Best Time and Top Spots at the Great Ocean Road - 3 Days Itinerary

Best Time and Top Spots at the Great Ocean Road - 3 Days Itinerary

Australia
Australia

When Is the Best Time

The Great Ocean Road a once in a lifetime trip with spectacular nature parks along the B100 highway. The best time for the incredible Great Ocean Road is in the summer, followed by spring and autumn. In contrast, crowds are the lowest during winter when most of the precipitation occurs. However, it is one of the most beautiful roads on our planet. Read my complete season guide and tips below, or jump directly to my itinerary: Best Things to Do | 11 Highlights in 3 Days

Weather and Crowds by Season

12 Apostles crowds during midday

We’d been here several times already in different seasons. Summer is a fantastic time for the entire Great Ocean Road, but we prefer spring and autumn. There is less traffic; therefore, parking lots at the different main attractions are not overflowing, and crowds are bearable. Temps vary depending on where you are along the Great Ocean Road. Exposed cliffs are colder than sheltered bays. Continue reading for my seasonal guide and figure out the best time for this magnificent Ocean Road Trip.

 

 

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Spring (September- November)

Erskine Fall and River Trail in Spring - Lorne

That’s my favourite season in Victoria. Forests are vivid with the bird sound around. Waterfalls are still picturesque. Days are getting longer, and rain decreases. Day temps are, on average, between 12-15°C but can climb to almost 20°C. There is more traffic on the Great Ocean Road now, but still bearable.

Summer (December-February)

Apollo Bay beach in summer

Usually, the weather is fantastic; however, showers can occur now and then. It’s not too hot, always a breeze from the sea. Nevertheless, crowds are the worst, especially in the Christmas summer holidays. Most Australians go on vacation. Hotels and campgrounds as well are fully booked months in advance. If your journey along the Great Ocean Road is planned for December or January, you can only dodge the crowds early in the morning. To enjoy some of the most beautiful places with few people only, check out our hidden gems along the Great Ocean Road.

Autumn (March-May)

Gable Lookout - Great Ocean Road

The crowds thin out a little. Day temps are, on average, around 18°C, though, in the rainforest, it’s a little cooler. Stronger winds occur at sea, and a wind jacket is necessary. Night temps can drop below 10°C. The weather is often pleasant in March and April, although rain increases a little. May experience already more precipitation. It doesn’t mean it rains all day, but it can happen.

Winter (June-August)

Lorne Queenscliff Coastal Reserve - Great Ocean Road

If you don’t mind the cold and rain from time to time, this is the best time to enjoy this exceptional drive and sights with viewer people. The climate in Victoria is mild, with day temps around 10°C and higher. This time of the year is awesome for hikes through the rainforest. Waterfalls are on their highest level, and rainforests sparkle in lush green.

Whale Sightings During Winter

Southern Right Whales migrate along the coast to Logans Beach at Warrnambool, the very end of the Great Ocean Road. They come here annually from June to September for calving.

Whether you want to snap photos of Sydney’s Harbour Bridge, drive the Great Ocean Road, snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, or explore the rugged Outback, I highly recommend the 3rd edition of Fodor’s Essential Australia guidebook. It is packed with maps, carefully curated recommendations, and everything else you need to simplify your trip-planning process and make the most of your time.

Best Months to Visit

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Location and Tips

Victoria
Australia
Australia

The Great Ocean Road is 243 km/151 miles long, starting in Torquay and leading to Warrnambool. Usually, people link the Great Ocean Road with the 12 Apostles first, but there are lots of underrated hidden gems. The Great Ocean Drive has not only a breathtaking coastline, dramatic cliffs, and spectacular waterfalls, but it also surprises with fern trees and fairytale rainforests. This is Mother Nature at its best. To get a glimpse of some of the most fascinating places, check out my Table of Content.

