Great Ocean Road & Twelve Apostles

Touring the Great Ocean Road between Torquay and Lavers Hill you will visit idyllic beaches, take in the breathtaking coastal views from the imposing red ochre limestone cliffs and travel through ironbark forests and heathlands.

At times the Great Ocean Road is literally carved into the near-vertical cliffs as it climbs to more than 100 metres above the blue-green sea and the views of forested hills plunging into the Southern Ocean are unforgettable. 

While you’re taking in the sights and sounds you’ll learn about the Wathaurong Aboriginal inhabitants of the region and see traces of a sustainable way of life that existed for thousands of years.

As well you’ll discover the maritime history and early European settlement of this coast, including the building of the Great Ocean Road - the world’s largest war memorial.

You can choose between a picnic or barbecue lunch overlooking the Southern Ocean or in the forests of the Otway Ranges.

After a night in stylish accommodation and breakfast in Apollo Bay we head west again on the Great Ocean Road visiting wetland areas and wild, remote beaches on route to a remnant of Gondwanaland rainforest inhabited by towering mountain ash and myrtle beech trees.

We will find a picnic area for lunch before heading to Princetown and the iconic 12 Apostles, one of Australia’s best known seascapes. We will spend some time exploring the wild windswept landscape of rock stacks, arches and gorges and discovering some of the Aboriginal and early European history of the area.

As well as taking you into dramatic coastal and forest environments along the Great Ocean Road, opportunities to observe native wildlife will occur throughout the tour. Kangaroos, wallabies and koalas can be observed in the eucalypt forests. We will hear and see a range of birdlife including rosellas and some of the smaller forest birds such as robins and fan-tails. We may even see majestic wedge-tailed eagles soaring on thermals.

Along the coast we may observe shore-birds and seals, while whales are regularly spotted along this coast between May and October. 

 

Dates

This tour can be taken throughout the year, with different experiences depending on the season and prevailing weather. The most settled weather – with warm temperatures and low rainfall - generally occurs in February and March. Summer is the best beach weather, but it is also the busiest time of year with heavy traffic, particularly on weekends. The high temperatures and strong northerly winds that create perfect beach (and surf) conditions can also be ideal for bushfires that can restrict travel.  The region has great appeal in winter, with wild weather pounding the coast and waterfalls at their best. Whales can be spotted between May and October. Wildflowers are best during late winter and spring.

 

Contact us for more information on these small group guided tours and to discuss a time and date that suits you best. We may be able to arrange these tours on alternative dates, including weekends. If you’d like a private, customized or self drive itinerary see Create Your Own Journey

Full Itinerary

This is a two-day tour. The first day begins with pickup at your accommodation on the Surf Coast at around 8.30am and we will spend about 9 hours exploring before delivering you to your next overnight accommodation. On the second day we will arrange pick up according to the ideal times to view The Twelve Apostles, and we will spend about 10 hours exploring before returning you to your accommodation.

DAY 1 - Great Ocean Road from Torquay to Apollo Bay.

Beginning in Torquay we travel through ironbark forests and heathlands, visit idyllic beaches and take in the breathtaking coastal views from the imposing red ochre limestone cliffs. You will learn about the Aboriginal inhabitants of the region and see traces of a life that existed for thousands of years. At Aireys Inlet Lighthouse you will learn about the maritime history and early European settlement of this coast. 

At Eastern View we will visit the Memorial Arch - built to commemorate the World War I veterans who built the Great Ocean Road, before travelling on to Lorne on a road that is literally carved into the near-vertical cliffs as it climbs to more than 100 metres above the blue-green sea.  The views of forested hills plunging into the Southern Ocean are unforgettable.

At Lorne we can choose between a picnic or barbecue lunch overlooking Louttit Bay, or we can venture into the surrounding lush forest for the quintessential Australian bush experience, complete with Kookaburras who will steal your barbecue lunch if you are not wary. Our last stop for the day will be to observe koalas in the woodlands around Kennett River, before travelling on to our stylish accommodation in Apollo Bay.

DAY 2 – Along the Great Ocean Road from Apollo Bay to the Twelve Apostles and inland return to Torquay.

