The Great Ocean Road's Greatest Hits: A Four Day Road Trip Itinerary
August 01, 2023
Great Ocean Road is famous for the 12 Apostles and iconic rugged coastline - but there's a whole lot more to this stunning stretch of Victoria.
In the middle of a Melbourne winter, the idea of a cosy holiday to the Great Ocean Road might not be on the bucket list. But, being home to some of Victoria’s most iconic landmarks, it is a perfect chance to adventure along the coast without the summertime commotion.
Whether you’re looking to unwind by the water, witness waterfalls, experience wildlife walks or whet your appetite with local food delights – one thing is for certain about the Great Ocean Road in winter – you’ll see some of Australia’s most iconic sites sans crowds, catch breathtaking winter sunsets, experience nature without the tourist noise and appreciate the stars that shine just a little more brightly in the cooler months.
So, we’ve lined up four action packed days of the best places to stay, restaurants to eat at and sights to see – all the way from Torquay to Port Campbell. Rug up and get ready to play in your local backyard.
Explore the rugged coast and eat local delicacies
Summertime travellers from Melbourne will know Torquay is where the adventure begins along the Great Ocean Road.
This buzzing coastal town, filled with some of Australia’s oldest surf shops and museums, is also an up-and-coming foodie destination with spots like Mortadeli – a charming Mediterranean cafe slinging freshly made deli sandwiches, pastries as well as aperitivo and wines. Stock up on road trip snacks in the town centre before heading out to visit some of the route’s most iconic beaches.
Birds Rock, Winkipop, Jan Juc and Bells Beach lookouts are some of the best viewpoints to watch surfers and soak in the rugged coastline. A gap of sunshine through the grey clouds play as a reminder of why these iconic beaches are packed in the summer.
For those looking to warm up their muscles and get out on the water, Anglesea Paddle Boat And Canoes gives punters a chance to take their own voyage out on the Anglesea River through tall river reeds and under historical wooden bridges. If your canoe buddy is cooperative enough – you can make it out far enough to see the area’s iconic pirate ship.
Settle in for the night at the Great Ocean Road Resort in Anglesea for a taste of the tropical resort life. This locally-owned business boasts lush greenery that envelops the accommodation – there’s also an indoor pool, wellness escape area and trampoline park.
Their hotel restaurant, The Coast, celebrates local native ingredients inspired by bush tucker and uses locally sourced produce from the surf coast region. Enjoy dishes like seaweed gnocchi with salt bush and sea parsley, goeem (kangaroo) with native spinach and bush tomato jus, or compressed watermelon with crispy kiwi fruit. Back inside your room, soak away the chill of the day in your luxury spa bath. For those looking for a more eclectic overnight stay – the Sunnymead Hotel down the road in Aireys Inlet has bright yellow, retro facades and a bespoke spa that will sweep you away to the sunny scenes of Palm Springs.
ADVENTURE TO WATERFALLS, LUNCH IN LORNE AND GLAMPING
The trek between Anglesea and Lorne not only has some of the most breathtaking views (and winding roads) of the Great Ocean Road but, if you know where to look, you can also visit Victoria’s most iconic waterfalls.
Take a guided walk with Jimmy Kambouris from Lorne Tours. Jimmy’s a local to the area for over 48 years and thanks to his local knowledge, waterfall seekers can stroll through an apple orchard and follow crystal clear streams to Sheoak Falls. Other idyllic spots include Stevenson Falls, Erskine Falls and Lower Kalimna Falls.
After a walk along the Lorne Pier and foreshore to take in the stunning Lorne Beach, head to the recently opened Totti’s for lunch. Feel temporarily transported to a European summer while sipping on spritzes and tearing apart piping hot bread fresh from the pizza oven, antipasti and pastas like lamb ragu pappardelle. While the main restaurant is reminiscent of the white houses of Greece, the connected bar next door channels a retro ‘70s feel with vinyl collections and eclectic lamps, creating the perfect setting to sip drinks and chat into the late evening.
If you’re looking for more of a local dinner scene, head to the Great Ocean Road’s only gin distillery for a feed and entertaining history lesson. The team at Apollo Bay Distillery will take you through the process of distilling gin, using everything from native ingredients like local saltbush, to more adventurous pours like dill pickle, oyster or even jam donut. Accompanied with pizza and cheese boards from local suppliers, you won’t leave hungry or thirsty.
Book in a Meet The Maker experience to create your own batch to take home and learn a bit more about the history of the alcoholic spirit as well as local folklore on the region’s shipwrecks.
Settle in for the night post food-coma at the one of the region’s most unique and breathtaking glamping experiences — but don’t let the camping association fool you. This accommodation is fully equipped with a luxe bathroom, lounge room, kitchen and timber deck lined with fairy lights. The BIG4 Pisces resort is a hotspot for summertime campers but in the winter you’ll have peace and quiet around the site’s campfire, lit every night in winter. Situated right by the water, there’s no better spot to watch the waves from bed.
