local Pinot Noir and Riesling. Victoria wineries are the perfect place to toast to one of life’s great journeys!
Get the latest travel trends & hear about the best deals on vacations around the world.
If you’re a Globetrotter, these are the newsletters for you!