Great Ocean Road Self Drive Touring Guide – 1 Day Itinerary
Touring the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne and return in one day is a long drive, over 500 km.
Don’t underestimate the distance or the risk of fatigue if you are not used to driving for hours at a time. Yes, it is possible to drive from Melbourne to the 12 Apostles in about 4 hours – but that is non-stop. Read about the famous Twelve Apostles and watch video footage of the drive here.
As a former backpacker bus tour operator and guide, I recommend doing the Great Ocean Road drive over two days or more, though it is very popular as a one day drive or by tour bus. If you can do the drive over two or three days, maybe have an overnight stop in either Apollo Bay or Port Campbell.
Car or Motorhome Rental
Hiring a car or campervan is a great way to experience any road trip. Find the best rental prices using DriveNow. Vehicles can be hired from the Melbourne Airport, in the city and in some of the suburban areas.
- Please remember that the entire drive from Melbourne and return is over 500 km’s
- Leave as early as possible – 7 am or earlier from Melbourne is definitely recommended.
- Driving solo may not be ideal unless you are used to long, tiring drives.
- Consider taking a bus tour if you only have one day available.
- Check sunset times to avoid getting to the 12 Apostles area too late.
- Driving the Ocean Road in the reverse direction may be a good option, perhaps stay overnight in Port Campbell the night before, which is near the 12 Apostles and start the day trip from there?
- Which direction is best? Personally, I prefer to drive from the Torquay direction to Port Campbell as you then drive on the ocean side of the road, making it easier to pull over at viewpoints. Both directions are lovely though.
- How much time is ideal to see this part of Victoria? It can be done in a day, two days means getting to relax and do more walking although three days (or longer) would provide plenty of time to see and do so much more…
- Fuel- Fill up before you go, though petrol stations are easy to find along the way, keep the gas tank topped up and you’ll be ok.
|TOTAL TIME||8 HOURS DRIVING|
|Melbourne to Torquay||104.5 kilometres/ 65 miles||90 minutes|
|Torquay to Lorne||46 kilometres / 28.5 miles||50 minutes|
|Lorne to Apollo Bay||47.3 kilometres / 29 miles||60 minutes|
|Apollo Bay to Lavers Hill||51.4 kilometres / 32 miles||50 minutes|
|Lavers Hill to 12 Apostles||40 kilometres / 25 miles||45 minutes|
|12 Apostles to Port Campbell||11.2 kilometres / 7 miles||10 minutes|
|Port Campbell to Colac||77.6 kilometres / 48 miles||60 minutes|
|Colac to Melbourne||152 kilometres / 94.5 miles||2 hours|
Great Ocean Road One Day Itinerary
This suggested one-day self-drive itinerary is based on years of experience driving the Ocean Road as a tour guide. It starts from and returns to Melbourne but can be easily adapted. As there is a lot to see, we have included realistic driving times and recommended stops as a guide.
We did this drive during the autumn when the sunset was at approximately 8 pm. Please make allowances depending on the time of year you travel.
6.30 am ~ Depart Melbourne and drive over the Westgate Bridge
From the Melbourne city center, it is about a 20-minute drive up and over the West Gate Bridge where our timing starts.
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.
Keep following Highway One and look for the signs to the Great Ocean Road.
Follow the road (C134) towards Anglesea, we suggest you bypass Torquay.
Torquay is a pretty little town and home to some lovely accommodation, good beaches as well as surf shop outlets and the National Surfing Museum. Bells Beach is close by where the Rip Curl Classic Surf competition is held annually. There is also ‘Narana‘ an award-winning Aboriginal Cultural Centre offering authentic, immersive, cultural experiences.
Visit Torquay if you have time, though on a day trip it is, sadly, best to bypass this town.
7.50 am ~ Anglesea
This is a sweet little town, a stop here is not recommended on a day trip, too many miles to cover still.
Soon after Anglesea, the road follows close to the ocean and miles of wonderful beaches can be seen, this region is known as The Surf Coast, for good reason.
8.20 am – 8.40 am ~ Memorial Arch
Passing through Aireys Inlet, the long golden surf beaches continue. Look out for the ‘Pole House’ on the right. A concrete structure that has survived bushfires and is available to rent on Stayz for about $600 per night (2-night minimum stay)
Stop by the Memorial Arch to stretch your legs 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 to find long vehicle parking space (beside the road).
