8 Best Sights in Great Ocean Road, Victoria

Kennett River Koala Walk

Kennett River Fodor's choice

This little hamlet on the Great Ocean Road is home to a colony of wild koalas who hang, like ripe fruit, from the trees just off the highway. Located halfway between Lorne and Apollo Bay, pull in where you see Kennett River's Koala Cafe, and get the camera out. This location is also well-known for flocks of colorful king parrots, kookaburras, and wallabies. Don't try to touch or feed any of the wildlife and keep dogs in the car: koalas are more active (and therefore easier to spot) in the early morning and late afternoon.  

Port Campbell National Park

Fodor's choice

Stretching some 30 km (19 miles) along Victoria's southeastern coastline, Port Campbell National Park is the site of some of the most famous and most beautiful geological formations in Australia. The ferocious Southern Ocean has gnawed at the limestone cliffs along this coast for eons, creating a sort of badlands-by-the-sea, where strangely shaped formations stand offshore amid the surf. The most famous of these formations is the Twelve Apostles, as much a symbol for Victoria as the Sydney Opera House is for New South Wales (the name has always been a misnomer, as there were originally only nine of these stone columns—or sea stacks as they are correctly termed. Collapses in 2005 and 2009 mean that eight remain). If you happen to be visiting the Twelve Apostles just after sunset, you're likely to see bands of little penguins returning to their burrows on the beach. There's a population of around 3,000 of these cute creatures in the area.

Loch Ard Gorge, named after the iron-hulled clipper that wrecked on the shores of nearby Muttonbird Island in 1878, is another spectacular place to walk. Four of the Loch Ard's victims are buried in a nearby cemetery, while a sign by the gorge tells the story of the ship and its crew. This stretch of coast is often called the Shipwreck Coast for the hundreds of vessels that have met untimely ends in the treacherous waters. The Historic Shipwreck Trail, with landmarks describing 25 of the disasters, stretches from Moonlight Head to Port Fairy.

Spectacular all year round, it is busiest in the warmer months, November to April, so expect to share key sights with many other visitors. This is also the best time to witness the boisterous birdlife on nearby Muttonbird Island. Toward nightfall, hundreds of hawks and kites circle the island in search of baby mutton birds emerging from their protective burrows. The birds of prey beat a hasty retreat at the sight of thousands of adult shearwaters approaching with food for their chicks as the last light fades from the sky. Other amazing sea stacks and stone formations farther west along the Great Ocean Road are also not to be missed. These include the Grotto, London Bridge (now an arch after an earlier collapse), and the spectacular Bay of Islands and Bay of Martyrs.

A self-guided, 1½-hour Discovery Walk begins near Port Campbell Beach, where it's safe to swim between the surf patrol flags. The pounding surf and undertow are treacherous at other nearby beaches.

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Port Campbell National Park, Port Campbell, VIC, Australia

Apollo Bay Beach

At 195 km (121 miles) from Melbourne, you'll find one of Victoria's most popular holiday beaches. Protected by a working fishing harbor and Point Bunbury, the waves are gentler toward the southern end of the bay: care must be taken with an undertow that gets stronger as you go north. The local surf lifesaving club patrols between flags at the southern end. The 3-km (almost 2-mile) beach runs parallel to the Great Ocean Road (also called Collingwood Street within the town), and there's a reserve with shady trees, a barbecue, playground, and a picnic area near the main shopping area. Behind the street is a row of shops and cafés, and on most Saturdays, the Apollo Bay market sees stall holders lining the foreshore path to sell local produce and crafts. Behind the town, the green hills of the Otways provide a change of scenery. Walk up the pathway to Marriners Lookout for idyllic views, though a sunken steamship lurks beneath the waters. If you want to get closer to the sea, Apollo Bay Surf and Kayak runs kayaking tours to see the local seal colony, as well as providing surfing and paddleboarding lessons. The Seaview Motel and Apartments are near the beach, and some rooms have balconies looking over the view. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards (in summer); parking (free); toilets; showers. Best for: surfing; swimming; walking.

Great Ocean Rd., Apollo Bay, VIC, 3233, Australia

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Lorne Beach

This stretch of the Victorian coast is sometimes called The Shipwreck Coast, with reputedly up to 700 ships at rest offshore. Lorne itself has a shipwreck plaque walk along the foreshore, giving the history of local disasters and near-misses dating from 1854. The Lorne Surf Life Saving Club patrols the southern end of popular Lorne Beach, which runs south from the Erskine River for 1.2 km (¾ mile). Care must be taken when the waves are high as the undertow and rips can be dangerous: swim in the patrolled areas between the flags. The beach has parking for 250 cars, a lookout, shade trees and shelters, barbecue and play areas, and a cycle track. The Lorne Beach Pavilion has a swimming pool, large playground, outdoor trampoline, and skate park as well. A camping ground and caravan park are also near the beach. Parking is available at the junction of Bay Street, Mountjoy Parade, and the Great Ocean Road, or along the Great Ocean Road itself. Other entrances to the beach are via Grove Street or William Street. The Mantra Lorne resort, with 12 acres of gardens and a range of rooms and apartments, is directly on the beach. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (free); restrooms; showers. Best for: surfing; swimming; walking.

Great Ocean Rd., Lorne, VIC, 3232, Australia

Otway Fly Treetop Adventures

A spectacular 1,969-foot-long elevated treetop walk allows you to stroll a steel walkway above the rain-forest canopy. One section is springboard-cantilevered, and gently bounces as you pass over Young's Creek. For a faster thrill, take its 30-meter (99-foot) zipline. The entrance is about an hour's drive and 70 km (43 miles) from Lorne. To get there, follow the Great Ocean Road until it joins Skenes Creek Road, then take Forrest-Apollo Bay Road to Beech Forest Road, then Colac-Lavers Hill Road until you reach the signed turnoff to Phillips Track. From the Fly, you'll see the tops of giant myrtle beech, blackwood, and mountain ash trees, as well as spectacular views of the surrounding region.

Port Fairy Historical Society

The historical society's museum contains relics from the 19th-century whaling days, when Port Fairy was a whaling station with one of the largest ports in Victoria. It also highlights the stories of the many ships that have come to grief along this dangerous coast.

Tower Hill State Game Reserve

Tower Hill

This reserve—Victoria's largest dormant volcano—is packed with native Australian animals in their natural state. The Worn Gundidj Visitor Centre in the reserve conducts cultural interpretative walks. Take its 90-minute personalized bush and nature walk to learn about Indigenous lifestyles, bush food, and medicine, and hear about the local inhabitants, which include emus, sugar gliders, koalas, kangaroos, birds, and reptiles. The standard tour is A$35; also ask about the availability of other occasional specialist tours, including twilight visits, to experience Aboriginal culture firsthand. Parks Victoria's website also has a map of the reserve and self-guided walking trails.

Princes Hwy., Port Fairy, VIC, 3283, Australia
- 131--963 - Parks Victoria
Sights Details
Rate Includes: See www.towerhill.org.au for tour information

Warrnambool

About 66 km (41 miles) west of Port Campbell, Warrnambool is Victoria's southern right whale nursery. Platforms at Logan's Beach, about 3 km (2 miles) east of the city, provide views of an amazing marine show from June to September. Whales return to this beach every year to calve, with the females and young staying close to the shore and the males playing about 150 yards out to sea.