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Adelaide to Melbourne 3-Night Self-Drive Itinerary for the Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road (GOR) is one of Australia’s top road trip destinations, and in this post, I will be taking you along the route I drove from Adelaide to Melbourne along the Western Highway. On my road trip, I chose to stay for three nights along the Great Ocean Road in three different towns to get a real feel for the coastal area in Victoria.

Visitors typically visit the Great Ocean Road on a day trip from Melbourne to see the most popular attraction, the iconic Twelve Apostles, in Port Campbell National Park.

A day trip from Melbourne is perfect if you are short on time and only want a whistle-stop tour along this famous Australian coastline. However, as part of my 6-week holiday to Australia, I travelled slowly along the Great Ocean Road (and in reverse, having spent the previous five nights in Adelaide), giving me plenty of time to see some of the best attractions along Australia’s East Coast. And guess what? I found some great ones!

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Twelve Apostles – Port Campbell National Park

Driving in Australia

From my experience, if you have a driver’s license, I would most definitely recommend renting a car to travel around Australia.

While there are a few options for public transport, they can be hard to navigate due to the size of Australia, and hours spent on a coach tour might not suit the more free-spirited traveller. The freedom of the open road allows you to see the country at your own pace making your trip around Australia a genuinely unforgettable experience.

Luckily for me, the Australians, like the British, drive on the left-hand side, so I felt confident on the roads. Based on my overall experience of driving in Australia, the roads are wide and not as busy as in the UK.

The Great Ocean Road is a bit different as it has winding roads and single-lane traffic; however, there are plenty of pull-ins at the side of the road (which I used a lot) that give other drivers the chance to pass you safely if they are travelling faster than you wish to go.

Don’t be tempted to drive faster than the speed limits (which change quickly along the route). There are hefty fines for speeding in Australia.

I recommend booking a hire car before arriving at your pick-up destination to get your perfect choice of vehicle. We booked our car from Europcar in Adelaide and found everything to run smoothly. We dropped the car back at the Europcar depot in central Melbourne.

Remember that if you are only planning on driving one way – From Adelaide to Melbourne, or Melbourne to Adelaide – you won’t be able to return your hire car to its point of origin, which may mean an increased cost for a one-way rental.

Driving Directions From Adelaide To The Great Ocean Road

The whopping 955km Adelaide via the GOR to Melbourne route I took is not the familiar driving route that visitors take to get to the Great Ocean Road. Still, for me, it was the perfect way to immerse myself in the Victoria region of Australia.

Officially the start of the Great Ocean Road is in Torquay (an hour’s drive from Melbourne) and finishes at Allansford – a total of just 240 km. My drive from Adelaide to Allansford (which marked the official start of the Great Ocean Road for me) was quite a bit longer, at 690 km.

This road trip was longer than any journey I’ve ever driven in the UK, but we were rewarded with incredible scenery as we passed through the open bush and some of Australia’s coastal towns.

It is a long drive through bush and small towns with not a glimpse of the famous Great Ocean Road coastline for what seems like an eternity; nevertheless, it is worth the wait.

In reality, with continual driving from Adelaide, you will reach the beginning of the Great Ocean Road in eight hours. Be prepared for a drive of that length with a full tank of petrol and plenty of snacks and drinks as petrol stations and shops are few and far between one another. We found that water, chocolate and a bag of fruit gums kept us going for hours!

Make sure to take a few breaks along the route. Tailem Bend and Robe were two towns we visited for food, coffee and convenience stops!

What is the Great Ocean Road?

This famous Australian stretch of road measures 243 metres and winds through forests, along the coast and past rural towns in Victoria. Built by over 3000 veterans and volunteers between 1919 and 1932, it is dedicated to soldiers killed during World War I.

The Great Ocean Road is the world’s largest war memorial, with The Twelve Apostles National Park being its main tourist attraction and one of the Great Ocean Road landmarks we were most looking forward to seeing.

