The Great Ocean Road
Great Ocean Road Overview

Officially The Great Ocean Road runs 243 kms between Torquay, on the Surf Coast, and Allansford, just east of Warrnambool. From a practical point of view, however, either Geelong or Queenscliff (on the Bellarine Peninsula) will be the gateway to the region for visitors who start from Melbourne, and Nelson at the mouth of the Glenelg River on the Discovery Coast (in the far south west of Victoria) is likely to be the gateway for visitors who start in Adelaide. The Great Ocean Road region can be said to take in the entire Victorian coastline west from Queenscliff, and the inland areas up to roughly 100km from the coast.

The Great Ocean Road from Torquay passes through heathlands and ironbark forests before joining the coast at Anglesea. The imposing red limestone cliffs in this area have been undercut to create some of the best surf and coastal scenery in the world with spectacular cliffs at places like Bells Beach, Point Addis and Split Point (Airey’s Inlet). Inland, the Otway Plains are dominated by dry eucalypt forests, grasslands and sandy heathlands. From Anglesea to Apollo Bay the road closely follows the coast in the shelter of the Otway Ranges, providing unforgettable views of the forested hills plunging over 100 metres into the blue-green sea of the Southern Ocean.  The higher rainfall in this area gives rise to wet eucalypt forests and temperate rainforests, with waterfalls plunging into fern-filled gullies as the creeks and rivers rush to the ocean.

At Apollo Bay the road turns inland through the wet sclerophyll forest interspersed with pockets of temperate rainforest in the protected valleys of the beautiful Otway Ranges. The rainforest is principally defined by the beautiful, sometimes massive and ancient, Myrtle Beech, which once cloaked Gondwanaland and have now found one of their last refuges here. While the Great Ocean Road cuts across Cape Otway, the iconic Great Ocean Walk takes you along the rugged coast in this area. The Great Ocean Road meets the coast again just past Princetown at the famous Port Campbell National Park and the start of the Shipwreck Coast. The Otway Ranges have given way to the softer red sedimentary cliffs and wind-blasted heath and dairy farms. The wild weather common to this coast contributed to the many shipwrecks and created the extraordinary sea-sculpted cliffs, arches and stacks, most famously the Twelve Apostles, which attract millions of visitors each year.

The Surf Coast towns of Torquay, Anglesea, and Aireys Inlet are close to some of the most outstanding surf breaks and the nearby heathlands and forests provide the ideal environment for bushwalking and mountain biking. Lorne is a sheltered and beautiful spot nestled between the beach and the thickly forested hills of the Otway Ranges where there are many spectacular waterfalls and bushwalks. Wye River and Kennett River are both these small seaside hamlets and Kennett River is most famous for the koalas that can nearly always be seen in the manna gums in and around town.

Apollo Bay is a small coastal town, surrounded by the spectacular beauty of steep green hills of the Otway Ranges, wide cloud-torn skies, and clean, cold sea. The opportunity to explore the natural environment is Apollo Bay’s big drawcard. Aside from the beach, there are walks in the nearby ranges, fishing and sea kayaking (to a seal colony). Cape Otway at the most southerly point of this coast is dominated by the lighthouse, and the collection of heritage buildings including cottages and telegraph and radar stations. To the west of Cape Otway you encounter the lakes and wetlands at the mouth of the Aire River, before a turnoff to the coast leads to Johanna Beach, one of the wildest, most beautiful beaches in Australia. Lavers Hill, the largest town in the western Otways is home to the beautiful Melba Gully with its remnant Gondwanaland rainforest and glow worms.  Beech Forest, on the top of the Otway Ranges, is close to many of the Otways waterfalls and Turton’s Track Rainforest Drive which leads inland to mountain biking trails around Forrest and nearby Lake Elizabeth. Highlights of the rugged coast between Lavers Hill and Princetown include The Gables Lookout, Moonlight Head and wreckage from 19th century shipwrecks at Wreck Beach.

