Everyone knows the Great Ocean Road Drive is a must-do while in Victoria. Named among the world’s top 10 scenic drives, you will get to see famous Australian Surf Beaches, the 12 Apostles and wildlife. The end of the Great Ocean Road is about a 4-hour drive from Melbourne. Since you’re already quite far from Melbourne, why not head upwards and hit the Grampians National Park as well!
Here’s a photo overview of the itinerary:
Is this Self-drive Road Trip Itinerary for You?
Most itineraries only take you through Great Ocean Road in a day or two and back to Melbourne you go. This itinerary, however, comprises of a city tour in Melbourne and Ballarat, the Great Ocean Road drive and the Grampians.
Sounds good to you? Here’s more before you embark on this epic journey!
You will enjoy this itinerary if you like a little of each – shopping, walking in the city streets, driving along the ocean, nature and hiking. The Great Ocean Road drive will take at least 6 hours (excluding pit stops at major photo spots) mainly due to the traffic conditions caused by its sheer popularity among both locals and tourists. Fortunately, the drive is so scenic that you will think 6 hours is simply not enough.
Renting a Car in Melbourne – Pointers to Take Note
We wouldn’t recommend renting a car while you are in the city of Melbourne. The hourly parking rates are a tad expensive and the city is loaded with traffic and speed cameras. If our memory serves us right, there are speed limits on the road as low as 40 km/hr to as high as 110 km/hr. This can get extremely confusing and you, as a tourist, could easily commit a speeding infringement without even trying. So get a car only when you are ready to leave for the Great Ocean Road!
Not A Fun Fact: Here are Melbourne’s top 10 highest-earning speed camera locations. Yeah! Nah.
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Still want to drive in the city?
Waze will surely come in handy. Its community-driven GPS map can alert drivers whenever a traffic hazard is nearby. This app alone can easily get you out of traffic jams, avoid cameras and police traps. This is as good as it gets.
Next, we encourage renting from reputable car rental providers in Melbourne as it generally rents you a new car, saves you from all the paperwork and keeps the process seamless and fuss-free.
Not to mention, most cheap car rentals have hidden charges. For starters, these companies could charge their customers an exorbitant admin fee for mailing traffic offences (if any) or for returning the car after hours. Such rentals could also park their cars on the top floor of a 14-floors carpark in order to cut costs, at the expense of their customers driving all the way down or up during car pickup/return.
On a personal note, we have heard of friends who have gone for cheap car rentals which are too good to be true, only to find out their car was an unregistered vehicle during an unfortunate vehicle breakdown (which happens rather frequently with cheap rentals).
4 Days Road Trip from Melbourne – Road Trip Map
Day 1: Melbourne City Tour
Before you start the day, do stop and smell the coffee in Melbourne!
And… it’s time for what we Singaporeans love – shopping! Kickstart your trip with some shopping in DFO South Wharf.
DFO South Wharf where you can find over 120 known Australian and international brands – all up to 70% off. DFO South Wharf also has a relatively wide range of food and beverage so you’ll definitely be able to fill your tummies while shopping your hearts out.
We personally got some great buys there!
It’s now time for a city tour where you will get to see several landmark attractions in Melbourne.
Flinders Street Station is the central metropolitan train terminus of Melbourne and one of the city’s popular meeting areas. It is also the first railway station in an Australian city. If you’re in Melbourne, this attraction is hard to miss.
Flinders Street Station is responsible for two of Melbourne’s busiest pedestrian crossings, both across Flinders Street, including one of Melbourne’s few pedestrian scrambles – Australia’s very own Shibuya Crossing.
People all around the world flock to Melbourne to see their street art as Melbourne is one of the world’s great street art capitals.
You don’t have to go far to see street art in Melbourne as they are all found in the city’s laneways. The laneways are all located relatively near each other so you could walk from one to another easily.
The most popular street would be the Hosier Lane, and it’s almost impossible to get a picture without having anyone in it.
If you think one lane isn’t enough for you, you could check out Rutledge Lane, AC/DC Lane, Duckboard Place, Centre Place, Flinders Court, Union Lane and Presgrave Place. There are endless everywhere and the best part – it is free!
The State Library is a keeper of Victoria’s history – home to millions and millions of stories. It is Australia’s oldest public library and one of the very first free libraries in the world.
The Library is located at the northern centre of the Central Business District and just a 15 minutes walk away from Hosier Lane. The Library’s most iconic architectural highlight would be La Trobe’s Reading room. Here you can find people researching, studying and playing chess.
Just another 10 minutes walk away from the State Library of Victoria is a World Heritage-listed building, the Royal Exhibition Building. It was built as part of the international exhibition movement and hosted the Melbourne International Exhibition. The Centennial International Exhibition was held here in 1888 to commemorate the centenary of European settlement in Australia.
