Ten Tips for Driving the Great Ocean Road, VIC inner banner

Ten Tips for Driving the Great Ocean Road, VIC

Driving the Great Ocean Road in regional Victoria is an experience where the journey can very easily become the destination. Here are ten tips for a safe and enjoyable trip.
Tips for driving the Great Ocean Road
Tips for driving the Great Ocean Road: 12 Apostles

The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s, and possibly the world’s, most beautiful drives.

Starting at its eastern end in the town of Torquay, and finishing in Allansford to the west, the Great Ocean Road hugs Victoria’s southern coastline for just on 240 kilometres. Rugged terrain, pristine beaches, lush rainforest, and quintessential seaside hamlets are all hallmarks of the route, and there’s something amazing to see around every bend in the road.

High on the list of must-sees for most visitors are the 12 Apostles sea stacks in Port Campbell National Park. These time-and-wave-worn pillars of limestone are truly breathtaking to behold.

Here are ten tips for driving the Great Ocean Road safely and comfortably.

Melbourne

Victoria Tours, Activities & Attractions

1. Get your bearings

Many first-time visitors expect the Great Ocean Road to be in close proximity to the Victorian capital Melbourne. It isn’t. It’s roughly a 1.5 to two-hour drive from Melbourne to the official start point, depending on traffic. So, you’ll need to factor that in when planning your trip. It is possible to drive the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne in a single day, returning to the city via the faster inland route. However, you’ll be spending most of the day in your car, with little time to get out and enjoy the sublime setting.

Tips for driving the Great Ocean Road
Tips for driving the Great Ocean Road. Image: Visit Victoria

2. Plan a two-day stay

If you’re driving from Melbourne, our recommendation is to do the trip over two, or even three days — giving you time to explore at a leisurely pace. Day one might see you driving as far as the towns of Lorne or Apollo Bay, both of which offer an array of accommodation options. In both instances, you’ll be able to get an early start to travel on to the 12 Apostles the following day. Keep in mind that it gets exceptionally busy at the Apostles when the cavalcade of day tour buses arrives from Melbourne around mid afternoon. Try and time your visit for first thing in the morning or in the late afternoon. Seeing the stone monoliths at sunrise or sunset is even better.

Tips for driving the Great Ocean Road
Tips for driving the Great Ocean Road

Tip: If you have the time, continue driving west along the coast to the towns of Warrnambool, Port Fairy, and Portland. They’re all packed with historic attractions and it’s worth exploring this remote part of Victoria in more detail.

3. Book accommodation well in advance

While the Great Ocean Road has plenty of accommodation — ranging from hostels, homestays, and holiday lets, to heritage hotels and luxury resorts — that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get expensive, especially if you book at the last minute. Lock in a bed as early as possible to get the best deal. If you’re travelling in peak periods like school holidays or long weekends, expect to pay a significant premium regardless of when you book.

The key accommodation centres are Torquay, Anglesea, Lorne, and Apollo Bay. The eco-certified YHA Apollo Bay is a popular budget option and offers private rooms with shared bathrooms. Top hotels included the upscale RACV Torquay Resort, The Sands Torquay (which has an attached 18-hole championship golf course), and the wonderfully located Mantra Lorne. Ocean House at Lorne is one of the region’s most celebrated private holiday homes.

Tips for driving the Great Ocean Road
Ocean House, Lorne. Image: Visit Victoria

4. Protect you and your vehicle

Before you set out on your journey, it’s important to make sure that your vehicle is properly protected. If you’re driving a hire car, take out travel insurance that covers your excess in the event of an accident. If you’re driving a privately owned vehicle, organise a pre-trip service and ensure you have adequate car insurance or an extended auto warranty. Taking steps to safeguard your vehicle up front means you can enjoy a worry-free trip.