Places to stop for the night between Adelaide and Melbourne

Port Fairy – Apollo Bay – Lorne

One of the biggest hurdles when planning my 3-night itinerary for my Great Ocean Road trip was finding decent places to stop for the night after leaving Adelaide. I had to allow for distances and driving times, and although there are several port towns on the route, none worked for us.

I wasn’t looking for luxury hotels, but at the same time, I didn’t want to stay in someone’s back garden in a caravan! And to be honest, finding nice accommodation along the route was a bit of a task.

Nevertheless, I found three places to stay in the towns of Port Fairy, Apollo Bay and Lorne, which all turned out to be perfect for my short visit. Sadly since the pandemic, they have all ceased trading; however, I have given links below to alternative accommodation options in each area where I stayed.

My advice is to book your accommodation before you arrive along the Great Ocean Road as it is a very popular part of Australia and good places are in high demand throughout the year.

Accommodation Along the Great Ocean Road

Where to Stay in Port Fairy

Port Fairy properties on Booking.com range from cute cottages to harbour-view houses.

Where to Stay in Apollo Bay

Apollo Bay properties on Booking.com include sea-view houses perched directly on the Great Ocean Road.

Where to Stay in Lorne

Lorne properties on Booking.com range from heritage hotels to local B and B’s.

coastal view along the Great Ocean Road

3-Night Great Ocean Road Trip Itinerary

Day One – Drive from Adelaide to Port Fairy
Driving Time From Adelaide to Port Fairy, including two short stops – 8 hours

Take the A1 motorway from Adelaide to Port Fairy

Morning Activities

The Start of Our Great Ocean Road Self-Drive Adventure

After picking up our Kia rental car, we started our journey to the Great Ocean Road and stopped at Subway in Tailem Bend after an hour of driving. It’s not the typical type of food I would buy, but it filled us up and was in a lovely setting next to a river.

We fuelled up and continued driving for two and a half hours to our second stop, the seaside town of Robe.

Afternoon Activities

Robe

The town of Robe had a lovely vibe with a cute main street with plenty of cafes, coffee shops and independent stores. It felt good to get out of the car for a while and stretch our legs with a wander along the sandy beach.

We would have loved to spend more time in Robe but had a goal of reaching Port Fairy by nightfall. However, I would recommend an overnight stay in Robe if time permits on your Australian travel itinerary.

The next leg of our drive from Robe to Port Fairy took four hours, and we arrived after dark. In Australia, driving times can take longer than expected due to constant changes in legal road speeds and also, for us, what seemed like never-ending road works!

Evening Activities

Overnight Stop in Port Fairy

We arrived in Port Fairy just after 9 pm, and unfortunately, all the restaurants had just shut. We hadn’t factored into the itinerary that small coastal towns go to bed early.

Because of this, we had to make do with two bags of crisps, a soggy cheese sandwich and a packet of Tim Tam biscuits from the town garage, which was not what we expected to eat on the first night of our Great Ocean Road Adventure!

Night time street view of Port Fairy
Port Fairy Main Street at Night

Needless to say, after such a long drive, even a soggy cheese sandwich tasted good, and then we were ready for a good night’s sleep in preparation for another full day tomorrow.

Find Your Accommodation in Port Fairy here.

Day Two – Drive from Port Fairy to Apollo Bay
Driving Time From Port Fairy to Apollo Bay – 2 hours 30 minutes

Take the A1 motorway from Port Fairy, changing to the B100 from Allansford

Morning Activities

Exploring Port Fairy

I’m glad to say the following day, we could fill up on breakfast at Le Crepe Man of Belfast and explore Port Fairy with full tummies.

After our breakfast, we only had a few hours before we needed to continue our drive to Apollo Bay, so we wandered around Port Fairy, looking at the quaint pastel-coloured clapperboard cottages before heading to the harbour for a walk to the lighthouse.

