The Great Ocean Road drive is one of the most scenic drives that Australia has to offer.
Starting from Torquay, this route takes you through beautiful seaside towns and rain forests as you follow the winding road along the exquisite coastline.
The drive offers plenty of places to stop off and explore. Try out the walking trails, have a picnic by the sea, take in the scenic views, or go searching for Australian wildlife. It makes for a perfect family day out or holiday with friends.
Discover the different regions and their world class surf breaks, local food & wine, magnificent coastal walks, beautiful rainforest trails and pristine beaches.
Before you set off on your adventure though, 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.
Great Ocean Road Distance
How long is it?
The official length of the Great Ocean Road is around 243 km/ 151 miles.
It starts at the surfing town of Torquay and finishes near Warrnambool.
The Memorial Arch (you’ve probably seen photos of people standing underneath it) symbolises the start of the road. It’s definitely worth pulling over to read the history of the road as well as getting that classic holiday snap.
Did you know: The Great Ocean Road is the world’s largest war memorial, and was built by returning servicemen from World War I.
Driving from Melbourne to the Great Ocean Road – and back
How long will it take?
If you have limited time and can only do it in 1 day, then don’t stress. It can be done. Just prepare yourself for a full day with an early start and late(ish) finish.
Plan ahead and give yourself at least 1 full day.
Starting and finishing in Melbourne is how most people do the Great Ocean Road drive in 1 day.
From Melbourne to Torquay (the first town on the Great Ocean Road), it will take you about 1.5 hours.
From Torquay to Warrnambool (the last town on the Great Ocean Road), expect to spend at least 4 hours of driving which doesn’t include stops.
The total time you can expect to spend driving the Great Ocean Road and return, including stops, is at least 10 hours.
The total distance you can expect to drive is over 600 km.
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.
Best way to travel the Great Ocean Road (and save time)
Beat the traffic and see more.
If you aren’t restricted to only 1 day, give yourself at least 2 days to do the Great Ocean Road drive. There’s so much to see and do, so you don’t want to be left feeling rushed and tired at 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.
However, if you only have 1 day to work with, then here are some suggestions to save yourself time.
You will want to try and get ahead of 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 8am as most tours leave Melbourne city between 8am and 9am.
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 1 hour drive away.
Change Direction (Reverse Route) and Avoid The Crowds.
Most people start the Great Ocean Road drive from Melbourne to Torquay. This is the start of their Great Ocean Road drive. They finish at either the 12 Apostles or Warrnambool, and then drive back to Melbourne. This is the most common Great Ocean Road route.
An alternative to this driving route is that you do it in the reverse order.
Drive from Melbourne, via the Princes Highway, straight to Warrnambool (over 3 hours drive). If you don’t want to visit Warrnambool, drive from Melbourne to the 12 Apostles (over 2.5 hours).
This will start your Ocean Road drive in the opposite direction as most others, avoiding the busy traffic.
Less traffic on the road and more time to spend at stops.
You will also reach the main stops at a different time to the crowds. Less people in your 12 Apostles selfie!
One down side to this is that you will be travelling on the side of the road which isn’t on the coast side. This isn’t a big deal though as you will still have great views of the scenery either way. You also won’t be getting a sunset picture of the 12 Apostles as it will be one of your first major stops.
Reduce Your Stops
To save even more time, you can cut out Warrnambool completely from your drive.
Although i highly recommend visiting Warrnambool, you may not have the time to spend there.
A lot of people will finish the day in Warrnambool and spend the there, as it is the largest town along the Great Ocean Road. 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.
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.
Don’t have a car? You can always try public transport
Check out the Vline train & bus timetable to make your way between Geelong and Warrnambool. It will stop off at most of the popular viewing spots.
Extra things to see and do on your Great Ocean Road drive
Don’t limit your drive to only the ‘main attractions’.
If you have the time, sample the delights near Warrnambool. I highly recommended checking out Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve and Port Fairy.
Tower Hill – 15 minute drive from Warrnambool
Once in Warrnambool, it doesn’t take long to drive to Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve.
A dormant volcanic crater, Tower Hill is full of Australian wildlife (koalas, kangaroos, emus to name a few) and has 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. They’ll even show you 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 and see and experience more than most people would on their Great Ocean Road trip.
Port Fairy – 25 minute drive from Warrnambool.
Just west of Tower Hill is Port Fairy.
This is a beautiful surfing and fishing town with heritage buildings that have wonderful eateries and accommodation.
Thousands of visitors flock here for summer and for festivals during the year, including the world famous Folkie.
It has great local produce, excellent surf beaches, and play parks for the kids to burn off energy.
Portland – 1 hour drive from Warrnambool
For those wanting to drive a bit further west, there’s the historic harbour settlement of Portland which you can visit.
Related article: What should you not miss on the Great Ocean Road?