664 km/413 miles, about 9.5 hours

One of Victoria's most scenic drives, the Great Ocean Road is a magnificent three-day self-drive touring route from surf capital Torquay to the iconic 12 Apostles, ending at historic fishing village Port Fairy.

Starting from Melbourne, it's an easy drive taking you along cliff tops and beaches and through lush rainforest. Along the way, spot koalas, kangaroos and even whales. Zip-line your way through a treetop canopy, climb to the peak of a volcanic crater, and relax over regional dining atop a cliff or by the beach.

Most importantly, take the time to stop at the lookouts and watch out for wildlife. It'll be worth it.

  • Melbourne to Apollo Bay

    187 km/116 miles, about 3 hours

    Get your roadtrip off to a leisurely start on the drive from Melbourne to Torquay, just over an hour away. Home to some of Australia's best-known surf beaches, Torquay marks the official beginning of the Great Ocean Road. Discover the region's rich surf culture at Australian National Surfing Museum before exploring the waves at Bell's Beach, host of the annual Rip Curl Pro international surf competition.

    Stop at Anglesea Golf Club to join their kangaroo-spotting tour around the scenic fairways, or learn to surf with Go Ride a Wave.

    Magnificent coastal views dominate the next 30 kilometre stretch towards beach town Lorne, the perfect spot for lunch – grab fish and chips to eat on the sand or dine with beachside views at Totti's Lorne.

    As you make your way to Apollo Bay, you'll travel along cliff tops with incredible views and alongside wild beaches – take time to stop at the various scenic lookouts for photos, or step down onto the beach for a stroll.

    From Apollo Bay, follow the Great Ocean Road into the lush Great Otway National Park, and turn off to the Cape Otway Lightstation (about a 50-minute drive) – the oldest surviving lighthouse in mainland Australia. Climb to the top, 90 metres above sea level, to glimpse the meeting point of Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean.

    Or head west of Apollo Bay to explore the Wildlife Wonders ecotourism conservation area, where koalas doze in the treetops, potoroos and bandicoots forage on ferny forest floors, and kangaroos hop past against a spectacular ocean horizon.

    Make your way back to Apollo Bay for the night. Dine at Chris's Beacon Point restaurant, where contemporary Mediterranean-style dishes are complemented by spectacular cliff-top views, and sleep next door in the villa accommodation.

  • Apollo Bay to Port Fairy

    189 km/117 miles, about 3 hours

    From Apollo Bay, follow the Great Ocean Road into the lush rainforest of the The Otways and turn off to the Otway Fly Treetop Adventures, an easy hour's drive. Touch the sky on the treetop canopy walkway – the longest and tallest of its type in the world – or fly along on a zip-line tour. Seek out the gushing cascade along Triplet Falls Rainforest Walk.

    Back on the Great Ocean Road, ready your camera(phone) for the spectacular coastline leading to Port Campbell and the famous 12 Apostles – magnificent rock stacks rising up from the Southern Ocean. Descend Gibson Steps to the windswept beach for a rewarding encounter up close with the 12 Apostles. Don't miss the lookouts over the cliffs at Loch Ard Gorge and, just beyond Port Campbell, the hauntingly beautiful Bay of Islands. For the best views of this beguiling coastline, take to the skies on a helicopter tour. Unforgettable.

    Continue along the Great Ocean Road, heading west to Warrnambool. Explore the town's rich maritime history then head to the viewing platforms at Logans Beach to spot its impressive winter visitors: southern right and blue whales. Glimpsing these giants schooling their calves just offshore is truly memorable.

    From Warrnambool, drive towards Port Fairy and take the turn-off to Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, an easy 15-minute drive. Explore the walking tracks, keeping an eye out for koalas, emus, kangaroos and waterbirds that roam freely among the hills and lake-filled craters of this extinct volcano. Visit the Worn Gundidj visitor centre to learn more about the reserve's Aboriginal and geological history.

    Top off the day with dinner in Port Fairy. Dine on seasonal regional fare in the historic dining room at Merrijig Kitchen, Victoria's oldest inn. Book to stay the night in the cosy country-style B&B, or make the short journey back to Warrnambool and stay overlooking the beach in modern luxury at the Lady Bay Resort.

  • Port Fairy to Melbourne

    Spend the morning exploring charming fishing village Port Fairy Wander along the river, visit the beaches, or follow one of the historic walking trails to see old whalers' cottages and grand public buildings. For more wildlife, take a cruise out to the seal colony just offshore on Lady Julia Percy Island.

    From here, choose your own adventure:

    • Trace your trip back along the Great Ocean Road, stopping to spend more time at your favourite spots and photo opps.
    • Extend your roadtrip by a couple of days and take the Great Southern Touring Route north to Dunkeld and Halls Gap to visit the magnificent Grampians mountain range and the historic Goldfields region on your way back to Melbourne.
    • Go on a culinary crusade through craft breweries and top regional restaurants on the short inland route back to Melbourne via Colac.

    Inland route, via Colac

    288 km/179 miles, about 3.5 hours

    Make your way back through Warrnambool and along the easy inland route towards Colac (approximately 140 kilometres). Along the way, stop at Camperdown about an hour's drive away for a cup of tea, and for 360-degree views from Mt Leura and Mt Sugarloaf, the highest points between the coastal ranges and the rolling western plains.

    Continue on the road to Colac, and prepare your appetite for gourmet food and craft beer discoveries.

    Quench your thirst at Otway Estate and the Forrest Brewing Company, two fine craft breweries nestled in the foothills and hinterland of the stunning Otways.

    Linger over lunch at Brae, awarded three chef's hats in the Good Food Guide. You'll find this exceptional restaurant near Birregurra, 20 minutes from Colac.

    From Birregurra, head towards Winchelsea and make the easy two-hour drive back to Melbourne.

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