3-day self-drive adventure along Australia’s Great Ocean Road

Known as one of the most scenic coastal drives in world, Australia’s Great Ocean Road offers incredible opportunities for sightseeing and adventure. The 243-kilometer (150 mi) road is located along the southeastern coast of Australia, and is famed for the world-renowned Twelve Apostles. Having only 3 days will force you to make some hard choices. However, by organizing your itinerary in advance, minimizing your travel time and prioritizing which destinations you would really like to see, you can make the most of your vacation. Our suggested itinerary ensures that you truly experience the rich culture and the natural wonders of Great Ocean Road; to see the most in 3 days. Ready to go?

DRIVE ON LEFT Australian road sign on the Great Ocean Road, Austrtalia
DRIVE ON LEFT, road sign on the Great Ocean Road (Raphael Christinat / Shutterstock)

Things to know before traveling to Australia: 

Language – English is the official language in Australia, although you will be surprised by many other different languages spoken across the country. Since the country has turned into a multi-cultural society, which is now clearly visible almost everywhere, you’ll often hear people on the street, shops and restaurants speaking just about anything from Japanese and Mandarin Chinese to Italian.

Currency Exchange – The official currency of Australia is the Australian dollar. Australia is a well-developed country with a good banking and financial infrastructure. This means, exchanging money is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in the world. You may transact with banks, foreign exchange bureaus, international airports and hotels. You may also use debit cards and credit cards but watch out for ATM fees and foreign transaction fees, which can be very high per transaction. It is also good to know that there are plentiful of ATMs available throughout the country so you will surely have easy access to cash.

Australian dollar bills
Australian dollar bills (Robyn Mackenzie / Bigstrockphoto.com)

Safety and security – There is currently no nationwide security advisory in effect for Australia. Check your country’s travel advisory website to get the most up-to-date information for your personal safety abroad. Observe the same precautions with your personal safety and health as you would in any other country. For any type of emergencies, you may call 000 if you need a quick response from the fire service, police, ambulance or search and rescue.

Getting around – Getting around Australia, where major tourist attractions are thousands of miles apart, can be a bit daunting and time consuming so it is best to explore by region. For budget conscious travelers, renting a car and driving on your own is a great option, which will give you complete control of the trip. Campervan or motor-home is a popular choice for families who like flexibility on their trip.. Although not that budget-friendly, you may also take advantage of the V/Line Train Service from Melbourne to various towns along the Great Ocean Road like Apollo Bay, Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Portland.

Where to stay – There’s a great variety of accommodation along the Great Ocean Road; from small guesthouses to five-star luxury hotels. In almost any towns, there’s something for every level of comfort and budget. If you are going to follow our suggested itinerary, you need to look for accommodation options in Apollo Bay and Halls Gap/Port Fairy. If you plan to take a campervan, there plenty of caravan parks along the Great Ocean Road with good facilities.

Day by day itinerary: 3-day self-drive adventure along Australia’s Great Ocean Road

Day 1: Melbourne to Apollo Bay

On day 1, after a filling breakfast, drive down south from Melbourne to Torquay, known as the starting point of the Great Ocean Road. There’s no better way to get acquainted with Australia’s surfing capital than visiting Bells Beach, home of the annual Rip Curl Pro Surf and Music Festival. If you want to learn more about the country’s surfing culture, head to Surf World Museum, the largest surfing and beach culture museum in the world.

Bells Beach, Torquay, Australia
Top view of the legendary Bells Beach – the beach of the cult film Point Break, near Torquay (Benny Marty / Shutterstock)

Continue your drive to Anglesea and make a quick stop at the Anglesea Golf Club, famed for the kangaroos in their natural bush-land. Then, continue your drive to seaside beach town of Lorne. This postcard perfect beach is popular among surfers and sunbathers. Plenty of activities happen here, so it’s great place to meet people. Afterwards, check off the next thing on your wanderlust wish list, which is to see the wild koalas at Kennett River. In the late afternoon, make your way to your final stop for the day, Apollo Bay.

Koala in Kennett River, Great Ocean Road, Australia
A koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) napping on an eucalyptus tree in Kennett River (dirkr / Shutterstock)

Hotels to consider in Apollo Bay:

Apollo Bay Waterfront Motor Inn

Sandpiper Motel

Best Western Apollo Bay Motel and Apartments

Seaview Motel and Apartments

Points South By The Sea

Day 2: Apollo Bay to Port Fairy

Triplet Falls in Otway National Park, Australia
Triplet Falls in Otway National Park (Christopher Meder / Shutterstock)

Situated about 50-minute drive from Apollo Bay, the historic Otway National Park and Cape Otway Lighthouse are popular mid-way stops in the Great Ocean Road. If your travel dates are between September and December, then you are lucky to witness the annual migration of the whales along the south-west coast of Victoria. Some of the species you might spot are Humpback Whales, Southern Right Whales, Blue Whales, and Killer Whales (Orcas).

Cape Otway Lighthouse, Australia
The light of Cape Otway Lighthouse was first lit in 1848 using a first order Fresnel lens. It was the second lighthouse completed on mainland Australia and it remains the oldest surviving lighthouse in mainland Australia (atiger / Shutterstock)

Then, enjoy the scenic view on the way to Port Campbell, one of the most popular highlights of the Great Ocean Road. Home to the eight colossal limestone stacks called the Twelve Apostles, this coastal town is also famed for other attractions like London Bridge and Loch Ard Gorge. Continue your drive to Warrnambool and get acquainted with city’s maritime culture is by visiting the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village. Finally, make your way to the charming fishing village Port Fairy.

The Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Australia
The Twelve Apostles (CSLD / Shutterstock)

Hotels to consider in Port Fairy:

Drift House

Oscars Waterfront Boutique Hotel

Comfort Inn Port Fairy

Central Motel

Ashmont Motor Inn & Apartments

Day 3: Port Fairy to Melbourne

Sheoak trees, Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, Australia
Sheoak trees in Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve (Wozzie / Shutterstock)

A lively coastal village with a mesmerizing beach and a lovely harbor, Port Fairy is where you can purchase some of the best fish and local produce in Australia. After having a filling breakfast, set out this morning and head to Tower Hill State Game Reserve, which is situated inside an extinct volcano. Explore its rich landscapes and marvel at the views of the abundant wildlife roaming freely like kangaroos, koalas and water birds. Make your way back to Melbourne via the short inland route via Colac.

Emu, Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, Australia
Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) in the Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve (dirkr / Shutterstock)

Have you been to the Great Ocean Road or anywhere else in Australia? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.

Featured image: The Great Ocean Road – Victoria, Australia (pisaphotography / Shutterstock)


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