Loch Ard Gorge

Great Ocean Road

Recognised as one of the world s most scenic drives, the Great Ocean Road follows the stunning coastline of Victoria s south-west. Stretching from Torquay, just south of Geelong, to Allansford, east of Warrnambool, the road winds along cliff tops beside breathtaking headlands, down onto the edge of beaches, across river estuaries and through rainforests, offering ever-changing panoramic views of Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean.

Location: south-east coast of Victoria between Torquay and Warrnambool

Length: 242 km. Minimum duration (one way): 1 day in each direction

Suggested return journey: Warrnambool to Melbourne via Camperdown and Colac, or proceed to Adelaide via Limestone Coast

What You Will See: Most travellers on the Great Ocean Road begin their journey in Melbourne, exiting the city via the West Gate Bridge and Princes Highway. On the way you pass Werribee (historic mansion; open range zoo), Geelong (colonial city on Corio Bay), the Bellarine Peninsula and the historic villages of Queenscliff (wild dolphin viewing); Portarlington; Barwon Heads; historic forts and lighthouses; tourist steam railway; wine region; one of Australia's best golf courses (Barwon Heads); the Surf Coast (surf beaches of Torquay, Anglesea, Jan Juc, Bells Beach; skydiving; snorkelling; scuba diving; ocean fishing).

The ever changing landscape: as the cliffs and islands of the Shipwreck Coast consist of relatively fragile sandstone, they are constantly being eroded by the wind and waves which have pounded the coast for centuries. The Twelve Apostles, the most well known feature on this coastal strip, is a point in case. Though it is doubtful there were actually twelve stacks standing when the feature was named in the 19th century, there are certainly not that many standing now. The last one to fall collapsed on 8th July 2005. Three witnesses saw the 45-metre structure shudder, then implode on itself before collapsing into the water. A sister stack, part of the Three Sisters close to the Twelve Apostles, collapsed in September 2009.

Island Arch is now called Island Stack after the central arch collapsed overnight on 11th June 2009. London Arch was once called London Bridge, back when visitors were able to walk (and at one stage drive) across the eastern span that once connected it to the mainland. The span collapsed on 15th January 1990, leaving two tourists stranded on the outer part until they were rescued by a helicopter. No one was injured in the event.

Between Torquay and Cape Otway are the seaside towns of Lorne and Opollo Bay; surf beaches; ocean fishing spots; rocky headlands ideal for beachcombing; inland national parks with rainforests, bushwalking tracks, waterfalls and wildlife. Beyond Cape Otway (historic lighthouse; Platypus Tours at Lake Elizabeth; Glow Worms at Melba Gully; horseriding, mountain biking and bushwalking in Cape Otway NP.) are the famous scenic coastal features of Port Campbell National Park (The 12 Apostles; Loch Ard Gorge; Natural Bridge; London Arch; The Grotto; Bay of Islands etc.); the fishing village of Port Campbell; hamlet of Kennett River (view koalas in the wild); City of Warrnambool (maritime museum; whale watching platform at Logans Beach).

Teddy's Lookout: a walkway takes you to a viewing platform where you have breath taking, sweeping, coastal views of the surf breaking into the mouth of the Saint George River. On the lower platform, the view change to mountainous peaks and the Saint George River winding through fern covered valleys and gorges. A truly worthwhile spot for scenic views not far from Lorne.

Gibson Steps beach

Gibson Steps: this stairway's 86 steps provide one of the few access points to a beach along this cliff-dominated section of coast. The beach is backed by a 20 to 30 m high, sheer limestone cliff. Next to the cliff-top car park, steps were cut by an early fisherman into the soft limestone to provide access to Gibson's Beach. The two limestone stacks towards the western end of the beach - Gog and Magog - are also visible from the southernmost 12 Apostles viewing platform. Tide and ocean condition permitting, walks are possible to the east and west of the steps.

The Twelve Apostles: It is the sheer scale of the offshore stacks that make them the most photographed features on the Australian coastline. Dusk and dawn provide the best viewing opportunities. Penguins are often seen from the cliff top viewing area about 15 - 20 minutes after sunset. Location: 6km west of Princetown.

