The Great Ocean Road is said to be the largest World War I memorial in existence, as it was built by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) soldiers who fought and served during the Great War.
When they returned, they found their country in the midst of an economic downturn. To combat it, they contributed to infrastructure development, resulting in the 151-mile stretch that tourists around the world flock to the southeast coast of Australia to see.
What I loved the most about the Great Ocean Road was how at home I felt on it— the drive is very similar to what you would find along Route 1 on the coast of California! They both have amazing cliffside views, can be surrounded by forest-like scenery, and are never too far from the beach.
Whether you’re thinking of joining a tour or driving the road yourself, here is a list of my must-see spots along the Great Ocean Road!
The marker at the start of the road is known as the Memorial Arch, and it features a statue of ANZAC soldiers laboring to bring the coastal highway to fruition.
Beside the arch is an informational sign that details the background story of the Memorial Arch and the Great Ocean Road. It includes a map of the exact route of the Great Ocean Road, so you can get a better idea of just how your trip will be!
Fun Fact: This is the third resurrection of the arch. The first was removed when the road was expanded, and the second fell to wildfire.
Kennett River Holiday Park
This park is actually a mobile home site, but there is a cafe nearby that you can stop at to enjoy some refreshments while taking in all of the wildlife.
King Parrots, Crimson Rosellas, Cockatoos, and Koalas are the highlights of this stop along the Great Ocean Road! They’re friendly, incredibly sociable, and are not at all afraid to approach you if they think you’ve got some feed in your hand (please don’t feed them human food!)
We spotted five koalas sleeping in the eucalyptus trees on the property, and one of them awoke just long enough for us to see him scratching his belly! If you want to see some amazing Australian wildlife in their natural habitat, definitely make it a point to stop here.
Cape Patton Lookout Point
For a quick stretch of your legs, I recommend pulling over at the Cape Patton Lookout Point for tremendous views of the Australian coastline.
The ocean water is filled with various shades of blue, and the hillside has ferns that blow gently with the sea breeze. Though this point is nothing more than a viewing area, it is certainly worth your time for the gorgeous photographs you will surely take.
Though you are not encouraged to go beyond the safety wall in order to fully enjoy the sights available from this vantage point, there is a worn out path on the cliffside that allows for an unobstructed view of the coastal landscape.
Great Otway National Park
If you’ve ever wondered what the Earth looked like when dinosaurs roamed free, then look no further than the Great Otway National Park. I mean, this park is home to a carnivorous snail for heaven’s sake!
The geography of this region is a paleontologist’s haven, with dinosaur fossils having been found all around. King ferns (which, by the way, predate the dinosaurs!) are in abundance here, lining the guided trail pathway. The Great Otway National Park is also home to the world’s tallest flowering plants: mountain ash trees!
Overall, this is an incredible environmental tour for those who really want to get a feel for native Australian flora.
These iconic limestone stack formations were originally to be named Sow & Pigs, but the biblical name it is known by today was a marketing goldmine. As a result, the site is now a huge tourist attraction, and for good reason! The views are astonishing.
Standing on the edge of the cliff at the end of the path, it is incredible to see the effect of eons of erosion on the coastline of Australia. The leftover sediment of the fallen ninth stack is a testimony to the strength of the ocean’s water, as well as a confirmation of what I already knew– nothing stays the same for forever!
Fun Fact: There were never twelve apostles. I mean, of course there were biblically. But in terms of these incredible limestone stack formations, there were only ever nine pillars! One fell in 2005, leaving just eight remaining.
Loch Ard Gorge and Tom & Eva
The view from the edge of the water out to sea is one of harrowing beauty— the waves are unfathomably tall, and the cliffs even taller. It’s a feeling of claustrophobia that helps one to understand the story of Loch Ard Gorge.
The cove is named after an infamous ship that beached on a nearby island back in the late 19th century. Unfortunately, only two passengers survived the wreck— Tom Pearce and Eva Carmichael.
As you could imagine, the entire experience shaped their lives. Eva’s entire family died in the wreck, and she was gravely injured. By the time Tom returned with help, she was in deep shock. While Eva retreated from the public eye and returned to Europe, Tom was considered a hero for the rest of his life.
The nearby Island Archway lost its bridge to erosion in 2009, resulting in two solitary stacks. These have since been renamed Tom and Eva in their honor.
The Razorback and the Salt & Pepper Shakers
The razorback gets its name for being an incredibly narrow, elongated stack formation. It used to be longer, but some of the rock eroded away, leaving a base of sandstone slightly exposed on the ocean side.
My favorite thing about the razorback is how clearly defined the different layers of stone are. Eons of erosion worked on the razorback, and its work is evident.
From the lookout point by the Razorback, you can also see the Salt & Pepper Shakers stack formations. If you look closely enough, you can see a face in the closest shaker!
My guide also pointed out other stacks and formations that resemble animals, such as a hippopotamus and a lion’s head.
It is a short walk to this viewpoint, which is a must-see for all!
The Great Ocean Road was my favorite day trip that we took out of Melbourne, and I highly recommend it to everyone. Standing on the beach at Loch Ard Gorge and hearing the waves crash against the stone was surreal, and it is a feeling that I will not soon forget.
Have you driven the Great Ocean Road? What were your favorite parts?