After breakfast in Apollo Bay we head west again on the Great Ocean Road visiting wetland areas teeming with birdlife and wild and remote ocean beaches, backed by the rolling green hills of the Otway Ranges, where you will no doubt experience some of the wild weather which resulted in the many shipwrecks along this coast. Near Lavers Hill we will stop for a picnic lunch at Melba Gully, before exploring the surrounding temperate rainforest, with its massive trees and learning something of the early timber and railway history of the area. After Princetown we come to the iconic Twelve Apostles, one of Australia’s best known seascapes. We will spend some time exploring the wild windswept landscape of rock stacks, arches and gorges and discovering some of the Aboriginal and early European history of the area.  We return to Torquay via the Heytesbury Settlement area and the Otway Plains.

As well as taking you into dramatic coastal and forest environments along the Great Ocean Road, opportunities to observe native wildlife will occur throughout the tour. Kangaroos, wallabies and koalas can be observed in the eucalypt forests. We will hear and see a range of birdlife including rosellas and some of the smaller forest birds such as robins and fan-tails. We may even see majestic wedge-tailed eagles soaring on thermals. Along the coast we may observe shore-birds and seals, while whales are regularly spotted along this coast between May and October.

Price & Inclusions

Contact Around The Sun for the cost of this once in a lifetime opportunity!

 Our price includes pick-up from and return to your accommodation in Geelong or on the Surf Coast, a picnic or BBQ lunch of local gourmet food (on both days), and drinking water is always carried in the vehicle. Stylish overnight accommodation and breakfast will be provided in Apollo Bay.

The advertised price is based on a scheduled small group departure with a minimum of seven passengers. Private trips with less than seven passengers, or any customised itinerary, are likely to cost more. Scheduled small group departures will be confirmed not less than 56 days before the trip commences. If we do not have our required minimum numbers anyone who has made a booking will have an opportunity to transfer dates, to continue on the trip at an amended price, or to receive a full refund.

Not Included

Your evening meal in Apollo Bay is not included. We are happy to provide advice on the range of options from gourmet to take away.

A Gourmet Package including luxury accommodation and gourmet evening meal can be arranged at additional cost.

Pick-up from Melbourne (Tullamarine) or Avalon airports can be arranged for additional cost.

Great Ocean Road

Officially The Great Ocean Road runs 243 kms between Spring Creek, at Torquay and Allansford, just east of Warrnambool. From Torquay, on the Surf Coast, it travels inland through heathlands and ironbark forests, before joining the coast at Anglesea. 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.   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. While to 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, with its sea-sculpted cliffs, arches and stacks, and the start of the Shipwreck Coast.

While officially the Great Ocean road runs from Torquay to near 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 Surf Coast

The Great Ocean Road officially begins at Spring Creek, the boundary between Torquay and Jan Juc on the Surf Coast (100 kms from Melbourne). Although the road doesn’t meet the coast until Anglesea, it is a mistake to miss the section of coast between Torquay and Anglesea, because it has some of the best surf and coastal scenery in the world. The best way to enjoy the views is to take advantage of sections of the Surf Coast Walk, which follows the coast from Point Impossible (east of Torquay near Breamlea) to Fairhaven. 

 The Surf Coast can be divided into two sub-zones, with imposing red limestone cliffs from Torquay to Fairhaven, and hard grey sedimentary rocks from Eastern View on. The softer red stone has been undercut to create 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. West of Eastern View as far as Apollo Bay, the harder grey sandstone has protected the foundations of the Otway Ranges, and near vertical cliffs plunge into the blue-green 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.

Torquay is a thriving town and home to Surf City Plaza – where you find the largest and most impressive complex of surfing retailers anywhere in the world - and also the home of the Surf World Museum, dedicated to surfing and beach culture and housing the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame. It is forever linked to the surf industry because of its proximity to some outstanding surf breaks - none more famous than Bells Beach, home to the world’s oldest professional surfing contest. The big waves at Bells are not an everyday event, but there are many more surf beaches, often with more consistent breaks, along the coast. Pt Addis is arguably the most beautiful beach on the Surf Coast and there are some great walks in Ironbark Basin behind the cliffs.

Anglesea is where the Great Ocean Road meets the sea at the western end of some of the most magnificent coastal cliffs in Australia. This town has built a reputation as a centre for outdoor activity including mountain biking, surfing at one of the many local beaches, walking in the heathlands, fishing or canoeing on the Anglesea River or playing a round of golf amongst the kangaroos at the local course.

