Loch Ard Gorge – 10 minutes from Port Campbell
Do you live in one of the coastal towns along the Great Ocean Road, but rarely visit the beach ? Being a local here, you might be busy at work during the week. Weekends are often spent catching up on home and family chores. But when was the last time you went to the local beach or took the family on a day trip out along the Great Ocean Road ?
It’s easy to take where you live for granted. It’s only when you start talking to visitors, that you step back and realise how fortunate we are to live here.
As a visitor to the area, you’ll notice as you leave the busy highway flowing from Melbourne to Torquay, you’ll bypass a few sheep and horses on farms. Drive through a number of roundabouts and then you’ll know you’re in Torquay. It’s a bustling town, with plenty of surf shops selling active wear, wetsuits, trendy clothing, surfboards and all things to do with the beach.
But Torquay is so much more than the retail surf shops you see on the Surfcoast Highway. For the locals, it’s a hub of creative and community spirit. There are two main streets – Bell Street and Gilbert Street that hum with activity. Torquay Restaurants and Cafes are everywhere. Particularly popular are those overlooking the Esplanade. And they are all well supported by locals. Small business is thriving here. More and more people are moving to this area. They aim to balance work with everything the coastal lifestyle offers.
Co-operative work spaces are opening up under local entrepreneurship. This is enabling those who work on their own or at home, to have an opportunity to collaborate with their customers/suppliers/colleagues. Consequently it becomes a much more affordable and attractive option to do business.
Torquay Restaurants and Cafes along the Esplanade
Extra housing developments are being built in outer more affordable suburbs. This is a response to many families needing more housing. Playgrounds, sports fields, walking trails and other outdoor sports are all under consideration.
Torquay is also the start of the Great Ocean Road, one of Australia’s biggest tourist routes. Many new locals know this, but have not spent time or had the opportunity to get to know their own backyard. And this is the reason for this post – getting to know more about where you live locally and the day trips along the Great Ocean Road on offer for you and your family.
Built by servicemen following the end of World War 2, the Great Ocean Road was completed in 1932. It is a permanent memorial of those who died during the war. 2019 is 100 years after construction of the Great Ocean Road started and it has a rich and interesting history.
The road, dug out of the rock, winds it way along the South–West coast of Victoria. It’s a beautiful opportunity to drive along this coast line. There are panoramic views of the ocean and the remarkable limestone cliffs that run parallel to it. At the same time, little coastal villages appear and each one has its own unique character.
The town of Torquay is the start of the Great Ocean Road, and it ends in Allansford, near Warrnambool. Altogether it is approximately 240 kilometres long. Far too far for a one day trip along the Great Ocean Road, but in small pockets over time, you can discover new places and meet more of the locals.
The Great Ocean Road starts by winding its way through a number of coastal villages and larger towns :
Along the way you’ll see Airey’s Inlet Lighthouse, the iconic 12 Apostles and beautiful sandy beaches that provide magnificent views. National Parks with lush fern forests are right here for you to wander through at your leisure. Perfect day trips on the Great Ocean Road, but let’s get into some of the details.
The Surf Coast is the traditional home of the Wathaurong people from the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to the Elders past, present and emerging.
Torquay was named after the popular seaside town in Devon, England. Torquay played a significant role in accommodating soldiers and their horses in World War 2. In 1940, the four Light Horse Regiments camped and trained in the town – there were up to 5000 soldiers and 2000 horses.
WW2 Horses in Training on the Torquay Foreshore – Photo: Australian War Memorial
As the gateway to the Great Ocean Road, you’ll find the town of Torquay in Victoria is a bustling environment. Not to mention a vibrant village atmosphere, and a surfer’s paradise. It’s a popular coastal town in the summer time, but even in the off season over winter, it is common to see many surfers in the water. Thicker, winter wetsuits are non-negotiable.
The town of Torquay has a beautiful esplanade with a walking path, that goes forever. Because of this, walkers, runners, cyclists, families with prams and those people who love exercising their dogs, are all out and about. Playgrounds, toilets, showers and parking are all available across from the main Esplanade. So if you’re driving from Geelong or Lorne, and looking for a Great Ocean Road day trip, Torquay is the perfect town to start.
