In this post we would like to share our 3 Days Road Trip from Melbourne, Australia that includes two of the most popular destinations in Victoria state – Great Ocean Road with its famous Twelve Apostles and Grampians National Park.
We made this trip in the spring of 2022 when we travelled to Melbourne, Australia. We rented a car in Melbourne airport and drove the Great Ocean Road making many stops for sightseeing. Then we visited the Grampians National Park, walked the Pinnacle Lookout and a few other tracks. On the way back to Melbourne we made a stop at Ballarat – a city famous for its gold mining heritage.
Here is the detailed itinerary for our 3 Days Road Trip from Melbourne.
Day 1. Melbourne – Great Ocean Road
Leaving Melbourne, drive on M1 motorway towards Geelong, then turn towards B100 to drive along the coast.
Small towns along the Great Ocean Road
Make a first stop at Torquay – a small coastal town known for great surf beaches. Have breakfast at one of the cafes on The Esplanade, get down to the beach for a short walk or visit Bird Rock Lookout.
A short drive from Torquay is another small town on the shore – Anglesea. You can stop there for a coffee/snack and drive to Loveridge Lookout for a nice view over the beach.
Next, drive to Split Point Lookout. Only a small detour from the main road, it has a Lighthouse and a scenic lookout point.
If you want to take a picture of the Great Ocean Road wooden arch, make a stop at ‘Memorial Arch at Eastern View’, which is about 8 min drive (6km away) from the Split Point Lighthouse.
Lorne town is a popular stop on the Great Ocean Road. It has a nice beach, lots of cafes and few waterfalls nearby. We took a short walk to Sheoak Falls just off the main road. There are also Henderson Falls, Phantom Falls, Straw Falls, Erskine Falls and Cumberland Falls nearby. All of them though require a bit longer detour from the main road.
From Lorne, continue driving on B100 for another hour to the Maits Rest Rainforest Walk. It is a really nice and easy loop walk among ferns and rainforest trees. It takes around 30 mins to walk the Maits Rest Rainforest Walk.
Next stop is the famous Twelve Apostles.
Twelve Apostles and other limestone rock formations
12 Apostles is a group of limestone rock formations on the coast of Port Campbell National Park. The rock formations were formed over millions of years as a result of erosion of limestone cliffs. Don’t try to count and find 12 rock formations on the coast – there are actually only 8 ‘apostles’ in the group (the 9th collapsed in 2005).
First, we stopped at Gibson Steps – a stairs carved in the rock to access the beach.
We walked the length of Gibson Beach, took some photos and then went back to the car to continue driving to the 12 Apostles. Only 2 min drive from the Gibson Steps is the carpark and information center for Twelve Apostles. Leave the car and walk to the viewpoints over Twelve Apostles.
Besides the Twelve Apostles group, there are other scenic and odd limestone rock formations along the coast of Port Campbell National Park. Most of them are clearly signposted off the main Great Ocean Road and are hard to miss.
So, after the 12 Apostles stop, drive to the Loch Ard Gorge Parking. There are a few short walks from the carpark – down to the beach inlet, to Tom and Eva Lookout and to The Razorback lookout.
Return to the Loch Ard Gorge Parking and drive a bit further to the next parking. From there walk to Mutton Bird Island Lookout and then to Thunder Cave lookout.
When walking, pay attention to your surroundings – you may have some wildlife encounters. At one of these small tracks to the lookouts we saw an echidna! Trying not to disturb it we used a zoom on our camera to take a picture.
Get back to the Great Ocean Road and drive to The Bakers Oven – another scenic rock formation on the coast. You can see it right from the carpark, no need to even walk there.
Finally, drive to Port Campbell to spend the night.
Port Campbell is a small town on the Great Ocean Road. It has a small beach, quite a few cafes and takeaways and a selection of accommodation – a nice place to stay the night during the road trip from Melbourne. We stayed at Loch Ard Motor Inn in a nice family suite with an ocean view.
When we were doing this road trip, we arrived at Port Campbell around 4 pm, checked into the hotel, had a quick bite and still had enough daylight left for more sightseeing. But if you arrive late in the evening, just settle for the night in Port Campbell and continue with the sightseeing the following morning.
Only 10 minutes drive west from Port Campbell is London Bridge – a rock arch in the water, which was once connected to land by another arch (or natural bridge).
Next, another 5 min drive on the Great Ocean Road is The Grotto. Short walk from the carpark via a pathway and a set of stairs is The Grotto – an arch and cave formed by erosion of the rocks.
Continue driving on the Great Ocean Road, past Peterborough and to the Worm Bay and then to Bay Of Martyrs. After checking a few viewpoints over there, continue to the Bay Of Islands viewpoint and beach. This whole stretch of coast has lots of viewpoints, beach inlets and many small rocks in the water.
Bay of Islands marks the end of the first day of our 3 Days Road Trip from Melbourne.
Day 2. Great Ocean Road – Grampians National Park
Waterfalls and Viewpoints
In the morning, after breakfast and a coffee, leave for the Grampians National Park. If the previous day you haven’t had the chance to visit Bay Of Martyrs and the Bay Of Islands, then do it first (it will only add 20-30 mins to the trip). It’s about 2.5 hrs drive from Port Campbell to the Grampians National Park.
Grampians National Park is a big nature reserve in state Victoria. People visit it for its wildlife (birds, wallabies, echidnas), mountainous landscapes, waterfalls and many nature walks.
First stop in the Grampians National Park is Silverband Falls. Leave the car at the Silverband Falls car park and walk to the falls (approx 800 m easy walk).
There are few waterfalls in the park, all of them not too far from each other. You can choose to visit all of them, or just a few. There are MacKenzie Falls, Broken Falls and Fish Falls – all very close to each other. Seasonal cascade of Splitters Falls. An easily accessible Clematis Falls with just a short walk from the northern side of Halls Gap village.
