Between the beaches of Torquay and the riverbanks of Allansford, the Great Ocean Road teeters on Australia’s edge. This famous highway snakes through 18 diverse cities, all with different adventures to be had. This road offers the best route to see all sides of Australia’s culture. Whether you are exploring the Otways Forest or catching rays at Apollo Bay, the scenic views will take your breath away.


The jagged limestone rock formations create a choppy coastline worthy of Shipwreck Coast’s name. (Photo by Jim Hoffman cc)

Explore the Coast

The city of Warrnambool is found along Shipwreck Coast. Shipwreck Coast received its name because of the 50 known ships that disappeared under the waves at this rocky coastline. The Twelve Apostles rock formations create dangerous conditions for local ships. Visitors can learn about the haunting history of these ships on the Historic Shipwreck Trail. A map reveals the location of each of the known shipwrecks and the suspected cause of the ship’s demise. For those tourists wanting a closer view, they can scuba dive 250 meters outside of Warrnambool’s breakwater to investigate the haunting underwater ruins of the ship La Bella, which sank in 1905 but is still mostly intact. The helm of La Bella is the ultimate place for high adventurers.

Australia’s iconic animals like the kangaroo can be found up and down the coastline and inland of the Great Ocean Road.

Australia’s iconic animals like the kangaroo can be found up and down the coastline and inland of the Great Ocean Road. (Photo by Hadi Zaher cc)

Go Back in Time

The Great Ocean Road is not only about high adventure places. Visitors can appreciate a relaxing atmosphere on the streets of Port Fairy, a fishing village on the west end of the Great Ocean Road. This historic town is populated with boutiques, art galleries, and antique stores at every turn. The nineteenth-century cottages transport every visitor to another time.

Visit the Local Market

There are many markets in the Ballarine Peninsula, but none so expansive and popular as Point Lonsdale Market. On the second Sunday of each month, over 150 stalls are open for business, selling crafts, artwork, jams, produce, and more. Stopping at the market not only is the perfect time to pick up souvenirs, but it is also a great way to be immersed in the Australian culture. The variety found in this market is perfect for travelers of all ages and all personalities.

Follow a Guiding Light

Split Point Lighthouse is a stunning attraction for any tourist. Also known as “The White Queen,” Split Point stands proudly on Aireys Inlet’s shores. Although the lighthouse has been guiding ships back to her shores since 1891, Split Point Lighthouse only recently opened to tourists in 2013. Visitors can now take a forty-five-minute tour of this striking monument. The top of the lighthouse reveals a dramatic view of the coastline; it is a must-see on the Great Ocean Road.

Soar Through the Trees

Australia is famous for its seaside adventures, but this continent holds just as much beauty inland. The Otway Rainforest is the perfect destination to appreciate a different side of Australia. Visitors can see the rainforest thirty meters above on the Tree Top Walk, a steel walkway that stretches a mile through the forest. This walkway reaches the height of forty-seven meters at the spiral tower, the focal point of the floating trail. For those hoping for a bit more excitement, they can sightsee the forest on a zip line tour with six different flights. Either path you choose, there is no denying the Otway Rainforest is the perfect place to see how exquisitely green Australia can be.

Explore the Museum

The last stop on this Australian road trip is in the small town of Queenscliff. Packed with history, Queenscliff is the best place to get a glimpse of the past. The Queenscliff Historical Museum attracts people from all around the world with a vast number of paintings, newspapers, photographs, and documents that capture the culture of Australia. But Queenscliff isn’t limited to its history on the land; it has a history in the sea as well. Visitors can experience this at the Queenscliff Maritime Museum. This museum is home to shipwreck artifacts, early diving equipment, and various models of the underwater landscapes.

These are just some of the ideal city stops to make while riding the Great Ocean Road, but every city has its unique flavor. The entire stretch of the Great Ocean Road is less than a 7-hour road trip, which offers plenty of time for visitors to investigate the cities. Whether you are an adventurous explorer or a down-to-earth sightseer, the Great Ocean Road has a city just for you. Take a trip to see every bit of Australia’s landscape and culture all on one highway.

—Cherie Stewart