Anyone preparing to travel the Great Ocean Road has probably heard (and heard again) of the route's main stars: the Twelve Apostles, London Bridge and Loch Ard Gorge, to name a few of the most iconic. These sights are famous for a reason - they are truly impressive and awe-inspiring, there's no doubt about it - but there are several other lesser known sights along the road that are just as worthy of a stop. Here are a few to consider should you find yourself traveling along one of the world's most beautiful coastal drives anytime soon.
The steep and winding drive up Marriner's Lookout Rd. in Apollo Bay is worth what's waiting for you at the top. Leave your car in the parking area and take the short walk (beyond the gate at the side of the parking lot) to the lookout itself. With Apollo Bay stretching before you and sheep happily munching away on grass behind you, it's a view to write home about.
Maits Rest Rainforest Walk:
Walking up to Marriner's Lookout
~15k west of Apollo Bay, you'll find the perfect break from driving; a quiet and relaxing 800 meter walk through an impressive array of giant ferns and larger than life trees, including Mountain Ash. Claiming the title of being the tallest flowering plants on earth, these beauties often reach heights of 100 meters.
Towering Mountain Ash, Maits Rest Rainforest Walk
This peaceful spot was next to deserted when we stopped there (save for three fishermen further down the shore) and was the perfect place to have lunch and recharge mid-drive. You'll find it ~40k west of Apollo Bay and ~60k east of Port Campbell. The beach can be accessed by taking the turnoff at Red Johanna Rd.
One of the many extraordinary limestone formations the Great Ocean Road has to offer, The Arch can be found ~15k west of the Twelve Apostles Visitor Centre. The site merits appreciation all on its own, but as a bonus, you can also get a unique perspective of the Twelve Apostles by looking eastward from the site's higher viewing platform, located on the left of the walking path as you're heading down toward the water.
Describing this must-see feature in official terms (it's technically a sinkhole formation) doesn't exactly do it justice. You can get a great view from the higher viewing platform, but it's definitely worth the walk down the steps to see it up close and at eye level. The Grotto can be found 2.5k west of The Arch.
Bay of Islands Coastal Park:
You'll find this stunning coastal reserve past Peterborough, which is ~12k west of Port Campbell. It stretches along thirty-two kilometers of breathtaking coastline. Be sure to pull over for the viewing areas at the Bay of Martyrs as well as the Bay of Islands. There are also several smaller pullover areas between the two that offer beautiful views that you'll likely get to share with far fewer people.
Bay of Martyrs
A few more helpful tips:
Bay of Islands
Take it slow. On a drive like this, there's no need to rush, and the suggested speed limit signs should be followed to make a safer environment for everyone on the road. Don't be afraid to take advantage of slow vehicle turnouts to allow faster cars to get around you.
Stop often. There are countless lookouts and pullover areas along the entire route. Break up the journey by taking advantage of these and giving yourself time to properly enjoy the scenery.
Bring food. No road trip is complete without proper snacks, after all. On the eastern part of the route, you'll come across supermarkets and cafes in abundance in Torquay, Lorne and Apollo Bay; but the further you go west, the more spread out things become, and you may not find much in the way of convenient (or inexpensive) groceries or restaurant options.
Buff up on your history. The true heroes of the road are those responsible for bringing it to fruition: returned soldiers who started work on the road in 1919. The road in entirety is dedicated to servicemen killed during World War I, making it the largest war memorial in the world.