Get to know and experience one of Australia’s most scenic drives.

Great Ocean Road Drive

The Great Ocean Road is Victoria’s and Australia’s scenic routes. The road is 243 kilometres along the coastline with remarkable views, beaches, coastal towns, and attractions.

About an hour from Melbourne City is Torquay, where the Great Ocean Road starts. From Torquay, this route takes you through beautiful seaside towns and rainforests.

The drive offers plenty of places to stop off and explore. Try out the walking trails, have a picnic by the ocean, take in the scenic views, or go searching for the Aussie wildlife. It makes for a perfect family day out or holiday with friends.

Before you set off on your adventure, you should know how long the road is and how long it takes to drive. This will help you make the most of your time so you can see the things that matter to you.

See our guide and tips below to help you plan your Great Ocean Road drive.

How long is the Great Ocean Road?

Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch
The official length of the Great Ocean Road is around 243 kilometres. The road starts from the surfing town of Torquay and finishes up near Warrnambool.

When you see Memorial Arch sitting above the road, this symbolises the start of the Great Ocean Road. We recommend pulling over to grab a photo underneath the arch and to read the history of the road.

Did you know: The Great Ocean Road is the world’s largest war memorial, and was built by returning servicemen from World War I.

How long will it take from Melbourne to the Great Ocean Road and back?

If you have limited time and can only do it in one day, then don’t stress because it can be done. All you need to do is prepare for a full jam packed day with an early start and a late finish.

Driving in one day

Great Ocean Road Bend

When you plan ahead, give yourself at least one full day, and maybe one day off the next day to recover! The night before your travel, get an early sleep and have everything you need packed and ready.

Starting and finishing in Melbourne is how most people do the Great Ocean Road drive in one day. From Melbourne to Torquay (the first town on the Great Ocean Road), it will take you about an hour.

Then from Torquay to Warrnambool (the last town on the Great Ocean Road), expect to spend at least four hours of driving (without stops). But of course, you will want to stop for some sightseeing, to stretch your legs, and grab a bite to eat.

With that in mind, the total time you can expect to spend driving the Great Ocean Road and return, including stops, is at least 10 hours. In total, you can expect to drive over 600 kilometres in one day!

Tip: Beat the tour buses to avoid the traffic and crowds. Most tour buses will leave between 8am and 9am, so try and leave before then.

Driving across two or more days

Otways National Park
If you’re not restricted to the one day, it’s best to at least give yourself two days to travel along the Great Ocean Road. Even better if you can spend longer travelling! With there being so much to do and see, you don’t want to feel rushed or even feel too tired by the end of your trip.

Don’t want to drive but still want to see the Great Ocean Road? Check out our Great Ocean Road tours.

Suggestions to save yourself time

Busy Traffic Near 12 Apostles
However, if you do only have one day to spare, or you just want to save yourself time in general, here are some suggestions!

• Leave early in the morning
You will want to try and get ahead of traffic and as many tour buses as you can.

Getting stuck behind tour buses will add to your travel time. They will also add to the crowds at every one of your stops, so you want to beat them if you can. To do this, leave Melbourne before 8 AM as most tours leave Melbourne City between 8 AM and 9 AM.

Tip: If you’re hungry on the drive back to Melbourne, stop at Colac for food. It has the most food options before Geelong, which is a further one-hour drive away.

• Avoid the crowds and change direction (reverse route)
As expected, the most common route to start the Ocean Road drive is from Melbourne to Torquay. Then the route will finish up at either the Twelve Apostles or Warrnambool before driving back to Melbourne.

An alternative to this driving route is that you do it in the reverse order. So, you drive over three hours from Melbourne, via the Princes Highway, straight to Warrnambool. If you don’t want to visit Warrnambool, drive from Melbourne to the Twelve Apostles (around an hour and a half).

When doing the reverse route, you will avoid most of the busy traffic and crowds that come with the tour buses. This means there’ll be fewer people at the main attractions, including getting a great selfie with the Twelve Apostles!

One of the downsides to this route is you’ll travel on the side of the road without the coastline. Though you do still have great views of the scenery either way! It does also mean you miss your chance to get a gorgeous sunset picture at the Twelve Apostles.

• Have fewer stops
To save even more time, you can cut out a few attractions or towns completely from your drive. A common town people cut out from the drive is Warrnambool, though we highly recommend still visiting if you can. People do tend to finish off their day at Warrnambool and have some dinner before heading back to Melbourne. But you may not have that luxury of time.

If that is the case, you can head straight back to Melbourne after seeing the famous sites such as the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, London Bridge and The Grotto. These attractions are right towards the end. The drive home will take you inland on country roads (be careful of any cattle or wildlife on the roads) before you hit the highway back to Melbourne.

Extra things to see and do on your Great Ocean Road drive

If you have the time, check out a few places near Warrnambool and don’t just visit the main attractions.

Tower Hill
Tower Hill
Once in Warrnambool, it is a 15-minute drive to Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve. But what’s Tower Hill? It is a dormant volcanic crater and is full of Australian wildlife like koalas, kangaroos, and emus, with lush wetlands and bush.

It has some of the best park guides in the area to teach you about the history of the volcano as well as local Aboriginal history. You could have the chance to be shown how to throw a Boomerang and spear!

This is a stop that not a lot of tourists know about, so you can avoid the crowds to see and experience more than most people would on their Great Ocean Road trip.

Port Fairy
Just west of Tower Hill is Port Fairy, about a 25-minute drive from Warrnambool. This is a beautiful surfing and fishing town with heritage buildings. If you can, this is a great town to spend the night in for the wonderful eateries and accommodation.

Thousands of visitors flock here for summer and for festivals during the year, including the world-famous Folkie.

The town has great local produce, excellent surf beaches, and play parks for the kids to burn off energy.

For those wanting to drive a bit further west, there’s the historic harbour settlement of Portland which you can visit. It will take around about an hour’s drive from Warrnambool and we think it’s worth checking out if you can.

What if I don’t have a car?

Great Ocean Road Drive

If you don’t have a car, you can always try public transport, hike, or book a guided tour.

• Public transport
Check out the V/Line train and bus timetable to make your way between Geelong and Warrnambool. It will stop off at most of the popular viewing spots. To see the rest of the Great Ocean Road, it does require a lot of planning and can get frustrating to organise due to the lack of public transport.

• Great Ocean Road Walk
The Great Ocean Walk starts from Apollo Bay and finishes up at the iconic Twelve Apostles. The hike will take you around eight days to complete. The walk is tough but you walk through incredible landscapes and is a once in a lifetime experience.

• Book a guided tour
There are plenty of tours that take you along the Great Ocean Road, allowing you to experience the coastline views, beaches, towns, and much more. There are multiple tours to pick from including a one-day tour or a two-day tour.

Related article: What should you not miss on the Great Ocean Road?

Explore Our Great Ocean Road Tours

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward began with a passion for travel and turned it into a thriving tourism business. He co-founded Sightseeing Tours Australia after starting out as a tour guide in Melbourne. Cameron delights in helping visitors get the most from their trip to Australia. Whether he's leading tours or writing about his favourite places, Cameron loves sharing his local insight with fellow travellers.

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