Great Ocean Road, Victoria © Visit Victoria
10 secret must-stop places on the Great Ocean Road
Step off the beaten track and unearth the lesser-known gems of the Great Ocean Road.
By Amy Fraser and Ute Junker
The Great Ocean Road is an adventurers’ perfect medley; expect breathtaking natural wonders, charming restaurants serving oh-so-delicious fare and vast wilderness dotted with native wildlife and jaw-dropping vistas. Stretching over 243km (150mi), among this dramatic coastline's iconic attractions there's a mecca of bucket-list-worthy experiences. Read on to discover the Great Ocean Road’s hidden gems.
If seeing a koala in the wild is high on your wishlist, you've come to the right place. From Lorne, keep following the Great Ocean Road southwest, and in around 30 minutes you will come to the township of Kennett River. This has become known as one of Australia’s koala-spotting capitals, thanks to the large numbers of these native animals that make their home in the blue gums that line the main road. Take a stroll around the Koala Walk and keep your eyes peeled for our furry friends sleeping in the trees.
A drive down the Great Ocean Road might be all about coasts and cliffs, but take a 40-minute detour inland from Skenes Creek – 15 minutes past Wongarra – and you'll find yourself within an enchanting forest of giant Californian Redwood trees, also known as Beech Forest. Stroll through the towering trees or simply sit for a picnic and soak in the otherworldly landscape.
Among the Great Ocean Road’s vivid green forests are a collection of flowing falls, each with its own charm. One of the most photogenic is the Hopetoun Falls, just a 15-minute drive from Beech Forest. Marvel at it from the viewpoint above or stroll through the forest ferns to see – and hear – the full force of the 30-metre falls plummeting into the stream below.
If you loved the 12 Apostles, Childers Cove is another one to add to your list. Perched metres away from the white-sand beach are an assortment of limestone craggy cliffs standing up to 70 metres (229.6 feet) high above the ocean. With a junior 12 Apostles essence – minus the crowds – Childers Cove might just be the crown jewel of the Great Ocean Road’s secret gems. Visit at low tide and be sure to pack your camera.
A road trip along the Great Ocean Road oozes tranquillity, adventure and freedom – all the more reason to bed down underneath the stars at one of regional Victoria’s serene Sky Pods. These secluded eco-cabins combine nature and luxury, using only solar power to fuel your stay. Spend your evening’s cosying up by the fireplace before watching the sunset paint the sky pink. Just a few nights here and you’ll no doubt feel a wave of relaxation wash over you.
Nestled in Connewarre’s wetlands, just 10 minutes from Torquay, lies Moonah; a boutique fine dining restaurant located at the picturesque Minya Winery. The restaurant offers sweeping views of the billabong, and with only 12 guests seated at one time, you’re guaranteed a top-quality panorama with the service to match. Tuck into their multi-course menu comprised of fresh fruits and vegetables from the kitchen garden, and bio-dynamic regional wines to match. We’re not sure what’s more beautiful, Chef Tobin’s decorative plates or the enchanting landscape they're served upon.
The Great Ocean Road’s Warrnambool is well-known for its wildlife wonders, from the native animals at Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve to the thousands of whales that pass by Logan’s Beach every winter. But wildlife’s not the only drawcard to this beachside town. The region’s also known as the Shipwreck Coast, and at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and Village you can find out why. Witness shipwrecks beneath the depths of the ocean, immerse yourself in 1900s life in the village and lay your eyes on age-old artefacts.
Along the Great Ocean Road, you’ll find beguiling natural attractions from the 12 Apostles to Umpherston Sinkhole, not to mention the endless coast of breathtaking beaches. Among the lesser-known spectacles, just a few minutes walk away from Loch Ard Gorge is Thunder Cave; formed over 20 million years, it’s certainly another of Mother Nature’s artworks worth visiting. If you’re wondering why it’s called ‘Thunder Cave’, listen out and you’ll soon discover why.
A La Grecque
If 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 township hides a big secret: the charming A La Grecque restaurant, which serves up delicious Greek-Australian dishes and some of the best seafood on the coast. On a sunny day, a plate of their tender fried calamari or freshly grilled fish, eaten at an outside table, is heaven.
Point Addis Marine National Park
The Great Ocean Road’s not short of an epic vista, but one of the ultimate seascapes has to be Point Addis National Marine Park. Climb to the top of the Jurassic-like rugged cliffs on the Koori Cultural Walk and look out over the sweeping panoramic views. If you haven’t felt the relieving sense of freedom from the open road yet, you certainly will here. The best bit is, you’ll probably have the horizon to yourself – minus the odd kangaroo and a couple of surfers in the waves below.