Driving the Ocean Road Tour in the Reverse Direction
Driving the Great Ocean Road Tour from the Twelve Apostles direction is often done when visitors are coming from the Adelaide direction. It is also an option when doing the return loop from Melbourne, being at the 12 Apostles earlier in the day usually means fewer crowds than at the peak times from around 1 pm onwards.
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- Consider driving to Port Campbell the afternoon beforehand and staying overnight, this will mean an early start is possible which makes it easier to see and do so much more. Visiting the 12 Apostles at sunset/sunrise can be a wonderful experience and there is the opportunity to see little penguins coming ashore from the 12 Apostles viewing platform at dusk (it is viewed from quite high up, but still fun to witness).
- Hiring a car for two days rather than just the one is a good choice as rental companies usually open at 9 am and close at 5.30 pm which means that collecting a car and starting the drive in one day is to then return in time is not practical (it is over 500 kms return).
- Coming from the Warrnambool direction? It is 62 kms to Port Campbell and less than an hour. The route passes by the Bay of Islands, The Grotto, London Arch/Bridge and The Arch.
- Coming from the Grampians region? The drive from Halls Gap takes about 2.5 hours and is 208 kms.
Estimated Travel Times
Use the estimated travel times to plan your journey. Check what time sunset is to avoid being in the dark along the end section of the Ocean Road at the end of the day.
|TOTAL TIME||8 HOURS DRIVING|
|Melbourne to Colac||152 kilometres / 94.5 miles||2 hours|
|Colac to Port Campbell||77.6 kilometres / 48 miles||60 minutes|
|Port Campbell to the 12 Apostles||11.2 kilometres / 7 miles||10 minutes|
|12 Apostles to Lavers Hill||40 kilometres / 25 miles||45 minutes|
|Lavers Hill to Apollo Bay||51.4 kilometres / 32 miles||50 minutes|
|Apollo Bay to Lorne||47.3 kilometres / 29 miles||60 minutes|
|Lorne to Torquay||46 kilometres / 28.5 miles||50 minutes|
|Torquay to Melbourne||104.5 kilometres/ 65 miles||90 minutes|
Melbourne to Port Campbell via Colac
This suggested self-drive itinerary is based on leaving from and returning to Melbourne. Ideas have been included for extra things to do if travellers have more than one day available, it can easily be extended to two days or more. These suggestions are highlighted in the blue boxes.
The drive from Melbourne on Highway One to Colac and then down to Port Campbell takes about 3 hours.
From the Melbourne city centre, it is about a 20-minute drive up and over the West Gate Bridge. This first section of the drive, following Highway One (Australia’s National Highway), is quite straightforward and not especially interesting.
There is a 24 hour BP Petrol Station at Little River which is about 30 mins after crossing the West Gate Bridge. A good place to fill up and grab a snack perhaps.
Port Campbell National Park
Port Campbell is a sweet little fishing village with a nice beach, great cafes, fabulous accommodation and about 10 minutes drive from the famous 12 Apostles and the Port Campbell National Park.
London Bridge, The Arch and the Grotto
Just past Port Campbell, towards Warrnambool, are three stopping points if you choose. It is a 5-minute drive to the Arch then another short distance to see what is left of the famous ‘London Bridge’ and another couple of minutes to ‘The Grotto’.
Return towards Port Campbell and follow the signs to the 12 Apostles. Loch Ard Gorge is the first stop.
Loch Ard Gorge
Named after one of the most famous shipwrecks along the coast, Loch Ard Gorge is… gorgeous. Walk out to the ‘Razor Back’ formation, follow the signposted shipwreck trail and head down to the beach.
There is more to see here if you have time. A historic cemetery, Mutton Bird Island, The Blowhole and the walk continues down to another beach…
It is a short, 5-minute drive to the 12 Apostles car park from Loch Ard Gorge. Loads of free parking, plenty of space for caravans and motorhomes. Helicopter scenic flights leave from here and are highly recommended!
Hopefully, you have arrived at the 12 Apostles early in the day, avoiding the peak visiting times. The walk from the car park takes a couple of minutes to reach the viewing platforms.
Toilets and basic cafe for drinks etc. at the 12 Apostles car park centre.
