The Great Ocean Road is a coastal passage with breathtaking views of the Australian coastline. Although the road itself is “only” about 250km, its location means it can be added into a road trip of between 3 to 5 days, allowing you time to see some of Australia’s greatest sights.
This itinerary assumes you are leaving South Australia, however it can be done in reverse. There are a couple of options, depending on whether you are planning a round trip, or one way journey Adelaide -> Melbourne.
Option One: Adelaide -> Adelaide (via Great Ocean Road)
Day 1: Adelaide -> Portland [~550KM – 7 HRS driving]
This is a busy, but fun, day in South Australia so the earlier you set off, the better! I’d suggest leaving Adelaide at 8am, heading East toward the Adelaide Hills and getting onto the Freeway. Continue along the Freeway and onto the Princes Highway, until you get to the town of Tailem Bend. This is approximately 2 hours from Adelaide and its a good idea to have a quick stop to rest and grab a snack.
From here, you have two choices. The quickest route is to continue onto the Dukes Highway to Bordertown and then head down southward to Naracoorte.
>> If you are have more time, you can alternatively head south (continuing on the Princes Highway/B1) through the town of Meningie and then continue Eastward toward the town of Kingston. This is a longer drive (adding about an hour in total), but will take you very close to the coast and past South Australia’s famed Murray River. Once you arrive in Kingston – and stop for a quick rest – you can then head back up north to reconnect with Naracoorte.
Once arriving in Naracoorte, you can head to the Naracoorte Caves, which is South Australia’s only world heritage site and home to caves as well as some fascinating fossils. There are a number of tours available, including a quick visit to a nice cave on your own (Wet Cave, adult $9), a guided tour of the Alexandra Cave (adult $20, 30 minute duration) or even the Bat Wonderland (adult $25, duration 1 hour) or adventure caving (adult $60, duration 1.5 hour, bookings needed). A full list and pricing is available at their official website here.
After stopping in Naracoorte, you can then head south for approximately one hour to arrive at the town of Mt Gambier near the border of South Australia and Victoria. Here, you can make a quick stop at the Blue Lake, which depending on the time of year can range from a deep blue (like I saw!) or a brilliant light blue. It’s well worth a stop to break up your trip and get some nice photos.
From here, get back on the Princes Highway and continue for approximately 1.5 hours until you reach your destination of Portland, Victoria.
- There are a number of free and paid camping sites available in Portland. Here is a list provided by the tourism authority. Bookings and/or permits are required.
- For a more expensive but gorgeous and romantic option, I personally recommend the beautiful Annesley House in Portland, a wonderful B&B.
Day 2: Portland -> Torquay (OR Melbourne)
Today is Great Ocean Road day, so get ready! You’ve done a lot of driving yesterday which means more time to enjoy today, however you still want to set off early to make the most of daylight.
Set off from Portland toward Warrnambool, potentially stopping in at the cute town of Port Fairy, about an hour away. Warrnambool itself is home to the brilliant ‘Cheese World’ which has all kinds of yummy cheeses and also a reasonably priced restaurant. The Ploughman’s would be a great brunch to fill you up before you hit… the Great Ocean Road!
From here, it’s pretty hard to miss the Great Ocean Road/B100. Not only is the drive itself very beautiful, but you will note a number of sites marked on the side of the road. I personally think it is fun just to discover them as you go, pulling over to see them and explore, however some that I would recommend are The Crags, The London Arch, the Grotto and, of course, The Twelve Apostles. Please don’t just stop at the 12 Apostles though, the other sites are usually nearly empty and just as beautiful!
You’ll head through a number of towns including Port Campbell, Apollo Bay, Lorne and Anglesea. Any one of these is great to stop in at and take a well-deserved break. I recommend stopping at Torquay for the night, home to the world famous surfing Bells Beach. However, you can also continue on to Geelong or Melbourne if you wish, as Melbourne is only 1.5 hours from Torquay.
Day 3 : Torquay/Melbourne -> Adelaide (~725km, 9 hours driving)
Wherever you’re leaving from (Melbourne or Torquay), head toward the historic town of Ballarat, a large town with a number of gold rush related activities if that’s your kind of thing. It is quite fun for kids in particular, although you’re never too old for kid’s activities in my book!
From Ballarat, I have to admit its a fairly uninspiring dash back to Adelaide. A much more enjoyable way told to do this drive would be to break it up by visiting the Grampians but that would take an extra day, and this itinerary is aiming to be possible to do in a long weekend.
You’ll head through Ararat > Stawell > Horsham > Nhill > Bordertown before finding yourself back at Tailem Bend and then onto Adelaide. It sounds quick and easy like that, but this is a drive of at least 7 hours, so make sure you stop in at at least a few of these towns for a rest and something to eat. There is also a creepy old lunatic asylum at Ararat and tours are on offer, if that is of interest to you!