Port Fairy is a sleepy coastal town with plenty of charm, making it feel like it has been left alone by commercialism. It is the perfect place to stop for a night en route from Adelaide to the Great Ocean Road.

Port Fairy Harbour
Port Fairy Harbour

Afternoon Activities

Visiting the Twelve Apostles

By late afternoon we reached Allansford and were pleased to finally be on the official Great Ocean Road.

The Great Ocean Road Sign

One problem was that it had started raining, and by the time we reached Port Campbell National Park and the Twelve Apostles, it was blowing a gale. It was not the sunny image of the rocks and sea we had seen on tourism posters; nevertheless, we were excited to see one of Australia’s most famous landmarks.

Black Slate sign saying Twelve Apostles
Rock Stacks in Port Campbell National Park Australia
Twelve Apostles

We donned our waterproof coats and pushed against the wind to make our way to view the iconic Twelve Apostles; rock formations so called as they rise proud and tall from the ocean. Only seven limestone stacks are now standing due to erosion of the other five. They still make an impressive sight and one I am pleased we could tick off our Australia must-see bucket list.

The Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road
Loch Ard Gorge

On a good day, it is possible to take the Gibsons Steps trail down to the beach and stand at floor level with the apostles. Sadly there was no way this was happening on our visit, so we drove a little further along to see Loch Ard Gorge and London Bridge, two other popular attractions in Port Campbell National Park.

Loch Ard Gorge Rock Formation on the Great Ocean Road
Shipwreck Coast

Loch Ard Gorge is named after a ship wrecked in these waters in 1878. She is one of over 700 shipwrecks that lay on the seabed around these waters; a testament to how treacherous these southern Australian waters can be.

view of a beach and rock formations along the Great Ocean Road

London Bridge is another rock formation that can be seen from a viewpoint not far from the car park; however, it is definitely nothing like the London Bridge I know back home!

Cliffs
Traffic along this stretch of the Great Ocean Road is hectic, with coaches, cars and motorbikes all vying for a parking spot. There is a huge car park at the Twelve Apostles, but vehicles spill out onto the roadside once it’s full, making driving a little hazardous, so please be careful.

Ocean view with rock stack

Back in the car, we headed for our next port of call – Apollo Bay. On the drive, we passed by the Great Otway National Park and decided to come back and explore it the next day. For now, we were ready to find our accommodation, put some dry clothes on and head into town to look around.

Evening Activities

Exploring Apollo Bay

Apollo Bay is probably the best town to stop at, along the Great Ocean Road and a perfect place to stay over. The main strip of shops is bursting with lively restaurants, boutique shops, and cosy cafes, and it has a beautiful golden beach perfect for surfing.

Beach and ocean at Apollo Bay

Luckily for us, the sun had come out by early evening, and we had time to stroll along the beach before enjoying a meal of freshly caught fish. After dinner, we headed back to our accommodation to plan the next day’s activities.

Find Your Accommodation in Apollo Bay here.

Day Three – Drive from Apollo Bay to Lorne
Driving Time From Apollo Bay to Lorne – 1 hour

Take the B100 from Port Fairy

Morning Activities

Great Otway National Park

After a hearty breakfast at our guest house, we were back on the road, and within 15 minutes, we arrived at our destination.

Great Otway is a stunning temperate rainforest full of cascading waterfalls, forest walking trails, indigenous wildlife and masses of plant life.

A forest alive with hidden wonders, ancient giants and carnivorous snails that has changed little since the time of the dinosaurs

Victoria Parks
Maits Rainforest Walk

The Maits Rest Rainforest Walk is a must-see in the Cape Otway region.

The 800m loop walk along a well-made easy path takes around 30 minutes and passes through lush vegetation and 300-year-old beech trees, and towering tree ferns. It was magical wandering through the Great Otway forest, to smell the scent of the recent rainfall in the air and see the steam rising from the forest floor in the morning sun.

