The Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s great ocean drives, linking old fishing towns and secluded surf beaches along a dramatic coastline. Dotted with pristine beaches, world famous surf breaks, waterfalls, pretty seaside villages, nature walks and beautiful scenery, a world of natural delights await visitors.
The Great Ocean Road’s most iconic attraction is the Twelve Apostles, a collection of rock stacks located off the shore of the Port Campbell National Park that is one of Australia’s most Instagrammed locations. Today, only eight remain standing. The monoliths are protected as part of the Twelve Apostles Marine Park. The traditional ownership is split between two groups; to the west of the Gellibrand River is Kirrae Whurrong Country and to the east of the Gellibrand is Gadubanud Country.
For lovers of sand and sea the Bellarine Peninsula boasts some of Victoria’s best beaches, including gorgeous Torquay and surf mecca, Bells Beach, home of the annual Rip Curl Pro.
There is no shortage of spectacular National Parks to explore. The Great Otway National Park is one of the best. Along with its impressive wilderness areas, it’s home to several must visit beaches. Kids will especially love exploring the rock pools and hunting for treasure at Wreck Beach, where the rusting remnants of several shipwrecks will add an almost piratical twist to their explorations.
Cape Otway Lightstation is another great spot to visit. The oldest surviving lighthouse in Australia, you can climb up to the observation deck for amazing views. From May to October you may even spot one of the 25 species of whales that pass by during their annual migration.
Otway Fly is a must for thrill seekers boasting an exhilarating fully-guided Zipline Eco-Tour through the treetops, and for younger visitors there’s also a gentle treetop walkway experience.
Things to do for every age
0-4 year olds
Some of the beaches along this stretch of coast can be a bit wild for younger kids. But if you’re seeking sand, sun and a little vitamin sea, you’ll find protected swimming spots at Torquay, Anglesea, Aireys Inlet, Lorne and Apollo Bay. There are also safe swimming spots at Port Campbell, Warrnambool and Port Fairy that are ideal for tots.
When they’ve had their fill of buckets and spades on the beach, let the kids fill up a bucket of a different kind at Gentle Annie Berry Gardens. Here they can pick luscious berries, fruits and vegetables straight from the garden, before stopping for a snack at the on-site café. The gardens are in the Pennyroyal Valley, around 20 minutes drive from Lorne.
Toddlers with energy to burn can explore Lake Pertobe Adventure Playground in Warrnambool. It’s an enormous eight-hectare adventure playground with sandpits, giant slides, and a maze. The park also has paddle boats so be sure to grab a safety best for the little ones before heading out on the lake.
5-8 year olds
Head to the Port Campbell Visitor Information Centre for the Craters to Coast Discovery Program. This free program allows kids to navigate for hidden treasure, track local fauna and learn to read history in the rocks using telescopes, GPS units, cameras and compasses. The program runs year-round and is completely free of charge.
A visit to Tiger Moth World is sure to be a hit. Here you can explore the Mothball Musuem, see restored cockpit biplanes, play mini golf, soccer and volleyball or let loose in the Giant Tiger Moth Play Park.
Lovers of all things feathered and furry will enjoy the Great Ocean Road Wildlife Park. Get up close with dingoes, hand-feed kangaroos, wallabies, emu and deer, or just roam amongst the animals in the free-range sanctuary.
9-12 year olds
Enjoy thrills and spills at Adventure Park Geelong, only an hour’s rive from Melbourne. Take on the thrill rides, water play zones and water slides, including the Tornado, Victoria’s biggest and longest waterslide. Or take to the treetops at Otway Fly for an exhilarating fully-guided Zipline Eco-Tour through the treetops.
Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village is also worth a visit. Home to a fascinating collection of maritime and shipwreck relics, it is a great place to learn more about the history of the wild Southern coastline. Stay until after dark for the epic outdoor sound and laser show, Shipwrecked.
Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve is a great spot for close encounters with koalas, emus, kangaroos as well as many species of waterbirds in their natural habitat. The sanctuary is located inside an extinct volcano that formed some 30,000 years ago and in springtime is carpeted with wildflowers. Be sure to take the kids on a Worn Gundidj guided tour of the Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve to explore its Aboriginal history and cultural heritage.
Adventurous teens will find so much to get the adrenaline pumping along the Great Ocean Road. Give yachting, water-skiing and windsurfing a try at Lake Colac. You might even want to test your balance on a stand up paddleboard.