If learning to surf is a priority for you and you don’t have the gear, there are some local surf stores that offer surf boards and wetsuits to hire. Also, surf lessons are available in Torquay for beginners and those with intermediate skills. They cater for all ages and all levels of experience. This makes it easy for you to spend 1-2 hours in the water with an experienced instructor, and learn how to stand up on your board and ride those waves.
Surf the swells at Bells Beach. Easter weekend is when the annual Rip Curl Pro Surfing Championships takes place. It’s only 7 kilometres west of Torquay (approximately a 10 minute drive). It continues to be one of the surfing competitions world wide, that many professional surfers strive to win or at least place in. Historically, the first surfing carnival held here was in the early 1960’s.
Torquay beaches are in front of the Esplanade with sloping, wide grassed areas for those who don’t like sand in their toes or towels ! You can grab a bagel and coffee like we do from a local vendor. Following that, sit and watch the ocean and swimmers, surfers, stand-up paddleboarders (SUP’s), windsurfers and kite surfers all day long.
Large Grassed Areas on the Torquay Beach
On public holidays and during the school holidays, this is prime time and plenty of locals and tourists flock to these beaches. The bonus is that the beaches are long and have plenty of space for everyone to spread out. Especially popular for many large family groups to spend wonderful days together. And picnic tables are available with public BBQ’s, scattered in the open and under the trees.
Torquay also offers dog friendly beaches, for those with pups who need to run. The best dog friendly beach is at Fishermans Beach. Here you’ll find plenty of furry friends who get along famously with one another, in and out of the water. Visiting dog beaches are an excellent way of getting out for a Great Ocean Road day trip with your nearest and dearest. Most importantly your dog will love you even more.
Dog Friendly Beach – Fishermans Beach in Torquay
Are you or any of your younger family members interested in the history of surfing ? The Australian National Surfing Museum is in Torquay. Unquestionably, it is the best celebration of Australia’s surfing history and surf culture. You can immerse yourself in 100 years of history through action footage and photographs.
Bring the whole family to the Cowrie Market on the Esplanade. The Torquay Foreshore holds a market in the summer months (September to April), called the Cowrie Market. And it doesn’t matter how often you visit, every time you’ll love the array of stalls that sell things to eat and drink. The opportunity to browse the homecrafted products available for sale, is endless.
Likewise, catering for your children is easy. There are many stalls for them to wander, while your family will have a chance to browse the products in a beautiful setting. At the same time, you can sit and listen while buskers play music in the background. Most importantly, the gorgeous view overlooks Zeally Bay.
Have you visited the Farmer’s Market? Visit weekly on a Saturday morning throughout the year in the car park outside the Surfcoast Shire council offices.
Furthermore, it is mostly locals who provide an opportunity for you to buy bread, cheese, fruit and vegetables, cakes and cordials. And you’ll have an opportunity to taste some of the diverse take-away options along with a coffee too. Always a bit of a queue, but it moves quickly.
Central to the market, is a grassed area that enables families to sit and watch all that is happening at the market, whilst nibbling on a pastry. Young children and dogs are all out and about, and everyone gets along famously. Certainly worth a visit.
The Torquay Farmer’s Market
Interested in a coffee or late afternoon nibbles with a glass of wine ? There are some top café’s in Torquay to relax in. Pond on the Esplanade and Doc Hughes are popular ones for breakfasts and lunch, but often with queues. So, remember there is also Ginger Monkey which is amongst the surf shops, across the Surfcoast Highway.
The Torquay Hotel offers live music. Overall, it has many artists who provide a variety of music genres for party goers. Check their social media platforms to find out who is playing and when. Moreover we recommend you book in advance as it’s always a popular venue, and generally caters for a younger demographic.
