Great Ocean Road Destination Guide
Great Ocean Road holidays
The vast bitumen thoroughfare snaking its way along Victoria's south-east coast is a constant feature on travel bucket lists of domestic and international explorers. The Great Ocean Road spans almost 155 miles from Torquay to Allansford, encompassing a handful of scenic towns along the state's windswept fringe. Whether you choose to undertake the journey in one day purely to see the sights, or spend some time getting to know the charming townships throughout the region, your Great Ocean Road holiday promises stunning seascapes and landscapes around every bend. A trail of outlying farms and provedores, boutiques and galleries tucked away in sleepy fishing towns and a National Heritage moniker make the Great Ocean Road more than just a shapely stretch of highway.
Take a Great Ocean road trip along the 111 mile long Shipwreck Coast from Princetown to Port Fairy for haunting tales of seafaring days, an intimate whale watching experience in Warrnambool and a gander at Mother Nature at her best. Undoubtedly the most iconic of Great Ocean Road attractions is the Twelve Apostles – the wind-and-sea-carved limestone peaks jutting from the surf at Port Campbell National Park. The iconic swells of Bells Beach, sandy shorelines of Lorne and lush ancient rainforests of Otway National Park provide plenty of pursuits for outdoor lovers, with hinterland day spas aplenty to rejuvenate after a day out in the elements traversing the Great Ocean Walk.
The natural splendour surrounding the Great Ocean Road lends itself perfectly to fertile farmland and cool climate wineries, making the region a gourmand's paradise. Two distinct grape growing regions, Geelong and Henty, produce splendid varietals such as Pinot Noir and Riesling, which you can expect to find gracing the menus of many Great Ocean Road restaurants. Sample the south-eastern specialties like gourmet cheeses in Allansford, hand-picked berries from Deans Marsh, freshly harvested mussels in Bellarine and Drysdale's quality olives. Better yet, follow the Otway Harvest Trail and indulge in the finest flavours of the region, including a handful of craft breweries.
Where to Stay
Take your pick of Great Ocean Road accommodation found on and off the highway. It's not hard to find a room with a stunning seaside view, but you can also look to the verdant hinterland for a change of scenery still within easy reach of the coast. In Apollo Bay, settle into Chris's Villas for fine wining and dining and an elevated vantage point from your self-contained apartment, or choose to bunk down in luxury at Chocolate Gannets where you are spoiled with a spectacular sea view from the comfort of a two-person spa. Vue Grand at Queenscliff adds a touch of class to your evening, while the Cumberland Lorne Resort is the perfect home away from home for the whole family.
Given its proximity to some of the best waves in the world, it's no surprise Torquay was the birthplace of iconic surf-wear brands Rip Curl and Quicksilver. Great Ocean Road shopping has a strong focus on boards, wetsuits and assorted active-wear, including both top-level labels and humble backyard brands. Local craft has a strong presence in the retail scene too, with a selection of sweet boutiques dotted throughout Queenscliff, Apollo Bay and Port Fairy. There are also plenty of places to lay down some dosh in Lorne, Warrnambool and Geelong; these larger townships are each filled with pleasantly surprising shopping experiences to tempt even the most seasoned spender.
Great Ocean Road Like a Local
As they say, when in Rome! And when you're in Australia's most celebrated surf destination, it's almost mandated that you paddle out and hang ten. Expert boarders will feel right at home at Bells Beach, home to the prestigious Rip Curl Pro every Easter, or may choose to tackle the fierce south-westerlies beyond Discovery Bay. If you haven't quite found your sea legs yet, there are plenty of places to learn with a local – easy waves can be found in Torquay, Anglesea, Fairhaven, Lorne and Cape Bridgewater, while the pros should head straight to the Bellarine Peninsula, Cape Otway or the righteous right-handers of Lorne Point.