If you are looking at driving between Adelaide and Melbourne, there are several routes that you could easily complete the trip in a day.
However, if you take those routes, you are simply robbing yourself of one of the most iconic and scenic drives that Australia has to offer. So why not look at the Princes Highway (A1) and Great Ocean Road (B100) option and take in one of the most stunning landscapes that Australia has to offer.
Great Ocean Road is one those staples of the for tourist coming to Australia and on bucket list drives for the many of us that live here. So if you have the time I would highly recommend the little bit of a detour take the scenic route.
Taking the Princes Highway/Great Ocean Road (A1/B100) option works out to be a little over 1000kms.
By contrast, the Dukes/Western Highway (A8) option is a little over 700kms.
The scenic route along the Princes Highway/Great Ocean Road (A1/B100) works out to be a little over 13 hours behind the wheel, but realistically you will want to give yourself at least two days (if not more) to see all of the iconic sights along the way.
If you are in a hurry the Dukes/Western Highway (A8) is a much better option and will take a little over 8 hours.
Driving between Adelaide and Melbourne is relatively easy. Neither of the options is a proper motorway all the way through, but they are highways that have proper overtaking options.
The Great Ocean Road option will be where you’ll be slowed down due to the sheer volumes of tourist traffic and drivers distracted by the view. But you’ll want to be travelling at that speed so as not to miss anything so it’s ok.
Towns are somewhat frequent along the route, to make your life simple I would recommend making sure you’ve got a full tank of fuel when you leave the outskirts of Adelaide (or at least Tailem Bend).
Service stations become a lot more frequent the closer to Melbourne you get and the Great Ocean Road is well set up for day-tripper tourist traffic.
Absolutely if you take the Dukes/Western Highway (A8) option.
However, if you are looking to make the most of the scenic route option along the Princes Highway/Great Ocean Road (A1/B100) then I would suggest you give yourself a good couple of days, particularly for the Great Ocean Road section.
The Great Ocean Road (B100) starts off the Princes Highway just outside Allansford before becoming Torquay Road/Surf Coast Highway at Torquay. The B100 route continues into Geelong where it rejoins the Princes Highway.
Having completed this route myself, I’ve put together my best tips and advice for places to stop along both the Princes Highway and Great Ocean Road between Adelaide and Melbourne to really make the most of the trip.
I will say that services at this end of the trip can be quite sparse, so make sure you are fueled up and stocked up on breakfast/snacks before leaving the city, depending on how early you like to start your road trips.
Also, make sure you download offline maps if you are navigating with Google Maps or another service on your phone. Phone reception is a little spotty along the first half of this trip. It’ll just make your life a bit easier.
Tailem Bend, SA
A little over an hour after leaving Adelaide, the first town that you will come across once the South Eastern Freeway (M1) reverts to being the Princes Highway (A1) is Tailem Bend.
While nowhere near as big as the nearby Murray Bridge which is a bit of a diversion off the highway, Tailem Bend is a great place to fuel up and grab a feed before taking on the rest of the Princes Highway.
If you’re arriving a little later in the morning, and really looking to make the most of the trip, then a visit to Old Tailem Town might be worthwhile if you are keen to see an interesting collection of historic Australiana.
Tailem Bend is also where you need to make the decision about taking the more direct Dukes/Western Highway (A8) option or turning off to follow the Princes Highway (B1/A1). But we’re here for the adventure, so let’s take the Princes Highway.
Meningie, SA – Pink Lake
It’s not the most iconic of the pink lakes that Australia or even South Australia, has to offer, however, the Pink Lake just before you arrive in Meningie (and several smaller ones around the township) are quite interesting to witness if you’ve never seen one before and very easy to find with absolutely no detour off the main road.
A short 30-minute drive from Tailem Bend, it’s well worth pulling up alongside the Princes Highway to explore the easily accessible pink salt lakes and take in the view and feel the salt crackle under your feet.
If you didn’t stop in at Tailem Bend, Meningie is another option to refuel and stock up. Just be mindful that it is a small town and nothing is open before 7am. Particularly the Caltex petrol station and it’s 150km’s to the next one.
Kingston SE, SA – The Big Lobster
What’s an Australian road trip without stopping in at a big thing?
150km’s (about an hour and a half drive) after leaving Meningie, Kingston SE’s Big Lobster will definitely grab your attention as you continue to make your way down the Princes Highway.
Designed by Paul Kelly, who was responsible for Australia’s very first big thing (The Big Scotsman in Adelaide), the Big Lobster (including the nearby service stations) make for a great place to stop and break up the trip particularly after a couple of hours in the car. On the property of the Big Lobster, you will also find a decent cafe if you are trying to avoid a service station caffeine fix.
The Big Lobster also signals where the Princes Highway (B1) stops following the coastline and heads inland along a more direct route to Mount Gambier. Just keep an eye out for the signposted turnoff which is next to the OTR/BP service station. If you’re not paying attention to it you might just miss it.
That said if you do continue straight and head into the township of Kingston SE it might be worth a quick visit to the Cape Jaffa Lighthouse Museum for a bit of a different experience.
Mount Gambier, SA
The regional city of Mount Gambier marks the halfway point between Adelaide and Melbourne, but it could be a destination all on its own.
From its limestone caves to its crater lakes the volcanic landscape, Mount Gambier is a worthwhile spot to stop to break up the trip, regardless of if you are trying to get the trip done as quickly as possible or if you have the time to stay overnight.
If it’s the caves that grab your interest, then either Tantanoola Caves just before you arrive in Mount Gambier or Engelbrecht Cave right in the centre of town are definitely worth a visit. Each cave offers a slightly different experience and is well worth exploring at least one of them while you are in the area if you have the time. Just make sure that you give yourself at least an hour, probably two, if you are going to do one of the tours.
