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The Great Ocean Road – Self Drive or Tour?

Great Ocean Road Tour - Twelve Apostles Sunset
Great Ocean Road Coastal drive

Paul Byrne
One Stop Adventures Travel Expert

Clinton is a One Stop Adventures Travel advisor and also a former tour guide and always lover of the Great Ocean Road so i decided it would be fun to get a personal interview with him and his thoughts on the subject.

If you’re planning to see the Great Ocean Road, what do you recommend, self driving or a fully guided tour?

I recommend either way is awesome. If you’re short on time, and you just have a day, 100% do a tour. I used to drive the Great Ocean Road on tours, so you’re with a tour guide who knows where he’s going and knows how much time to spend in places. If you are going to self drive, I’d recommend two to three days, at least overnight, just because when you’re with friends and you’re driving, everyone says, “Oh, let’s stop here. Let’s swim at the beach. Let’s go to this café.” Next thing you know, it’s dark and you can’t see the 12 Apostles and then you’ve got to drive three hours back to Melbourne.

So in that case, how far is it to drive to the start of the Great Ocean Road? Or how far is it to drive, in general, for the Great Ocean Road.

If you’re driving the normal way from start to finish, it’s an hour and a half drive to the start. Then about five, six hours along, depending how many stops you do and then three hours back. 276 km along the road itself and 630 km return from Melbourne, you’ll use 2 to 3 tanks of Fuel.

Where along the Great Ocean Road do I have the opportunities to see Australian wildlife?

There’s quite a few spots. I’ve got a few favourite places I like to take friends and family to. When you go to Kennett River, you can see wild rosellas, king parrots, and ducks as well as Kookaburras. From there if you go up the dirt track they have there and just follow it up a hill, there’s lots of koalas in the trees up the back.

Where about is Kennett River?

Kennett River is in between Memorial Arch and Apollo Bay. There’s also a few other spots for viewing wildlife.

one of the top ten drives in the world

Great Ocean Road Coastal drive
The Great Ocean Road

I heard there’s lots of koalas along the Great Ocean Road?

100%. After you leave Kennett River, there’s a few spots along the road. Take the turn off to Cape Otway Lighthouse and drive down that road for about ten minutes just after Mait’s Rest. There’s lots of koalas down that way on the side of the road. There’s places you can pull over to get out and have a look if you’re careful.

Where should people stop and say, “Okay, that’s enough. We shouldn’t go any further.”

The Great Ocean Road ends at Warnambool, where you’ve got the Bay of islands rock formations and if you’ve got time, you can definitely check it out. Most people will stop at Port Campbell, which is next to the 12 Apostles and then head back to Melbourne.

Are there plenty of places to stay in Port Campbell?

Yes. There’s hostels and hotels and motels and Port Campbell’s a lovely place. It’s on a delightful little bay.

Would you recommend booking in advance for those? Do they get busy or you can just walk up and check in?

During the peak season, December or maybe November until March, April, and especially on public holidays, definitely book in advance. The quieter times of the year – May to October you might be ok walking up.

What are the most important highlights we should be recommending?

Most people, when they think of the Great Ocean Road they want to see the 12 Apostles which is a must. There’s also Loch Ard Gorge and I really like the Gibson Steps. You get to go down and see the 12 Apostles from down on sea level. It’s a bit more of what people I guess would call the touristy part. The Great Ocean Road is in three parts, the Surf Coast, the Green Coast with Great Otway National Park and the Shipwreck Coast and everything is pretty spectacular. If you’re going to do the Great Ocean Road, you might as well do it all. Most people would want to see everything the shipwreck coast has to offer.

The 12 Apostles is a must

Great Ocean Road Reverse Tour

What’s the history behind the Great Ocean Road? Why do they call it the Great Ocean Road?

The Great Ocean Road was built by Australian war veterans after World War I. The government commissioned the workers, after they came back and there wasn’t much work, to help build the road. They set up accommodations for them along the road and they built it by hand, with pick axes and dynamite, which I can’t imagine would have been particularly pleasant after the war, but you know, they built this thing by hand, which is what makes it so spectacular. They were originally tolling the Great Ocean Road at Memorial Arch, but eventually, when they paid off the road, they stopped tolling it, which is pretty cool as well.

Now, are there any other destinations that you could combine with the Great Ocean Road?

Yes. If you’re self driving or on tour, a lot of the options are combining the Great Ocean Road with the Grampions National Park. It’s located three hours north of the end of the Great Ocean Road and if you’re going to do that. Hall’s Gap’s got a few places that you can stay. Otherwise, a good option is to actually do the Great Ocean Road in reverse, so drive directly to Port Campbell and then come back along the Great Ocean Road. Then you can stay near either Torquay or the Bellarine Peninsula and take the ferry from Queen’s Cliff to Sorrento the next day and see the Mornington Peninsula and Phillip Island. You might want maybe three days for that itinerary, just because you want to see the penguins on Phillip Island when they come in pretty late in peak season (summer).

Are there any places along the Great Ocean Road that travellers can source more information about getting to these destinations or highlights and attractions?

A good step would be going to an information centre or doing some research before you initially start your trip. But, once you’re going, there’s fuel stations that actually have tourist information centres in them and when you’re along the Surf Coast, Apollo Bay, Lorne, Torquay, Anglesea. There are pretty obvious tourist information centres that you drive past and you can stop off, ask some advice, or grab a map.

Are there any places along the Great Ocean Road that travellers can source more information about getting to these destinations or highlights and attractions?

A good step would be going to an information centre or doing some research before you initially start your trip. But, once you’re going, there’s fuel stations that actually have tourist information centres in them and when you’re along the Surf Coast, Apollo Bay, Lorne, Torquay, Anglesea. There are pretty obvious tourist information centres that you drive past and you can stop off, ask some advice, or grab a map.

Great Ocean Road
Rossella Bird on the Great ocean road
Great Ocean Road Coastal drive
The Great Ocean Road
Great Ocean Road Reverse Tour
Koala Viewing on the Great Ocean Road
Great Ocean Road
Clinton with Family and Friends on the Great Ocean Road
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