5. Drive carefully

Given its mesmerising beauty, travelling along the Great Ocean Road can be distracting — for even the most experienced of drivers. Keep your focus on the road and the speed limit. It constantly changes, and ranges from 50 to 100 kilometres per hour. Parts of the two-lane road are relatively narrow and offer little room to pull off or break suddenly. In some areas there is little or no verge, and repeated blind bends. Drive to the conditions and pay particular attention to safety when stopping for a photo. There are designated lookouts with parking right along the route, but many visitors choose to stop in spots that are less than ideal from a safety perspective.

Tips for driving the Great Ocean Road
Tips for driving the Great Ocean Road: Pull over to take photos only when it is safe to do so.

6. Make frequent stops

There are innumerable things to see and do along the Great Ocean Road, so you’ll almost certainly be making frequent stops anyway. But taking regular breaks is also the safest way to drive the route. Pull over every couple of hours to stretch your legs, enjoy a bite to eat, or simply gaze out to sea and breathe in the salty air. All of the above will help keep you fresh and alert.

7. Watch out for wildlife

The Great Ocean Road traverses various types of landscapes, including coastal scrubland, wetlands, woodlands, and dense rainforest. The region as a whole is home to many wildlife species, including a large population of koalas. You’re almost guaranteed to see these slow-moving fur balls curled up in the limbs of gum trees. Kennett River is a sure bet; pull off at Hawdon Avenue, go for a stroll, and look up!

Tips for driving the Great Ocean Road
Tips for driving the Great Ocean Road: Keep watch for wildlife. Image: Envato

While the plentiful wildlife is amazing to look at, it also presents risks for drivers and regularly gets in harm’s way. Keep an eye out for furry locals feeding by the roadside at dawn and dusk, including kangaroos, wallabies, and even echidnas and koalas. Swerving at the last minute to avoid a collision could be disastrous for all involved; taking it slow and steady at these particular times of the day is the better course of action. If you spot an injured animal, call the Surf Coast Wildlife Shelter on 0490 035 006.

8. Dress for every weather eventuality

Melbourne regularly sees four seasons in a single day, and so does the Great Ocean Road. And those winds coming in off the Southern Ocean can be nippy! Whatever the season, pack a waterproof wind breaker and something warm to thrown on if the need arises.

9. Learn some local history

Knowing the history of the Great Ocean Road adds a different, somewhat bittersweet dimension to the journey. You’ll actually be driving on what is the largest war memorial in the world. The construction of the road by returning WWI soldiers provided gainful employment, a sense of purpose, and a permanent, utilitarian way to honour those who didn’t make it home from the battlefields. Work began in 1919 and finally ended in 1932. Visit the Memorial Arch at Eastern View to learn more.

Tips for driving the Great Ocean Road
Tips for driving the Great Ocean Road: Memorial Arch, Eastern View

10. Get great photos

Passionate photographers will love their time on the Great Ocean Road. There are Insta-worthy vistas around almost every corner and natural attractions lining up to be photographed. The 12 Apostles are ridiculously photogenic and can be viewed from a series of well-maintained boardwalks. For a different perspective, take the Gibson Steps down onto the beach and look up at the towering Apostles and mainland clifftops.

Tips for driving the Great Ocean Road
Tips for driving the Great Ocean Road: Take plenty of photos. Image: Envato

Maits Rest rainforest walk on the edge of Great Otway National Park meanders through an ancient world of almost Jurassic proportions and will see you getting snap happy. For epic coastal shots, climb the historic Cape Otway Lightstation and photograph gulls winging on the ocean breeze.

This post was published thanks to Market Watch. 

Browse our range of Great Ocean Road tours and experiences here.

Do you have any tips for driving the Great Ocean Road? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

The information contained in this story is general in nature and does not constitute professional advice in any way. We make every effort to ensure this content is accurate, but we do not guarantee it. You should do your own research and seek the advice of professionals before acting or relying on any of the information provided in this story.

Additional images: Envato

Adam Ford

About the writer

Adam Ford is editor of Top Oz Tours and Travel Ideas, and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger, and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.

 

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