The Shipwreck Coast towns of Princetown, Port Campbell and Peterborough have excellent coastal and estuary fishing and are close to The Twelve Apostles and other dramatic features of the Port Campbell National Park. The Bay of Islands Coastal Park lies to the west Peterborough and it is here that the Great Ocean Road heads inland meandering through rich dairy farming country until it reaches Allansford, the official end of the Great Ocean Road, just east of Warrnambool and home to one of the few remaining cheese and butter factories in the region.

Along the coast and in and around the hinterland towns of the Great Ocean Road there are cafes, restaurants, farm gate experiences, berry farms, wineries, distilleries and cheese factories. There is a range of accommodation options including bush camping, caravan parks, farm stays, backpackers, B&Bs, self-catering cabins and hotels, motels and luxury resorts.

Along the Great Ocean Road there are great opportunities to experience a range of ecosystems with abundant native birdlife and rare native animals. In the heathlands and eucalypt forests of the Surf Coast wildflowers, including rare orchids, put on a brilliant display during winter and spring and attract nectar feeding birds. Native fauna includes many small marsupials, like echidnas, bandicoots, and potoroos. Wallabies and kangaroos are common throughout the region and koalas can be found in the dry sclerophyll forests around Kennett River and Cape Otway. More than 80 species of birds inhabit the heathlands including the rare ground parrot and rufous bristlebird. In the forest areas the larger birds such as king parrots, rosellas, currawongs and kookaburras are common as are some of the smaller forest birds such as robins and fan-tails. Majestic wedge-tailed eagles can be seen soaring on thermals, particularly inland on the Otway Plains.

In the temperate rainforests and sclerophyll forests of the Otway Ranges the fauna includes kangaroos and wallabies, antechinus and native rats, brushtail possums and sugar gliders. In the damp, dark places in the rainforest the glow worms put on a fascinating light display at night and you may be lucky enough to see the carnivorous Otway black snail. Platypus can be sighted around dawn and dusk at Lake Elizabeth, deep in the Otway Ranges near Forrest. The whipbird, king parrot, crimson rosella, kookaburra and rufous fantail are common and the currawong can be found in dry sclerophyll forests. The wetlands around the larger rivers such as the Aire, Gellibrand and Curdies Rivers support numerous species of plants and animals, with more than 100 water-dependant bird species recorded, including pelicans and black swan. The rocks and caves of the coast are home to penguins, bats and seals, which can be spotted diving from the rocks of Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary, near Apollo Bay. Whales travel along the coast between May and September, and female southern right whales can be observed mothering their newborn calves from the viewing platforms at Logan’s Beach in Warrnambool. 

Great Ocean Road Overview

Great Ocean Road & Otways Waterfalls

Touring the Great Ocean Road between Torquay and Lavers Hill you will experience breathtaking coastal views, visit idyllic beaches and venture into the Otway Ranges where scenic waterfalls tumble into fern-filled gullies in some of the remnants of the ancient Gondwanaland rainforest. While you’re taking in the sights and sounds you’ll learn about the Indigenous and early European histories of the region and observe native wildlife.


Days:2
Luxury:**** Four Star
Type of Tour:Small Group Guided Tour
Experience: Car Touring / Nature
Challenge: Easy
Cost: From $747
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Great Ocean Road & 12 Apostles

On this small group tour of the Great Ocean Road between Torquay and the Twelve Apostles you will experience breathtaking coastal views, visit idyllic beaches, shipwrecks, towering ocean cliffs and unique sandstone formations as well as venture into Gondwanaland rainforest gullies with eucalypts towering overhead in the Otway Ranges. While you’re taking in the sights and sounds you’ll learn about the Indigenous and early European history of the region and observe native wildlife.


Days:2
Luxury:**** Four Star
Type of Tour:Small Group Guided Tour
Experience: Car Touring / Nature
Challenge: Easy
Cost: From $747
more
Surf Coast Tour

Touring the Great Ocean Road between Torquay and Kennett River you will experience breathtaking coastal views, visit idyllic beaches and venture into the surrounding forests where scenic waterfalls tumble into fern-filled gullies. While you’re taking in the sights and sounds, you’ll learn about the Indigenous and early European histories of the region and observe native wildlife.


Days:1
Luxury:**** Four Star
Type of Tour:Small Group Guided Tour
Experience: Car Touring / Nature
Challenge: Easy
Cost: From $250
more

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