Great Ocean Road Day tour – Can it be done?

Home » Great Ocean Road Day tour – Can it be done?

Could we do a Great Ocean Road Day tour in our car starting from Geelong and finishing in Geelong?

Most articles you read are people taking 2-3 days to do a self-paced Great Ocean Road day Tour. Well, we did not have that amount of time. It was time we drove one of the worlds great roads that lie right in our own backyard.  We weren’t sure how much we would see since it was winter. We were not sure how long it would take. What we were sure of was that Wyld Family Travel was going to accept the challenge.


Where did we stay?

We stayed with Discovery Parks once again. Just 5 minutes’ drive from central Geelong, this holiday park offers easy access to the Great Ocean Road and several beaches. Discovery Parks – Geelong features self-contained cabins with kitchen facilities and air conditioning. Guests enjoy a swimming pool, free parking and a children’s playground. Some cabins boast a spa bath or balcony. All cabins include a seating area, a dining setting and a TV. Additional bedding is available in some cabins.

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Let The Great Ocean Road day Tour begin

At 8.30am we set off from our base at Discovery Parks Geelong. The weather was threatening rain. We hit M1 Princess Highway on a 155 kilometre Journey to Port Cambell. We Passed through many Western Victorian towns such as Colac and Winchelsea. We turned off the M1 towards the coast and Port Cambell. This part of the journey was 153 km and slated to take us 2 hours. We went inland to start Our Great Ocean Road day tour in Port Cambell. You see Port Cambell is out the western far end of the road and close to the world famous 12 Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge. These two stops are the real highlights of the Great Ocean Road.

We stopped in Port Cambell for about 10 minutes to stretch our legs and take some pictures. The sun at this stage was threatening to break through. It’s a pretty little coastal town and one we would love to stay in for a few days. The coastline around Port Cambell and beyond is steep, rugged with rocky cliffs. This gives way to amazing white beaches at the bottom of many of these cliffs. Prominent in the town centre is Port Campbell Bay. An inlet of water surrounded by the Port Campbell National Park. This bay area features an attractive foreshore, a family-friendly beach swimming area, and a jetty.

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The Great Ocean Road self-drive tour was about to begin. Just out of Port Cambell In the Port Cambell National Park you will come to the first of the Great Ocean Road attractions and maybe the best attraction Loch Ard Gorge. Loch Ard Gorge is named after the famous 1878 shipwreck.  The ship crashed into rocks on the nearby Mutton Bird Island. Fifty-two people drowned from the Loch Ard and only two survivors were lucky enough to be washed into the gorge. Considering their misfortune with the ship, equally fortunate was the fact this was the only safe Gorge on the coast.

The Loch Ard George site has a few different spots to explore. You can park your car in one of the three car parks. All the different attraction points require walking. You can go down into the Gorge itself and watch the southern ocean spill up onto the beautiful yellow sands. The Gorge is accessible via steps down onto the sands. It’s well worth a look just to get a feel of how encompassing the cliffs are that surround the Gorge. It gives you a feeling of what an amazing effort it was for the 2 survivors of the shipwreck to climb their way out of this place. After climbing out of the Gorge we followed the walking trail that hugs the cliffs around the gorge and gives you magnificent views of Mutton Bird Island and the Southern Ocean.

After climbing out of the Gorge we followed the walking trail that hugs the cliffs around the gorge and gives you magnificent views of Mutton Bird Island and the Southern Ocean. A few hundred meters east of the car park you will find a lookout with views across Loch Ard island. The trail continues till you reach the Razorback. For me, the views from the Razorback were far better than from the 12 Apostles lookout. We were able to view the amazing coastline by ourselves at one stage and with no more than a dozen people at any other stage. This whole section of coastline shows the amazing power of the southern ocean as it continues to bite its way into the Australian continent. The Razorback stands resolute in the ocean marking time till its day comes when the relentless pounding of the southern swells will conquer it and reduce it to a memory once standing.

