Driving the Great Ocean Road with 1 night in Port Campbell

In case you missed it, we are in the middle of a series about the 3 weeks we spent in Australia and Asia this summer. Follow the links below to catch up:

One of the things I was most excited for during our Australia trip was driving the Great Ocean Road and seeing the phenomenal natural wonders. The interesting and unique rock formations were something that I had seen photographs of for years and could not wait to see in person. They exceeded all expectations and I honestly don’t know if I have ever been anywhere quite as stunning. Many people spend several days or even weeks driving the Great Ocean Road. If you have the time, I would definitely spend a weekend exploring the area at a relaxed pace and visiting some of the towns in the area. We only had 2 days and 1 night, but felt that we had time to see everything that we wanted to.


We drove from Melbourne to Geelong and then through the surf capital of Torquay down to the Great Ocean Road. (See the map below or follow most of the day 1 and 2 itinerary shown here).

GOR map via atn.com.au
via atn.com.au

One of the most beautiful parts of the drive was the 30 kilometers from Anglesea to Lorne where there were never-ending stunning views. It seemed that the best view was around every turn so needless to say, we stopped frequently to enjoy the view and take photos.FullSizeRender

One of the many views along the drive
One of the many views along the drive

We stopped in Aireys Inlet and hiked to the Split Point lighthouse with beautiful ocean views.IMG_5113

Around Kennett River, we were able to see koalas in trees right along the road as well as local birds like the kookaburra.IMG_5130


We ended our day with the beautiful 12 Apostles near Port Campbell. You have probably seen the 12 Apostles in photos, but take my word that no photo does justice to the real thing. We had crazy weather while we were visiting the area (a constant rotation of rain, clouds, bright sun, and mist), but it made for some incredible photos. If the weather and tide permits, walk down the Gibson steps to see the limestone rocks from a different perspective.



We also stopped at the Loch Ard Gorge. The area features 3 short hikes with interpretive signs along the path. Along the trails, you can view muttonbird and take stairs down to the gorge, where you can see the site of the Loch Ard shipwreck, which occurred in 1878 and left only 2 survivors. Many are buried in a cemetery along one of the trails.




Cemetery of some of those who were killed in the shipwreck of the Loch Ard          Cemetery of some of those who were killed in the shipwreck of the Loch Ard

The next morning, we traveled a farther west from Port Campbell to stop at the London Arch, Grotto, Bay of Martyrs, and Bay of Islands in Port Campbell National Park before driving back to Melbourne.

London Arch, which was formerly connected in one structure until 1990 when tourists were stranded on the newly created island.
London Arch, which was formerly connected in one structure until 1990 when tourists were stranded on the newly created island.


The Grotto
At the Bay of Martyrs


If it is in your budget and the weather is clear, a helicopter ride would be a spectacular way to get a birds-eye view of the coastline. Unfortunately, the weather did not work out for us to do that, but I would love to take a helicopter journey on a return trip one day.

I cannot overstate how gorgeous this area of Australia is. The rock formations formed over tens of millions of year from constant erosion from the Southern Ocean and winds against the limestone cliffs. What is left is a fascinating system of arches, caves, and rock stacks that defy logic.


Where to stay: We stayed in Port Campbell, which was a convenient location for us to spend the night after a long day of driving. Because of its proximity to Port Campbell National Park, we were able to access viewpoints until it got dark and continue our journey first thing in the morning. There are several small inns in Port Campbell, but I would recommend booking as early as possible to beat the tour groups that frequently stay in Port Campbell. Alternatively, if you are continuing with a longer itinerary, Port Fairy is a more accurate halfway point to spend the night.

Where to eat:

If you spend the night in Port Campbell, make sure to eat dinner at Nico’s Pizza and Pasta. Arguably the town favorite, Nico’s has delicious pizza featuring unique ingredient combinations inspired by Persian, Indian, Italian, and coastal cuisine. Nico’s also offers pasta and a great selection of wine and beer. The atmosphere is casual and perfect for a relaxing meal after a day of sightseeing and hiking. To cap off your meal, Nico’s offers a full gelato bar. What to order: Persian pizza, Tandoori chicken pizza.

If you have the time and are into foodie activities, locals gave rave reviews of the chef’s table at Brae. Brae has an on-site organic vegetable and fruit garden and sources from local and sustainable farms. The menu changes daily and focuses on seasonal ingredients. Cost is $190AUD per person with an additional charge of $125 per person for wine pairings. Steep, but apparently an unforgettable culinary experience.

Thanks for reading! Join me next time as we move north. I will be talking about our time in Port Douglas and the Great Barrier Reef, one of my favorite parts of our Australia trip.

Eat at Nico’s Pizza and Pasta, 25 Lord St, Port Campbell VIC 3269


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