7 Lesser-Known Stops on the Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road Victoria

The Great Ocean Road spans 243km, stretching from the surf town of Torquay, past the 12 Apostles, and ending at the South Australian border. While it takes about 9.5 hours to complete, and it’s possible to do see the 12 Apostles in just a day trip from Melbourne, to do the region justice, you should spend at least five days, says Jo Birley, Industry Development Manager at Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism.

“Another option is to make a number of trips here, basing yourself in different parts of the region so you have an immersive experience in each and explore what’s nearby,” Birley says.

She shares some of the must-visit spots below. From a freshwater lake, ideal for swimming on hot summer days and surrounded by rainforest, to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, used by Aboriginal people over 6,000 years ago, these are the lesser-known gems along the Great Ocean Road.

Lake Elizabeth

Located in Otways National Park, a 10-minute drive from the town of Forest, Lake Elizabeth is a freshwater lake, formed around 50 years ago when flooding caused a landslide in the area. Today, it’s a popular spot for locals who swim, fish, and boat here. There are several walking tracks in the rainforest surrounding the lake, most of which offer views of the water and the greenery around you.

Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve

Though Australia doesn’t have any active volcanoes, the Tower Hill volcano is one of the closest you’ll come to one. It’s now dormant but did erupt over 30,000 years ago. Since then, it’s filled with water, creating a unique ecosystem. The Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve is home to seasonal wildflowers, extensive wetlands, and wildlife, including koalas, emus, kangaroos, and echidnas. The reserve has several walking tracks, which offer opportunities to see the wildlife up close.

Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve
Image: Getty Images

Budj Bim

Budj Bim, also known as Mount Eccle, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A complex of wetlands and stone arrangements, once used by Aboriginal people for aquaculture over 6,000 years ago, today, it’s a significant example of Aboriginal ingenuity and sustainability. A tour on Country at Budj Bim will see you learning about the history and culture of the Gunditjmara people, as well as the chance to see firsthand how they used the land for food and shelter. You’ll also have the opportunity to try traditional bushtucker, and will begin to understand how important sustainability was to Aboriginal people.

Phantom Falls

A 20-minute drive from Lorne in the Great Otway National Park, Phantom Falls is a 3.5km-long return waterfall walk that takes roughly 90 minutes to complete. More experienced hikers can take the more strenuous walk to Cora Lynn Cascades, or continue on to The Canyon or Sheoak Picnic Area. The beginning of that track is located at the top of Phantom Falls.

Phantom Falls Great Ocean Road
Image: Getty Images

Gibson Steps

Gibson Steps are 86 carved steps, leading down to the beach, near the 12 Apostles, letting you appreciate the site in all its towering glory, as well as the Great Ocean Road’s coastline. The first sightseeing spot in Port Campbell National Park, the steps are located just south of the 12 Apostles.

Gibson Steps Great Ocean Road
Image: Unsplash


The city of Portland is located on the southern end of the Great Ocean Road. It’s the oldest European settlement in Victoria, and it’s home to more than 200 19th-century buildings, made of bluestone. On a visit here, take a tram ride along the foreshore and past the Portland Botanic Gardens. Drop by the Portland Maritime Discovery Centre to learn about the city’s maritime history.

Cape Bridgewater

Once a volcanic island, Cape Bridgewater is 21km and roughly a 20-minute drive from Portland. Here, you’ll find lookout Stony Hill, Tarragal Limestone Caves, and Bridgewater Lakes where you can fish, canoe, or waterski. The area is also known for its whale watching. In winter, humpback whales migrate south along the coast, and in spring, southern right whales return north. You can see whales from land or sea, and book one of many whale-watching cruises.

Cape Bridgewater Great Ocean Road
Image: Unsplash

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