It’s no secret why The Great Ocean Road in Melbourne, Australia is one of the countries most popular sites.
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 make along the way to soak in the beautiful sites.
Though some people prefer to break the trip up into a few days and 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 relieved to hear we could leave in the morning, hit most of the iconic sites, and be back at the hostel later that night.
This trip was the best road trip of my life!
It wasn’t only because of the gorgeous scenery around every turn, but because of my amazing company. I highly recommend picking energetic people to make the journey with you!
We picked up a rental car early in the morning, made some upbeat playlists, stopped to grab some snacks, and headed on our way.
For anyone looking to complete the drive in one day, I recommend following this itinerary. I promise you won’t regret it!
We saw plenty of beautiful beaches, rock formations, koalas, a waterfall, winding roads, greenery for days, a gorgeous sunset over the water, and tons of farm animals.
For those wondering if the day seemed too rushed, I’m here to assure you it was not.
Though we didn’t stop to lay on any of the beaches, we did spend 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 rave enough about taking a drive down The Great Ocean Road! It was a postcard worthy experience.
Grab yourself some friends who don’t mind driving, a light jacket, snacks, a google-eyed hand puppet named Franklin (more on him later), and set out to enjoy the beautiful Australian coast!
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 of driving, 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, snapped some photos, and showed 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 had restrooms and a park, so of course we stopped to have a bit of fun first!
As we walked down towards the inlet, the natural beauty surrounded us!
There was gorgeous blue water, natural rock formations, overwhelming greenery, and the scenic light house in the distance.
This spot was so great!
There are endless spots around for the perfect picture.
*It’s also a good spot for a restroom break.
3. Lunch in Lorne
After multiple shouts of “this is incredible!” and countless singalongs, our next stop was the small town of Lorne.
We were ready for lunch, so we stopped at a local shop and grabbed some food and an afternoon coffee.
(If you wanted to spend more time on the beaches or seeing more sites, you can skip stopping for lunch and pack a lunch instead!)
It was a beautiful day, so sitting outside on the covered patio was a perfect way to enjoy our meal.
After lunch, we stopped at the tourist shop in town to use the restrooms, grab postcards, a map, and get more info on where to find some koalas.
4. Kennett River
After getting top notch instructions on where to stop next, we were headed only a few minutes down the road towards Kennett River.
Here 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 found many different birds hanging around.
These birds are not shy!
They like to fly right over and land on your back. They’ll sneak right up on you if you’re not ready, so beware!
After running swiftly past the birds, I walked a bit further up the road and started searching the trees for koalas.
They blend in a bit with the greenery, but after a few minutes I spotted two koalas right above me!
One was enjoying his zzz’s while I was surprised to find the other waking up from his nap and moving around between the trees!
Koalas normally sleep around twenty 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 was just a quick 15 minute drive from Kennett River.
We wandered down a small path towards a forest area with lush greens, water, and rocks galore.
It was so cool to see such a change of scenery from the rocky beach coast we’d been enjoying all day.
The best part?
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 drove another 45 minutes or so until we finally arrived at the 12 Apostles.
Being a girl who lives for beaches and sunsets, this was the one spot I was most excited to see! Besides, the 12 Apostles is arguably the most famous site along The Great Ocean Road.
We rushed through the previous stop because we had been aiming to get there around sunset so we could take in the views.
So once we got there, we hopped out of the car to stretch our legs and take in the beauty.
After a quit break we realized we were a bit early for sunset.
So, we decided to pop on over to Loch Ard Gorge only five minutes up the road.
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, then headed back to catch the sunset at the 12 Apostles.
12 Apostles - Part 2
We got back at the perfect time to watch the sunset over the water.
It was truly a once in a lifetime experience that I was so happy to share with my new friends.
Even though the 12 Apostles did have the most tourists of all the sites, I had expected it to be more crowded. What a bonus!
*We saw very few tourists besides ourselves during the trip, but I imagine it’s because we went in early October when the weather can be a bit chillier.
It was windy and chilly on the deck where we watched the sunset, so a jacket was a must!
I still remember how I felt taking in the beauty of the cliffs, sending thanks and gratitude out into the universe.
It was everything I had hoped for and more.
Once the sun had set and our day journey was officially over, we were back on the road to take the shorter way back to Melbourne.
We finally made it back around 11pm.
It was a full day of scenic views, beauty, nature, laughter, and once in a lifetime memories.
It was easily worth the small amount of 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 while you’re in Australia, I promise a full day there will get the job done!
This trip is a MUST DO when visiting the country.
Feel free to use my itinerary as a starting point and go make some awesome memories of your own!