3 Top Tips for Your Road Trip Along the Great Ocean Road

Small parking bays along the Great Ocean Road
 

  1. From East to West: Our recommended direction for your drive is from east to west. Why? While driving on the left side of the road, this direction allows you to stop at all outlooks with small parking bays along the Great Ocean Road. Usually, it is either prohibited or dangerous to stop when driving in the opposite direction.
  2. Delays: Expect delays due to road construction during the shoulder season. The slopes along the road have to be secured to prevent rock falls.
     
  3. Visitor Centres: Make a short break at the visitor centres along the popular road to get recent news for all your planned stops. The information centres in Lorne (Google Maps) and Apollo Bay (Google Maps) are very well equipped. The employees in the information centre assist you with all your questions and provide maps and details for a memorable visit.
 

 

 

Best Things to Do | 11 Highlights - 3 Days Itinerary

Beautiful view of the coastline along the Great Ocean Road

My 3-day itinerary for the Great Ocean Road will give you insights into known places but also overlooked hidden gems along the amazing drive. These are my highlights, with a focus on how to dodge the crowds. Besides, we give you tips which may encourage you to extend your journey on this exceptional road.

Google Maps Road Trip for the mentioned highlights below.

Start your journey in Torquay. Looking for Lunch? Then stop at Fisho’s to savour local seafood delights. They offer indoor and outdoor seating. Parking along the road. Depending on the weather and if you have a day to spare, make a stop at the famous Bells Beach. Each year the Rip Curl Pro, the longest-running surf competition in the world, is held here at Easter.

1 Anglesea Cliffs

Anglesea Cliffs - Great Ocean Road

Coming from Melbourne? I recommend spending your first night next to the cliffs in the Anglesea Caravan Park. You get the best access to the beach from this accommodation. Modern cabins and cottages are available and also camping. Google Maps Loacation

Anglesea Caravan Park

Walk along the beach with spectacular views of the dramatic cliffs. Don’t get too close – rocks can fall from erosion. In spring, a Trail Run is held, passing the cliffs of Anglesea. The beach is accessible during low tide only. Tide Times Anglesea
 

2 The Split Point Lighthouse

Splitpoint Lighthouse

The lighthouse is nestled in a spectacular landscape. The reason that it became famous for movies. You have to walk 10-15 minutes to get to it. Tours are offered to climb to the top of the lighthouse. More and quicker tours are on offer in summer, fewer during the other seasons. There are small car parks around but not next to the lighthouse. If you need to eat or buy presents, restaurants and shops are nearby. If you wish to visit a lighthouse along the Great Ocean Road, I recommend this picturesque one. It is open 24/7. In contrast, the Great Otway Lighthouse closes early, is closed by a gate, and a high entrance fee is requested to enter the grounds. Google Maps Closest Car Park

3 Memorial Arch

Memorial Arch - Great Ocean Road

A famous short stop along the self-drive by rental car or bus tour to take a picture of the popular wooden Memorial Arch. This place has historical importance in explaining the development of the Great Ocean Road. The returned soldiers of WWI built the famous road from 1919 until 1932 to remember the fallen and honour them. However, this hard physical work helped the soldiers to handle the trauma after the war. The Great Ocean Road is the longest war memorial in our world. Next to the arch is a sculpture with two working soldiers called the Diggers. Some of the 3000 returned soldiers lost their lives while building the road. Because of their efforts, isolated communities became flourishing tourism. Parking is limited. In the summer, it can be an issue during the day.