After Anglesea and Pt Roadknight, the road meets the coast and you get your first, literally breathtaking view down the coast past the Split Point lighthouse at Aireys Inlet. Known as the “White Queen”, the lighthouse overlooks Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary and can be seen wherever you are from Point Addis to Lorne. There are at least seven beaches within a 15-minute drive of Aireys Inlet and the six km stretch of beach from Aireys to Spout Creek at Eastern View is one of the finest in the world.

Lorne is one of the few places in Australia where you can have a sea-view and a northerly aspect at the same time, and it is one of the few coastal towns in Australia that is protected from the prevailing coastal winds. It’s a sheltered and beautiful spot with trees literally overhanging the beach. Tourism started early in Lorne, with the first guest house built in 1868, and is still meeting the needs of city people looking to shed their stress. The town hosts some of the most expensive real estate in Victoria and caters to the tourist with a big choice of cafes, restaurants and shops and a couple of art galleries. The thickly forested hills behind the town are home to many spectacular waterfalls and walks ranging from a leisurely stroll to a more strenuous walk through rock-strewn fern-filled gullies.

Cumberland River, a few km west of Lorne has a very secluded and special caravan park, in a beautiful river valley overlooked by Castle Rock. Jebbs Pool and Cumberland Falls are a short walk up the narrow river gorge.

The next towns to the west are Wye River and Kennett River. Both these small seaside hamlets began as timber towns which swell in summer as holidaymakers fill the holiday houses in the hills and camping grounds on the coast. Kennett River is most famous for the koalas that can nearly always be seen in the manna gums around town and up the Grey River Road.

There are cafes, restaurants, farm gate experiences and a range of accommodation options including bush camping, caravan parks, B&Bs and self-catering cabins along the coast and in and around the hinterland towns of Deans Marsh, Birregurra, Moriac and Winchelsea. Deans Marsh is probably best known for berry farms where you can pick and eat delicious berries. Birregurra is on the main Melbourne to Warrnambool train line and became a thriving town when the Birregurra to Forrest railway opened in 1891. There are several striking examples of 19th century architecture, including the carefully restored facades of Main Street, which now house a gourmet food store and a number of galleries, bookshops and cafes. Winchelsea, to the north of the Otways, was first settled in the 1830s when squatters took up grazing land on the fertile volcanic plains. There are a number of historic buildings in town and several substantial bluestone (basalt) homesteads in the region.

Along the Surf Coast there are great opportunities to experience a natural environment with abundant native birdlife and rare native animals. In the heathlands and eucalypt forests around Anglesea and Airey’s Inlet 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; and native placental mammals such as swamp rat and New Holland mouse. Wallabies and kangaroos are common throughout the region and koalas can be found in the dry sclerophyll forests  around Kennett River. 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 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. Shore-birds and seals can be observed along the coast and whales are regularly spotted between May and October.

The Otway Ranges

The Otway Rangesrun inland from the coast between Anglesea and Princetown and consist of moderate to steep slopes, sheltered valleys, and swamps and lowlands.

The hills to the south of the main ridge, largely encompassed by the Great Otway National Park, catch the moisture-laden air rolling in from the Southern Ocean and are rich green even in summer. The most characteristic vegetation classes include temperate rainforest and wet sclerophyll forest. Numerous creeks and rivers tumble down to the ocean and a number of picturesque winding roads follow the valleys. The prized remnants of the Otway Ranges’ temperate rainforest are nearly all found in sheltered gullies on this southern flank. The rainforest is principally defined by the beautiful, sometimes massive and ancient, myrtle beech. Instantly identifiable because of its clouds of tiny leaves, these trees once cloaked Gondwanaland, but because they cannot cope with fire, they have found one of their last refuges here. There are also stunning ferns, some reaching heights of three or more metres.

In the hills to the north of the main ridge of the Otway Ranges, partly encompassed by the Otway Forest Park, the rainfall drops away quickly (there’s 25mm less rainfall for every kilometre you go north) and you quickly move from the damp and then dry sclerophyll forests of the Otway Ranges to the volcanic Otway Plains. Weeaproinah, at the top of Otways near Lavers Hill, is the wettest place in Victoria, with nearly 2000mm of rain per year; Colac, 50 km to the north is lucky to get 700mm. This is the catchment area for the water supplies for most of the nearby towns and as far away as Geelong.  

