Victoria’s Great Ocean Road is undoubtedly one of the most scenic drives in Australia. With tall, dramatic cliffs and the spectacular Southern Ocean hugging the shoreline, its widespread popularity attracts visitors from around the globe.
In peak season, the more well-known towns and attractions can get busy, so why not take an alternate route to discover the local secrets and hidden experiences just a hop, skip and a jump away from the crowds?
Prepare to go off the beaten track, embrace a change of scenery that’s captivating and stunning in equal parts, and revel in the beauty and magic of the smaller towns.
Drive along the Great Ocean Road to Torquay via the inland route.
Shopping at Torquay
Enjoy your morning coffee as you watch the waves roll in at the world-famous Bells Beach, home to the annual Rip Curl Pro held each Easter.
Torquay has an array of boutiques, specialty shops and factory outlets to leisurely browse before you return to your car and continue toward Winchelsea.
Tour the Barwon Park Mansion and go berry-picking
Winchelsea is home to the majestic Barwon Park Mansion. This two-storey bluestone building boasts 42 rooms and a veranda with cast iron lacework. The one-hour guided tours are an insightful way to appreciate its history and learn about its significance to the town. Tours are offered on specific days and may need to be booked prior to your visit.
Pick berries in summer at Pennyroyal Raspberry Farm & Cafe. Just a 30-minute drive from Winchelsea, this organic farm grows about 10 different delicious berries. The cafe serves light vegetarian meals and snacks to refuel after your berry-picking adventures. This activity is seasonal and only open during the summer months.
Lunchtime at Forrest
Head to Forrest for lunch—the Forrest General Store and Forrest Brewing Company, located diagonally opposite each other, are great options for a meal. The general store serves delectable handmade dishes and quality seasonal produce. The Forrest Brewing Company is a small-scale brewery with casual dining.
Arrive at Apollo Bay, the home of seafood
Hit the road and head north towards your final stop for the day, Apollo Bay.
Nestled at the foothills of the Otways, Apollo Bay is famous for seafood. You’re spoiled for choice with the variety of restaurants that prepare the freshest catch—from crayfish and squid to flathead and trevally, they’re all made into delicious dishes.
The trip between Apollo Bay and Warrnambool is an iconic leg of the Great Ocean Road, but have you explored up, down and around it?
Scenery at the Otways and Johanna Beach
As you exit Apollo Bay, the Great Ocean Road leads you through the Great Otway National Park. The rainforest with tree top canopies, rolling hills and limestone cliffs is bound to leave you awe-struck.
Continue to Johanna Beach. Stop to admire the wild Southern Ocean, with its rugged coastline and towering cliffs.
Stroll the Great Ocean Walk and Princetown Boardwalk
Take a stroll west along the Great Ocean Walk and come face-to-face with the resident mob of kangaroos. Have your phone or camera handy to capture the views and wildlife encounters.
The next stop is the peaceful village of Princetown. If you’re up for another stroll, the Princetown Wetlands Boardwalk is about half a kilometre and leads down to the Gellibrand River, a route filled with attractive scenery. Just a little further down is a rugged beach with massive sandstone cliffs.
Timboon food and Nirranda Arts Studio
Drive inland for another half hour until you arrive at Timboon, a town famous for dairy production.
Treat yourself to Timboon Fine Ice Cream, premium frozen dessert made from local fresh milk and cream. Pop by the Timboon Railway Shed Distillery and taste their single malt whisky, gin, vodka and other products, and consider eating here too—there are four lunch sittings and limited seating, so it’s a cosy affair with an exclusive vibe.
Walk off the meal at the Nirranda Arts Studio located 20 minutes away. Specialising in silk painting and textile design, the studio also explores sculpting, illustration, photography and drawing. This creative space will inspire you to think differently about art and design.
Check-in at Warrnambool and enjoy dinner
From Nirranda, travel half an hour to reach Warrnambool and check in to your overnight home away from home. Warrnambool has an outstanding selection of eateries with varied cuisine to tantalise your tastebuds and suit your budget.
Spend the morning discovering Warrnambool – a dramatic location on a plateau behind a steep bluff, defined by rivers to the east and west, and overlooking sheltered Lady Bay.
When visiting Warrnambool in winter, grab your binoculars and head to the Logans Beach Whale Viewing Platform and look for whales! Between June and September, these gentle giants migrate to warmer waters for their annual babymoon. They can be spotted within a hundred metres offshore at Logans Beach—such a spectacular sight!