Experienced surfers can take on the famous breaks at Bells Beach. If your teens aren’t keen on a group lesson, they can hire a board and try it out at one of the quieter surf beaches. Newbies should avoid the stretch between Cape Otway and Warrnambool. The swells are much bigger with tougher surfing conditions.
On dry land, hire a mountain bike and ride along sheer limestone cliffs of the Victorian coast. Cruise through beach resort towns, and lush rainforests or hit the well-maintained local rail trails.
Best time to go
While there’s something to see and do all year around, summer (December to February) offers the sunniest and driest weather along the Great Ocean Road. However, along with the warm weather comes an influx of tourists and an increase in rates for accommodation. The shoulder seasons of Spring and Autumn can be a great time to visit. The weather is still fairly warm weather but you’ll encounter fewer visitors and lower prices. The wether can change quite quickly down south so pack for all kinds of weather.
Winter is also a great time to visit, though not for the water activities. Winter is the peak of the whale migration and there are plenty of opportunities to spot the magnificent animals as they pass by the coastline.
Must See Sights
From the iconic Twelve Apostles to its famous beaches, the Great Ocean Road has an abundance of fun for the family. Here are ten to add to your list.
- Soak up the sight of the iconic Twelve Apostles.
- Get exploring on a Wind Hunter, Digital Detective or Quick Snap Scavenger Hunt.
- Watch surfers take on epic breaks at Bells Beach.
- Discover the history of surfing at Torquay’s Australian National Surfing Museum.
- Explore the rockpools and wrecks at Wreck Beach.
- Take to the trees at Otway Fly.
- Visit Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village to view its maritime and shipwreck relics.
- Run wild at Lake Pertobe Adventure Playground.
- Learn about the region’s indigenous history on a guided tour through the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape.
- Climb to the top of Cape Otway Lightstation for incredible views.
Places to eat and food to try
From casual sidewalk cafes with views of the ocean to high end restaurants, there’s something for everyone in this neck of the woods.
Given its location, fresh seafood is an abundance along the Great Ocean Road. Visit the local fishing co-ops along the wharfs at Apollo Bay, Port Campbell, Port Fairy and Portland for the catch of the day. Must try dishes for seafood lovers include the Scallop Pie at the Apollo Bay Bakery, tender pickled octopus at A La Grecque in Aireys Inlet and the best traditional fish and chips at Anglesea.
The region is also famous for its cheese. You can pop in to sample the local delights at Cheeseworld, just outside of Warrnambool. And lovers of berries can pick their own, fresh from the farm at Gentle Annie Berry Gardens and Pennyroyal Raspberries.
Free things to do
There is plenty to see and do for free along the Great Ocean Road. Surf, swim and explore the many stunning beaches along this scenic stretch of coastline. While there are plenty of surfing options, Apollo Bay’s protected waters make it popular with families, and lifesavers patrol in summer.
Head to Warrnambool’s Lake Pertobe Adventure Playground. Energetic kids will spend hours riding the giant slides and flying foxes, and finding their way out of the maze. Pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it.
Stop to explore the famous Twelve Apostles in Port Campbell National Park. Kids can use their detective skills to hunt the roaring wind, navigate for hidden treasure and track local fauna on a series of free adventures.
Don’t miss the stunning Loch Ard Gorge, just a few minutes from the Apostles, for more incredible views. London Bridge and The Arch, located between Port Campbell and Peterborough, are more must see natural spectacles.
January – Moyneyana Festival Port Fairy
The Moyneyana Festival runs over five weeks from Christmas Eve through to Australia Day to raise funds for the local hospital.
February – Apollo Bay Seafood Festival
Celebrating the region’s fantastic seafood, this celebration is a smorgasbord of local delights.
March – Port Fairy Folk Festival
Enjoy a weekend showcase of folk music and culture in the charming seaside town of Port Fairy. The festival area, a short walk from the centre of town, is bustling with live music, food and market stalls, art and public displays.
April – The Rip Curl Pro
Join in the excitement of the longest running professional surfing contest in the world.
June/July – Fun 4 Kids Festival, Warrnambool
With 17 incredible fun zones full of kids’ entertainment and activities, this is one festival the kids won’t want to miss.
September – Lorne Festival of Performing Arts
From cabaret and comedy to jazz and blues, this festival showcases incredible live performances.
October – Birregurra Festival & Art Show
A family show celebrating quality farm produce, agriculture, craft and entertainment.
October – Upwelling Festival
This free, one-day event in Portland celebrates the natural wonders brought to the town of Portland by the Bonney Upwelling.