Apollo Bay is a small coastal town, surrounded by the spectacular beauty of steep green hills, wide cloud-torn skies, and clean, cold sea. The first reliable road reached Apollo Bay in 1927 and it was not until the 1980s that the travel time from Melbourne dropped below three hours and it became a weekend destination. Smart holiday homes have mushroomed in Apollo Bay and nearby Marengo and Skenes Creek, and the town now boasts more cafes and restaurants than Lorne, which are a favourite stopover for visitors from around the world to stretch their legs and top up their caffeine levels before tackling the next leg of their journey. The opportunity to explore the natural environment is Apollo Bay’s big drawcard. Aside from the beach, there are walks in the nearby ranges, golf, fishing, sea kayaking (to see seals) and surfing lessons.

You turn south off the Great Ocean Road about 20 km west of Apollo Bay and head through forest dominated by tall straight messmate stringybark on the way to the coast and Cape Otway. Nearer to the cape the dominant trees are manna gums, the preferred food of koalas. Cape Otway is dominated by the lighthouse, and the significant collection of heritage buildings including cottages, a telegraph station and a radar station. There are a number of accommodation options around the cape, including campgrounds at Blanket Bay and Parker River, a number of cottages and an eco-lodge. It is even possible to stay in the lighthouse keeper’s cottages.

Back at the Great Ocean Road, heading west, you skirt around the lakes and wetlands at the mouth of the Aire River and briefly touch the coast again at Castle Cove, before heading back into the bush. It was near here, at Dinosaur Cove, that bones from small plant-eating polar dinosaurs were excavated from 110 million year old rock.

By the time you reach Johanna, by turning off the Great Ocean Road about five km west of Castle Cove, you’ve left the world behind. One of the widest, most beautiful beaches in Australia, Johanna is backed by rolling green hills that roll back to the top of the Otway Ranges. There is basic camping by the beach and a number of excellent self-catering cottages hidden in the surrounding hills. Good or bad, the weather is usually Johanna’s star performer. It’s always dramatic.

Inland from Johanna is Lavers Hill, the largest town in the western Otways. There are a couple of cafes/stores and a hotel. Johanna’s location, at the junction of the Great Ocean Road and the road north to Colac makes it a good base. The small settlement of Beech Forest is only 20 minutes away, leading on to many of the more easily accessible Otways waterfalls, Turton’s Track and Forrest. The Gables Lookout, Moonlight Head and Wreck Beach are about 30 minutes away and beautiful Melba Gully is only three km from town, near Crowes, once Australia’ most southerly railway station.

Fifteen km from Lavers Hill, at the old Wattle Hill Hotel, you turn onto the Moonlight Head Road, to reach The Gables lookout and Wreck Beach. The Gables is perched 130 metres above the Southern Ocean and you have commanding views of the coast including Moonlight Head and the reefs below. On nearby Wreck Beach you can still find wreckage from the Marie Gabrielle (1869) and Fiji (1891).

There are cafes, restaurants, farm gate experiences and a range of accommodation options including bush camping, caravan parks, B&Bs and self-catering cabins along the coast and in and around the hinterland towns of Beech Forest, Forrest and Gellibrand. These towns were established as timber and railway towns when the area was opened up in the 1880s. Beech Forest is best known for the nearby attractions of waterfalls, Turton’s Track Rainforest Drive and the Otway Fly. Forrest has established itself as a centre for mountain biking, with over 60 km of trails around town and out to nearby Lake Elizabeth. Gellibrand is known for fishing in nearby rivers, especially blackfish and trout.

Further inland still is Colac, the regional centre on the shores of Lake Colac. Established in the 1840s to service the graziers who took up land on the fertile volcanic plains, Colac has a wide range of shops and services, including hotels, motels, B&Bs, apartments, cottages and caravan parks. There are a number of bakeries and cafes, and several good restaurants. A heritage walk takes you to some of the town’s interesting 19th century architecture. At Red Rock Volcanic Reserve, 17 km northwest of Colac, you can view the dramatic landscape resulting from the many volcanic eruptions that occurred on this vast volcanic plain. Lake Corangamite, 15km west of Colac, is the largest permanent saline lake in Australia, and supports over 70 species of birds.