Can you imagine taking your exams in here? Yep, some students in Melbourne do get the privilege of taking their exams in a heritage-listed building. Not sure what they feel about this building though!
However, when we were there at the beginning of October 2019, it was undergoing renovation and we weren’t unable to view the whole magnificent structure but as far as we know, the renovation will be completed by 2020.
If your day is still young, you could consider checking out Queen Victoria Market, a stroll through the Botanic Gardens or continue shopping till you drop!
Otherwise, stay well-rested and look forward to the Great Ocean Road.
Day 2: Melbourne – Great Ocean Road Drive – Warrnambool
Start your day bright and early and pick up your rental car. The Great Ocean Road gets really crowded once all the tourist buses come so it’s recommended to start early.
The Great Ocean Road hugs the ocean in multiple twists and turns, giving you exceptional views of the water. It stretches 243km from Torquay to Allansford. It is situated between Melbourne and Adelaide but is a lot closer to Melbourne. If you’re planning on doing an Adelaide-Melbourne road trip, the Great Ocean Road makes a great drive too!
Make your first stop at the gateway of the Great Ocean Road – the memorial arch. This iconic attraction is probably one of the most photographed attractions of the entire drive. The arch was built to commemorate the 3,000 returned soldiers who built the road during World War 1. They began building on the Great Ocean Road in 1919 and completed 243 kilometres in 1932. There are several sculptures of the returned soldiers to commemorate the soldiers who lost their lives building their road by hand.
Next, your first stop should be at the Torquay Surf Beach. Torquay is the first town along the Great Ocean Road. As its name suggests, this beach is many surfers’ paradise. Check this beach out to watch surfers catch waves.
You’ll reach Lorne, where there is a sneaky Teddy’s Lookout point. It’s on a hill and from a height, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the ocean, from a very different angle compared what you have been looking at.
Make your next stop at Apollo Bay – a seafood village embraced by tranquil beaches. We had lunch at Apollo Bay’s Fishermen Co-Op. There are loads of tourists who stop here to have lunch here so parking might be a little tight squeeze! You can even choose to stay a night here if you would like to lengthen your trip. There are many activities here; you could even try your hand at surfing or try kayaking with seals if you would like!
The Gibson Steps take you down to a lush beach. These steps are just minutes away from the world-renowned Twelve Apostles. Unfortunately, the steps down to the beach were closed when we were there so hopefully, it’s not the case for you!
The beach down the bottom of the Gibson Steps is known for being a prime fishing spot, with lots of colourful fishes frolicking underneath the ocean.
As time passes, the weather conditions have sculpted and honed the steps into a natural wonder, finished with two jutting rocks stacks in the ocean nearby. They are known as Gog and Magog and they can be seen from the viewing platform.
Next up, it’s finally the Twelve Apostles! The Twelve Apostles is a collection of limestone stacks off the shore at Port Campbell National Park. This is probably the most famous attraction of the Great Ocean Road drive.
The Twelve Apostles were formed by erosion through time and are perfect examples of the earth’s natural transformation, which has been ongoing since its inception. The sea feels no qualms about weathering the soft limestone away and now, only seven apostles are left for us to admire.
It would definitely be picture-perfect if you have the chance to witness these apostles against a spectacular coastal sunset. Unfortunately, the weather quickly took a turn and became pretty gloomy when we reached the Twelve Apostles so witnessing a sunset was not possible for us.
A short 5-minute drive later, you will reach Lord Ard Gorge. It is named after a famous ship from the Shipwreck Coast (Loch Ard) which was travelling from England to Melbourne in 1878. Read the board at the gorge to find out more about the 2 survivors of the shipwreck!
The London Arch was named after the British equivalent at first as it was an actual natural bridge. However, the arch connecting it to the mainland collapsed leaving two tourists stranded on the remaining stack in 1990. They were later rescued via helicopter and honestly, what a cool yet scary experience it must have been for them.
The Grotto is not just another rock formation – it is a cave, blowhole and archway all together. Don’t miss this stop as it really is a unique phenomenon.
And now, we are at the last stop of the Great Ocean Drive – the Bay of Islands. It is approximately a 30-minute drive from Loch Ard Gorge. It is also an extraordinary place for sunsets if you would like!
Head down to Warrnambool, a small town where you can find motels, motorhomes and food places.
We stayed in the Raglan Motor Inn Motel, which was very basic but enough for us. The best thing about such motorhomes is the fact that you can park your car freely there!
Day 3: Warrnambool – Grampians – Halls Gap
Discover Australia’s very own Grand Canyons, vivid scenic landscapes and grand mountain cliffs, all at the Grampians National Park. The natural beauty of the park’s highlights such as the Boroka lookout, The Pinnacles, The Balconies and the Mackenzie Falls are just a few places that are enough to change your impression of Australia right away.