4 Lorne: Teddy's Lookout - Erskine Falls

Teddy's Lookout Lorne - Great Ocean Road

If you have a day to spare and you like to hike through a fairytale rainforest, then stay here for two nights. It’s a short 300 m long walk to the Upper Erskine Falls Outlook, but the Lower (700 m steep walk) is more beautiful and offers spectacular views of the falls and the lush rainforest. The fall drops 30 m into the fern tree valley. From here, a well-maintained trail leads along the Erskine River for 8 km down to Lorne. Leave your car in Lorne and organize transport to the trailhead. We asked our host Paki from the wonderful Great Ocean Road Cottages

Lorne - Great Ocean Road Cottage

It was our second stay here already. Although centrally located within walking distance of the supermarket, it’s peaceful and quiet. Curious Sulphur Crested Cockatoos will visit you on your balcony. Have a closer look at the eucalyptus trees. We already spotted a koala bear from the balcony in the afternoon. These cottages are our top tip along the Great Ocean Road, if we could, we would go back in a minute! At least spend one night here and watch the cockatoos in the morning. Google Maps Car Park

5 Sheoak Falls

Sheoak Falls - Great Ocean Road

There are ten waterfalls around Lorne. Sheoak Falls are easy to reach within 15 minutes walk. It’s a return walk of 1.5 km to the 15 meters high cascades with a gentle descent at the beginning. You may spot nesting birds from late spring to early summer in the swallow cave. The return walk to Sheoak Falls and Swallow Cave is 2.2 km long and takes less than an hour. From the Sheoak parking, you can hike for hours or the entire day. Check out the attached map for hiking at the end of the article. Drive slowly shortly before you reach the parking otherwise, you will miss it. Google Maps Car Park

6 Kennett River

Koala at Kennett River

This is an excellent spot for a break and to watch native birds and koala bears. The river is written with one t at the end, but the village with two. Therefore, often confusing how it is correctly written. Kennett River is home to a huge variety of birds, including eastern grey kangaroos, and wallabies. koala bears, but venomous snakes like the tiger snake as well. There is a café offering lunch and facilities. We spent more than an hour on the one km long nature walk and spotted several koalas and even a king parrot. Parking and Facilities Google Maps

Detailed information about Where to Spot Koalas along the Great Ocean Road can be found in my additional article.

7 The Lovely Coastal Town Apollo Bay

Apollo Bay - Scallop Pies Bakery

Check out the visitor information centre. Stock up on delicious pies and crumble cakes at the Scallop Pie Bakery (Google Maps), just a 150 meters walk from the information. Enjoy a beach walk or swim at this lovely beach. There are plenty of lodges and hotels in Apollo Bay. Spend your third night along the Great Ocean Road in Apollo Bay. Continue the next day along the amazing road trip.

8 Maits Rest Rainforest

Maits Rest Rainforest along the Great Ocean Road

The circuit walk takes just half an hour. You get a glimpse of what the earth was looking like and admire 300 years old myrtle beeches in the sub-temperate rainforest. Rainforest Location Google Maps

More information on how to dodge the crowds and pictures of the rainforest in my Maits Rest Article.

9 Cape Otway Lighthouse Road

Grazing and boxing kangaroos along the lighthouse road - Great Oceand Drive

If you couldn’t spot any koala bear at Kennett River, then give the lighthouse road a try. We always spotted some koalas here along the drive but also boxing and grazing kangaroos. If you have a day to spare, then stay here for a night at Bimbi Park. They offer luxury and budget cabins and also camping nestled in a gum tree forest close to the beach. From here leads a walk to the colourful rainbow falls – a sublime place created by mother nature. Very view people walk to this exceptional beach and waterfall. One of the hidden gems along the Great Ocean Road. Pictures, details, and the best time in my additional article of the Rainbow Falls.