Jan Juc is a small hamlet about a 10 minutes drive from Torquay. It’s got a great Surf Life Saving presence, and the beaches hug the large cliffs. Good swimming and surfing opportunities too. A great local coffee and breakfast haunt is Swell Cafe – be sure to get there early as it’s popular.
Start driving west, and you’ll find the hamlet of Anglesea, a quiet village a further 10 minutes from Torquay, that provides a slower, calmer and more personal atmosphere. It’s popular for residents of Melbourne to have a beach holiday home down here, as it’s only 110km from the CBD. So an easy commute and if you driving from that direction, don’t forget to stop at the chocolate shop along the way.
Beautiful native birds in Anglesea
A gin distillery, cafes, restaurants, health spas, farmer’s market (held from November – March), and plenty of different types of accommodation to suit all budgets, are all available in Anglesea. So why not go for one night stopover in Anglesea ? It will give you an opportunity to mix and mingle with locals, and relax into this village atmosphere. If you don’t have the time to stay over, Anglesea is still a perfect option when considering a Great Ocean Road day trip.
Anglesea has a thriving community spirit and is very popular spot for holiday makers. In summer, the population swells and the town is very busy. Did you know Anglesea was formerly known as Swampy Creek ? It was renamed in 1884 and I think it’s fair to say, ‘Anglesea’ is far nicer.
It’s long sandy beaches at the mouth of the Anglesea River, are a magnet for swimming and surfing in Anglesea. You can pop across the road to the shops and grab a coffee and pastry, or something more substantial. We love taking it all back to the beach and eating with an ocean view.
Interested in fishing ? This is a popular activity along the Anglesea River. Find a fishing platform there and you’ll hook a variety of fish species eg snapper and garfish, if you are lucky. Not your day today ? Then head off to Fish by Moonlight, a fish and chip shop within the main Anglesea high street, and enjoy their reknown catch of the day.
Point Roadknight in Anglesea, is known as one of the safest beaches along the Great Ocean Road. Your children will love to paddle there and you can swim safely. Exploring the rockpools at the Point is always popular. Above all, please remember to always swim between the flags on a patrolled beach. Point Roadknight is also the home of the Anglesea Motor Yacht Club as well as the main boat ramp, subsequently making it a very popular spot.
Point Addis Marine National Park is a protected marine park near Anglesea. It encompasses long sandy beaches with limestone and sandstone cliffs, sculpting the coastline. It’s a beautiful protected area to explore if you have the time available.
The Anglesea Golf Club is a tourist attraction due to it’s resident Eastern Grey kangaroos. If you are a golfer, you’ll need to use your playing style to negotiate your way through these animals. Not forgetting of course, the challenges that present on the actual greens and fairways. You can take a kangaroo tour to see these locals lolling on the rolling paddocks, and they are not frightened at all. Instead they seem to be rather bemused by the visitors and most tend to ignore you. (Please call the Golf Club first to ensure the kangaroo tours are going ahead on a particular day, to avoid any disappointment).
The Anglesea Golf Club also has the best bistro in Anglesea. Called the ’19th Hole’, it is open to the public and offers fine dining through to pub meals. This is one of our favourite Anglesea restaurants that you won’t want to miss. Beautiful views and outdoor areas to sit in and look out at the scenery and views of the fairways. Well worth a visit.
There are plenty of things for children to do in Anglesea. Apart from mini-golf, there are bush walks, outdoor trampoline parks, acrobatics and circus skill workshops. Furthermore there are arts and crafts opportunities, paddle boarding, learn to surf options and the well known Anglesea bike park.
Split Point Lighthouse in Aireys Inlet – Heritage listed
Further along from Anglesea, you’ll come across the village of Aireys Inlet. This town has a very passionate heart. Locals love it dearly. It hosts the well known Split Point Lighthouse, which you can climb and walk around. Construction of the lighthouse began in 1890 and stands at 100 metres above sea level. Taking in the views of the majestic limestone cliffs, is exhilarating. It can get very windy, but be patient if you are wanting to take some photos, as your time will come. At the Tea Rooms nearby, enjoy some homemade scones and cream. Just below the Lighthouse, is Step Beach. Much quieter than many other of the well known beaches around, Step Beach offers rockpools and a horse-shoe reef to explore.
Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary consists of 17 hectares of marine sanctuary and is located a short walk from Split Point Lighthouse. You can snorkel this area at low tide when conditions are calm, and see some unique marine life along the way. This area is only recommended for experienced swimmers due to the strong currents and large waves.
After that, return back to the lighthouse and then relax and enjoy tea and scones at the tearooms below.
Aireys Inlet camping is available not far from the town centre. It enables you to relax amidst a bush setting, and explore walking trails and bike riding trails in the area. There are plenty of native birds to watch, as well as kangaroos. You may be lucky enough to also see a koala. Always check with Parks Victoria prior to your visit, to ensure these camping spots are open.
Looking for some adventure ? Why not take a horse ride along the Aireys Inlet beach. All skill levels can be catered for ie pony rides for your little ones, full day adventures for those more experienced.
Between Aireys Inlet and Lorne, is the Memorial Arch, a commemoration of those who served in WW1 and built the Great Ocean Road. It comprises a wooden Arch over the road, and a bronze statue of two workers that is on the left hand side. You won’t miss it as you drive under it, but it’s also worthwhile to stop and read about the history of the Arch and the road.
Memorial Arch – Commemoration of WW1
Lorne township – Great Ocean Road
Lorne is largely a summer holiday town along the Great Ocean Road. If you are driving from Torquay, it will take you approximately 1 hour to drive there allowing for an easy day trip for the family. If you have time available, you can always spend a night camping on the Great Ocean Road which adds loads of fun and adventure for all ages.
Bursting at the seams in school holidays, Lorne is a drawcard for surfers and swimmers alike. And not far away, are the bush walks, waterfalls and forestry areas of the Great Otway National Park. This National Park offers a sanctuary between the ocean and the bush, and is why most locals live there.
Not only is Lorne well know in the summer time for it’s proximity to the beach and the bush, but it’s also very popular for hosting weddings and celebration events. Great Ocean Tipis focus on providing a special memory for a beautiful day. They offer Nordic Tipis for hire, either individually or they can be interlocked. You can also hire tables, benches, lighting, woven dance floors and even a fireplace to enhance the evening. What a perfect option.
The main Lorne beach is beautiful, with a large open grassed area up front for those who want to picnic ‘sans sand’, with playgrounds and BBQ facilities catering for families.
Wander towards the end of George Street, and here you’ll find Teddy’s Lookout which offers wonderful views of the coastline from the cliff tops.
Whale watching season is May to September, but you never know your luck. Keep a look out at all times.
Point Grey is a popular area just south of the Lorne town centre. It’s worth walking all the way to the end of the well known Lorne Pier, and behind it are restaurants and fishing/ boat clubs.
The Lorne Pier was built in 1879 – the bay was previously known as Louttit Bay. The upgraded Lorne Pier as we know it today was opened in 2007. A favourite for those who love fishing, winter and summer months. Furthermore, and if you are lucky, you may see a local seal in the waters below.
Camping and caravan stops are popular here in Lorne, with the Lorne Foreshore Caravan Park, a short walk from the beach and the shops.
Boutique clothing shops, day spa’s, restaurants and cafes are all available in this town. Consequently there is something for everyone in Lorne.
The Lorne Visitor Information Centre is full of local people who can assist you with any particular requirements you have.
Wye River is where the rainforest meets the sea. A very picturesque coastal village situated between Lorne and Apollo Bay, located on the Wye River. It’s approximately a 25 minute drive from Lorne to the town of Wye River.
With a popular caravan park, and the town’s hotel ‘The Wye Beach Hotel’ perched high overlooking the beach, it is a holiday maker’s paradise. It has it’s main sandy beach near the river mouth, but also many rock pools and reefs are available for exploring.
In 2015, bushfires devastated the area around Wye River, destroying more than 100 homes. The community has come together and slowly rebuilt the town. It’s a very popular place to live, and properties rarely come onto the real estate market.
