On this five-day, self-drive trip, explore the coastal capital city of Melbourne and then hit the open road. One of Victoria's most scenic drives, Great Ocean Road provides plenty of exciting pit stops—explore the surfing town of Bells Beach, discover the waterfalls of Lorne, zipline through the Otway Ranges, and visit The Twelve Apostles rock formations. On the way back to Melbourne, do some sightseeing in Ballarat, known for its Gold Rush heritage and indigenous art.

Highlights

  • Go sightseeing, scout street art, taste coffee, and pub hop in Melbourne
  • Explore the Otway Ranges via ziplining and tree top walking tours
  • View the iconic waterside rock formations known as The Twelve Apostles
  • Pan for gold at the outdoor Sovereign Hill museum in Ballarat

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Melbourne Melbourne
Day 2 Travel Great Ocean Road Lorne
Day 3 Great Ocean Road Tour Apollo Bay
Day 4 Travel Inland to Ballarat and Return to Melbourne Melbourne
Day 5 Depart From Melbourne  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Melbourne

Welcome to Melbourne
Welcome to Melbourne!

Welcome to Melbourne! Upon arrival at the airport, pick up your rental car and head into the city. The rest of the day is at your leisure.

If you do a bit of sightseeing, bookmark Flinders Street StationFederation SquareQueen Victoria Markets, and the Royal Botanical Gardens, to start. Since Melbourne is the cultural capital of Australia, expect funky street art and bohemian coffee shops tucked in many corners of the town. 

The evening is at your leisure to enjoy a nice welcome dinner, along with exploring the local bar and pub scene—maybe even catch some live music.

Day 2: Travel Great Ocean Road 

Australia - Bells Beach
Explore Bells Beach and watch world-class surfers

Depart from Melbourne in the morning, and begin your Great Ocean Road journey. 

The first destination is Bells Beach in Torquay, a famous location for surfers. Bells Beach is known for hosting Rip Curl Pro, a world surfing competition. Access a more in-depth look at the popular local sport at the Australian National Surfing Museum, too.

Next, stop in Aireys Inlet, a quaint seaside town. Enjoy a walk to the Split Point Lighthouse, which offers prime photo opportunities. 

Then, arrive in Lorne, and check in to your accommodations. The beach town has plenty of local shops and cafés to accommodate your overnight stay. Feel free to take a walk around, and keep an eye out for local wildlife. Additionally, there are several scenic waterfalls to check out, which include the following:

  • Won Wondah Falls
  • Erskine Falls
  • Henderson Falls
  • Phantom Falls
  • Straw Falls

Pass through the Lorne Golf Course to see plenty of kangaroos roaming around, and koalas nestling in the gumtrees at Teddy’s Lookout.

Day 3: Great Ocean Road Tour

Australia - London Arch - Great Ocean Road
Look out onto the London Arch, one of The Twelve Apostles

This morning, depart the small seaside town of Lorne and continue on your Great Ocean Road journey.

On the way to Apollo Bay, make a brief stop at Kennett River, which is home to numerous koala colonies. Then, stop at the Otway Ranges to immerse yourself in some of Australia's best rainforest scenery amongst tall trees, ancient plant life, and abundant ferns. Next, explore Cape Otway Lighthouse, which is the oldest surviving lighthouse on mainland Australia. Other activities at the Otway Ranges include the Tree Top Walk, where you can experience a birds-eye view of the scenic ranges from the world’s tallest treetop walk and a Zip Line Tour, that allows you to zip through the leafy treetops of the ranges from one cloud station to another.

Then, visit one of the main attractions: The Twelve Apostles. The collection of windswept limestone stacks was formed by erosion over millions of years. There are only eight remaining out of the 12. These are best viewed at dawn or dusk, however. 

Three minutes west is the dramatic Loch Ard Gorge, named after the ship, Loch Ard, which tragically ran aground in 1878.  Next, visit the site formerly known as London Bridge—until the section closest to the mainland collapsed in 1990. London Arch is one of Victoria’s most popular natural landmarks. Keep an eye out for little penguins here.

Only a few minutes from London Arch is the Grotto sinkhole, which can be seen by two viewing platforms. The first is easily accessible, while the second is reached following a steep decline. At the lookout, gaze through the void to discover the fine mist that falls as the ocean surges and the rock pools fill with water.

Located at the western tail-end of Great Ocean Road, visit Warrnambool, a historic city that has urban facilities, while maintaining a small-town feeling. 

At the end of the active day's events, return back to Apollo Bay for an overnight stay. Apollo Bay has some great local dining options; pop by the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse for a refreshing craft beer after the long day.

Day 4: Travel inland to Ballarat and return to Melbourne

Sovereign Hill, Ballarat
Sovereign Hill, Ballarat

Today, head back to Melbourne. Take the inland route and make a stop at the town of Ballarat. The town has enjoyed a rich and prosperous heritage, thanks to the Gold Rush, which began in 1851. While in Ballarat, you can partake in the following activities: 

  • Pan for real gold at the iconic outdoor Sovereign Hill museum
  • Watch real-life jousters take to the main arena at Kryal Castle
  • Admire colonial, contemporary, and indigenous works at the Art Gallery of Ballarat
  • Get up-close and personal with the local fauna at the Ballarat Wildlife Park

Then, continue on back to Melbourne, and enjoy another overnight stay in the heart of the city.

Day 5: Depart from Melbourne

Melbourne at twilight
Melbourne at twilight

Today is the end of your Great Ocean Road journey. Return your car back to the car rental depot.

If you have time, extend your trip and explore more of the city, or continue on to another Australian city. Whatever you decide, Safe Travels!

Map

Map of Melbourne to Great Ocean Road: Self Drive Tour - 5 Days
Map of Melbourne to Great Ocean Road: Self Drive Tour - 5 Days