Luxury Escapes Guide to the Great Ocean Road
Hugging the southwest coast of Victoria is one of the world’s most sought-after coastal drives, stretching from Torquay to Allansford.
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Discover the Great Ocean Road
Things to see and do
Go surfing on Bells Beach
The Great Ocean Road is a magnet for surfers, whose colourful vans trail the coast like lines of ants in search of the most tantalising world-class crests. Fun fact: Torquay is the birthplace of world-renowned surf brands Quiksilver and Rip Curl. Bells Beach is by far the most famous surf spot along the route and has been home to the international Rip Curl Pro event for almost 60 years thanks to its huge swells. Not at pro level yet? Dip your toe in the water with lessons amid some of the less intimidating waves further along the coast.
Taste the region’s finest on a gourmet trail
The farmland and wineries of the Shipwreck Coast produce bountiful fare, dotted around the region like truffles waiting to be unearthed. Follow the 12 Apostles Food Artisans ‘trail map’ to hunt down the most delicious bites. We commend allowing at least five hours to explore this 88km trail, where you can sample everything from freshly grown strawberries and olives to delicate chocolates and beloved Timboon ice cream. Be sure to stop at Sow & Piglets Breweries around lunchtime, when you can sample their range of craft beers with a side of pizza.
Go whale watching on Logans Beach
There’s something truly awe-inspiring about watching the gentle giants of the sea soaring through the waves – modern life seems to melt away as you observe them migrating towards the Australian shore from the sub-Antarctic. A specially built viewing platform among the sand dunes of Logans Beach in Warrnambool is the optimum whale-spotting position, where every year, between June and September, spectators gather for a precious glimpse of female southern right whales moving in to calve.
Get Instagram shots of Port Fairy Lighthouse
The coastal town of Port Fairy, a short distance from the end of the route but well worth a visit. It sounds as charming as it is, and it has a picturesque lighthouse to boot – a remnant of the town’s past days as a trading port. Grab some gorgeous shots of this Victorian-era landmark, best captured at sunset as the sky is daubed with burnt orange and lilac and the waters of the ocean stippled with gold. Built in 1859, this tiny lighthouse was once only reachable by boat: you can almost imagine yourself back in time with the oil lamp-light flickering, beckoning boats to shore.
Bathe in hot springs in Warrnambool
A bonus of holidaying in regional Victoria are the hot springs you’ll discover dotted around, where tepid waters are rich with minerals. Head to the Sanctuary at Deep Blue to work your way through a series of 15 open-air bathing pools and caves of geothermal waters. Your senses will be nurtured at every turn, with basalt stones to bask on, trickling water, a reflection pool for – well, doing just that – and aromatic mist dancing on the air. It’s like the perfect warm hug for tired bushwalkers.
Go strawberry picking at Surf Coast Strawberry Fields
Can you name a more wholesome activity for a family holiday than strawberry picking? Little ones will love being tasked with plucking the plumpest, juiciest berries from this 90-acre, family-run farm, which opens its doors seasonally from November to April. Experience the true paddock-to-plate philosophy of the Great Ocean Road as you feast on your finds throughout the remainder of your road trip. And pssst, don’t tell the kids – the farm also offers delicious, creamy ice cream made with the very strawberries found onsite.
Zipline through the Otway Ranges
The Great Ocean Road experience is all about the great outdoors – and what better way to drink it in than on a zipline speeding above it all? Just 20 minutes from the start of the Great Ocean Road is Otway Fly Treetop Adventures, where you can soar through the leafy treetops 30 metres above the forest floor. Ziplining tickets also include access to the 600-metre Treetop Walk, a more sedate yet equally beautiful way to take in the scenery.
See the 12 Apostles (and its lesser-known counterparts)
The 12 Apostles, in Port Campbell National Park, is one of the Great Ocean Road’s most sought-after attractions. This imposing collection of limestone stacks just off the coast, adjacent to the soaring cliff face, rises majestically from the choppy waves of the Southern Ocean, towering 45 metres above the waters. The result of millions of years of erosion, these rock islands were once part of the mainland. While the 12 Apostles draws coachloads of spectators, there are other rock formations that are well worth a stop, too: the Grotto, where the fierce spray of the ocean blasts through the rock archway, the limestone stacks of the Bay of Islands, the London Arch, Loch Ard Gorge and the Bay of Martyrs.