To take a piece of Wye River back with you after your visit, why not consider the hand crafted products made at Wye River Candle Company ? Wood wicks are used (instead of cotton wicks – more environmentally friendly) and the candles are made with a blend of soy and coconut wax (longer lasting). They’re a beautiful example of the top quality hand made products in the Otways. They are made locally and always with the environment and sustainability at the forefront. They can be bought at the Wye General Store as well as the Big4 Caravan Park, or contact the company directly.
Apollo Bay has beautiful beaches, surrounded by spectacular scenery. The town is a pretty seaside haven in the foothills of the Otway ranges. It is a popular holiday destination, about 200 kms from Melbourne, with a bay that is further protected by a breakwater. It provides an opportunity for you to explore the coastal area, and well as rainforests nearby that are full of waterfalls, ferns and walking trails.
Fishing is very popular from the shore, but there are also opportunities to go into the deeper water too. Apollo Bay has an annual seafood festival which is a great drawcard for visitors. It’s also a great spot for observing migrating whales in winter.
If you are driving from Melbourne, it will take you approximately 3 hours to get to Apollo Bay. From Lorne to Apollo Bay, it’s approximately a 1 hour drive.
The town takes it’s name from a schooner ‘Apollo’ that sheltered in the bay on route from Port Phillip to Portland, in 1846.
Hike the Great Ocean Walk : Apollo Bay is the start of the Great Ocean Walk. This well known hike (approximately 100 kms) encompasses a coastal track with amazing views of the coastline. It ends at the 12 Apostles, taking around 8 days to complete. You can take as long as you wish or even skip some sections – your decision. And there are many different options regarding accommodation – from budget to luxury. If you prefer, you can also organise a guided walk. Whether you walk on your own, or use a guide, either way you’ll get a far deeper understanding of the coastline and do it without the crowds.
Mariners Lookout encompasses views of the town below, plus the ocean and countryside. Take a picnic lunch and you may be lucky enough to see some hang gliders taking off from the nearby hills.
The DNA of Apollo Bay is seafood. Widely recognised as having the best catch available, visitors flock here in the holiday season to experience the beaches and the catch of the day.
The Apollo Bay Fisherman’s Co-op is a local highlight. It is the last working fishing harbour on the Great Ocean Road and celebrates the Southern Rock Lobster. Here locals catch, cook and serve the very best seafood to you, their guests. A real experience to visit.
The Apollo Bay Farmer’s Market is held once a month, celebrating local producers. Before you head out to visit, check their social media pages to ensure it’s on. Sometimes things happen, and dates can change, so best to always check first before you are disappointed.
Apollo Bay camping is always an option, and there are a number of holiday camping parks available. Spend a few extra days, relaxing and enjoying the adventure with your family. As a one day trip on the Great Ocean Road, travelling from Geelong, Torquay or Lorne to Apollo Bay is a great option.
Just prior to reaching the town of Port Campbell, you’ll pass the iconic limestone stacks out at sea known as the 12 Apostles. In fact, there are only 7 Apostles now, as the rough seas of the Southern Ocean slowly erode the soft limestone.
Take a bike ride in this beautiful area. Ride with Us offers rentals on bikes and ebikes for both adults and children. Dogs are welcome too.
A brand new scenic bicycle trail which meanders through farmland to the coast on the Great Ocean Road at Port Campbell is the 12 Apostles Trail. It’s a 20km bicycle, walking and running path which takes you from Port Campbell to Timboon and connects with the Camperdown to Timboon Rail Trail in Timboon.
There are also plenty of lunch spots to choose from in Port Campbell. Ask us for a basket on your bike if you would like to bring some local produce home with you.
Find out more at Ride With Us. It’s a perfect opportunity for an active Great Ocean Road day trip.
The Port Campbell National Park is nearby should you wish to explore further – and of course if you have the time. It’s always worthwhile to schedule a few attractions to visit in a day, and really enjoy them, as opposed to being on the run, and rushing past.