Next two stops are two lookouts close to each other – Reed Lookout and The Balconies lookout. Both offer scenic views of the park and its mountains.
Unfortunately, when we visited the road to the lookouts was closed for road works and so we couldn’t drive there.
Also, when we visited, the weather was quite grey and wet and there were flood warnings all over the state of Victoria. So, when you look at our photos of the Grampians National Park please don’t be put off by all the greyness and low visibility 🙂 On a nice day these views and walks are much better!
Pinnacle Lookout walk
A must do when in Grampians National Park is the Pinnacle Lookout walk. The Pinnacle walk itself is very beautiful with many nice views over the mountain peaks and rocky landscapes. The walk ends at the Pinnacle Lookout – where you will be rewarded with the stunning views over the valley and lake down below.
You can start the Pinnacle Walk either from Sundial Carpark or from Wonderland carpark – both will lead to the Pinnacle Lookout. Track from Wonderland carpark is longer (1hr 30 min one way), but is more beautiful passing the Bridal Veil Falls, Grand Canyon, Cool Chamber, Silent Street and other rock formations. Track from the Sundial car park is easier (only 1 hr one way) and so better suitable for walking with small kids.
We started the hike from the Wonderland carpark. Even though it was wet in places, quite slippery (a big part of the track goes over smooth rocks – so, make sure to wear shoes with a grip) and sometimes foggy, the hike was still spectacular.
When we reached the Pinnacle Lookout it was zero visibility with the fog completely surrounding us. But after waiting for ten minutes, the wind cleared the view a little bit, so at least we could see the valley below us. On the way back we were just in time to finish the track before the heavy rain started.
Finish the day in Halls Gap – a village in the Grampians National Park.
Day 3. Grampians National Park – Ballarat – Melbourne
In the morning of Day 3 either visit the remaining Grampians National Park sights (one of the many waterfalls, or viewpoints or tracks that you didn’t have time to do the previous day), or, if you finished in the park, leave Halls Gap and drive towards Ballarat.
Ballarat is the third largest city in the state of Victoria (after Melbourne and Geelong). The city is famous for its gold rush history and Victorian architectural heritage. Make a stop at Ballarat on the way to Melbourne and spend half a day exploring the city’s attractions.
Walk in Ballarat Botanical Gardens, hire a pedal boat on Lake Wendouree, visit a small tram museum and have lunch at one of Ballarat’s central streets.
To learn about Ballarat’s gold rush history visit the open-air museum of Sovereign Hill. Here, you can try panning for gold, ride a coach and see live demonstrations of traditional craftsmanship.
Visit a wildlife park
Next, visit Ballarat Wildlife Park to see Australia’s native animals. You can’t really visit Australia without visiting at least one wildlife park or sanctuary. They are very different from traditional zoos – all of the animals have lots of space and are very well looked after, plus some birds and animals are roaming free in these sanctuaries. We visit a wildlife park or a sanctuary every time we go to Australia! 🙂
So, when stopping at Ballarat make sure to go to Ballarat Wildlife Park to see cute koalas and wombats, hand-feed free roaming kangaroos, or even have your picture taken while holding one of the animals.
Lastly, you can visit Kryal Castle theme park in Ballarat. Though you probably won’t have enough time to visit all three attractions – Sovereign Hill museum, Ballarat Wildlife Park and Kryal Castle – so, just pick whatever you like more.
Things to know for a road trip in Australia
Driving in Australia
In Australia you can drive with your international driving license (if it’s in English) when visiting. If you are planning a road trip in Australia, rent a car in one of the Australian cities or airports. We usually use Rentalcars.com to find best deals (keep in mind that in Australia cars with automatic transmission are more popular than with manual transmission):
The main thing to remember when driving in Australia is that you have to drive on the left side. Cars usually have steering wheels on the right side (so, the gear shift stick would be under your left hand). When on a multi lane road, keep left unless you’re overtaking another car (always overtake on the right).
On roundabouts the traffic goes in a clockwise direction. When entering a roundabout you have to give way to the traffic on your right.
Speed limits differ from state to state in Australia. In Victoria the most common speed limit in populated areas is 50 km/h, and on highways – 100 km/h.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Australia is huge, and driving times between its cities can be long. For example, driving time between Malborne and Sydney is up to 9 hours. If you are planning to visit multiple cities and states in Australia, I’d recommend flying between major cities of Australia, and driving to explore the surroundings.
Where to stay during road trip from Melbourne
Spend the first night of the 3 Days Road Trip from Melbourne in Port Campbell:
Spend the second night of the road trip in Halls Gap – a town in the Grampians National Park:
It’s not uncommon when staying in rural Australia to encounter kangaroos. During our several visits to Australia, twice we stayed in a motel where kangaroos were just hanging out on the motel grounds. So, if you want to see kangaroos in the wild, try staying in camper parks or motels with lots of green space.
Wildlife encounters during the road trip from Melbourne
Australia has many native animals and birds, and there is a high probability that you will encounter them while on a road trip. Of course, you won’t see many animals on the busy streets of Melbourne, unless you visit a wildlife park. But when you travel in rural parts of Australia you could see kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, reptiles, kookaburras, parrots, and etc.
During this road trip from Melbourne we saw kangaroos, a wild fox, an echidna, cockatoos and other parrots in the wild. And this is not counting visiting a wildlife park where we fed kangaroos, patted a koala and held a small python!
So, when driving, walking and going on hikes, just pay attention and you may be lucky to see some wildlife while in Australia. Though, not all of the wildlife encounters are equally desirable.
Coming soon – How to spend 3-5 Days in Melbourne.
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