Great Ocean Drive and Mornington Peninsula
"My Favourite Scenic Drive in Australia"
The Great Ocean Drive and Mornington Peninsula is an essential part of your trip if you fancy a leisurely drive along some of Australia's best coastline.
The Mornington Peninsula is made up of a string of coastal towns along Port Phillip Bay and is also home to some 70 wineries making good pinot noir, shiraz and some whites.
The Peninsula resembles the shape of Italy but everything is very close together making it easy to explore before catching the vehicle/passenger terminal from Sorrento to Queenscliff which is a short drive away from the start of the Great Ocean Drive. I'd really recommend incorporating a couple of days for the Mornington Peninsula. It really is a great little area. You can find out more about what to do here and ideas for Mornington Peninsula
The Great Ocean Road was built after World War 1 by returning service men. It took 3000 men 13 years to build it, a lifeline for coastal towns that were previously only accessible by boat.
The aim was to build a road whose beauty would make it one of the best coastal drives and wow did they succeed. The scenery is wild and unspoilt and is dotted with beaches, coves and seaside towns, all of which have their own personality and style.
How long to go for
Whilst you can do a day trip to both the Great Ocean Drive and Mornington Peninsula, I would take at least 4 days but a week would be better and do a leisurely drive from one to the other.
You can do a loop and finish back in Melbourne. Or, you can carry on to Adelaide. This is about a days straight drive or you can take 2 days and make a stop off.
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Melbourne to Adelaide australian road maps
When to go
You can go throughout the year but its best when the skies are blue and there is no rain. So, head here during the summer (December through to February) or shoulder season (end of October, November or March) when it will be less busy.
The drive does get very busy at peak times (Deember - February) so its best to get ahead of the crowds and set off early, that means 7am ish form Melbourne to beat the coach tours. If not, wait til after lunch and then set off.
The Mornington Peninsula is just an hours drive from Melbourne (via M1)and the drive there is easy.
Once there, there is a ferry that takes you to the start of the Great Ocean Drive.
It's hard to get lost once you are reach the Mornington Peninsula as there really is only one main road so driving is a doddle.
Once at the seaside town of Sorrento you can catch a ferry over to Queenscliff which is not far from the start of the Great Ocean Drive.
The Vehicle/passenger ferry from Sorrento to Queenscliff costs $69 one way and runs every hour from Sorrento Pier from 7am to 6pm.
If you don't fancy driving, then you can hook up with an organised tour from Melbourne but most are day trips and you would have to do one day for the Mornington Peninsula and another for the Great Ocean Drive.
Another alternative is to walk part of the Great Ocean Drive.
“Both Feet” do 3, 4 or 6 day walks with fantastic accommodation food and views. Costs are from $1395 per person though.
But if that is out of your price range then you can dip in and dip out of the 90km treck that Victoria parks run – they have included huts in remote and beautiful settings.
What to do and see on the Mornington Peninsula
Here are the top sites along the way on the Mornington Peninsula:
Drive the Peninsula
Take a leisurely drive and stop off at the many seaside towns - Frankston, Dromana, Portsea and Sorrento are all good and have cafes, boutiques and beaches.
Visit the wineries
Dromana is where the majority of the Mornington Peninsula wineries are based. Some of them offer superb food in wonderful settings. Try Dromana Estate, Harrison Road or Red Hill Estate, 53 Red Hill Shoreham Road.
What to see and do on the Great Ocean Drive
Here are the best bits of the Great Ocean Drive:
Look out for the wildlife
Anglesea Golf Course is famous for the many Kangaroos that happily jump all over the course.
Keep your eyes peeled for the many Koalas that are high in the trees along the drive. A good place to spot them is at Kennett River, which is between Apollo Bay and Lorne. Pull into the Koala cafe there and take a walk along the side street. Plenty of koalas here.
Admire the Beaches - The beaches and views are amazing. Look out for Bells Beach which is where the famous surf competition is held every year around Easter - there really are some great Australian Beaches here.
Stop off in the villages
Lorne is a firm favourite for brunch/lunch or even an overnight stay, particularly if you started the drive after lunch. Once famous for its surf beach, it is now a town with cafes, restaurants and tourist accommodation.
Apollo Bay and Port Campbell are also good places to browse, stay or stretch your legs. My personal favourite however is Port Fairy. I recommend staying overnight here so you have the time to enjoy its charm
Explore the forest
The Otway fly tree top walk (about 50 mins from Apollo Bay) is worth a visit and is the best way to explore the Otway forest. It is an elevated walkway through ancient rainforest (cost $19.50)
The 12 Apostles and other rock formations
The famous 12 Apostles are stunning and worth the 100’s of photos you are bound to take. Constant erosion of the limestone cliffs over millions of years have left remnants which have become the 12 apostles. They are particularly beautiful at sunrise and sunset.
Not far from here are some other great rock formations that are worth a stop. Loch Ard Gorge is named after a ship wreck called The Loch Ard where nearly all its crew died in 1878.
The Arch and London Bridge are worth a look. The Grotto, Bay of Martyr and Bay of Islands are other rock formations and you can walk along the secluded beach to take a closer look.
Where to stay
Spring Creek Farm B&B $190 – perfect if you fancy a horseriding treck across scenic wineries and the national park (3 hour ride costs $95 plus $20 for BBQ. Departs 10am and 2pm)
Cape Schanck Lighthouse Inspectors Cottage $150
Sorrento Beach Motel $130 - $215
Peppers Moonah Links – great for golfers (badminton, tennis, spa etc) and those wanting stylish accommodation $240-$400
YHA Sorrento – from $20
Frankston Holiday Park – Cabins from $120
Check out my Mornington Peninsula Accommodation page for more ideas and information.
GREAT OCEAN DRIVE
Chris's Villas at Beacon Point has become THE place to stay if you love your food and wine. Renowned chef (Cray fish from the local area are normally on the menu) on the road that runs inland from Skenes Creek up to the otways. ($265 to $350)
Other accommodation options in Apollo Bay:
Rayville Boat Houses $190-$270
Claerwen at the Bay B&Bt - $150 (studios, cottages, massage)
Captain's at the Bay B&B
Marengo Holiday Park $110 cabins
Hearns villas and cottages - Hearns Beach Villa 8 is a good one- $350 for 2 bedrooms
Wytonia Studios - $170 for 2 people
Big 4 Holiday Park cabins and hotel) $95 - $140 holiday homes
Cherry Plum Cottages B&B from $130
Where to eat
There are some nice places to eat on the
Great Ocean Drive and Mornington Peninsula
Try any of the wineries near Dromana for the best food and wine. My favourite is
Red Hill Estate, 53 Red Hill Shoreham Road.
Pebbles Restaurant at Peppers Moonah Links Hotel
GREAT OCEAN DRIVE
Qdos, 35 Allenvale Road, Lorne
Chris's Beacon Point, Apollo Bay (You normally have to stay to be able to eat here)
La Bimba, 125 Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay
Portofino, 26 Bank Street, Port Fairy
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