Relax at Deep Blue Hot Springs and walk at the falls
It’s time to rejuvenate with some spa time. Journey through a series of thermal pools at Deep Blue Hot Springs. These naturally warm waters lift your mood and promote relaxation. Unwind and experience its therapeutic effects on your senses. Grab a snack or rehydrate with a healthy drink at the Nourish Dome Cafe located within the sanctuary, exclusively open to bathers.
Once you’re ready to move again, visit Hopkins Falls—a picturesque waterfall on Hopkins River that’s especially beautiful after rainfall. Walk down to the lower viewing platform for a spectacular view. Keep a lookout for baby eels during their winter migration.
Live Music, Cocktails and Quality Food
Choose a restaurant for dinner – the options in Warrnambool are many.
The Cally Hotel is great for your traditional hearty pub fare as well as modern dishes, accompanied by a great quality wine list. The Cally regularly hosts live music, so pop by to enjoy some live performances before walking a block to The Dart & Marlin for cocktails. If you’re feeling peckish, try out their stone-baked pizza or homemade pasta while sipping on some wine.
Bid Warrnambool goodbye and take the inland route to avoid the crowds. Explore some hidden gems in the Volcanic Lakes and Plains region.
Visit a mountain, miniature railway and lake
Walk along the Alan Marshall Discovery Trail at Mount Noorat to see one of Australia’s best preserved dry craters. The two-kilometre walk offers great vistas of the peaks on the volcanic plain.
Stop at Cobden, the Dairy Capital with rich and fertile farmland. Hop on the mini train at the Cobden Miniature Railway, run solely by friendly volunteers. The train ride features a trestle bridge, tunnels and an underpass. It’s great entertainment for kids and adults alike!
Cobden Lake is a wonderful spot to relax and have a picnic amid the greenery.
Camperdown’s historic landmarks and antique shopping at Pomborneit
Only a 10-minute drive from Cobden is Camperdown, a cosy town with a fancy collection of historic buildings. One of these is a Gothic-style clock tower. Climb the stairs to the top where you’ll find 360° views of the town.
For a birds-eye view of the volcanic peaks, plains and lakes, drive to the top of Mount Leura. An hour-long walking trail extends from the lookout point to the volcanic cone of Mount Sugarloaf. It’s breathtaking!
Resume your adventure and drive to Pomborneit. Wander about Pombo Mart, an antique store with many collectables, including records, fine china and furniture. Take a break from exploring its treasures for a coffee and something sweet, or a light meal onsite at Cafe Pombo. The comfortable, friendly atmosphere makes you feel at home.
Arrive at Colac and pick a cuisine for dinner
It’s time to head to Colac, your final destination for the day and where you’ll stay the night.
Colac, a popular town in the Great Ocean Road region, is home to must-see Lake Colac. To appreciate its vast beauty, take a slow walk around or sit down at the edge of the lake and immerse yourself in its splendour. Pick a dinner spot from Colac’s bustling food scene—the eateries use local produce and include Thai, Vietnamese, Italian, Indian and Chinese cuisines.
Rise and shine for the final leg of your journey! Only 20 minutes away awaits Birregurra.
Explore and sample artisan and local food
Birregurra oozes country charm. Its food has a freshness and authenticity that’s unrivalled. The town is charming with restored building facades, adding a historic and reminiscent feel.
Grab a coffee at Otway Artisan Gluten Free, a bakehouse producing gluten-free bread and pastries to pair with your hot drink. Their light meals make a perfect brunch or quick snack en route. If the weather permits, choose outdoor seating and soak up the sun.
Shop at the acclaimed Yield Provisions Store for Victorian produce and artisan goods. Items are locally made, including ready-made cold meals cooked with ingredients that are grown in the region.
Royal Mail Hotel Pub and Home Time
End your Birregurra visit at the Royal Mail Hotel, a beloved pub that’s served the community for over a century. It’s been refurbished and its doors are open and ready to host you. Chat with the locals over a hearty meal, and reminisce about your journey thus far. How time has flown while having fun!
All good things must come to an end—but only temporarily! The Great Ocean Road with all its jewels and glory will always be here to warmly welcome you back.
Exploring the Great Ocean Road through its quiet, small towns filled with local community spirit, delicious cuisine and hidden attractions presents you with a rewarding, wholesome experience that otherwise aren’t easy to accomplish on busy, crowded routes. It’s never too early to plan your next trip away from the crowds and popular hotspots. Browse through our destination guide for more travel inspiration and ideas for your next adventure.
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Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the Great Ocean Road region the Wadawurrung, Eastern Maar & Gunditjmara. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging. We recognise and respect their unique cultural heritage and the connection to their traditional lands. We commit to building genuine and lasting partnerships that recognise, embrace and support the spirit of reconciliation, working towards self-determination, equity of outcomes and an equal voice for Australia’s first people.