Great Ocean Road Itinerary 3 Days – Melbourne to Adelaide Drive
Long before I ever set foot in Australia, the Great Ocean Road was a dream road trip and somewhere I longed to see. Since I was flying into Melbourne and my first long-term destination was Adelaide – taking a Great Ocean Road trip was the perfect way to get there. Oceans that span as far as the eye can see, pristine beaches and beautiful rainforests can all be found along this stretch of road.
Although the Great Ocean Road only spans 243km there is plenty to do further afield, whether you venture inland or continue along the coast. I spent 3 days touring from Melbourne to Adelaide and I booked a Great Ocean Road and Grampians tour before arriving. Since I don’t drive, a self-drive Great Ocean Road trip was out of the question, but there’s nothing stopping you from amending this Great Ocean Road 3 day itinerary to suit a self-drive tour.
The Great Ocean Road was the idea behind Howard Hitchcock who was the Mayor of the city of Geelong. He organised and funded construction of the Great Ocean Road. Construction began in 1919 and was completed in 1932.
Wondering what to see along the Great Ocean Road? What are the best Great Ocean Road highlights? Read on to find out…
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Day 1 – Great Ocean Road Itinerary 3 Days
Torquay & Bells Beach
Torquay was the first stop on our Great Ocean Road bus tour. The Great Ocean Road starts in a small coastal town called Torquay – situated along the surf coast portion of the Great Ocean Road – since the next few towns are all famous for their world-class surfing. Torquay is where several big surf brands emerged including both Rip Curl and Quiksilver.
Bell’s Beach in Torquay is home to the annual Rip Curl Pro surfing competition – the world’s longest continuously running pro surfing competition. After Torquay, you’ll also pass by the small towns of Angelsea and Airys Inlet before reaching the Famous Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch.
Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch
One of the most iconic sights along the Great Ocean Road is the famous archway. The Memorial Arch is dedicated to the 3,000 soldiers who built the road after returning from WW1, making the Great Ocean Road the longest war memorial in the world.
To the left of the archway is a sculpture depicting the soldiers who built the Great Ocean Road, this was unveiled for it’s 75th anniversary.
There is a small parking lot to the left of the archway where you can stop off to get your photos!
The town of Lorne is one of the most popular Great Ocean Road stops. This is the perfect place to stay the night, grab food or stretch your legs. Lorne is a weekend getaway for many people living in Melbourne and gets busy during the summer months.
Lorne is home to the famous “Pier to Pub” swim that happens every year in January. There are also several events year-round including the Lorne Arts Festival in June, Great Ocean Road Marathon and the Falls Festival.
A short drive from Lorne is Teddy’s Lookout, the most famous lookout point on the Great Ocean Road. Teddy’s lookout offers a vista of endless ocean and stunning hues of blue. During weekends, public holidays and the summer months the lookout platform can get quite busy.
Apollo Bay is cute little seaside town to stop in overnight or for a pit stop. Head to Dooley’s ice cream shop, an award winning store featuring it’s famous “vegemite” ice cream. I didn’t take the vegemite ice cream but the mint chocolate chip was amazing on a hot day!
If you enjoy craft beer, the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse has over 100 craft beers on offer. Just behind the brewhouse is a bottle shop where you can local wines and beers. If you’d really like to experience some of the local beers or wines they offer a tasting bar.
There’s plenty of water sport activities in the town including surfing, kayaking, and diving. The main street features a variety of eateries, galleries and shops.
The Great Ocean Walk starts in Apollo Bay. Opened in 2004, the Great Ocean Walk features 104km of walking trails from Apollo Bay to the Twelve Apostles. You can opt to walk the whole thing which takes 8 days or walk sections of it.
Melba Gully – Great Otway National Park
The Great Otway National Park offers a plethora of walking trails and landscapes. Melba Gully is located in the Great Otway National Park and features areas to set up a picnic and explore the surrounding area.
Melba Gully is a dense rainforest where Myrtle Beech, Blackwood and Tree-ferns grow. If exploring this area at night, look out for the glow worms that live in the area.
The Madsen’s Track nature trail is a 35-45 minute walk with easy terrain to explore a portion of the park. This trail leads to a small waterfall but there are plenty more to explore in the National Park including Hopetoun Falls, Beauchamp Falls and Triplet Falls.
The Twelve Apostles are the most iconic landmark along the Great Ocean Road and something that had been my own bucket list for a long time. You’ll notice it’s popularity by the amount of tourists visiting. During the summer months it can get incredibly busy here but the shoulder seasons and winter bring a far smaller crowd.
