Here’s our guide to towns along the Great Ocean Road to ensure you don’t miss any of the highlights along this incredible stretch of coastline.
The Great Ocean Road is Australia’s iconic coastal drive. Just an hour’s drive from Melbourne and you’ll be cruising along the coast, with plenty to see along the way.
It is the most popular day trip from Melbourne and there are a couple of tour options that allow you to see all the main highlights in just one day.
As you drive along the road you’ll pass by many coastal towns. These are not to be missed as there are many great things to discover. From surf beaches, to fresh seafood and icons of the Great Ocean Road like the Twelve Apostles.
Towns along the Great Ocean Road
Torquay is Australia’s surf capital – and is renowned for its beaches, surf culture and surf shops.
The Surf Beach in Torquay is famous for is waves and provides some great photo opportunities. As you walk up the hill you find yourself atop a grassy hill overlooking the beach. The sand gives way to the ocean where surfers are lined up behind the breaks ready to catch the waves.
Torquay is the starting point for the famous road and it is home to many surf and outdoor brands. It is also known for its many surf breaks, and for being the town in which the surf brand Rip Curl was founded.
Rip Curl began with two mates making surfboards together in the 60’s. The brand has a long and proud history of being based in Torquay ever since. From the beginning, designing surfboards and wetsuits, working out of garages and small workshops. Right through to becoming a household name and leading the way in designing surf gear and sponsoring surf competitions.
These two small towns along the Great Ocean Road were badly affected by the Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983. The bushfires swept through parts of Victoria and South Australia in 1983. They were field by drought conditions, hot temperatures and strong winds. They were the second worst bushfires in Australia’s history. Many lives were los and many homes and properties were ruined. Particularly on the Great Ocean Road, the towns of Airey’s Inlet and Fairhaven were almost completely destroyed.
These days, houses have been rebuilt and the bushland surrounded the towns has regenerated. Driving though, it would be neat impossible to tell there were such devastating bushfires in the area.
These days Airey’s Inlet is most well known for it’s Lighthouse at Split Point. It is a popular area for photographers, and walkers taking on the Surf Coast Trail. The lighthouse can be viewed as you drive along the road from a couple of different points. It was a working lighthouse for many years, but more or a tourist attraction these days.
Fairhaven, the next town along the coast, is well known for an iconic and unusual house that is built there. The Pole House was first built in 1979. It’s structure sits atop a large concrete pole, making the house appear to float above the tree tops. From the house, it’s possible to enjoy views along this iconic stretch of coast and to the road and beach below. The house has been remodelled since it ws originally built and is now a holiday rental – available to the public to stay in.
Just down the road from Fairhaven is the Memorial Arch. This arch was built to honour the 3000 service men that worked on and built the road from 1919 to 1932. It was a huge undertaking to carve a road into the rocky coastline, and it provided many jobs for returned servicemen after the First World War.
To visit the Memorial Arch these days you can stop in at the viewing area beside the road. You can also check out the memorial statue of soldiers constructing the road. There are information boards, a memorial statue and plaques detailing the construction of the Great Ocean Road.
Lorne is an iconic seaside holiday town. It was one of the first towns on the Great Ocean Road to welcome tourists and holidaymakers. In fact, people were visiting Lorne for their summer holidays even before the road was built. They used to travel by boat to reach the coastal village and spend their days by the beach.
These days Lorne is very popular with holiday makers, particularly from Melbourne. It has the best of both worlds with the ocean beach right in the middle of town and the national park in the hills behind it. The beach is a great spot for swimming or learning to surf, as the headland protects the beach from large swells. There is even a popular ocean swimming event held each summer called the Pier to Pub Race. It attracts over 5,000 swimmers. The pier is a short walk from the central of town and is a great place for fishing or taking in the coastal views.
In the hills behind Lorne it is possible to access the Great Otway National Park. There are bush walks through native shrubs and tall eucalyptus trees. It’s also possible to access areas of cool climate rainforest. The most popular walks are to Teddy’s Lookout for views of the coast and Great Ocean Road below, or Erskine Falls to view the waterfalls and rainforest.
Apollo Bay is a fairly large coastal town, however given its distance from Melbourne, it is relatively quiet. That is, until the summer holidays come around and thousands of people flock to Apollo Bay to enjoy the beach and sunshine.
Apollo Bay is well known for its fresh local seafood. There is a marina in town where the fishing boats come in with the days catch. There are plenty of places to try the seafood in own including fish and chips, the scallop pie from the bakery, or in the restaurants and cafes.
Apollo Bay’s beach sweeps right from the marina alongside the town and further along the coast. It is a relatively protected bay, so it is a great place for swimming in the warmer months. The town is also located close to the Otwy National Park. It’s possible to do many walk in the area, including through rainforest, to waterfalls and to see the towering Mountain Ash eucalyptus trees.
Port Campbell is the closest town to the iconic Twelve Apostles. These rock formations are known the world over and pictures do not do them justice. One of the highlights of visiting the Great Ocean Road is to walk out to the Lookout on the edge of the cliffs and see the view of these limestone stacks.
Port Campbell is a popular place for people wanting to stay and explore the Port Campbell National Park. This area, also known as the Shipwreck Coast, has many different lookouts, beaches and rock formations. Check out our guide to the Twelve Apostles and other rock formations to learn more.
Port Campbell is a quiet, seaside town. It has some great restaurants and cafes, some serving locally caught seafood. There are also plenty of accommodation options to choose from – such as camping, hotels, motels, backpackers and resorts.
You can visit these towns on our Great Ocean Road Day Tour from Melbourne or the Sunset Tour of the Great Ocean Road.
Written by: Leah Furey – Digital Content Coordinator @gowest.com.au