After two years of on-again, off-again lockdowns, it’s been hard to think beyond our bedrooms, let alone make plans to travel. With the rise of TikTok however, has come a host of new bucket list items— discovered through our screens, but begging to be experienced IRL.
The top of that list? The Great Ocean Road. Beginning only an hour and a half from Melbourne, the Southern Hemisphere’s most famous drive offers accessibility and aesthetics in spades— making it the perfect location to kickstart your travel plans, road trip with your bestie, and obviously document it all along the way. Here’s your list of stops for a TikTok-friendly trip…
Torquay & Bells Beach
Easily the most famous surf destination in Australia, Torquay is home to the Rip Curl Pro— the world’s best surfers descending in April to compete every year. Thanks to its rich surfing history, Torquay is stacked with flagship surf stores from brands like Rip Curl and Quiksilver, alongside a number of small boutiques offering local and international designers, alike. For accommodation, The Wyndham, Torquay offers neat rooms, a resort feel, and direct access to Fisherman’s Beach, while located only moments away from low-fuss but high-quality dining and drinking options.
Head to Kuya, a surfboard store turned cafe for your morning caffeine fix, before booking Sou’West Brewery for lunch or dinner. Boasting six handcrafted beers, two handmade seltzer options, local wine and a fresh, seasonal menu, Sou’West Brewery will ensure your Surf Coast experience is off to a flying start.
If outdoor dining is more your [content] style, Surfcoast Picnic Co has you covered. Offering gourmet grazing boxes, picnics, and hampers, Surfcoast Picnic Co sources only the best in local produce from the Great Ocean Road region for you to enjoy, while taking in (filming and sharing) the scenery of your choice, of which there are plenty of options on and around Bells Beach.
The Great Ocean Road
Now that you’re on the road, there are a few non-negotiable stops. From Torquay, you’ll find yourself at Lorne within an hour of driving— a colourful beach town known for, of course, its surf breaks but also its thriving arts scene. Start by driving or hiking up to Teddy’s Lookout for spectacular views (and subsequently a spectacular opportunity for content) of the Bass Strait and Great Ocean Road. Whether you wander around Lorne, dip into local shops, or stop to grab a snack, stretch your legs before jumping back in the car to continue your journey.
No [Great Ocean] roadtrip would be complete without seeing the 12 Apostles. A further two hours from Lorne, the 12 Apostles are easily the most popular attraction on the trip— and for good reason. Despite only eight apostles still standing, 12 Apostles Helicopters will prove the coastline is best seen from the air. A roundtrip includes views of other world-famous stops on the road like the Loch Ard Gorge, (Australia’s version of the) London Bridge and depending on the tour, the infamous Shipwreck Coast of Cape Otway.
The true hero of the Great Ocean Road, Cape Otway feels like the region’s best kept secret. Best known for the Cape Otway National Park, the ancient rainforest serves as a deviation from the striking ocean views along the majority of the drive from Torquay to the 12 Apostles. For the most authentic Great Ocean Road experience, book the Skypods, Cape Otway for one or two nights to head completely off the grid, in the chicest way possible. Book one of only four self-contained pods on the 200-acre property, that also serves as a wildlife refuge. Each pod comes complete with a kitchen, queen bed, and (for Pods 1 & 2) floor to ceiling windows through which to enjoy an unrestricted view of the Southern Ocean and often the wallabies, kangaroos, and koalas that call the surrounding forest home. When the sun goes down, the Pods themselves are also equipped with a projector and screen for the ultimate Netflix-viewing experience.
While the Skypods may seem like the perfect destination to relax (which is definitely an option), they are also within walking distance of Station Beach and Rainbow Falls, locations with no public access, for those looking for next-level content. Owners and residents, Max and Lisa, who have worked for the last decade to restore the property from its previous life as an abandoned cattle farm to its status as a now thriving wildlife refuge, are nothing if not passionate hosts. A sneaky tip: a quad bike is the best way to see the property in all its glory— a tour Max himself is often happy to take guests on.
Before heading off the grid to the Skypods, however, pick up a pre-prepared meal kit (or two) from the Otway Brewing Group, housed in the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse in Apollo Bay, to cook and enjoy without having to leave the stunning accommodation.
To round out your experience in the Otways, stop at Icaro Wholefoods for a medicinal latte or St. Ali coffee before heading to the Wildlife Wonders Sanctuary. Offering guided tours with a conservationist through the protected bushland area, the sanctuary provides the best opportunity to spot koalas, kookaburras, resident emus in the wild, plus at the right time of year, the chance to see migrating humpback and southern right whales off the coastline. A social enterprise, Wildlife Wonders also invests 100% of its operating surplus back into conservation efforts, so treat yourself to a house-made dessert before or after your tour, or make a stop in the beautifully curated gift shop.
From surf breaks to scenic lookouts to wildlife you can’t find anywhere else, The Great Ocean Road delivers unique (TikTok friendly) experiences on all fronts —making the location a no-brainer to kickstart your return to travelling. So, what are you waiting for? Grab your bestie, book a flight, rent a car, and you’re on your way.
*This experience was created in collaboration with Tourism Australia.