10 Must-Experience Places on the Great Ocean Road

From lush rainforests to amazing rock formations, Australia’s most dramatic coastal drive has plenty of highlights. 10 Must-Experience Places on the Great Ocean Road
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10 must-experience places on the Great Ocean Road

From lush rainforests to amazing rock formations, Australia’s most dramatic coastal drive has plenty of highlights.


By Ute Junker

Less than a three-hour drive from Melbourne in Victoria lies one of Australia's most famous sights: the Twelve Apostles, a series of spectacular limestone spires rising out of the ocean. However, it's worth taking the time to explore the many other delights of the Great Ocean Road.

SEE THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD'S MOST INSPIRING SIGHTS

HANG TEN IN TORQUAY

Take a 90-minute drive from Melbourne to reach the town of Torquay, one of the surf capitals of the world. You can watch the action at Bells Beach, where the world’s best surfers compete in the Rip Curl Pro competition every Easter (March/April), or sign up for a surfing lesson. Torquay is also the home of not one, but two famous surf brands: Rip Curl and Quiksilver.

LINGER OVER LUNCH AT AIREY'S INLET

If you find that the crisp ocean air has put you in the mood for seafood, stop in at Airey’s Inlet. About 25 minutes from Torquay, this tiny town hides a big secret: the charming A La Grecque restaurant, which dishes up some of the best seafood on the coast.

SOAK UP THE BEAUTY IN LORNE

This popular holiday destination is Melbourne's answer to Byron Bay in New South Wales; stop for a coffee at The Bottle of Milk café (their burgers are also terrific) before strolling along the one kilometre (0.6 mile) long beach. Lorne also has a thriving artistic community. Drop in at the always-lively Qdos Arts or plan your visit around the Sculpture Biennale, held every other year in March.

ENJOY A GOURMET ESCAPE IN BIRREGURRA

From Lorne, drive north-west for 30 minutes to reach one of Australia’s unmissable dining destinations. Located near the inland town of Birregurra, Brae Restaurant has been named one of the World’s Best 100 Restaurants, which means booking ahead is essential. Chef Dan Hunter’s ever-changing menu showcases local ingredients, so expect to see anything from wallaby tartare to rock lobster on the menu.

GO KOALA-SPOTTING AT KENNETT RIVER

If seeing a koala in the wild is at the top of your wish list, you have come to the right place. From Lorne, keep following the Great Ocean Road southwest, and in around 30 minutes you will come to the small town of Kennett River. This has become known as one of Australia’s koala-spotting capitals. Keep your eyes peeled and you may even see one crossing the road, or perhaps relaxing on the balcony of one of the local houses

HIKE THROUGH A RAINFOREST

Just a short drive inland from Kennett River lies a very different world: the lush, mysterious rainforest of the Great Otway National Park. Follow one of the walking trails past moss-covered trees and fern-fringed pools, or take the 70-minute drive to the three-tiered cascades of the Triplet Falls.

DINE WITH A VIEW AT APOLLO BAY

With the ocean on one side and rolling hills on the other, few towns have a location as lovely as Apollo Bay. And the town’s best restaurants make the most of it. The lovely Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant has a cosy treehouse feel, with interiors made of native timber and views through the trees to the ocean.

FLY HIGH ABOVE THE TWELVE APOSTLES

This is what everyone comes to see: the glorious limestone towers known as the Twelve Apostles rising out of the ocean. Don’t let the name fool you: there are only seven of these spires, all of which were part of the mainland before wind and water eroded the surrounding rock. For the best views, sign up for a helicopter tour or scenic flight with a local operator.

GO LOW AT LOCH ARD GORGE

Just beyond the Twelve Apostles is a lesser-known, but no less striking, sight: the eye-catching Loch Ard Gorge, named after a ship that was wrecked here. To get a very different perspective on this stretch of coast, take the long flight of stairs down to the beach to view the towering rock formations from another angle.

STRETCH YOURSELF ON THE GREAT OCEAN WALK

You don’t need a car to explore the Great Ocean Road; if you’re feeling energetic, you can explore it on foot instead. The full 100 kilometres (60 miles) trail, from Apollo Bay to Gibson Steps, takes eight days to walk. But there's also a guided option, the exclusive Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk, which takes in the walk's highlights over four luxurious days with each night spent in premium, eco-luxury accommodation.

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