Gibson’s Steps are located within the 12 Apostles Marine National Park, a protected area. These 86 steps were carved by a local after which they are named, Hugh Gibson. They are challenging steps to walk down as they are very narrow and steep. Always a good idea to assess your fitness level prior to using them to access the beach below. Do your research before visiting the steps, as they are often closed to the public due to rough weather conditions.
Gibson’s Steps at Port Campbell
Loch Ard Gorge is found just a few minutes past the 12 Apostles. Worth a stop to view its beauty and understand the history of a 19th century shipwreck. The remarkable story of bravery and survival of two young people, Eva Carmichael and Tom Pearce, and their swim to the beach in the dead of night. They were the only survivors of a ship of 54 crew and passengers, the ‘Loch Ard’, sailing from England. You can visit the Loch Ard Gorge Cemetery which is the resting place of those who lost their lives in the shipwreck.
Easily accessible from the car park, take a walk down to the beach to see this Loch Ard Gorge amidst the contrasts of cliffs and blue waters.
Always check local Parks Victoria information regarding the natural attractions you want to visit along the Great Ocean Road, to avoid disappointment. Due to changing weather conditions, they may be closed for repair or due to bad weather conditions.
The Hopkins River flows through the town of Allansford, which is the official end to the Great Ocean Road. If you are wanting to explore the area, it’s only a 10 minute drive from Allansford to Warrnambool. Warrnambool is a large town where you can immerse yourself in the history of the area, visit the beaches and consume beautiful food in local cafes and restaurants.
Tower Hill Reserve outside of Warrnambool
If you are travelling as a visitor from Melbourne, it will take you between 5-6 hours to reach Warrnambool by car, driving via the Great Ocean Road. It may take slightly longer on this route, but it’s well worth it for the views and visits to historical points along the way.
And a 20 minute drive outside of Warrnambool, is Tower Hill Reserve. It comprises an extinct volcano, a wetland and is over 600 hectares in area. It’s a beautiful place to go walking and have picnics.
Warrnambool is one of the bigger coastal towns along the Great Ocean Road. Locals love the access to the beach as well as all the advantages that a bigger town offers. It offers beautiful and white sandy beaches, and is a favourite holiday destination for many.
Attending Logans Beach whale watching platform is a must do. Between June and September, you may be lucky and see the Southern Right Whales from the platform. The females come to these waters to calve, and can often be seen within 300 metres offshore. The Warrnambool Visitor Information Centre will also be aware of sightings and can help with further information.
Beach and trail horse riding is available in Warrnambool, with smaller ponies for the younger ones.
Thunder Point Family Walk is a 4.2km walk close to Warrnambool. Perfect for your family – both young and old.
Starting at the Breakwater car park, make your way towards Thunder Point Coastal Reserve. Follow the walking track through coastal vegetation and embrace the scenic views from the lookout points. Once you reach Shelley Beach, you can retrace your steps back.
The Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum is a wealth of seafaring historical information with stories of how this portion of the coast became known as the Shipwreck Coast.
Where ever you are on the Great Ocean Road, the locals take the environment and it’s sustainability very seriously. We are passionate about where we live and will protect the beaches, marine parks, forests and bush land eco-systems when ever we can. In short, we need to do everything possible to preserve the beauty, serenity and sanctuary that they bring to our communities along the Great Ocean Road.
There is so much to see and do as a local, along the Great Ocean Road. In my post above, I’ve merely touched the surface. I would love to hear from you, if you can add to my descriptions while you are visiting any of these coastal areas. Constructive feedback is always welcome.
The Great Ocean Road Locals Business Directory was born when we tried to find local businesses to work on our Torquay-based property, but there was no easy-to-use online directory to achieve this. So we set out to create one to make it convenient and quick for businesses to be found online; and for residents, holiday home owners and visitors to connect with local business owners.
We have a closed Facebook group, GOR Business Network, to connect like-minded entrepreneurs and business owners who will encourage and inspire one another in a supportive environment. Join our group if you are a business owner, and you’ll immediately identify with the diverse group of owners there, who have the opportunity to connect with one another.
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