Signs warning us to be vigilant of snakes were all around. Sadly we didn’t see any (because we love reptiles and would have liked to!). However, I did stand on a twig that kicked up against my calf and made me scream out loud, thinking a snake had bitten me! It hadn’t, but my antics were indeed entertainment for my son!

Triplet Falls

I love seeing a waterfall, and I was in my element with many to choose from in the Great Otway National Park. As time was a factor in how long we stayed in the area, we decided to see one of the Great Ocean Road’s most famous waterfalls.

Triplet Falls is a fabulous cascading three-ridge waterfall worth the 30-minute walk from the car park. I’m not going to lie when I say the forest’s humidity gets to you (even though it is a cold temperate rainforest), so set out early in the morning to avoid it getting uncomfortable on your walk.

The Otway Fly

Our favourite activity in the national park was the Otway Fly, a 600-metre-long treetop walk that stretches 25 metres above the rainforest canopy. It was a fantastic experience to be so high up off the ground and to have a bird’s eye view of the treetops. It reminded us of the Habitat Walk we had done a few weeks earlier in Penang.

Along the Treetop Walk is the 45-metre Spiral Tower, which you can climb for the ultimate forest view. It is included in the Treetop Walk ticket.

There is also a ziplining tour of the forest for the more adventurous. We saw the zipline in action during our treetop walk; it sounded like a lot of fun going by the screams and laughter from those whizzing through the trees.

Cape Otway Lightstation

Cape Otway Lightstation is a short drive away from the rainforest and is the oldest surviving lighthouse on mainland Australia. It has stunning views of the Bass Strait and, between May and October, is the place to whale watch. Annually, 25 species of whales migrate past the Lighthouse, including Southern Right Whales, Humpback Whales, Blue Whales and Killer Whales (Orcas).

Otway Lighthouse

Our visit in February was the wrong season for whale watching; however, we still had a great time there. After climbing to the top of the lighthouse for 360-degree views, we enjoyed homemade scones with jam and cream washed down with a cup of tea in the Lightkeeper’s Cafe.

We then went for a walk around the site to see some other attractions and more of the beautiful coastal views. We visited the Telegraph Station, which we found interesting as we had recently visited the one in Alice Springs during our train journey on The Ghan from Darwin to Adelaide.

Afternoon Activities

Kennett River

Since visiting Kangaroo Island, I have had a soft spot for koalas, so I had to add a stop at Kennett River to my Great Ocean Road itinerary.

view of the Great Ocean Road from a hilltop at Kennets River
View of the Great Ocean Road from Kennett River

This small hamlet is located just off the Great Ocean Road, and we had heard it was swarming with both colourful birds and snoozing koalas – and it was!

Just a stone’s throw from the Kafe Koala car park, we saw our first koala, asleep in the fronds of a eucalyptus tree overhanging the pathway. My photograph shows that koalas seem to choose the most uncomfortable-looking spots to nap.

The coastal view from Kennett River is stunning, and as we walked further up the hill, we spotted another three koalas and lots of beautifully coloured birds. So if you are looking for Australia’s favourite marsupial, this is the place to visit.

Directions: Turn off the Great Ocean Road into Hawdon Avenue, then immediately turn into Grey River Road. You will arrive at Kafe Koala, the start of the koala walk.

Evening Activities

Arriving in Lorne

Lorne is a popular coastal town along the Great Ocean Road and was our last overnight stop before reaching Melbourne.

When we arrived, we were pretty tired from having such a fun-filled day, so we just took a stroll to the pier to enjoy the ocean views and catch some sunset images.

Day Four – Drive from Lorne to Melbourne
Driving Time From Lorne to Melbourne – 2 hours

Take the B100 from Lorne, change to C134 at Bell Bray and continue onto M1 at Waurn Ponds changing to the M2 at Bolte Bridge into Melbourne.

Morning Activities

Teddy’s Lookout

The following morning we decided to check out a couple of Lorne’s tourist attractions.