WITNESS WILDLIFE, CLIMB LIGHTHOUSES AND SOAK IN SPA BATHS
Set your alarm and watch the winter hues light up the early morning sky as you make your way to Wildlife Wonders for their dawn tour. Wildlife Wonders is a non-for-profit organisation offering guided educational tours to learn about native flora and a chance to see animals like koalas, potoroos, emus and wallabies. Wonder through the serene gumtree canopies and fern gullies before you make your way up to peaks of native grassland overlooking the Bass Strait.
On your way out, visit Maits Rest — a short nature walk home to the few remaining pockets of cool temperate rainforests in the Great Otway National Park. Breathe in the fresh air and take in the awe-prompting view of 200-year-old trees.
Next, it’s time to make your way up to the Cape Otway Lightstation. What might seem like an unassuming tourist stop is actually an intriguing history lesson and unique chance to get up and close with Australia’s oldest surviving lighthouse, made from the surrounding limestone cliffs. Climb to the top to get a view of the area’s sweeping ocean views, then hit up the quaint and kitschy Lightkeepers Cafe for freshly made scones.
It wouldn’t be a Great Ocean Road trip without visiting Port Campbell National Park, home to the Loch Arch Gorge – a picturesque gorge home to a smooth, pearlescent bay and an inlet of clear, blue water. Millions of tourists flock to this spot every year, so visiting in the cooler months allows for a more peaceful experience.
After a day of exploring, head back into Port Campbell for a choose-your-own-adventure food experience at REAL Pizza Pasta Salads. As the name suggests, this community-focused kitchen offers diners the chance to choose their own base, toppings and sauces on popular Italian-style dishes. The kitchen will prepare it to your liking, resulting in a delicious, homely meal. Their mission is to encourage people to shop and eat locally and sustainably, so each ingredient has information on its origin and impact.
For a final evening of stunning views and friendly locals, Anchors Port Campbell Resort is the place to stay. Situated on a family farm, you can meet and feed the property’s rescue animals before unwinding in the luxurious couples-style accommodation that perfectly balances a shiny resort experience with a Mid Century modern fitout. A retro eggshell blue kitchen stocked with local wines and snacks pair perfectly with the spacious spa bath to spend the night soaking in. Ceiling to floor windows provide the perfect view of rolling farm hills and distant twinkling town lights at night.
SUNRISE DELIGHTS, DISTILLERIES AND DESSERTS
End your coastal adventure on a high with a helicopter flight over the 12 Apostles, the 9am flight being the first one of the day in winter. This family-run business has been taking passengers to see coastal landmarks, caves and coves for over 50 years – many of these spots unseen from tourist viewpoints. Admire the rough waves crashing over the cliffs on a short 15-minute ride or spend more time with the knowledgeable pilots on a longer trip down to the Bay Of Islands or Cape Otway – an unforgettable experience and completely new perspective on these famous landmarks that are rapidly disappearing due to coastal erosion.
Back on land, head into Timboon for an early lunch. This town is part of the 12 Apostles Food Artisans Trail, celebrating the abundance of gourmet produce in the area. Here you’ll find everything from cheeses and chocolate to berries and beer. At the Timboon Railway Shed Distillery, you’ll be able to shop these local delights as well as the largest collection of Aussie owned spirits in the nation (216 spirits to be exact). Take a tour through their on-site working cooperage and sample their single malt whiskies, gins, vodkas and the moreish salted caramel whisky liqueur.
If you can squeeze in one more treat after lunch, be sure to head to Timboon Fine Ice Cream. Churned with milk from a family farm down the road and fresh cream from Warrnambool, resulting in an unbelievably smooth and creamy cone or cup. Their coffee and hazelnut liqueur ice-cream from the distillery is a favourite, but they have plenty of playful flavours to enjoy and take home.
The Great Ocean Road is an awe inspiring strip of coast that holds so much history. The road itself was carved away by hand by thousands of returned war soldiers using nothing but picks, shovels and horse-drawn carts. The 12 Apostles are being worn away everyday by the relentless ocean and the landscape is ever changing – the same ocean that holds the lost remains of hundreds of early settlement ships.
At the same time, the beautiful landscape of the region acts as a reminder that the Great Ocean Road is the traditional land of the Wadawurrung people and Eastern Maar people and their ancestors lived in this area for around 40,000 years before European settlement and colonisation.
With so much to see and do along the coast in winter – you are truly spoilt for choice. Choose your own adventure to relax and unwind, enrich and learn or adventure and explore. Either way, you’ll be embarking on a piece of history and supporting the local businesses who help to continue the important storytelling of this area.
Images: Julia Sansone
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