Having had this highly acclaimed trip on our bucket list for some time, we can truthfully say that our expectations were exceeded. We drove through ever changing landscape from the expansive ocean to dense forest and grazing pastures, stopping to see iconic sights such as The 12 Apostles, The Grotto, Gibson’s Steps and London Bridge, as well as venturing inland to Beech’s Forest in search of waterfalls.
We tried to keep the driving to around 4 hours per day to fully appreciate our chosen stops. We also deliberately chose winter for our trip to avoid crowds and overall, we were very fortunate with the weather.
Our top recommendations
Seaside town of Lorne
Setting off from Avalon, this charming town is an easy 1.5 hour drive. We enjoyed a delicious and healthy brunch at the picturesque HAH cafe on the beach. While soaking up the views, keep an eye out for any whales that may be about… We unfortunately didn’t spot any but we were told there was a sighting just the day before!
It would be easy to spend more time in this town. The next cafe on our list would be the quaint Swinging Bridge Cafe, which caught our eye upon our approach into Lorne. Its idyllic setting, together with very positive reviews we have read, is definitely somewhere we would like to try.
Koalas at Kennett River
Just another half hour along the scenic GOR is a turn off to Greys River Road. From here, we walked a few kilometres along the dirt road. It is possible to drive, however, we love an opportunity to get out of the car and fully embrace the surroundings, as well as an opportunity for some exercise.
The area is densely populated with koalas so it is certain that you will spot one (or many) on this stretch. They are, however, quite difficult to see, blending into their environment.
No GOR trip is complete without spending time at the 12 Apostles. The site currently comprises 7 majestic rock stacks facing imposing cliffs on the shoreline known as Shipwreck Coast. An eighth rock formation collapsed in 2005 due to erosion.
We arrived approximately half an hour before sunset to soak in the spectacular views, returning the following morning to watch the sunrise. Our sunrise visit, while stunning, was slightly less enjoyable as we were thwarted by blizzard-like conditions (not ideal!).
There are 4 designated viewing areas that allow plenty of space to see/photograph. It is also possible to view the Apostles from the beach by walking down the famous Gibson’s Steps.
Fun fact… Prior to being named the 12 Apostles, these rock formations were known as ‘The Sow and Piglets’. We are also unsure where the name ’12 Apostles’ came from as there were only ever 8! There is speculation that the biblical name reflects the awe inspired when in their presence.
Just off the GOR, 10 minutes drive from Port Campbell, is the prettiest ‘sinkhole’ we have ever seen… a stunning natural archway formation, framing the ocean and distant horizon. Definitely worth a visit.
Very close to ‘The Grotto’ is the formation known as ‘London Bridge’. Now, it is sometimes referred to as the ‘London Arch’ as the component that made it a ‘bridge’ collapsed in 1990.
Triplet Falls, Great Otway National Park
These mesmerising waterfalls and the stunning rainforest walk to get there (an hour round trip) was another highlight. Whilst there are lots of steps, it is an otherwise easy walk, with the odd obstacle (fallen tree) to navigate.
This was the perfect opportunity to slow down and soak up the tranquility, without the distraction and noise of our busy lives (there is no internet reception so you’ll be sans wifi for a bit).
We were very lucky to have visited the falls after heavy rain, resulting in all three falls (hence the name ‘triplet’) flowing heavily. This also meant there were increased negative ions in the atmosphere.
Negative ions are essentially oxygen ions with an additional electron created by the water. The concentration of these ions near waterfalls is in the tens of thousands per cubic centimetre (up to 100,000), compared to a few hundred in an office or polluted city.
This explains the sense of peacefulness and invigoration often experienced when in nature.
Southern Ocean Villas, Port Campbell
We highly recommend this self-catering accommodation, ideally located just 5 minutes from The 12 Apostles. The town of Port Campbell is tiny, however we discovered a charming store, Wine@Tillys, where we were treated to an impromptu wine tasting of local Port Campbell wines.
Naturally, we purchased our favourites, along with organic local produce (bread, cheese, etc.) which we took home to enjoy in our homely villa.
Where to eat in Port Campbell…
Finding good quality, healthy food is always a priority for us and we thoroughly recommend Forage on the Foreshore. We were welcomed by friendly staff and listened to the Beatles, played on an old fashioned turntable. This, coupled with the cafe’s rustic facade gave the sense of stepping back in time. The menu offers locally sourced, seasonal produce, and caters to different dietary requirements.
Chris’s, Beacon Hill, Skenes Creek
Perched in the treetops and overlooking the panorama of Apollo Bay, Chris’s Restaurant and Accommodation is an absolute gem. The fine dining restaurant offers fresh and flavoursome dishes from a contemporary menu with a Southern European and Middle Eastern influence. The very comfortable accommodation has a ‘tree house’ feel, immersed in nature and the surrounding wildlife.
When we travel we try not to try to cram in too much… it’s always good to leave something for next time! Things on our list for when we return include whale watching (whale watching season is mid May – November), walking stretches of ‘The Great Ocean Walk’, visiting more waterfalls, venturing inland on the gourmet trail, as well as visiting food and wine producing towns such as Timboon.
We hope this help anyone planning a trip in the GOR, or inspires you to visit! It is a trip we will never forget and can’t recommend highly enough.