The Great Ocean Road is to Australia what the Amalfi Coast is to Italy; an iconic coastal stretch of beauty. But unlike the Amalfi Coast, the Great Ocean Road is fortunately just a hop, skip, and a surfboard ride away!
From Torquay to Port Fairy, discover some of the best things to do and the hottest places to stay in the region with our couples and family-friendly road trip. Now all that’s left to organise is your chosen playlist and you’re good to go!
The first stop along the way is Torquay, the gateway to the Great Ocean Road. Home to world-famous Bells Beach, Torquay has been a hot destination for budding surfers for decades. It comes as no surprise that this beachside locale is also the birthplace of famous surf brands, Rip Curl and Quicksilver.
If surfing is not your thing, why not take things down a notch at Saltair Day Spa, and find your inner Zen? Whether you’re looking for a deep tissue massage or a hydrating facial, the team of award-winning therapists will indulge you with an aromatic mix of essential oils, earth ochres, and desert salts.
Where to stay?
If you’re looking for the ideal place to unwind that’s just as much fun for you as it is for the kids, the Torquay Foreshore Caravan Park won’t disappoint. Positioned only steps from Torquay’s surf beach, the caravan park offers a series of fully-contained cabins that can sleep up to six guests. While you settle in for the afternoon with a beverage of choice, the kids will be entertained for hours in the onsite facilities that include a jumping pillow, a games room, and a children’s playground.
To start your Great Ocean Road adventure in the RIGHT and ROMANTIC way, Chianti Cottages will tantalise your taste buds to a T. Offering accommodation in the form of a studio with a balcony as well as a fully-appointed house, you’ll be tickled pink by the tasteful furnishings and features – think a clawfoot bath and slow-combustion fire, hello romance!
If your road trip is still on track and you haven’t derailed from car sickness, the kids getting bored, or a couple feud, venture on another 45 minutes and you’ll reach Lorne. Wedged between Loutit Bay and the Otway National Park, Lorne is a spectacular haven where the bush meets the beach. Start with a stroll along Shelley Beach, discovering the intricate cluster of rockpools, then head ten minutes inland to the famous Erskine Falls. Here, you can witness the sheer beauty of a 30-metre waterfall plunging into a tree-fern gully. Your Instagram feed will thank you for this!
For a spot of tucker, head to Cater and Co. Bringing 25 years of hospitality experience under the one roof, Cater and Co focuses on organic and locally sourced, seasonal produce. Be treated to a world cuisine menu of Paella and Argentine barbecue, then wash it all down with a top-notch blend of wine. Plain yum!
Where to stay?
If the little ones are dreaming of a seaside adventure, they’ll certainly jump for joy when they arrive at Mantra Lorne. Situated on Lorne’s beachfront, Mantra offers a relaxed and friendly environment without shirking on any of those adult luxuries.
If you’re tempted by the resort room, but worried about where the kids are going to sleep, fret not! One bedroom apartments can be joined with resort rooms to create adjoining accommodation – could the family adventure get any easier?
Named after the French explorer, La Perouse, it only seems ‘au natural’ that La Perouse Lorne delivers French inspired boutique accommodation, perfect for all those lovebirds. Offering five individually-designed suites, guests can be treated to an ‘oh-so-chic’ bathroom, featuring European vanities, handmade floor tiles, and a walk-in shower.
After some steamy fun, settle into your king-sized bed and choose your favourite program from a swish Apple TV. In the morning, wake up to a breakfast of freshly squeezed OJ, yoghurt pots, and baked baguettes, which is served on the terrace or in the kitchen. Très French!
Nestled at the foothills of the Otway Mountain range, Apollo Bay will charm you with its rich history and scenic landscapes. Brush up on your colonial knowledge with a visit to Australia’s oldest lighthouse, which was built in 1848 and overlooks the tumultuous meeting point of Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean. If you’d rather get high – quite literally – head to Cape Fly, where you can experience a 30-metre treetop boardwalk that takes you through the lush canopy of the Otway ranges.
From all that aerial fun, you’re surely going to need a spot of sustenance. Our pick? Chris’s at Beacon Point of course! Overlooking the Great Ocean Road, this locale has become a mecca for high-quality food that blends Southern European and Middle Eastern influences. If you’d rather grab something on the go, bite your teeth into the famous scallop pie at the Apollo Bay Bakery. For something a little more ‘true blue’, there’s also a vast selection of more than 25 different pies, pasties, and sausage rolls.
Where to stay?
If you fancy the idea of staying on the Great Ocean Road, you literally can at Motel Marengo. Just 2.7 kilometres out of Apollo Bay, this award-winning motel offers a range of different suites, including the quad suite, which as the name suggests, is ideal for a family of four. To relax those tired driving muscles, slip into the solar heated outdoor swimming pool and spa, then fire up the outdoor gas BBQ for some at-home cooking.
Just a ten-minute drive from Chris’s at Beacon Point, you can keep the romantic flame burning at Rayville Boat Houses. Although not literally boat houses, the nautical themed villas will seduce you with their luxurious furnishings and elegant aesthetic of marine blue and lemon. Different accommodation options are available, but if you fancy nesting in a home away from home, go for the self-contained deluxe loft-style villa.