10 Wreck Beach

Wreck Beach at Moonlight Head close to the Great Ocean Road

This beach is still not overrun, although worth the detour. For us, one of the most stunning beaches to experience the real beauty of the Great Ocean Road. Escape the crowds, and walk along the wild rocky shore, deserted beach, and the strong and powerful ocean until you get to the picturesque rusty anchors. The 2 km long return hike takes less than two hours. Nevertheless, it’s worth spending half of the day here. Bring a picnic and enjoy the breathtaking views. The Great Ocean Walk leads along this outstanding beach, and hikers may pass by. The gravel road is not suitable for campers. Drive carefully and watch the potholes. In good weather conditions, accessible by 2WD if there was heavy rain before a 4 WD is recommended. Google Maps Car Park

For details and fascinating pictures, check out my Wreck Beach Article

11 The 12 Apostles

12 Apostles Great Ocean Road

Finally, you get to the iconic landmark and highlight; the 12 Apostles. Spend here at least one night in Port Campbell, but we suggest two. Don’t be in a rush at this most scenic attraction along the Great Ocean Road Trip. Enjoy the sunrise and sunset at the most photographed tourist attraction. Watch the waves crashing into the 50 meters high rock stacks. Walk the Gibson Steps down at low tide or to the Loch Ard Gorge and beach or The Grotto, to mention just a few of the many highlights. Our top tip for your stay with the best location is the Cliffton Beach Lodge. Spend your fourth night close to the 12 Apostles. If you have a day to spare, extend your stay. Read my 12 Apostles article and figure out all highlights in the Port Campbell National Park.

My 3 Top Day-Hikes Along the Great Ocean Road

Erskine River Trail in Lorne

Erskine River Falls and Trail in Lorne

Hike from the Erskine Falls along the Erskine River down to Lorne. It’s an eight km long trail for the fitter ones. Hiking along a narrow path through mud, pass Straw Falls, cross the river several times, listen to the bird song, and enjoy this exceptional rainforest alone. Very few people hike this tricky track. However, the trail gets maintained by a forestry worker. Even during summer, it is refreshing and cool along the river in the forest. Bring plenty of water and food for the hike.

2 Waterfall Loop in the Great Otway National Park

Beauchamps Falls - Great Otway Naational Park

Take the inland Forest Apollo Bay Road through the Great Otway National Park direction of Beech Forest. Experience mother nature at her best along this drive and hikes. Get connected with the beauty and nature in motion on short trails, all leading through an amazing rainforest. The first stop is at Beauchamp Falls. The return hike is 2.5 km long and takes roughly one hour. It descends through majestic mountain ash, blackwoods, myrtle beeches, and fern trees to a platform from where you can watch the waterfall. The water drops 25 m down into a pool. A high amount of rainfall created this valley. The way back is steep, and the stairs are slippery when wet. Continue driving for 15 minutes to Hopetoun Falls. You can watch the 30 m high falls on a platform already at the parking or climb down for about 400 m on steps to the bottom of the Hopetoun Falls. The return walk may take 40 minutes. Another 25 minutes drive will bring you to Triplet Falls. It's a loop trail of less than 2 km. Also, this track leads to ancient rainforest. It's a well-maintained track with some steep sections on steps. You can watch the cascades on several platforms along the hike. However, the falls can be disappointing after a long dry period. If you come in the winter or after heavy rainfall, the Triplet Falls are awesome.

Melba Gully Rainforest - Anne's Cascade along the Great Ocean Road

Now comes the last stop, the lush green rainforest and cascades of Melba Gully. Follow the 1.5 km long Madsen's circular track along with majestic mossy trees and cool fern gullies. You will feel like a tiny person amongst vast nature. Although this is a short stroll, you may need an hour due to the incredibly picturesque rainforest. Google Maps Location

3 Great Ocean Walk

Great Ocean Walk - Hikers at Wreck Beach

Choose a day hike from the eight stations of the incredible Great Ocean Walk to get a glimpse of some of the best parts. The entire trail is 104 km long and usually takes seven to eight days. The famous track starts in Apollo Bay and is hiked in one direction until the most iconic landmark, the 12 Apostles. Check out the entire trail and decide what you like most to explore. One of the most beautiful parts of the famous walk is the Shelley Beach Circuit, a 2.4km short trail. It is one of the most impressive short trails that gives you a glimpse of what to expect on the entire trail.

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Micha Herber-Bleich
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