My 5-day road trip along the Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road is great. Even if you haven’t heard of the coast drive before or didn’t know it was in Australia, you have probably seen the impressive images of sea cliffs dropping into the cold, blue South Ocean; you have probably seen the Twelve Apostle rock formation stand at salut for sunset. I decided to rent a car and drive myself from Adelaide to Melbourne by way of this popular road. The Mitsubishi Outlander was much more manageable than the 12-passenger van I got stuck with for my drive for Brisbane. I also built in more than enough time to relax and really enjoy the amazing sites I sought.

I got a fair price on my rental with Apex.

Tower Hill in port fairy australia
Morning walk at Tower Hill near Port Fairy in Australia

day 1—adelaide to port fairy

It’s about a six-and-a-half hour drive from Adelaide to Port Fairy, but it’s a pretty drive through Adelaide Hills and on country roads. On the way out of town, I stopped in Handorf for some snacks and a coffee.

The speed limit is 100 or 110 km/hour most of the trek, so that was a speedy trip. I stopped about an hour outside Port Fairy to stretch my legs at the Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park. It was my first glimpse at the ocean and an enjoyable stop to take in some natural peace.

I stayed at the Port Fairy YHA, which is a great location. It’s probably a fine hostel when it’s warm, but the old house and outside cabins that serve as the dorms were drafty in the winter.

12 Apostles from gibson steps
Two of the 12 Apostles seen from Gibson Steps

day 2—port fairy to port campbell

The distance between the two port cities is only about an hour, but there is plenty to see and do between the here and there. I woke up very early to walk around Tower Hill, about a ten minute drive away from Port Fairy YHA. The morning turned rainy on me, so I opted to drive around the dormant volcano though I would have rather done the hour-long “journey to the last volcano” bush walk. The views from the top of the tower—entrance 300 meters before the information hut—were gorgeous. The owner of my hostel told me to go between 7am and 10am to catch the wild life when it was most active. I saw wallabies, emus and several different species of beautiful birds.

I spent the rest of the rainy morning around Port Fairy, catching up on work and sampling the local coffee shops. The beach access is premium and the town quaint.

sunrise at 12 Apostles
Sunrise at the 12 Apostles

day 3—exploring port campbell

Port Campbell is positioned close to the Twelve Apostles. I made myself a list of things I wanted to see along the road based on Internet research… but that was a waste of time. Everything is so clearly marked, you won’t skip anything unless you mean to! The highlight is definitely the 12 Apostles at sunset.

I caught sunset before checking into my hostel the day before and then woke up bright and early to go back for sunrise. That was definitely worth the trip! I bushwalked around Loch and Gorge, which provides some of the best views of the sea cliffs. I also went down to the beach at Gibson Steps. I went to the beach for my second sunset, which was more exclusive and much more fun.

After I spent the morning bushwalking, I treated myself to the 12 Apostles Gourmet Trail of cheese, ice-cream, chocolate and whisky!

I stayed at Hostel Port Campbell was amazing! The space was clean and cozy; it has an amazing staff, spacious kitchen and dining area and an in-house brewery. Yeah. Brewery. 

Loch and gorge off great ocean road in australia
Beach at Loch and Gorge off the Great Ocean Road

day 4—otway national park and the end of the great ocean road

It is possible to take a day trip from Melbourne to the Ocean Road, but it’s a long, 14 hour day and you miss the Otway National Park. Aside from being a beautiful forrest. You can even whale watch!

If I had to my roadtrip to do again, I would have added a day to stay in Apollo Bay. It’s one of the bigger towns along the way and is (more or less) the half way point on the Great Ocean Road. As it was, I push through the entire circuit and continued on to Torquay. After Otway National Park, the roadtrip was really about the road, the streamer of asphalt that hugs the coast of south Australia in a gorgeous yet frighten clingy way.

I stayed at Bells Beach Backpacker’s hostel. It was a fine hostel with a surfing culture, was a great location and had an excellent staff.

lighthouse at Otway National Park
The lighthouse at Otway National Park

day 5—surfing and on to melbourne

I woke up bright and early for my first surf lesson with Go Ride a Wave! I managed to stand up, gave myself a black-eye and learnd enough so I can at least practice on future trips to the beach.

Then I drove the last hour and half to Melbourne.

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