Gibsons Steps. This is one of the best beaches, in my opinion. 88 steps cut into the limestone cliff face with stunning views towards two of the famous rock stacks.
During storms or high tides, the steps may be closed off but the lookout platform is still worth stopping for.
- Parking is extremely limited at Gibsons Steps. From the nearby 12 Apostles car park it is possible to walk back to Gibsons Steps if you have been unable to park, but it will impact on timings for a one day trip.
Gibson’s Steps to Lavers Hill
This drive takes about 45 minutes.
Passing through forest and farmland, the road winds inland and up along the top of the Otway Ranges. Lavers Hill is a tiny township with a few shops and a petrol station, the last toilet stop before Apollo Bay.
Lavers Hill to Apollo Bay
Drive time about 50 minutes.
The drive down from the top of the Otway Ranges is pretty, again passing through farmland and forest with occassional glimpses of the sea.
Maits Rest Rainforest Walk
Maits Rest is about 30 minutes drive from Lavers Hill, past the Cape Otway turn off, on the right. Well worth stopping here for this really pretty rainforest walk. Old Beech Myrtle trees, tall tree ferns and an easy loop walk (no toilets).
Depart Maits Rest, the road continues through the forest and down to Apollo Bay about 20 minutes away.
Apollo Bay is a relaxing little town. No high buildings, easy parking, long golden beach, a good information and gift centre, playground for kids, loads of cafes, petrol station and plenty of awesome accommodation options.
Apollo Bay to Lorne
Drive time about 60 minutes, plus time for stopping to see koalas in the wild…
This is where the road gets really interesting. Winding along the coast with steep drops to one side and the forest rising up on the other. Fabulous views and one of the best places in the country to see koalas in the wild!
Cape Patton Lookout
The road continues to wind around the mountainside. Cape Patton is a good place to stop briefly, views along the coast stretch towards Apollo Bay and Cape Otway.
Kennett River & Koalas!
Koalas in the wild! Most Australians have never seen a koala in the wild. Kennett River is a tiny little township but is a great place to see koalas, grab a cuppa maybe and feed the birds. Turn right towards the store and then immediately left up Grey River Road. Watch out for pedestrians, ducks and birds on the road.
Very often a koala or two may be in the trees at the beginning of the road, park and have a walk to look for them or drive up the road one or two kilometres and look for them in the trees along the way.
Lorne is a favourite day trip haunt for Melbourne residents and has been for many years. Art Deco style buildings, loads of accommodation options, sea baths, safe swimming, great playground and skate park as well as loads of cafes and shops.
The Lorne Visitor Centre (on the right as you leave the town and opposite the colourful lady sculptures) is worth a visit to see ‘The Great Ocean Road Story’ – a stunning display of photos and history.
Parking in peak season for long vehicles is difficult, do not try to find parking up behind Lorne as the streets are really steep. The lower parking area opposite the petrol station is the best option.
Teddy’s Lookout, Lorne
When driving into Lorne, turn left at the Lorne Hotel to go up to Teddy’s Lookout. The view is often seen in promotional images. It is a steep road but has the right of way, so you will not need to stop at crossroads. Pulling a big caravan up may not be wise.
Keep an eye out for koalas in the trees around this area.
If you have towed a caravan up, maybe park by the phone towers on the road to the lookout and walk the last 100 metres as the turning circle at the end may be crowded.
Return to the ocean road the same way (side streets are steep as well as all over the place).
Lorne to the Memorial Arch
Driving time about 20 minutes
Stop by the Memorial Arch to stretch and read the history of the Ocean Road construction, take a few minutes to walk down onto the beach.
Parking for long vehicles is a bit limited here, drive a little past the arch to park perhaps.
Continuing on towards Aireys Inlet, long golden surf beaches stretch for miles. Look out for the ‘Pole House’ on the left. A concrete structure that has survived bushfires and is available to rent on Stayz for about $600 per night (2-night minimum stay)
Return to Melbourne
Anglesea to Torquay
20 minutes drive / 18 kms
Anglesea to Melbourne
90 minutes / 114 kms
Torquay to Melbourne
80 minutes / 104 kms
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