We had heard a lot about Teddy’s Lookout when researching things to do in Lorne, so we decided to take a look for ourselves.

Teddy’s Lookout is a scenic viewpoint on high ground in Lorne and worth a visit for the sweeping coastal view of the Great Ocean Road and the Bass Strait. There is a large car park and pathway through trees and shrubs, which ends with the most amazing views.

Teddy’s Lookout is another great place along the Great Ocean Road for whale watching in the right season.

View of the Bass Strait from Teddy's Lookout in Lorne
View of the Great Ocean Road from Teddy’s Lookout

There are also several nearby walking trails, including Shipwreck Trail, Ocean Walk and Tram Track Walk. We didn’t have time to do any of them as we had to get to Melbourne to drop off our hire car, but if we had, it would have been lovely to explore them.

We never did find out why this particular viewpoint is called Teddy’s Lookout. However, several local stories say it is named after a donkey called Teddy who roamed these parts or after Edward (Teddy), who was Queen Victoria’s son!

Erskine Falls

Our next attraction to see in Lorne was Erskine Falls (remember I mentioned I love a waterfall). Surrounded by an ancient forest, lush trees, and ferns, the falls are pretty magical and one of the highest waterfalls in Victoria. The falls were a 30-minute drive inland from Teddy’s Lookout and one of the quieter sights along the Great Ocean Road.

From the car park, Erskine Falls are a five-minute walk. You can spot the falls cascading 30 metres into a beautiful tree fern gully from the viewpoint, but we took the 240 steps down to the Erskine River to view the waterfall from ground level. On a humid day, the going is tough on the legs, but the reward is the cooling mist that cascades over you as the water crashes into the gully.

See the Famous Great Ocean Road Sign

Don’t miss catching an image of the GOR Memorial Archway as you pass through the town of Aireys Inlet. This sign greets visitors to the GOR who are coming from Melbourne, but for us, it marked the end of a fabulous 3-nights along this remarkable stretch of coast.

The memorial archway is one of the most photographed spots along the Great Ocean Road. You can stop by the roadside and read the plaque to learn how and why the road was constructed.

Great Ocean Road Memorial Plaque

Afternoon Activities

Arriving in Melbourne

After a two-hour drive from Teddy’s Lookout, we arrived for our two-night stay in Melbourne on the next leg of our Australian adventure.

We thoroughly enjoyed our self-drive road trip along Australia’s most famous road. After dropping off the hire car and checking into our accommodation, we headed straight out to explore the sights of Melbourne, including the city’s street art and cafe culture, the Shrine of Remembrance and the Yarra River.

Melbourne buildings along the Yarra River
Melbourne CBD and the Yarra River

Great Ocean Road Day Tour from Melbourne

If you have enjoyed reading this post but haven’t got a car or maybe don’t want to drive, then there are plenty of guided tours from Melbourne to see the Great Ocean Road sights.

There are no day tours from Adelaide because, as you would have learned from this post, it is too far away and, therefore, not feasible.

Please PIN for future travel to Australia.

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Erin

Wednesday 28th of September 2022

Wow what amazing views from one road trip, and so many waterfalls! Looks like a great itinerary!

Samantha

Tuesday 27th of September 2022

This is SUCH a dream road trip!! Flagging for my trip next year :)

Erika

Monday 26th of September 2022

That's too bad you had a few soggy days on your Great Ocean Road itinerary, but the views you encountered still look so beautiful! I'd love to see koalas in the wild too, I've added Kennett River to my list! :)

WhereAngieWanders

Tuesday 27th of September 2022

Seeing the koala was definitely a highlight for me!

simplyjolayne

Monday 26th of September 2022

I would love to see the 12 Apostles and any of the other amazing rock formations along the coast.

Shannon

Monday 26th of September 2022

Wow- the Australian coastline looks so stunning. I hope to visit soon!