The Twelve Apostles are located along the shipwreck coast portion of the Great Ocean Road. Aptly named, there have been over 600 shipwrecks throughout history along the Shipwreck Coast.
Originally named The Pinnacles or Sow and Pigs, the Twelve Apostles are a group of limestone stacks created by erosion from the wind and sea. Although called the Twelve Apostles, there was only originally eight of them, which became seven in 2015 when one column collapsed.
Many bus companies end their tours at the Twelve Apostles but there is plenty to see further afield.
Loch Ard Gorge & The Razorback
Loch Ard Gorge was my absolute favourite part of the Port Campbell National Park. It’s beauty is undeniable but it’s history is quite the opposite.
Loch Ard Gorge is of the most stunning stops on the Great Ocean Road. It was by far my favourite stop on the drive. It’s beauty is undeniable but it’s history is quite the opposite. The Loch Ard Gorge is famous for the shipwrecking of the “Loch Ard” hence it’s name.
The Loch Ard was a ship that made the 3-month journey to Australia all the way from England. Upon arriving at muttonbird Island on June 1st 1878, the ship drifted into shallow waters and collided with a rock reef. Of the 54 passengers on board, there were only two survivors, Tom Pearce, a ship’s apprentice and Eva Carmichael an Irish girl traveling with her family.
There are plenty of short walks in the area where you can experience different viewpoints including the Razorback, Loch Ard Wreck lookout and Island Arch.
You’ll find the Loch Ard Gorge just a 3-minute drive from the Twelve Apostles.
A few minutes drive from Loch Ard Gorge you’ll come across the famous London Bridge now known as London Arch.
London Bridge and London Arch was formed from years of erosion. The bridge once connected the small island to the mainland when in 1990 it crumbled and fell down while two tourists were walking across it. No one was hurt in the incident, but as they were closer to the Island than they were the mainland they headed to the Island and were stuck there until a friend alerted authorities and the couple were saved.
The Bay Of Martyrs
The Bay of Martyrs is part part of the Bay of Islands Coastal Park which stretches 32 kilometres along the Great Ocean Road.
The Bay of Martyrs spans a total of 2.5km and inside you’ll find Crofts Bay and Massacre Bay. All lot of tourist buses don’t make it this far along the Great Ocean Road so you’ll find it much quieter than that of Port Campbell and the Twelve Apostles. When we arrived in the evening (around 6:00pm) there was no one else there, and it was so nice. There was a staircase leading down to the beach which was also empty, a great place watch the sunset or sunrise!
While this whole area was calming and tranquil, the names Massacre Bay, Massacre Point and Bay of Martyrs refer to a traumatic historical event. According to oral folklore a group of Aboriginal men of the Kirrae-Wurrong tribe were killed by Europeans by running them off the cliffs. The population of the Aboriginal people dropped by thousands, however there is no written evidence of the events and many contradicting stories.
Congrats! You made it! Warrnambool is the official end of the Great Ocean Road. I spent the night in Warrnambool after day 1 of the Melbourne to Adelaide drive and it has some great beaches!
Watching the sunset from the beach here has to be a highlight of my trip. I love watching sunsets when I travel, it’s always a peaceful way to end a day. Warrnambool is famous for it’s whale watching. During the months of June to October you can spot Southern Right Whales giving birth on the shores!
Day 2 – Great Ocean Road & Grampians Road Trip
Tower Hill is a wildlife reserve that sits in an extinct volcano that formed 30,000 years ago. Take a short walk through Tower Hill and you’re sure to stumble upon wild Koalas, Emus and Kangaroos. Keep an eye out high in the eucalyptus trees for Koalas, we found a few quite high up.
Tower Hill is also the perfect place for birdwatching as well as the an abundance of wildflowers that grow in springtime.
Guided tours are available at 11am and 1pm daily.
Hall’s Gap is the gateway to the Grampians National Park and a great place to base yourself while visiting the Grampians.
Hall’s Gap was founded by a man called Charles Browning Hall, and subsequently named after him when he found a gap through the mountain and discovered the valley below. There are plenty of outdoor activities on offer here and a wide range of accommodations from camping to luxury.
Hall’s Gap has shops, eateries, coffee shops, and gas stations.
Brambuk National Park & Cultural Centre
Set against the rugged landscape of the Grampians, the Brambuk National Park & Cultural Centre delves into the Aboriginal culture and history of the area. It is the longest running Aboriginal cultural centre in Australia. You’ll find artefacts on display, art exhibitions and activities such as boomerang painting.