Spot koalas at Cape Otway
Where nature lives and breathes, wildlife follows — and the area surrounding the Great Ocean Road is a thriving haven for it. Just outside of Apollo Bay is Cape Otway, one of the most reliable areas for spotting these most famous of Australian animals, thanks to its abundance of Manna gum trees. Head down Lighthouse Road and see how many koalas you can spot lingering in the canopies. At the very least you’ll be on the road to the Cape Otway Lightstation and its spectacular views over Bass Strait.
Take a picnic and spot wildlife at Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve
The ruggedly beautiful Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve was Victoria’s first ever National Park, established in 1892. The crater of an extinct volcano, the park is home to more than 300,000 trees and countless wildlife, from kangaroos and koalas to native birds and echidnas, which can all be observed up close in their natural habitat. Pack a picnic basket, take a stroll and watch some of Mother Nature’s finest work unfold before your eyes.
Top places to eat and drink
A La Grecque
The family-run A La Grecque has retained its crown as one of Victoria’s finest regional restaurants, having now been handed down to the next generation. Here, the Talimanidis family combines its Hellenic and Australian heritage in dishes crafted using fresh seasonal produce and the finest seafood, such as grilled rack of lamb with melitzanosalata, chargrilled local octopus and chocolate mousse with a cheeky dash of ouzo (a potent booze with which anybody who has visited Greece will have surely been acquainted).
Great Ocean Road Gin
If a ‘gin garden’ sounds like your idea of heaven, get ye to Great Ocean Road Gin, where a pretty, sun-kissed courtyard with your name on it awaits. Take a moment to relax as you sample the distiller’s creations, from raspberry gin liqueur to Guvvos Gin and the intimidatingly named navy-strength gin. You could even grab a takeaway for your obligatory tourist snap under the Memorial Arch at Eastern View, the wooden sign that marks the start of the Great Ocean Road.
Wye General Store
Whether you’re a straight-up burger and beer kind of diner or an oh-so-Melburnian avo on toast and coffee lover, you’ll find the perfect all-day brunch for you at Wye General Store – even if you’re just in the market for a flaky, buttery French pastry on-the-go. The perfect little pitstop between the forest and the ocean, Wye General Store is the place to come before beach strolls in the summer or for the wood-burning heater in winter months. Be sure to pick up some produce from the store for your onward journey – fresh and colourful fruit and veggies, eggs, house-made bread and cheese awaits.
Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant
Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant is something of an institution, having attracted discerning diners since 1979. Nestled in the Otways above the Great Ocean Road and Apollo Bay, the restaurant offers elevated views over the Bass Strait and canopies of gum trees and ferns, where koalas can often be seen lounging. The passion of Greek owner Chris is evident in his warm hospitality and lovingly prepared dishes, which marry European flavours with fresh ingredients, freshly caught seafood and Mediterranean herbs and spices.
Forage on the Foreshore, Port Campbell
If a true local experience sets your culinary fire alight, look no further than Forage on the Foreshore in Port Campbell, a family-run restaurant that serves dishes crafted with ingredients grown, produced or foraged along the Great Ocean Road and surrounding Hinterland. The menu is informed by the availability of produce – with small local producers and farmers supported wherever possible – and might include mushroom bruschetta, a forage plate of pork terrine, locally made cheeses and house-made quince paste and lavosh, or fresh grilled fish with tomato and kipfler potatoes.
Prickly Moses Brewery
The Otways: mountains, waterfalls, verdant forest and… great beer. The rainwater gathered here is nature’s gift to beer lovers and is used to brew Prickly Moses Handcrafted Beer and Forbidden Fruit Cider. Pop by to discover the techniques and high-quality ingredients used at this independent brewery in pursuit of the finest beers and ciders – and, of course, sample a few of the creations, from pale ale, stout, IBA and IPA to mango and berry ciders.
Bringing a taste of Spain to the Great Ocean Road is MoVida, a one-time pop-up in the Lorne Hotel that proved so popular – to quote the restaurant, ‘it went off like a frog in a sock’ – it was brought back in a permanent capacity. Soak up ocean views with a local wine, gin or whiskey in hand. And the food? Little tapas-style tastes of heaven crafted using Victorian produce, such as Mount Moriac beef tartare, cured meats, Apollo Bay gummy shark in a bun with caper aioli, and Catalan potato bomb with chorizo. You can also take a little taste of Spain with you from the adjoining Alimentaria Deli, which sells takeaway tapas, cheeses, pickles, preserved seafood and wine.