After stopping at the Memorial Arch, keep driving up and over the hills where there are a few lookout points and driveways to homes that seemingly disappear over the cliff. This is the start of the dramatic section of the road.
9.00 am – 9.30 am ~ Lorne
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, a great playground, skate park, bbq’s to use as well as loads of cafes and shops.
The Lorne Visitor Centre (on the left as you enter 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.
We have allowed 30 minutes to visit this funky town on a one-day drive. Do not dawdle too long… still, a long way to go!
Can you manage 2 -3 days for this drive? Stay overnight in beautiful Lorne! Walk the trail to the stunning Erskine Falls, swim in the sea baths or maybe learn to surf…
9.35 am – 9.50 am ~ Teddy’s Lookout
Drive through Lorne and turn right at the Lorne Hotel to go up to Teddy’s Lookout. The view from here is often seen in promotional tourism images.
After turning right at the Lorne Hotel, follow the signs to the lookout. It is a steep road but has the right of way, so you will not need to stop. 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 before reaching 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.
10.30 am – 11.00 am ~ Kennett River & Koalas!
Koalas in the wild! Many Australians have never seen a koala in the wild. Kennett River is a tiny little township and is a great place to see our cute koalas, grab a cuppa maybe and feed the birds too. 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.
11.05 am – 11.10 am ~ 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.
11.30 am till 12.30 pm ~ Apollo Bay
Apollo Bay is a relaxing little town. No high buildings, easy parking, a long golden beach, a good information and gift centre, playground for kids, loads of cafes, petrol station, a small supermarket and plenty of awesome accommodation options.
12.30 pm Departure – 20-minute drive to the next stop,,,
12.50 pm – 1.20 pm ~ Maits Rest Rainforest Walk
Maits Rest is about 20 minutes drive from Apollo Bay, on the left. 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 open farmland before climbing up the Otway Ranges to Lavers Hill.
1.50 pm Lavers Hill
The top of the Otway Ranges. A few shops and a petrol station, the last toilet stop before the 12 Apostles.
2.40 pm – 3.10 pm ~ Gibsons Steps
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 of the 12 Apostles. Not safe to swim.
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 (about 20 minutes walk) if you have been unable to park, but it will impact on timings for a one day trip.
3.15 pm – 3.40 pm ~ 12 Apostles
It is a very short, 2-minute drive to the 12 Apostles car park. Loads of free parking, plenty of space for caravans and motorhomes. Helicopter scenic flights leave from here and are highly recommended! No booking needed, just rock up.
This is a really busy time of day to be here, but still well worth visiting of course. The walk from the car park takes a couple of minutes to reach the viewing platforms.
Toilets and a basic cafe for drinks etc. The cafe and info centre closes at5 pm, all year-round, but the viewing area for the 12 Apostles is open 24 hours a day.
3.45 pm – 4.30 pm ~ 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 shipwreck trail and head down to the Loch Ard Gorge beach.
Leave Loch Ard Gorge by 4.30 pm
4.40 pm ~ Port Campbell
How much time is spent in Port Campbell is dependent on your own schedule, the weather and time of the year.
London Bridge, The Arch and the Grotto
Just past Port Campbell are three more stopping points before heading home 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’. Another very quick drive and ‘The Grotto’ is the last of the sights recommended for a day trip. Though it is a lot to fit in.
Return towards Port Campbell and follow the signs to Colac, onto Highway One again and back to Melbourne.
Port Campbell to Melbourne
2 hours 50 minutes / 230 kms This is perhaps the hardest part of the Great Ocean Road self-drive day trip.
After a spectacular drive with so much to see, the return trip is long and needs to be broken up with a few stops.
- Port Campbell to Colac involves a few turns, use a navigator if you can as it is not a direct route, but is the shortest.
- Native animals may cross the road at any time, use caution.
- During the days when daylight hours are shorter, it will involve driving in the dark.
Port Campbell to Warrnambool
For travellers continuing on to Warrnambool and beyond, it is about a 50 minutes / 62 km drive. Passing – The Arch, London Bridge, The Grotto, Bay of Islands and the Bay of Martyrs.
One Day Itinerary PDF Download
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