There are plenty of easy terrain walks in the National Park where you can experience Australia’s native flora and fauna and spot some of it’s cuter residents. Kangaroos and Emus are often spotted in this area.
The Brambuk backpackers hostel is a great place to stay if you are on a budget and don’t want to camp. My tour stayed here which was amazing as we were the only people staying here. Evenings bbq’s are the best (unless the chicken is uncooked…)
The hostel is located across from the cultural centre. You can head out to the National Park grounds in the evenings and spot plenty of wildlife.
Pinnacle Hike & Grampians National Park
Explore the wonder of the Grampians National Park, with one of it’s many walks. The Grampians or Gariwerd as it is traditionally known, is home to some breathtaking viewpoints, the view from the Pinnacle is just one of many.
The Pinnacle is one of the most popular hikes in the Grampians. You’ll often see it described as a walk, but in my honest opinion, it’s definitely a hike! I’ll admit my fitness level wasn’t great when doing this hike compared to last year. So I did find what should have been an easy hike hard but it’s still a hike…
Depending on your fitness levels the hike will vary in times. On average it’s around a 2/3 hour hike but I think we did it in around 4 taking into account the time we hung out at the peak. Once you’ve reached the top, take time to admire the captivating landscape.
Some areas of the hike are steeper than others and some parts are narrow. There are two trails into the Pinnacle, one is shorter than the other. We took the longer route in because it is the scenic route and there is plenty to see and some incredible rock formations. I’d recommend taking the easier route back if you found the hike difficult.
Day 3 – Melbourne to Adelaide Drive
The Boroka Lookout is the perfect place to watch the sunrise or sunset. One of the most recognisable and popular viewpoints in the Grampians, the Boroka Lookout looks out onto the valley of Hall’s Gap and Lake Bellfield in the distance.
There is a parking lot about 2-minutes from the lookout points and is accessible for everyone.
The Balconies are a series of viewpoints in the Grampians National Park. From the parking lot there are around 3 to 4 lookout points before you reach the trail to the Balconies.
The terrain is flat so suitable for everyone and takes around 30 minutes. The most popular spot along the Balconies is the Jaws of Death lookout. This area features panoramic views of the Victoria Valley. Before my trip I did see photos of people standing “inside” the Jaws of this lookout and it looks like there were stairs leading there previously but the area is gated off for your own safety.
MacKenzie Falls is a must see when visiting the Grampians National Park and one of the largest waterfalls in Victoria. The falls runs all year round and is a spectacular sight to witness in person.
There are several ways to see the falls. The reach the base of Mackenzie Falls the trail down is primarily large steps and takes around 20-30 minutes one way. If you can make the journey down the the base of falls make sure you do!
There is an accessible lookout point if you don’t want to walk down the falls. If you have the time there are other areas to explore once you reach the base of MacKenzie Falls. One of the hiking trails leads to Fish Falls and will take around 30 minutes one way.
Loch Iel (Pink Lake)
The inland Melbourne to Adelaide drive takes around 5.5 hours from the Grampians. Along the way you’ll stop by the border of Victoria and South Australia and a red line marks the exact spot.
Just a few minutes west of the border you’ll come across a beautiful pink salt lake. Loch Iel is a pink salt flat/lake that gets its striking colour from the vast amount of salt present.
A short detour along the Melbourne to Adelaide drive is Mclaren Vale, one of South Australia’s wine regions.
Home to world-class wineries and famous for it’s reds like Shiraz and Grenache, Mclaren Vale is a must for any wine enthusiasts. With an abundance of eateries and wine experiences, Mclaren Vale is the perfect way to end your journey!
This road trip takes the interior route from the Grampians through to Adelaide, however it’s possible to continue your journey along the Southern Ocean Drive, which continues past the Great Ocean Road. This fantastic post shows you all the best stops along the Southern Ocean Drive. If continuing along the coast I’d recommend a 5 day Great Ocean Road trip in order to see all the highlights.
Best Great Ocean Road Tours
- ONE DAY GREAT OCEAN ROAD TOUR FROM MELBOURNE
- GREAT OCEAN ROAD FROM MELBOURNE SUNSET TOUR
- 3 DAY GREAT OCEAN ROAD AND GRAMPIANS TOUR FROM MELBOURNE TO ADELAIDE
Where To Stay On The Great Ocean Road
There are a variety of places to stay along the Great Ocean Road, from camping to luxury. Most people will stop in places like Lorne, Apollo Bay and Warrnambool so I’ve compiled a list from these three towns to help plan your road trip along the Great Ocean Road.
Where To Stay In The Grampians
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