Throughout the Otway Ranges there are great opportunities to experience a range of ecosystems with abundant native birdlife and rare native animals. In the temperate rainforests and sclerophyll forests the fauna includes kangaroos and wallabies, antechinus and native rats, brushtail possums and sugar gliders. You may also be lucky enough to carnivorous Otway black snail, which thrives in the cool, damp conditions. Platypus are hard to find, but at Lake Elizabeth, deep in the Otways near Forrest, these shy nocturnal creatures may be sighted around dawn and dusk. Glow worms are common in damp, dark places in the Otways and put on a fascinating light display at night.  In the drier sclerophyll forests koalas spend most of their time regally sitting or sleeping in the fork of a tree, slowing digesting the leaves of manna gum and other eucalypts. 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 and Gellibrand support numerous species of plants and animals. More than 100 water-dependant bird species have been recorded, including straw-necked and sacred ibis, fairy tern, pelican and brolga. Shore-birds and seals can be observed along the coast and whales are regularly spotted between May and October.

The Shipwreck Coast

The Shipwreck Coast is aptly named with more than 200 ships known to have wrecked along the 180 kilometres of coast between Moonlight Head (just east of Princetown) and Port Fairy. Many of the shipwrecks occurred during the mid-19th century when immigrants from Europe and America joined the gold-rush and as coastal trade increased between Melbourne and towns such as Warrnambool and Port Fairy.

The harder grey sandstone and the forest cloaked hills of 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 Great Ocean Road emerges from the Otway Ranges and meets the coast at Princetown, overlooking the broad estuary of the beautiful Gellibrand River, where you can fish, canoe and swim.  Ideally located on the border between the Great Otway and Port Campbell National Parks, accommodation options include campgrounds, and budget accommodation. There is a general store/café and a tavern.

Six kilometers west are the iconic Twelve Apostles and nearby other features of this dramatic coastline, including Gibsons Steps (providing access to Clifton Beach) and Loch Ard Gorge, the site of famous shipwreck in 1878.

Further west, Port Campbell is a small town, sheltering in a gorge at the mouth of Campbells Creek, below the windswept clifftops to the east and west. The gorge provides the only (more-or-less) safe anchorage between Warrnambool and Apollo Bay, so the town played an important role in coastal shipping and fishing. The beach in the gorge is also particularly safe. The town is now a busy tourist centre and the main street is lined with restaurants and motels. Other accommodation options include self-catering cottages, farm stays, backpackers, and a caravan park.

 Peterborough, lying at the mouth of the broad Curdies River estuary, is home to multitudes of water birds, including large numbers of black swan. There’s a sandy beach backed by dunes to the east of the river mouth (part of the Port Campbell National Park), and the Bay of Islands Coastal Park to the west. While less well known than its spectacular neighbour to the east, it is still very dramatic, with many island stacks and a ragged limestone coastline. The crowds are smaller and it’s possible to find sheltered beaches. There’s a general store, a few self-catering accommodation options and a caravan park. It’s quiet. And it’s a great base for exploring the coastline, east and west, or fishing offshore or in the estuary.

Just past Peterborough, 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. 

Warrnambool is a thriving regional centre with a dramatic location, built on a plateau behind a steep bluff overlooking sheltered Lady Bay (where there are 29 known shipwrecks) and defined by the Merri River to the west and the Hopkins River to the east of the city. The first permanent settlers were graziers, and a township began to emerge in the 1840s as an outlet for the agricultural produce (wool, wheat, potatoes, and onions) of the rich hinterland. Warrnambool has continued to grow steadily with a healthy mixture of industry (especially dairy processing, woolen mills and clothes factories), services (especially schools and hospitals) and tourism.

Warrnambool has retained some attractive 19th century architecture, including some fine churches and a highly ornamented Victorian boathouse. It has a vibrant shopping precinct, with some particularly good clothes shops, perhaps as a legacy of the town’s connection to Fletcher Jones. There is a good selection of interesting restaurants and cafés, and the arts precinct, includes an excellent regional gallery. There is a complete range of accommodation options, from a resort-style hotel, motels, self-catering apartments, B&Bs, backpackers, and caravan parks with cabins.

Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village is a fascinating recreation of a 1870s coastal port with more than 40 buildings and ships. The museum includes treasures that have been rescued from shipwrecks that occurred along the coastline between Warrnambool and Cape Otway.

Fletcher Jones Gardens surround the former clothing factory founded by David Fletcher Jones in Warrnambool in 1948. The colourful gardens were established after Fletcher Jones asked. ‘Why should a factory look like a factory?’