We headed back to the car park and drove around to the Thunder Cave car Park (in reality one could walk this). We headed off on the Thunder Cave and Broken head path. The Thunder Cave is a narrow gorge where the water rushes into an under a ground cave. The cave then spits the water out with destain producing a loud sand and breaking waves off the walls of the George. The walk to the Thunder cave was nearly 600 meters. The kids stopped to rest here while Bec and continued on to the Broken head. Broken head enabled you to look both east and west along the coastline. At this time of year, the whales migrate along the Victorian coast. We did some looking we think we quickly saw a whale spouting before disappearing under the waters.

Great Ocean Road Attractions are like no other!

Loch Ard Gorge features the following Great Ocean Road Attractions

By this stage, we were four hours into our journey and had only moved about 15 km on our Great Ocean Road day tour.  We went to all the Loch Ard Gorge walks except to The Cemetary. As I had previously said this is the best great Ocean road attraction. back into the car, we were off to The 12 Apostles.

The 12 Apostles were only 10 minutes up the road from Loch Ard Gorge. It was a welcome sight to see a visitors centre as there are no toilets at Loch Ard Gorge. The visitor’s centre is really just some toilets and a cafe selling coffee and cake. You can take helicopter flights from here along the coast. There is a pathway that runs under the roads that take you to numerous lookouts over the 12 apostles.

There are seven rock stacks these days that comprise the Twelve Apostles.  Six are on display is seen in many pictures along the coastline from the viewing platform. The seventh Apostle is located several metres away from the corner of the main viewing platform. Originally there were eight rock stacks when named the Twelve Apostles. In July 2005 Apostle 8 headed to the power of the waves and dramatically collapsed. The remains can be seen from the main viewing platform.

The walk from the visitor’s centre takes under 5 minutes to reach the Apostles lookout. the purpose made path takes you under the Great Ocean Road and onto the coast. Looks out and platforms show you the Apostles looking west (the classic views). A boardwalk along the coast allow you access to different vantage points and leads to a lookout at an even more elevated level. From this lookout, you can see both east and west along the coastline. The view of the Apostles is amazing its coastline like no other. The closest we have ever seen to this is on the Algarve in Portugal. The sea stack is a thing of beauty and draws people from all over the world to this picture perfect coastline. Beware this place was packed with people and we visited mid-winter I can only imagine how packed it would be in summer.

The 12 Apostle features the following Great Ocean Road attractions

By this stage, the fickle Great Ocean Road Winter weather was setting in as we grabbed our winter jackets and umbrella. The rain stopped us from exploring anything more than the 12 apostles look out. I vowed we would be back to tackle Gibsons steps that take you down to the beach.

 Family Travel Tips: It is a long day and a long drive so come prepared. Let the kids bring their Ipads, Ipods and any other manner of technology that keeps the happy. There is very little opportunity to stop at shops for food between Port Cambell and Apollo Bay so pack some snacks. 

The Great Ocean Road weather dealt us a blow

The next 77km of the Great Ocean Road takes you inland through the forest of The Great Otway National Park with only fleeting views of the ocean. There are some turns off to places like Johanna beach (famous for being an alternative surfing venue when Bells Beach is not receiving any swell) This section of the road is slow and windy even more so in the rain. The Great Otway National Park is characterised by its thick dense rain forest.  We next turned off to go to Cape Otway Lighthouse. Cape Otway lighthouse.

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It’s 12km off the Great Ocean Road into the car park at Cape Otway. Hundreds of lives were lost in shipwrecks off Cape Otway in the early 18th century. This brutal history led to the building of the Lightstation. In the 19th-century migrants who spent months travelling to Australia by ship only to perish so close to the new lands, they were seeking. For many others, the Lighthouse would provide a beacon of hope and the first sight of Land since they left Europe.

The Cape Otway Lighthouse is one of Australia most important, warning ships of danger from its lofty position 90 meters above the dangerous waters. The Lighthouse area contains many buildings to explore.

As we arrived at the car park of the Cape Otway Lighthouse the heavens opened. After waiting 10 minutes or so we decided to abandon any hope of seeing the lighthouse and its surrounds. This Great Ocean Road weather was going from rain to drizzle to pouring rain. Onto Apollo Bay, we go! By this time it was nearing 3.30 pm and the skies were closing in on our Great Ocean Road Tour. We finally headed out of the Otway Forest and back onto the coast at Apollo Bay.