The heart of the Great Ocean Road is arguably the 12 Apostles, and you can discover these stunning limestone rock formations just out of Port Campbell. Surrounding the 12 Apostles is the Port Campbell National Park, which offers a mix of nature walks and spectacular lookouts, as well as fishing and canoeing options on the Gellibrand River.
Once you’ve captured your perfect shot for Instagram, why not indulge in some culinary delights along the 12 Apostles Gourmet Trail? The 70-kilometre loop treats visitors to locally produced whisky, organic yoghurt, ice-cream, and delectable French cheeses. The highlight of the tour has to be the Timboon Railway Shed Distillery, which is a restaurant-come-micro-distillery that specialises in hand bottled whiskey and liqueurs. Be sure to take things easy though, you’re driving after all!
If the kids are overly hyped-up after their visit to the jaw-dropping 12 Apostles, you can shack up at nearby Southern Ocean Villas and unwind for the night in luxury. The architect-designed villas come with an open-plan kitchen, enveloping fluffy couches, and a scenic outdoor deck – the ideal place to sit back and relax with some bubbly in hand. This is THE kind of place the kids will be talking about for years!
Nothing quite speaks romance more than a secluded luxury bed & breakfast, and Heytesbury House is no exception to this. From the moment you arrive, hosts Kathryn and Andrew will treat you to an Edwardian experience from start to finish.
Behind the hedged entrance, discover an elegant haven of stained-glass windows, four-poster beds, and 1500-thread-count sheets. For some romantic bubbling fun, book the Shakespeare suite which comes with its own corner spa bath. Could you get any more Downton Abbey!?
Resplendent in picturesque sandy beaches and hard-hitting surf breaks, Warrnambool is just a 50-minute drive from Port Campbell, and should be pencilled into your road trip itinerary. If you’d rather skip the beach and delve into a touch of Australian history, head to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village. Circle the state heritage listed Warrnambool Lighthouse, then get a taste of the infamous Loch Ard shipwreck of 1878.
In the evening, treat your palette to a meal at the Pickled Pig. Here, award-winning Chef Brenton Banner has developed a menu which is simplistic, yet 100% tasty. His plates are often referred to as an edible art form, with the signature dish arguably being the crispy pork belly. Don’t believe us? Try for yourself!
If convenience is key, you can’t get much better than the Warrnambool Holiday Village. Various one and two-bedroom cabins are available, but if you’re truly ready for some family bonding why not make use of the caravan or camping options? Whichever accommodation choose, you’ll still be able to keep your friends at home up to date thanks to the free WiFi throughout. The village also offers a brand-new playground area complete with a jumping pillow – obviously something that’s fun for both the kids and adults!
If you and your respective other have gorged on one too many crispy pork bellies at the Pickled Pig and you need to nurse your food coma with a lay down, Quamby Homestead is the ideal digestive. The historic homestead (circa 1888) is set amidst 70 acres of farmland and makes for the perfect sanctuary for some intimate R&R time. If you take a walk across the grounds, you’re even likely to meet eyes with the farm’s poultry and cattle. When you’re ready to retreat to your room, appreciate a tasteful blend of antique furnishings and crisp linens – heavenly!
In the 2017 trivago awards, Port Fairy came in seventh place out of the top 30 destinations in Victoria. This charming little fishing village, at the end of the Great Ocean Road, is flanked by nineteenth century cottages, Norfolk Pines, and old stone churches. With more than 50 heritage buildings classified by National Trust, you will certainly be wanting to save some camera space for Port Fairy.
If your historical endeavours have left you with a hankering for some comfort food, head to Merrijig Kitchen. The menu pays tribute to artisan producers and farmers, offering Yabbie bisque, dry-aged Rump steak, and duck fat potatoes – hello decadence! All food tastes better with wine, and you’ll be pleased to know the extensive list uses wines made by passionate producers who employ sustainable techniques.
Nestled within a large green park, and just a stone’s throw away from the centre of Port Fairy, Belfast Cove Holiday Park is a beacon of comfort at the end of a long road trip. A range of accommodation options are available, but if you’re travelling in numbers, go for the two-bedroom self-contained cedar cabins. They come with fully-equipped kitchens, queen and bunk beds, and furnished outdoor verandahs. The holiday park also offers an indoor heated pool, but if you’d rather stay dry, why not challenge the kids to a match of doubles on the outdoor tennis court?
With the coastal vistas and charming cottages of Port Fairy, romance only seems natural! This feeling is echoed at Oscars Waterfront, an upscale boutique hotel that is housed in a stately building on the Moyne River. Rooms are simple and elegant in design, pairing antique furnishings with tasteful prints.
For some true passion, book a night in the Courtyard Spa Room which boasts a king spa, a double shower, and a king-sized bed. Wake up to a breakfast of caramalised banana hotcakes, tomato bruschetta, and Oscars bacon and eggs, all served in the dining room each morning.
Cover image: The Twelve Apostles at Sunset | Visions of Victoria