Constantly ranked number one or two on all excursions and nature tours in Melbourne is the Great Ocean Road (“GOR”). The Great Ocean Road is a scenic coastal drive (stretching 200-300km) southwest of Melbourne with endless set of activities you can indulge in along the way, such as surfing, scuba diving and sea kayaking to arts, cultural and heritage attractions. But in all likelihood, you would have to rent your own car to truly enjoy it as you please. If you just want to see the GOR as part of a tour (and “tick the box”, so to speak), below is a guide of what you can expect.
My GOR experience was with Escape Discovery Adventures, on their “One Day Great Ocean Road Tour,” which was A$139 / person when we went. They’re highly rated on Tripadvisor (TA Review), and we really had a great experience. Rather than walking you all through everything one-by-one, I’ll copy and paste the itinerary from the website, and give you my honest account of everything.
Booking process: A few clarifications required via email correspondence, but it was generally stress free online booking (some negative reviews on TA had warned otherwise, but was not the case for me).
Morning pick-up from hotel: On time pick-up, and the vehicle was a large private Mercedes van as advertised. The ride was quite comfortable, and our guide had high energy from the onset (always a good sign). The total passenger count was around 9 or so, which was below the 11 maximum stated on the website.
Beach / Morning Tea: On the way to our first stop, our guide was very helpful in pointing out interesting historical landmarks along the road, and providing context for all things Melbourne. After ~90 minutes, we got to the beach, where we stretched our legs, and enjoyed the picnic prepared (coffee, vegemite crackers, etc.).
Seaside villages / hamlets: These were pointed out along the way, but the windy roads and shrubbery covering the roads made it a bit difficult to see.
Memorial Arch: This is a large wooden arch marking the beginning of “The Great Ocean Road” and understandably had a crowd of tourists taking selfies and pictures. There are plaques here describing the road’s historical significance – relatively short stop to snap a picture.
“WB Godfrey”: Didn’t stop by or get to see this.
Cape Patton / Mt. Defiance / Apollo Bay: This was a nice coastal stop. Lunch was decent, but not memorable.
Otways / Rainforest walk: Great way to cool off, interesting flora to take in.
Koala Spotting: This was quite interesting – we came to a small park with tall eucalyptus trees all around us, and as we strolled through the walkways, our guide pointed out at least 5-6 koalas sleeping high up in the trees. They were quite high up though, so it was hard to take photos or see them up close (to learn how to get up close, check out my guide on How to See Melbourne’s Wildlife).
Port Campbell National Park / 12 Apostles / Island Arch / Razorback: Prepare yourself for a LOT of tourists here, and understandably so, as the 12 Apostles and neighboring land formations are quite the attraction. Our guide was resourceful in taking us to the Loch Ard Gorge first to avoid the crowd as much as possible (by the time we got back to the Apostles, some of the large tour buses had left – much appreciated this customization!). Ensure you have enough time to walk to the end of the park, where you can enjoy smaller crowds and different angles of the landmarks.
Return Home: Nothing else to be said, it was a nice smooth ride back. It was a bit late by the time we arrived, but a nearby Mexican restaurant Mamasita was thankfully still open. We enjoyed authentic street tacos and char-grilled corn on the cob – both of which were on point. Highly recommended (book a table)!