Have you ever made a trip and focused so much on the destination that you didn’t pay attention to how beautiful the actual trip was? Have you ever focused so much on the outcome of a project or a goal that you forgot the little steps in between and how you got there? Those tiny, seemingly unimportant steps that help us improve and grow as a person. I know that this is quite philosophical but it applies to so much in life and came to my mind when I thought about the Great Ocean Road.
Your final destination on the Great Ocean Road will most likely be the 12 Apostles and don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful place that you should definitely see. However, there is so much more than just the 12 Apostles. You have to enjoy the small steps and places in between! Here are some things I have enjoyed doing and seeing on the Great Ocean Road.
1. Drive down the Mornington peninsula and take a ferry
If you’re coming from Melbourne, you can either take the highway or drive down the Mornington peninsula. I highly recommend the drive down the peninsula and take the ferry from Sorrento to Queenscliff. The drive is just so much more relaxed and scenic. And the ferry ride just gives driving a nice break. Make sure to check the schedule because they only drive once every hour.
We did several Great Ocean Road trips while living in Melbourne and always passed through Lorne. It’s just this cute, little surfer town where you can stop for a coffee or a snack and take a walk or hang out at the beach. No matter the season, you will always find surfers trying to catch a wave.
3. Erskine Falls
A short drive from Lorne is one of the most popular and beautiful waterfalls in the Great Otway National Park – Erskine Falls. It’s easily accessible and even if you are not the hiking type you can get there quickly (five minutes from the car park). No matter if from above or below, the waterfall looks amazing. And the surrounding rainforest gives it an adventurous and jungle like atmosphere. If you are a hiking person, there are hiking trecks to Lorne. Try it out (and let me know how it is ;-))
4. Observe wild koalas at Kafe Koala (Kennett River)
Australia is known for its vast flora and fauna and has one of the most unique animals on earth which can only be found down under. Koalas are definitely one of the most popular Australian animals and if you have seen them in real life you know why. The way they slowly move from branch to branch to find eucalyptus leaves is just adorable.
There are plenty of sanctuaries or zoos where you can watch, pet and feed them. But for me nothing compares to seeing them in their natural habitat. I highly recommend stopping at the Kafe Koala in Kennett River. Make your way up the hill on the left-hand side of the café. Keep your gaze up, somewhere up in the eucalyptus trees you will most likely see one of these fluffy creatures. If you’re especially lucky they can be closer than you think.
And by the way, don’t get discouraged by the buses and tourists at the cafe. Most of them don’t walk up there and just take pictures with the parrots and birds at the bottom. The further up you go the fewer people you will encounter.
5. Apollo Bay
After that, a great stop between Lorne and Cape Otway is Apollo Bay. It’s a popular place with nice restaurants and shops and plenty to do. Especially in and around the water. Swimming, surfing, horseback riding along the beach, you name it. The beach itself with the green hills in the backdrop is already enough to be in awe but if you’re seeking more nature adventures drive inland to explore rainforests and more waterfalls.
Whenever we travel along the sea we love eating local seafood. At Apollo Bay Fishermen’s Co-op you can enjoy local fish which is caught daily. Don’t expect it to be a place where you will hang out for a long time but rather a quick Fish’n’Chips or take out.
If you prefer more of a pub atmosphere and you are into beer, the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse is a great place. Try one of their many craft beers. It’s a relaxed pub with a nice outdoor area, typical pub food and the occasional live music.
6. Cape Otway Lightstation
Lighthouses always have something mysterious and adventurous. When people left their home countries to find a better life somewhere else, oftentimes they traveled by ship and a lighthouse would be the first sign of land. For many, this meant a sign of hope but also uncertainty. Would they make it in the new world? Would they find what they were looking for? Or would all their dreams and hopes come crashing down? Nowadays lighthouses are mainly a tourist attraction and not in use anymore. But I really like what they stand for. Ways of travel may have changed over time but our hopes, dreams and uncertainties are still the same – even now hundreds of years later.
Cape Otway Lighthouse was built in 1848 and is the oldest surviving lighthouse on the Australian mainland. It was considered the most significant one as it was the first sight of land for many migrants coming from Europe, Asia and North America.
Make your way up the lighthouse and learn all about the beautiful lantern. Or simply enjoy the stunning view over the ocean.
Besides the lighthouse the lightstation offers more to discover. Have a look at the restored telegraph station, where you can dive into different historical aspects of the station or learn all about its secret war history in a radar bunker.
The lightstation even offers accommodation. So if you want to get in the spirit you can stay at a former lightkeeper’s cottage, a lodge or a B&B.
7. Twelve Apostles
Congratulations, you made it to the highlight of the Great Ocean Road. This natural lime stone wonder sits 45 meters above the ocean and no matter if you’re there at dusk, dawn or the middle of the day – it certainly will take your breath away.
Just walk from the visitor center to different lookouts. You will understand what I mean because you will get the most breathtaking views!