Get your car booked for your Great Ocean Road day tour

The last 92km of our Great Ocean Road day tour from Apollo Bay through to Torquay encompasses what many people imagine the Great Ocean Road to be. A windy road that hugs the coastline with eye-level views of the beach from far and near. The road itself is like a wave it rises and drops its twists and curls around the mountains. The views of the ocean are amazing if not distracting at times as pass through small beach towns and large ones such as Lorne, Aireys Inlet and Anglesea. There is another lighthouse at Aireys Inlet that you can see from the road. It’s called the Split Point Lighthouse. The Split Point Lighthouse is famous in Australia as a setting for a kids Tv show called Going around the twist. We passed through Torquay the official end or start of the Great Ocean Road at 5.45pm in Darkness and reached Geelong on the stroke of 6 pm.

The Verdict

Although we proved a Great Ocean Road day tour could be done, should it be done? I don’t think especially not in the winter months when the darkness closes in early. Maybe in Summer when it’s daylight until 9 pm it would be much better to do in a day. I reality one should take 2 days maybe even three to do.

My ideal Great Ocean road Itinerary would be:

Day 1: Torquay to Apollo Bay taking in Australian National Surfing Museum, Bells Beach, Waterfalls near Lorne,

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Day 2: Apollo Bay Area taking in the Cape Otway lighthouse and the Otway Fly tree top walk

Day 3: Apollo Bay to Warrnambool taking in Gibsons steps, 12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, London Bridge, Port Cambell.


In Conclusion

Given our time frame restraints, we are amazingly glad we got to see the Great Ocean Road attractions. Officially The Great Ocean Road starts at Torquay and finishes at Allansford near Warrnambool 244 Kilometres away. The road is two lane which can be frustrating at times as is the ever-changing speed limits that range from 50 kilometres per hour and 100 kilometres per hour. For Bec, wife and mother of Wyld Family Travel, the 12 Apostles Australia was a huge bucket list item for her. We are glad she got to tick it off. In reality with just one day, we would suggest that you head straight to Port Cambell National Park, This section is really what everyone wants to see, the rugged coastline, the sea stacks, huge cliffs and big seas this is the essence of the Great Ocean Road for me. So, when are you going to explore the Great Ocean Road?

We have selected two more article from Wyld Family Travel for your reading enjoyment. We hope you enjoy reading about the Australian Surfing Museum in Torquay. It is a Great Ocean road attraction. How many of the 11 Australian delicacies have you tried? Click the images to read.

9 thoughts on “Great Ocean Road Day tour – Can it be done?”

  1. This looks like a beautiful journey along the coast. It seems like Australia has so much beauty to discover.

  2. I did this a few years ago in one day, but on an Adventure tours mini bus. I wished I could drive it in a smaller car with friends and spend some days and camp and really explore all the areas and walk around more. One day I will be back. Hopefully 😀

  3. Have always been fascinated by the Great Ocean Road. This probably rates as the most scenic road trips in the world. The landscapes are so stunning, probably I would never like to drive away from them.

  4. So it’s possible, to drive the Great Ocean Road for just a day. Sometimes it sucks we are limited in time but I’m glad you took the maximum out of it and experiences all the great views!

  5. I am from Victoria but I have never done the Great Ocean Road unfortunately. The closest I have gotten to it is Torquay, where you started it. It is definitely something on the list though when I move back to Australia one day. Thanks for the tip in regards to heading to Port Cambell National Park, I have made a note of it.

  6. Have heard so much about the great ocean road. Can’t wait to hit it. I am glad you compiled all this information here, I will need to refer back when my plan is finalized. The landscapes along the road are simply breathtaking

  7. I have never heard of the Great Ocean Road and now I want to do this! I love road trips and the scenery here is simply stunning. I like taking my time, so I would probably try to do it in 3-4 days 🙂

  8. This would be a must for be in Australia! I’ve actually not every heard of it. My husband loves natural landscapes so I know we would have to take our time along the way… Looks like a great journey to be had!

  9. It’s good to know it is possible in a day as a last resort – of course more time would be better as it makes a long day, but ay least you made the most of the time you had!


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