Are you planning to go to Australia, you heard about the Great Ocean Road but you don’t know what to expect, where to stop or what to prepare? Well, this article may be for you then! We have recently been there and we want to give you a few tips to prepare the trip in the best way possible!
The Great Ocean Road…what’s that?
The Great Ocean Road is a 240 km road (149 miles) that stretches along the coast between the Victorian towns of Torquay and Allansford. The road was built by returned soldiers at the end of WWI (between 1919 and 1932) and it was dedicated to the soldiers killed during the Great War. Indeed, the road is also the world’s largest war memorial. Winding through varying terrain along the coast and providing access to several prominent landmarks, including the Twelve Apostles limestone stack formations, the road is an important tourist attraction in the region.
Ok, so is it something similar to the Amalfi Coast in Italy?
This is what most of our Italian friends asked us and the answer is not at all. First of all it’s much longer. Secondly, do not expect the road to be next to the cliffs all the time and, finally, do not expect any old town or village. Having saying that, it’s still pretty cool and, in our opinion worth to visit!
You will notice that the vast majority of people will hire a car in Melbourne and will return it to the same place. Why? Simple, it’s cheaper! We decided to hire a car in Melbourne and drive all the way to Adelaide (around 1000 km / 620 miles) instead but we had to pay 300$ more than the normal hire price because we returned it to a different location. In all true honesty, it’s totally up to you and if you decide not to go all the way to Adelaide it’s not the end of the world.
We decided to do that because it was our first time in Australia and we wanted to see a bit more than Melbourne and surroundings. From the official end of the Great Ocean Road to Adelaide there is not much, you will drive for hours and hours and you will only see fields and vineyards. We found it still pretty exciting considering that we come from Europe and you cannot find anything equivalent in the old continent.
Do you need a car?
You do not necessarily need a car but it makes your life much easier. We know that there are tourist companies that organize group tours of the Great Ocean Road even in a day trip (don’t do it! it’s a scam, you can’t see everything in a day) but you will not have the flexibility to stop wherever you want. From what we have seen, most people will hire a car (are you looking for somebody to share your trip with? Ask on the forum, you may be lucky!) and will camp on the way. If you don’t like camping there are plenty of hotels and B&B on the way but be aware that there are not many big towns so it may be hard to find a place.
We spent four days along the Great Ocean Road and we haven’t seen a single public bus. Considering that there are towns all along the coast, we believe there should be some form of public transport but it does not seem particularly reliable. Considering that most people do not have so much time in Australia, you can’t stop on the way and it’s not cheap, you may want to consider other options as well.
How many days?
Although it’s “only” 240km (for Australian standard is just around the corner), there is a lot to see along the Great Ocean Road. Therefore, we believe you should take a minimum of 3/4 days to properly enjoy it with no rush. It took us 4 days to go all the way to Adelaide but on the very last day we drove for over 5 to get to Adelaide, if you don’t want to do that, take it slowly!
Where to sleep?
There are plenty of campsites along the way, you will notice that a lot of Australians, but also some tourists, will hire a campervan for the journey. The average price for a unpowered site in a campsite along the Great Ocean Road is around 40 AUD (October 2022) and it’s probably the cheapest option. All campsites are very well furnished with kitchen, fridge and bbq for guests (you will not find that in Europe).
Alternatively, there are hotels and B&Bs but mostly in big towns. Since we camped all the way, we are not aware of prices, but make sure to book in advance or you may struggle to find any room available!
Where to stop?
We are not going to tell you anything about the most famous spots, since you can find plenty of information online or on the tourist guide. However, there are still quite a few less tourist places that we would recommend:
- The Kennett River Family Caravan Park is the perfect place to see koalas, kangaroos and a lot (oh god how many..) parrots!
- Melba Gully is worth a stop. There is a short 30 min walk in the rain forest, something quite unexpected in Australia. It reminded us a lot of New Zealand.
- Cape Otway is ok, we didn’t really have much time to spend there and we did not visit the lighthouse. Unless you intend to visit the lighthouse or you want to hike there, we wouldn’t suggest you to go all the way down.
- Johanna Beach is definitely a less popular but still beautiful beach along the Great Ocean Road. You can even camp at the nearby campsite but be careful if you decide to swim there because the currents of the ocean are extreme!
- We found the Gibson Steps probably one of the best spots along the Great Ocean Road. Most people will carry on and stop at the Twelve Apostles but we think you should definitely stop here first! Two things to remember: being a very steep stairs on the cliff, it is not suitable for people with handicap (there is still a viewpoint from the top) and you need to check the tide if you want to walk along the beach.
- Are you heading towards Adelaide and you are looking for something more unique? You should stop at Mount Gambier! Its blue lake and sinkhole garden are definitely worth a visit – yet they’re not among the top 10 attractions in Australia
How much does it cost?
Ok, this is a tough topic…as often happens around this part of the world, it’s not cheap. Please note that the cost enlisted here are only if you are on low budget. All prices are in AUD.
As previously anticipated, we camped all the way and we spent around $40 per night each.
On top of that, we spent almost $900 just to hire the car for 5 days (we used Thrifty, good experience despite the bad reviews). You can save around $300 if you decide to return it to Melbourne but it’s still around $600 (including fully cover insurance, which we strongly recommend since we heard stories of kangaroo jumping in front of the car and smashing it).
Finally, we would consider another $40-80 per day each for food and tourist attractions (most of the attractions are free along the Great Ocean Road but you may want to stop somewhere else)