To the east of the Hopkins River, at Logans Beach, a specially-constructed platform overlooks a whale nursery used every year between June and September by female southern right whales and their calves.

The coastline west of Warrnambool to Port Fairy is low, with a line of sandunes, backed by shallow lakes and wetlands, then rich volcanic soil. The beach can be accessed at Killarney, where there’s a camping ground, and some reef-protected beaches, great for fishing.

Tower Hill, 14 km west of Warrnambool on the Princes Hwy, is one of the most fascinating geological formations in Victoria. It has a volcanic crater rimmed by beds of volcanic ash. The floor of the crater contains conical hills of red and black scoria, which after good rains is surrounded by a shallow lake. The volcano is believed to have erupted 32,000 years ago, and was an important site for the Koroit Gundidj people. There is an unusual visitor centre run by the Worn Gundidj Aboriginal Cooperative, where you can purchase Aboriginal crafts or arrange a walking tour with an Aboriginal guide.

Koroit lies on the sheltered northern slopes immediately behind Tower Hill, and there are a couple of cafés in the main street, which is dominated by striking 19th century architecture. Irish labourers (refugees from the 1840s famine) were brought to work the rich volcanic soil made and potatoes soon became the major crop. Koroit reflects the strong Irish influence between Warrnambool and Port Fairy.

Port Fairy, or Belfast as it was originally known, was one of the busiest ports in colonial Victoria. It is now a charming coastal town, with wide streets of bluestone cottages and verandahs, sheltering beneath grand old Norfolk Island pines. It became a backwater when its role as a port declined, but it has for a long time been a quietly popular holiday resort with its long safe stretch of sand at East Beach, and some excellent surf breaks. There is excellent fishing, both in the river, off the beach and rocks, and further out to sea.

The sheltered River Moyne gives anchorage to fishing and pleasure craft, charter boats and the remnant of what was a major fishing fleet. 19th century buildings and structures associated with maritime activities are retained on either side of the Moyne River, including extensive bluestone walls along the river’s edge and out to sea past Griffiths Island, where 15,000 short-tailed shearwaters, or mutton-birds arrive in late-September, after an amazing migratory flight and stay until mid-April.

There are literally dozens of accommodation options, often in heritage buildings, from luxurious small hotels to a youth hostel and camping grounds. There is a huge range of places to eat; Port Fairy is a gourmet destination.

Inland from the Shipwreck Coast you drive through lush farmlands that produce beef, wool, potatoes, grains and dairy products for Australia and the world. See cows being milked, alpacas grazing alongside sheep, and buffalos being raised for cheese production. Further inland, explore extinct volcanoes that have shaped the landscape with craters, lakes, ragged, wavelike lava flows and vast basalt plains.

To the north of Princetown, Simpson and Cobden were settled in the 1960s as part of the 50,000 hectare Heytesbury Settlement – the last Government-sponsored, wholesale clearing of extensive areas of native forest for agricultural settlement in Victoria. It is now one of the most productive dairying centres in Australia. You can visit the Heytesbury Settlement Historical Park in the centre of Simpson or you can taste and buy local cheeses and visit a winery nearby. Simpson has a caravan park and hotel/motel. Cobden is regarded as the "Dairy Capital of the World" and the major industries of the town are processing milk and servicing the dairy farms. Tourist attractions in Cobden are geared towards families with the Cobden Miniature Railway being the major tourist attraction in town. Cobden has a hotel, restaurant, a caravan park and other accommodation.

To the north of Port Campbell, Timboon is an attractive, bustling little town sheltered in a green-treed valley. Once at the end of a railway line, Timboon was a centre for timber milling, and it is still an important dairy production centre. It is famous for high-quality cheese, chocolate and ice cream, among other special regional delights, like berries, wine, and whisky. 

Further north still, Camperdown was first settled in 1839 by the Manifold brothers, who took up a 100,000-acre run in 1839 on Lake Purrumbete. The Manifold family were major benefactors in the town, funding many public buildings and the town's fine clock tower. Many these unique historic buildings, wide streets and parks dating from the mid 1800s have been preserved as has Purrumbete Homestead. The town’s location at the foot of Mount Leura and Mount Sugarloaf provides a wonderful backdrop for the township. The two mounts and nearby lakes are part of a much larger volcanic complex resulting from eruptions more than 10,000 years ago. Walks to the summit of both Mt Leura and Mt Sugarloaf provide spectacular views of the surrounding district, including many of the other cones and craters of the basalt plain.

