Along the route you might want to stop off at Torquay, a township dedicated to surfing. The main surf beach is much nicer than the one farther down the coast in Lorne. Check out Surfworld Museum, Surfcity Plaza, Beach Road, West Torquay (tel. 03/5261 4606; www.surfworld.org.au), which has exhibits dealing with surfboard design and surfing history, and video of the world's best surfers. Admission is A$10 for adults, A$6 for children, and A$20 for families of five. It's open 9am to 5pm daily, except December 25. Bells Beach, just down the road, is world famous in surfing circles for its perfect waves.
Lorne has some nice boutiques and is a good place to stop for lunch or stay the night. The stretch from Lorne to Apollo Bay is one of the most spectacular sections of the route; the road narrows and twists and turns along a cliff edge with the ocean on the other side. Apollo Bay is a pleasant town that was once a whaling station. It has good sandy beaches and is more low-key than Lorne.
Next you come to the Angahook-Lorne State Park, which protects most of the coastal section of the Otway Ranges from Aireys Inlet, south of Anglesea, to Kennett River. It has many well-marked rainforest walks and picnic areas at Shelly Beach, Elliot River, and Blanket Bay. There's plenty of wildlife around.
About 13km (8 miles) past Apollo Bay, just off the main road, you can stroll on the Maits Rest Rainforest Boardwalk. A little farther along the main road, an unpaved road leads north past Hopetoun Falls and Beauchamp Falls to the settlement of Beech Forest. Seven kilometers (4 1/3 miles) farther along the main road, another unpaved road heads south for 15km (9 1/3 miles) to a windswept headland and the Cape Otway Lightstation (tel. 03/5237 9240; www.lightstation.com), one of several along the coast. Built by convicts in 1848, the 100m-tall (328-ft.) lighthouse is open to tourists. Admission is A$18 for adults, A$7.50 for school-age children, and A$44 for families of 6, including a guided tour of the lighthouse. It's open daily from 9am to 5pm (except Christmas Day). The lighthouse is manned by a guide, who will greet you at the top of the tower to recount stories of the Cape's traditional owners, shipwrecks, the colorful lighthouse keepers, and much more, including one of Australia's most famous UFO mysteries. The Lightkeeper's Shipwreck Discovery Tour, which runs twice a day from 10am to noon or 2 to 4pm, takes you away from the Lightstation to nearby related sites including Parker River inlet and Blanket Bay, and you will see the remains of shipwrecks lost in the treacherous Bass Strait and Southern Ocean. Morning or afternoon tea is included at the Lightkeeper's Café and the tour continues in the Lightstation grounds. The cost is A$40 adults and A$20 children.
Back on the main road, your route heads inland through an area known as Horden Vale before running to the sea at Glenaire -- there's good surfing and camping at Johanna, 6km (3 3/4 miles) north of here. Then the Great Ocean Road heads north again to Lavers Hill, a former timber town. Five kilometers (3 miles) southwest of Lavers Hill is small Melba Gully State Park, where you can spot glowworms at night and walk along routes of rainforest ferns. Keep an eye out for one of the last giant gum trees that escaped the loggers -- it's some 27m (88 ft.) in circumference and is estimated to be more than 300 years old.
The next place of note is Moonlight Head, which marks the start of the Shipwreck Coast -- a 120km (74-mile) stretch running to Port Fairy that claimed more than 80 ships in only 40 years at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th.
Just past Princetown starts the biggest attraction of the trip, Port Campbell National Park. With its sheer cliffs and coastal rock sculptures, it's one of the most immediately recognizable images of natural Australia. You can't miss the Twelve Apostles, a series of rock pillars (actually, there are eight left standing) in the foam just offshore. Other attractions are the Blowhole, which throws up huge sprays of water; the Grotto, a rock formation intricately carved by the waves; London Bridge, which looked quite like the real thing until the center crashed into the sea in 1990 (leaving a bunch of tourists stranded on the wrong end); and the Loch Ard Gorge. Port Fairy, a lovely fishing town once called Belfast by Irish immigrants who settled here to escape the potato famine, is also on the Shipwreck Coast.
Not far past the town of Peterborough, the Great Ocean Road heads inland to Warrnambool. It eventually joins the Princes Highway heading toward Adelaide.
The Great Ocean Walk
Getting out of your car and walking at least a part of Victoria's spectacular west coast is well worth the effort. The Great Ocean Walk stretches 91km (56 miles) from Apollo Bay to Glenample Homestead (near the Twelve Apostles), passing through National Parks and overlooking the Marine National Park and Sanctuary. The trail has been designed so walkers can "step on" or "step off" at a number of places, completing short walks of around 2 hours, up to day or overnight hikes. If you are planning to stay overnight, you must register with Parks Victoria (tel. 13 19 63; www.greatoceanwalk.com.au) at least 2 weeks ahead. Camping fees are A$23 per tent site per night. The walk winds through beautiful and remote areas such as Station Beach and Moonlight Head, which were previously difficult to access. It also reveals wet fern and rainforest gullies, which have huge specimens of the world's tallest flowering tree, the mountain ash; crosses coastal heathlands; and goes in and out of the sheltered coastal estuaries of the Aire and Gellibrand rivers. Check the website for detailed information on all aspects of the walk, including guided walks, assisted overnight walks with tour operators, camping and walking equipment hire, and food provision.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.