London Arch: has upper western and lower eastern viewing platforms to take in the sweeping vistas. Once called London Bridge, visitors were once able to walk (and at one stage drive) across the eastern span that once connected it to the mainland, but the span collapsed in January 1990, leaving two people stranded. London Arch is one of two points in the National Park where visitors can observe little penguins returning to shore. The population of 80 - 100 birds is significantly smaller than at the 12 Apostles but the viewing platforms are closer to the birds. Location: 7km west of Port Campbell.

Childers Cove, Sandy Cove and Murnanes Bay: offer wonderful seascapes and an impression of relative isolation even in peak times. Visitors allowing extra time will be duly rewarded for taking the time to follow signs off the Ocean Road at Nirranda South and at Nullawarre if approaching from Warrnambool and the west. Location: 19km west of Peterborough, turn off Great Ocean Road at Nirranda South.

Bay of Islands: the pale limestone of this section of coast reflects a different quality of light and offers superior photographic opportunity in overcast conditions. Highly underrated. Location: 4km west of Peterborough.

Loch Ard Gorge: offshore stacks, blowholes and the indescribable beauty of formations like the razorback and island arch make this precinct the one with the lot. There is a map of the whole precinct viewable from the main car park. Visitors should allow 2 - 3 hours and be aware that there are 3 separate car parks. An array of artifacts from the Loch Ard, which came to grief here in 1878, and other local wrecks are on display at the Port Campbell Visitor Information Centre 12 km west of the site. Visitors arriving from the west can also pick up Port Campbell National Park and Loch Ard trail maps from the centre. Location: 8km west of Port Campbell.

The Arch: often spectacular in the afternoon when the formations to the east are bathed in a warm golden light. The walkway descending down to the platform offers an unusual perspective back towards the 12 Apostles. The more famous stacks can be viewed standing boldly against the cliff line they were carved from. The Arch perches precariously on a harder rock platform. In large swells its formation becomes more evident as waves mount the platform, thick heavy tomes gliding sleekly through the opening and cascading out the other side. Location: 6km west of Port Campbell.

Gables Lookout: the Gables Lookout perches above some of the tallest coastal cliffs in Australia. The trail from the car park snakes through a dense copse of sheoak to the lookout. Panoramas east and west along the coast are offered when you emerge from the shelter of the forest. Location: 20.5km east of Princetown. Turn off the Great Ocean Road 16km east of Princetown (signed Moonlight head).

The Grotto

The Grotto: many a visitor holds a special memory of their visit to the Grotto. Spray from waves can cast a fine mist over the low viewing area; sunshine does the rest filling the air with rainbow delights. The still, clear water in the open cave casts reflections in contrast to the dynamic moving water of the ocean directly behind it. Location: 3km east of Peterborough.

For travellers who continue following the coast towards the South Australian border, beyond Warrnambool and the Great Ocean Road are Port Fairy (historic fishing village; boutique, antique, art and craft shops); Lady Percy Island; the city of Portland (Victoria's oldest settlement); Cape Bridgewater (photo right - scenic coastline; fairy penguin rookeries and seal colonies); Tower Hill State Game Reserve; Lower Glenelg NP (Princess Margaret Rose Cave). Over the South Australian border are the towns of Mt. Gambier (crater lakes; picturesque sink holes), Port Macdonnell (coastal scenery), Penola (Coonawarra wine region), Millicent and Robe. Adelaide is a half day's drive away.

Allow a minimum of 2 days if you intend to drive from Melbourne to Adelaide via the Great Ocean Road.

Returning from Warrnambool to Melbourne via the Princes Highway, this inland route takes in the towns of Terang, Camperdown (lakes; volcano craters), Colac, Winchelsea and Geelong. If you have the time and wish to include other parts of western Victoria in your journey, head north from Warrnambool to Ararat, which makes a good base from which to explore the surrounding region.

Close by are The Grampians National Park; the Pyrenees wine region; the village of Great Western (historic wine cellars) on the way to Stawell. Return to Melbourne via Beaufort, the historic mining city of Ballarat and Baccus Marsh. Allow a minimum of 4 days for the round trip.

The Twelve Apostles

Loch Ard Gorge and Island Arch

The Grotto

Gibsons Beach

Great Ocean Road near Lorne