If I had to pick my all-time favorite day trip it would have to be The Great Ocean Road in Melbourne, Australia.
You’ve probably seen postcard worthy pictures of it somewhere in your life. Picture a windy road along the south-eastern coast of Australia where the cliffs meet the ocean. It’s 151 miles of pure beauty.
There are many different stops you can take along the way to soak in the different natural sites. Though some people choose to break the trip up into a few days to go at a more leisurely pace, it is possible to see most of the major sites in one day.
This was great news for me and my new English gal pals. We were dead set on driving The Great Ocean Road, but we were crunched for time. We were stoked to hear we could drive the road and back in one day.
The trip was the best road trip of my life. It wasn’t only because of the gorgeous scenery around every turn, but also because of the amazing two girls I had with me. I highly recommend picking energetic company to make the journey with you!
We picked up a rental car early in the morning, made some upbeat playlists, had a list of sites to see, stopped to grab snacks, and headed on the road.
This is what we saw on our day trip on The Great Ocean Road.
I recommend following a similar course to anyone trying to accomplish this drive in one day.
We saw plenty of beautiful beaches, rock formations, native animals, a waterfall, winding roads, greenery for days, and even farm animals.
For those wondering if the day seemed too rushed, I’m here to assure you it was not.
We spent plenty of time outside enjoying each stop along the way. We had just enough time between sites so that we were not cooped up in the car. And we even had time to stop in town and eat lunch.
If you’re ever near Melbourne I can’t express enough to you how you must at least do a day trip to The Great Ocean Road. It was postcard worthy with perfect windows-down-music-up weather.
Grab yourself some friends who don’t mind driving, a light jacket, snacks, a google-eyed hand puppet named Franklin, and set out to enjoy the beautiful Australian coast!
This is how we spent our day trip on The Great Ocean Road…
1. Bells Beach
We picked up the car at the rental shop around 9am, grabbed some snacks, and headed to the interstate.
After about 45 minutes we arrived at our first stop, Bells Beach.
Bells Beach near Torquay is a renowned surf spot that is gorgeous! We jumped out of the car to walk around, snap some quick photos, and show Franklin the ocean.
*Side note: Franklin is my google-eyed hand puppet that goes traveling with me. I want to show Franklin the world. You may see him in some of the photos. Don’t mind him. It’s normal.
2. Aireys Inlet and Split Point Lighthouse
After driving a bit further down the road, we stopped to check out Aireys Inlet and the Split Point Lighthouse.
The parking area was right next to a park with restrooms, so of course we stopped to have a bit of fun first.
As we walked down towards the inlet you can see all the natural beauty around you.
Check out the blue water, rock formations, greenery, and the light house in the distance.
There are many beautiful spots for pictures all around.
Also, this is a good spot for a bathroom break!
3. Lunch in Lorne
After countless shouts of this is incredible and best day ever, a Spice Girls jam session and countless other singalongs, our next stop was the small town of Lorne.
We stopped at a local shop and grabbed coffee and lunch.
It was a beautiful day, so sitting outside in the shade was a perfect way to enjoy a meal.
We also stopped at the tourist shop here to use the restrooms, grab postcards and a map, and get more info on where to find some koalas.
4. Kennett River
After getting the best instructions on where to stop next, we were headed only a few minutes down the road towards Kennett River.
This is where you can find sleepy koalas and colorful birds scattered in the trees.
We parked the car at the Koala Café and walked along the dirt road where we saw many different birds hanging out in the trees.
These birds are not shy!
They will fly right up to you (scaring the absolute shit out of you) and land right on your back. Beware!
After running swiftly passed the birds, I walked a bit further up the road and started searching the trees for koalas.
They blend in a bit with the trees, but after a few minutes I spotted two koalas hanging about.
One was dead asleep and not moving, while I was surprised to find the other waking up from his nap and moving around between the trees.
Koalas sleep 20 + hours every day, so to catch one awake and moving in the wild was surreal.
5. Erskine Falls
After saying goodbye to the sleepy koalas and watching Joanna nearly pee herself trying to escape the birds, next up was Erskine falls!
It took about 15 minutes to get there.
We walked down a small path towards a forest area with lush greens, water, and rocks galore.
It was such a change of scenery compared to the rocky beach coast we’d been seeing all day.
It was cool to see these habitats so close together.
Besides, who doesn’t love a waterfall?
6. Apollo Bay
We hopped back in the car and drove a good bit more until we reached another gorgeous beach area called Apollo Bay.
We walked along the shore, poked fun at each other, snapped a few photos and quickly headed back to the road.
We didn’t stay too long because we wanted to make sure we’d reach the 12 Apostles by sunset.
7. 12 Apostles
We spent the longest stretch of time in the car from Apollo Bay to the 12 Apostles.
We zoned out to some good dance tunes as we passed lots of large pastures with some farm animals and tons of greenery.
There wasn’t a soul in site.
We probably spent at least 45 minutes or so driving during this leg of the trip, so of course is was bound to happen that one of us needed to pee.
Let’s be real, it wouldn’t be a road trip without someone peeing on the natural beauty of a foreign country!
After a bit in the car, we finally arrived at the 12 Apostles.
Being a girl who lives for beaches and sunsets, this was the one site I was most excited to see on my Australian adventure. Plus, the 12 Apostles is arguably the most famous site along The Great Ocean Road.
We had been aiming to get there around sunset to get some gorgeous photos.
We popped out of the car to stretch our legs and take in the beauty.
After checking out the rock formations we realized we were a bit early.
So, once we realized Loch Ard Gorge was only five minutes up the road, we decided to head up there first and come back for sunset.
8. Loch Ard Gorge
Loch Ard Gorge is breathtaking!
Imagine two massive cliff walls encompassing a private little beach.
We walked down the stairs to the beach to put our toes in the sand and check out the area.
We met a chatty half naked man who took some photos for us, walked around a bit more, and decided to head back to the 12 Apostles.
12 Apostles - Part 2
We got back just in time to watch the sunset over the water.
It was such a once in a lifetime experience that I was so happy to share with these girls.
Even though the 12 Apostles did have the most tourists of all the sites, I had expected it to be more crowded during sunset.
We saw very few tourists besides ourselves during the trip, but I imagine it’s because we went in early October – the weather can be a bit chilly then.
It was windy and chilly on the deck where we watched the sunset, so make sure to bring a jacket!
I still remember how I felt just taking in the beauty of where I was.
It was everything I had hoped for and more.
Once the sun had set and our journey was over, we were back on the road to take the shorter way back to Melbourne.
We stopped at McDonald’s at the first chance we got, put ourselves into a food coma, and napped in the car.
(Sorry *Jo! You’re a tropper, thanks again for driving)
We finally made it back around 11pm.
It was a full day of fun, nature, laughter, and once in a lifetime experiences.
It was well worth whatever money we spent on the rental car for the day.
A day trip on The Great Ocean Road is very doable.
So, if you’re struggling for time, I promise a full day there will get the job done!
Feel free to use my itinerary as a starting point and go make some awesome memories of your own!