Great Ocean Road One Day Trip Itinerary

Great Ocean Road Self Drive Day Tour

The Great Ocean Road Day Tour from Melbourne and return in one day is a long drive, it is over 500 km and can be very tiring. It is possible to drive from Melbourne to the 12 Apostles in about 4.5 hours – but that is non-stop. Read about what to see and do at the Twelve Apostles and watch video footage of the drive here.

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What can you expect from this one-day itinerary?

  1. How long the Great Ocean Road drive will take with realistic driving times between stops.
  2. Where to see all the best views, koalas in the wild and must-see places to stop.
  3. How to see everything in a day and get the most out of your trip.
  4. The best things to see at the 12 Apostles and nearby.
  5. All the information you need to make this drive one of the best road trips you do in Australia, from a former tour guide.
  6. At the end of the page, there is a link to download the entire one-day itinerary as a PDF to print or save on a device.

Taking two or three days to do the drive, maybe stopping overnight in Apollo Bay or Port Campbell is ideal if you have extra time. There are many stops to make along the route, having enough time to enjoy the drive is essential.

Great Ocean Road Self Drive Victoria Australia

Travel Tips

  • The Great Ocean Road in a day can be done, following our itinerary will ensure visitors see as much as possible.
  • Please remember that the entire Great Ocean Road trip 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. We can recommend some excellent small bus tour companies.
  • 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.

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.

Melbourne to Torquay104.5 kilometres/ 65 miles90 minutes
Torquay to Lorne46 kilometres / 28.5 miles50 minutes
Lorne to Apollo Bay47.3 kilometres / 29 miles60 minutes
Apollo Bay to Lavers Hill51.4 kilometres / 32 miles50 minutes
Lavers Hill to 12 Apostles40 kilometres / 25 miles45 minutes
12 Apostles to Port Campbell11.2 kilometres / 7 miles10 minutes
Port Campbell to Colac77.6 kilometres / 48 miles60 minutes
Colac to Melbourne152 kilometres / 94.5 miles2 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, to measure driving times between stops, 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

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  Naranaan 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).

Memorial Arch, Great Ocean Road, Australia

Memorial Arch, Great Ocean 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…

Sculptures on the foreshore, Lorne

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.

Great Ocean Road Self Drive Tour - Teddy's Lookout Lorne

View from Teddy’s Lookout, Lorne. Looking down onto the Great Ocean Road.

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.

Koalas in the wild at Kennett River

Koalas- where to see them on the Great Ocean Road, Australia.

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.

Apollo Bay Great Ocean Road Tour Victoria Australia

Apollo Bay

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.

Maits Rest Rainforest Walk Cape Otway Great Ocean Road Tour

Maits Rest

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.
Gibsons Beach, Great Ocean Road

Gibsons Beach, 88 Steps down to the beach, carved into the cliff face.

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.

Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road

Twelve Apostles, Port Campbell National Park

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.

Loch Ard Gorge, Great Ocean Road

Loch Ard Gorge, Great Ocean Road

Tom and Eva Rock Formations, Loch Ard Gorge, Great Ocean Road

Rock Formations named after the two Loch Ard shipwreck survivors ‘Tom & Eva’. Formerly called the Island Archway until it collapsed!

The Razor Back Formation, Loch Ard Gorge,, Great Ocean Road

The ‘Razor Back’ Loch Ard Gorge

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. It is a nice little town with some good walks around the coast, plenty of accommodation and even a micro brewery…

Port Campbell, Great Ocean Road

Port Campbell

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.

Great Ocean Road Self Drive Tour London Bridge

The Arch, London Bridge and The Grotto

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 National Park - 2 Days or more...

Stay in Port Campbell or nearby and experience the 12 Apostles at sunset/sunrise and maybe walk part of the coastal trail…or experience a helicopter ride over the 12 Apostles.

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.

Read our 3 Day Guide to the Ocean Road… or our 6 Day Guide for even more things to do.

One Day Itinerary PDF Download

Download the PDF file of this itinerary to print out or keep on your device for reference.

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Complete Self Drive One Day Tour itinerary to the Great OceanRoad andTwelve apostles in Australia

Complete Self Drive One Day Tour itinerary to the Great Ocean Road and Twelve apostles in Australia