Exploring the Great Ocean Road by Campervan
Get your lungs ready to yell like Tarzan and take to the sky over gigantic trees and steep cliffs
True places are never down on any map, Herman Melville once said, and if you are planning on exploring the Great Ocean Road in all its glory, a bus tour will not suffice. One of the world’s most scenic roads, this 243-km coastal drive delivers mesmerising views of endless natural wonders, beachside adventures and exhilarating activities that have made it Victoria’s favourite tourism experience.
When the journey is the road and the road is the destination, travelling by caravan will give you the freedom to have the ultimate escapade along Australia’s southwestern shore around rugged cliffs and windswept beaches and through lush rainforests. Allow at least three days to get a thrill out of every attraction as your sense of adventure leads the way. One way or another, the twists and turns of the road will lead you to the famous and majestic Twelve Apostles.
The Great Ocean Road might be famous for its natural wonders and heart-racing activities, but it is also Victoria’s largest war memorial. Between 1919 and 1932, more than 3,000 returned soldiers built the road to salute over 60,000 Australians who died in the First World War. Apart from its symbolic significance, the road was meant to link up isolated fishing villages and logging camps. But soon after it was built, it went far beyond expectations and began to spur the local tourism industry.
Driver’s license? Check. Wanderlust? You bet. Start your journey in Melbourne, pack picnic supplies and create a playlist including AC/DC, and then while ‘living easy’ and ‘loving free’, escape the hurdles and explore new trails. Here’s our guide, buckle up and hit the Great Ocean Road by campervan.
Ride Titanic Waves in Torquay
Bordered by a rocky shoreline with a series of reef breaks below the cliffs, Torquay lives and breathes surfing and is the cradle of this sport in Victoria. Break up your drive at Torquay Foreshore Caravan Park, a superb camp for surfing, swimming, fishing and walking.
Surfers from far and wide take to the monster waves at the iconic spot of Bells Beach, the surfing mecca of Australia. If the wind is up and the swell is right, you will have the time of your life riding wild waves or watching experienced surfers live on the edge.
Take your surf board under your arm and trek along the 44-kilometre Surf Coast Walk to relish in stunning coastal views, limestone reefs and rock pools filled with sea life. Learn about Australia’s fascinating surfing heritage and beach culture at Surf World Museum, the world’s largest surfing museum. Then head to Torquay Chips for the best fish and chips in town.
Snorkel and scuba diver alert… Dive into a fascinating water world boasting an immense variety of marine life at the base of the Split Point Lighthouse, a 17-hectare Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary.
If Torquay made your heart race with its adrenaline-filled attractions, chill out in the neighbouring seaside town of Lorne where you can laze on the golden sands or fish in the Erkshire River. Park your caravan in Cumberland River Holiday Park or Lorne Foreshore Caravan park, ideal base points to explore the town’s picturesque coastline and mountains while still enjoying easy access to facilities.
With a buzzing arts community, Lorne is home to the Falls Music and Arts Festival, one of the finest and longest running music events in Australia, which has hosted the likes of Iggy Pop and The Flaming Lips. This glamorous coast town of classy boutiques and fine eateries also offers holidaymakers an excellent excuse to relax with a latte at a sidewalk café or picnic under the trees on the foreshore. Step down to the wharf and visit the fishing co-ops to indulge yourself in mouthwatering seafood.
Apollo Bay: Water Sports and Nightlife
Nestled into the hills of a mystic rainforest lies Apollo Bay, a vibrant and quaint coastal village surrounded by heavenly turquoise beaches. Get your suit on and swim, surf, sea kayak or fish in crystal clear waters. You can even take a dip in a dreamy hidden lake.
When night falls, live music in several pubs and bars brings the town to life. Apollo Bay Hotel is a popular place to catch local acts and ideal to immerse yourself in the Australian beach culture. With full beach frontage and easy access to modern amenities, Marengo Holiday Park is a brilliant camping ground.
Take to the Sky in Otways
From Apollo Bay, get off the beaten track and ride through some of Australia’s best rainforest scenery, the Otways. Park your campervan in Great Otway National Park and explore the wonders of the ancient forest. At night, fall under thcampere spell of the starry sky as you embark on a journey through the Milky Way.
Get your lungs ready to yell like Tarzan and take to the sky over gigantic trees, majestic waterfalls, ponds, steep cliffs and beaches. The sky is the limit so choose how to soar: zip lining, paragliding or walking through the tops of mossy trees.
If heights are not your scene, snorkel in the pristine waters next to the Blanket Bay camping area, walk through the rainforest and get up close and personal with koalas, kangaroos and wallabies. As you laze in Melba Gully, the glow worms around you will teleport you to the setting of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.
Cape Otway is the start of Victoria’s Shipwreck Coast, which extends along the shoreline up to Port Fairy. Detour to Cape Otway Lighthouse for an incredible view of the historic coast: the elements have sculpted the land into glorious cliffs, towers and arches that stand against the raging pearl blue sea.
As you marvel at the tragic past of the Shipwreck Coast, the bones of the wrecked vessels that haunt the area will give you the feeling you are caught in the middle of a ghost pirate story.
West of the Cape, huge and mysterious limestone formations rise majestically above the ocean. Sculpted by the elements into pillars and arches, these iconic rocky towers known as the Twelve Apostles are the climax of the journey and the Great Ocean Road’s most famous landmark.
Visit the Twelve Apostles in the morning when the rising sun casts golden light upon them and you can capture them in their entire rugged splendor. If you can spare a day, contemplate the towers from dawn to dusk as they shift from a deep rose colour to bright yellow while the sea turns into every shade of blue.
Don’t miss the penguin parade. They are not the lost penguins from ‘Madagascar’ triggering a plot for a new film, but hundreds of native ones that take to sea for a day of fishing.
Use the Great Ocean Road Tourist Park as your base, conveniently located next to cheese and chocolate factories, a winery, distillery and berry farm.
All’s Well That Ends Better
What the old coastal towns of Warrnambool and Port Fairy lack in exhilarating attractions, they make up for in history, art, music, views and wildlife. Park in Surfside Holiday Park, Warrnambool’s only beachside holiday park, situated within walking distance to Lake Pertobe adventure playground and Flagstafff Hill Maritime Village. Stop for a drink in the waterside cafes of Warrnambool and look out your window to catch a glimpse of whales.
Each year, between late May and early October, Southern Right Whales return to their nursery at Warrnambol to give birth and raise their calves. Only a stone’s throw away from the highway, you’ll come across several tiny bays to explore the movement of the Southern Right Whales from the viewing platforms at Logan’s Beach, a perfect look out spot for whales and their babies during the season.
West of Warrnambool, snugged inside an extinct volcano stands Tower Hill Reserve, a breathtaking and unique haven for native wildlife, such as koalas, kangaroos, emus and waterbirds. Take the journey around the enormous volcanic crater rimmed by beds of volcanic ash, one of Victoria’s most fascinating geological formations. Don’t leave before climbing to a peak for a miraculous view of the lake, outer volcanic rim and the coast.
Hit the road to Port Fairy, park in Gardens by East Caravan Park and take a delightful walk. As you stroll along the pine-shaded streets, your eyes will meet 19th-century cottages, stone churches and heritage buildings.