Best Day Trips From Melbourne: The Great Ocean Road
After suffering through an ‘Antarctic vortex’ and one of the coldest winters in decades, the sun is finally breaking through in Melbourne and we’ve all become a bit like crazed moths to a very welcome flame.
We were one of the lucky few Australian states to have a public holiday last week for the eve of the AFL Grand Final (aka one of the greatest days to be in sport-mad Melbourne), and as soon as we heard the temperature would be 26c we gathered up our cameras and jumped in the car to explore the Great Ocean Road.
A world-renowned coastal masterpiece, the Great Ocean Road is the ultimate in day trips from Melbourne; a perfect mix of world class surf breaks, old growth rainforest, misty waterfalls, sheer cliffs, sleepy seaside towns and endless incredible views! Mother nature did good with this one.
There’s so much to see and do it’d be easy to spend a week exploring the region - and many do - but when you only have one day like we did, making the most of your 24 hours is essential. We put together our list of Great Ocean Road ‘must do’s’; the list of absolute essential places to visit and things to do, to help you plan your own trip to this stunning slice of the world.
Note: We do have to be upfront here, exploring the Great Ocean Road in a day can be tough: expect at least 12 hours sitting in a car, but we promise being slightly saddle-sore really is worth it. Who doesn’t love a good road trip anyway!
Best Day Trips From Melbourne: The Great Ocean Road
Breakfast in Lorne
No day trip ends well if it doesn't start with a hearty breakfast, and the bottle of milk in Lorne is where the good stuff’s at - if you can make it through a few stomach rumbles in the couple of hours from Melbourne! tbom is perfectly situated along the main drag, with lots of tables outside so you can soak up the sun and scenery. Grab a ‘Cold Shower’ Breakfast Burger and one of their housemade berry milkshakes and never have food envy again.
Do go chasing waterfalls
The Great Ocean Road boasts some of the most spectacular waterfalls in Victoria. Our picks are:
- Erskine Falls: 9km north of Lorne, this is the perfect place to relax on a warm day; mist from the 30m high waterfall keeps the area cool, there’s lots of shade courtesy of the large surrounding tree-ferns, and plenty of boulders in the shallow river flow to sun yourself or dip a limb in from.
- Hopetoun Falls in the Great Otway National Park is well worth the detour from the main coastal road. If you’re a photography enthusiast, this is the perfect spot to set up your camera for some long-exposure snaps. Mind your step though - the rocks are slippery little things!
Lighthouses once served as a vital beacon of safe passage for sailors navigating the coastline. Now redundant thanks to modern technology, they serve as beautiful relics of Australian maritime history
You’ll spot ‘The White Queen’ with her red cap as you come around the bend into Aireys Inlet. Probably best known as the filming location for the iconic Aussie 90s kids TV show ‘Round the Twist’, the lighthouse also holds its own as a striking figure against the cliffs and tumbling surf of Aireys. Take a walk out to the lookout for views down to Fairhaven!
Australia's oldest working lighthouse, Cape Otway's impressive lighthouse complex was often the first sight of land for arriving migrants in the 19th Century. If you head down here between winter and spring you're likely to get the best land view of the whale migration!
There are lookouts scattered all along the Great Ocean Road with awesome views of rugged coastlines and rolling hills. For an even more impressive spot to take in the scenery, head up to Teddy's Lookout for a birds-eye view of the coast where the St George River empties into the ocean.
If you're into photography, head back to Melbourne after sunset and stop off at one of the lookouts after dark to try your hand at some astrophotography. We had our first attempt here, and were super excited with how it turned out!
The beaches of the Great Ocean Road probably deserve their own post, but for now, all we can say is that they're spectacular. Yep, every single one. If you've only got time to hit one beach, Lorne is your best pick with Anglesea, Wye River, Apollo Bay, and Fairhaven very close equal seconds.
Otway Fly Treetop Adventures
Walking through a forest at floor level is so yesterday; these days a walk through the forest canopy is where it's at. Detour a little off the Great Ocean Road for Otway Fly and a 600m long 25m high treetop walk through magnificent Myrtle Beech, Blackwood, and Mountain Ash. Thrill-seekers won't be disappointed here either - the 2.5 Zip Line Tour is a totally unique experience.
Getting to the 12 Apostles and back in a day is admittedly a bit of a stretch, but when you lay your eyes on those huge limestone stacks rising out of the beach you'll forget how long the drive felt. The area is now a major tourist attraction, so try and get there as early as you can to avoid the bus loads of tourists. Better yet, take a helicopter flight and get the best seat in the house
If crowds and noise aren't your thing, head a little further to the equally stunning Loch Ard Gorge (the site of the Loch Ard shipwreck), and enjoy a beautiful view back along the coastline towards the 12 Apostles. Hot tip: despite setting in the other direction, the sunsets here are on point!
Have you been to the Great Ocean Road before? Where are your favourite spots? Tell us in the comments below!