For accommodation or meals in Camperdown, you can try one of the historic hotels or apartments at a converted mill or the luxury accommodation at Purrumbete Homestead. There are also several motels, B&Bs and cottages and a caravan park in town and a camping reserve at nearby Lake Purrumbete.

Like Camperdown, Terang, further west, was settled in the 1840s. As the town grew and prospered at the turn of the century many magnificent buildings were created along the tree lined avenues. Terang is known as the National Trust town of historic trees. A walking tour of the township takes you to many of the remaining historic buildings on tree-lined streets. Today, Terang is an attractive, medium-sized rural centre which serves an irrigated farming, dairying and pastoral district. It has a number of hotels, motels and cottages and a caravan park.

Noorat is a small rural village, just north of Terang at the foot of Mt Noorat, which was a traditional meeting and trading place for the Kirrae Wuurong Aborigines who exchanged stones, spears, skins and other material. Settled with sheep and cattle runs from the 1840s, rabbits became a pest in the area in the 1860s. Many of the dry stone walls erected to keep them out of paddocks still remain around the district. Noorat is the birthplace of Alan Marshall, the much-loved Australian author best known for the story of his childhood battle with polio - "I Can Jump Puddles".

To the north of Port Fairy are the small villages of Macarthur and Penshurst. Both were established in the 1850s as the surrounding land was taken up as pastoral leases. Many 19th century buildings remain in both towns and nearby homesteads.

Macarthur is the gateway to Mount Eccles National Park which is centred on an extinct volcano and includes interesting geological features such as crater lakes, lava canals, collapsed tunnels, scoria cones and stony rises. Manna Gum and Blackwood forests thrive in the area providing habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. There are walking tracks, picnic areas, campsites and great swimming spots. North of Macarthur you can visit interesting volcanic features at Mount Napier State Park and the Byaduk Caves.

Today Penshurst is the centre of a large dairying, agricultural and pastoral district. It has a hotel, restaurant, a caravan park and other accommodation. Visit the Penshurst Volcanoes Discovery Centre for a detailed understanding of the volcanic eruptions and lava flows of the region.

Along the Shipwreck Coast there are great opportunities to experience a natural environment with abundant native birdlife and rare native animals. The rocks and caves of the coast are home to seals, penguins, bats and a host of bird life. Some colonies and nesting areas are protected, but visitors can see penguins up close on Warrnambool's Middle Island, spot seals diving from the rocks of Lady Julia Percy Island, and watch shearwaters (or 'mutton-birds') returning to their nests on Port Fairy's Griffiths Island. River estuaries such as the Gellibrand at Princetown and Curdies at Peterborough are home to multitudes of water birds, including black swans and the flats around the estuaries can be alive with fauna, including kangaroos, wallabies and echidnas. Whales can be spotted 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. Wildlife is prolific throughout the hinterland, with kangaroos and emus plentiful at Tower Hill and koalas thriving in the Manna gum woodlands at Mt Eccles. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

If you have any questions, please contact us. We have an enormous amount of experience – and we have expert operators on the ground in all our destinations.

If our small group guided tours don’t meet your needs we can create custom tours that are both private and customised to meet your wishes. Or perhaps you’d like us to arrange a self- guided driving tour for you.

Practicalities
Travelling in a luxury four-wheel-drive vehicle provides comfort, safety and good visibility, and there are regular short walks to places of interest.

Total walking time each day is about two hours. If you would prefer, there is an option to spend more time walking.

You won’t need specialist walking gear, just comfortable, sturdy shoes and clothes appropriate to the season – protection from wind and showers in winter and sun in summer.

Some sections of the tour are on winding roads, so take precautions if you suffer from motion sickness.

A picnic or BBQ lunch of local gourmet food is provided each day and drinking water is carried in the vehicle.

Stylish overnight accommodation and breakfast will be provided in Apollo Bay.

Your evening meal in Apollo Bay is not included. We are happy to provide advice on the range of options from gourmet to take-away.

All you need to worry about is getting the most enjoyment possible from your adventure! 

Great Ocean Road & 12 Apostles

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

JOURNEY MAP