The majestic views from the park also mean that you can take really dangerous-looking shots for your next adventurous profile picture. That being said, these photos that you see online of The Grampians are no illusions and are in fact, frowned upon by the Northern Grampians Police. Please do so at your own risk!
Before you begin the hikes, do have a hearty meal at Halls Gap first.
Our first stop at The Grampians was the Pinnacles Walk via the Grand Canyons (starts from Wonderland Carpark). Although similar in name, the Grand Canyons do not resemble the American Canyon, albeit still has really unique rock formations to offer. This hike is also a challenging one, with steep gradients and occasional slippery surfaces. You may do the Pinnacles Walk via Devils Gap instead (start from Sundial Carpark) if you do not feel confident or are inexperienced with such hikes.
Next, drive up Mt Difficult Road to the Boroka Lookout carpark and walk a short 100 metres to the lookout point. You will get a panoramic view of Halls Gap, Lake Bellfield, The Pinnacle and East of Grampians. The views of the valley could go on forever if everything goes well that is.
Sad to say, the weather was cloudy as heaven as us and this was what went down for us.
Visit the next 2 grand lookout spots at the Grampians known as Reeds Lookout and The Balconies. The Reeds Lookout can be easily accessed from the carpark while The Balconies is only 15-20 mins away from the same starting point. Reeds Lookout offers astonishing views over the entire Victoria Valley, Victoria Range, Serra Range, Lake Wartook and the Mt Difficult Range, known for its perfect purple and pink sunset sky. The Balconies, on the other hand, has panoramic views of the Victoria Valley and its surrounding ranges. However, what really ‘sticks out’ at The Balconies are the strange rock formations that stick out from the mountain. The Balconies are also a great spot for sunset views and fresh misty mornings.
Fun Fact: The Balconies was once known as the “Jaws of Death” where the structure of the rock formation resembles the jaws of a T-rex Dinosaur. It is also another place where deaths from falling occur.
Our last stop at The Grampians – Mackenzie Falls. It is one of the most magnificent waterfalls in Victoria. Flowing all year round, the waters cascade over enormous cliffs into a deep pool, sending light sprays of rainbow mist into the air above a marvellous gorge. No swimming here, please!
Where we stayed: Great Western Motel
Day 4: Halls Gap – Ballarat – Melbourne
Don’t think you spent enough time at The Grampians? Or didn’t take enough photos for your Instagram? Start your day early, head back down to the National Park and finish that bucket list of yours!
If not, it’s now time to head back to Melbourne (via Ballarat). The journey back is very much quicker as compared to day 2 as you will now travel in a single straight line instead of the congested Great Ocean Road/B100, albeit not as picturesque.
And so we thought.
At the 2 hour mark, make a stop at the city of Ballarat, a city that flourished during the Victorian Gold Rush in 1851. Back in those days, the fields of Ballarat experiences high sustained gold yields for several decades, and you can easily notice this from its rich Victorian architecture. It’s hard to miss.
You will also be greeted with the Arch of Victory when you first exit the Western Highway. As much as the word “Victory” suggests, the Arch is, in fact, a memorial arch to remember those who served to keep the lands safe and peaceful for everyone. On a side note, the Arch did remind us a little of Arc de Triomphe, one of the most famous monuments in Paris.
We recommend spending more time here if you are a person of culture. For example, why not visit the Sovereign Hills? A mining town recreated to represent the time of the Victorian Gold Rush, there are tons of activities that will take you back in time. This includes gold panning (extracting/sieving gold with a pan), musket firing, gold mine tours etc. The entrance fee costs around 50 SGD.
On a budget like us? Feel free to visit Lake Wendouree, Ballarat Old General Cemetery and Lydiard Street. Lydiard Street, in particular, displays the fabulously preserved history of Ballarat during the Victorian era. The stroll down the street starts with the stunning Ballarat Railway Station, passes the Art Gallery of Ballarat, Old Colonists’ Hall, Mining Exchange, Former Ballarat Post Office, the legal precinct, the Ballarat School of Mines, and the remnants of the former Ballarat gaol.
We had our lunch at the Vietnamese Noodle House along Lydiard Street.
Had fun? Continue your drive back to Melbourne and catch the gorgeous sunset at St. Kilda Beach. Shortly after that, you will also see a penguin colony returning back to the beach after a long day of fishing at sea. The place is heavily swamped with tourists so be sure to get to the pier early. There will also be volunteer penguin guides who will help you spot the penguins with red light torches.
Please do not, at any point, shine lights, use flash photography, or touch the penguins on the rocks!
This marks the end of yet another road trip in Australia. Of course, you may choose to extend the trip so as to take your time in exploring each of these places and make the most out of it. What do you think would be the favourite part of your road trip? Is it the Grampians? Let us know!
New Zealand here we come!