Only making a quick stop in at Mount Gambier? Then you absolutely need to make a quick detour into town to check out the Blue Lake (pictured above). Even on an overcast day, this lake in the crater of an extinct volcano is a vibrant blue colour. It’s stunning to witness first-hand from any number of the viewpoints around the lake, just follow the signs.
After something unique while you are in Mount Gambier? Then how about the Umpherston Sinkhole? This manicured garden in a sinkhole needs to be seen to be believed. Just off the Princes Highway, it’s completely free to enter and an amazing sight to witness first-hand before getting back on the road.
After a series of small towns, Mount Gambier is a good spot to stock up and even grab a decent feed with Commercial Street (Both East and West) offering a very good selection of cafe and restaurant options.
If you’ve spent too much time sightseeing, all the major fast food options are available along the Princes Highway.
Mount Gambier is also the last stop in South Australia before crossing the border into Victoria making it a good option to stay overnight and split up the trip into somewhat equal parts.
Here are my recommendations on places to stay in Mount Gambier include:
- Federal Hotel Mt Gambier – Right in the heart of the town, this pub with accommodation is a good option if you want to just park the car for the day and walk around to explore. Just keep in mind the cheapest room options have a shared bathroom arrangement.
- Commodore on the Park – Located on the Princes Highway, but still fairly central, this hotel offers a variety of nice, clean and comfortable room options.
- Blue Lake Holiday Park – Is a good option if travelling with the family or as a group with a couple of different modern cabin options in scenic surrounds.
A little over 2 hours further along the Princes Highway, the road returns to the coast at the regional city of Warrnambool making it another great option for an overnight stay.
Warrnambool is also the last stop along this particular route before turning off the Princes Highway to take the very scenic Great Ocean Road (B100) which is the star attraction in this part of Victoria.
That said Warrnambool is not short of its own attractions. If you have enough time and would like to know more about the maritime history of the region known as the Shipwreck Coast, then a visit to the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and Village is certainly worthwhile.
Also to get to know a little more about this part of the Great Ocean Road, that you won’t see in the travel photos… dairy farming, then a stop into the Allansford Cheese World is an interesting experience.
Warrnambool is another good spot to stop and break up the trip, whether that be just for a decent feed, to stock up on supplies or an overnight stay.
You’ll find a really good selection of restaurants and cafes along Liebig Street as well as supermarkets and a few other bits and pieces. Fast food options are placed along the Princes Highway if you are in a hurry.
As for accommodation options, here’s a couple of my picks around Warrnambool.
- Best Western Tudor Motor Inn – Just off the Princes Highway, this is a good option if you are just looking to stop overnight in Warrnambool. You can park the car and walk into town and get back on the road quickly.
- Deep Blue Hotel & Hot Springs – Is a great option if you are really looking to make the most of the trip and indulge and relax and stay in Warrnambool for a couple of days to really break up the trip.
- Surfside Holiday Park Warrnambool – If family cabins are more your style, this is a great option right beside the beach with a mix of rustic and modern options.
Great Ocean Road, Victoria
If you do one road trip in Australia, then this is the one. Following the Great Ocean Road (B100) exit off the Princes Highway just after leaving Warrnambool starts a stunning drive along the Victorian coastline.
Just 35kms along the Great Ocean Road the first viewpoint that you’ll come across is The Bay of Islands which is a really good preview of what to expect for the rest of the trip and a stunning landscape in its own right. Keep an eye out for the signs, all the good lookouts are well signposted.
The best part about starting the Great Ocean Road from Warrnambool is that you are heading in the reverse direction to most tourists, and you could potentially end up with the first couple of lookouts/viewpoints that you visit all to yourself.
There are many places to stop and check out the view, but the next few key ones that you cannot skip are The Grotto, London Bridge and The Arch which are all before you arrive in the small town of Port Campbell. I highly recommend starting the trip so that you’re at the Bay of Islands, or just after sunrise to give yourself plenty of time to take in all the stops along the route.
Twelve Apostles/Loch Ard Gorge, Victoria
Continuing along the Great Ocean Road, first up is Loch Ard Gorge which has several lookouts to explore as well as the option to walk down to the beach to get that iconic wave rolling in between the cliffs shot. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time as you could easily spend hours here alone.
Next stop, only 5km down the road, is the Twelve Apostles. If you’ve managed to avoid large groups of tourist so far this is where you’ll definitely catch up with them. But for that view, it’s certainly all worthwhile. Just follow the pathways and find your own space. A lot of tourists will stop at the first part of the lookout. Just keep following the path, the view just keeps getting better and better.
This is also another spot that you need to give yourself time to explore and make sure you head down the Gibson Steps, all part of the Twelve Apostles tourist centre, to get on to the beach to really appreciate the size of these limestone structures.
Take your time and enjoy it, this last stop before the Great Ocean Road heads back inland and the landscape changes.
Cape Otway, Victoria
After a series of quick stops, it’ll take you a little over an hour to get to the next iconic feature of the drive, Cape Otway and in particular, its lighthouse.
Cape Otway Lighthouse is the oldest surviving lighthouse on mainland Australia, and also marks the southernmost point of the Great Ocean Road.
But it’s not just the lighthouse, the site also features several heritage buildings as well as a World War 2 bunker. Making it a worthwhile spot to stop in and explore to get to know a little more about the history of the region.
If you have had your fix of history and want to get back to nature, then the temperate rainforest of the Great Otway National Park might be more your style.
A bit detour off the Great Ocean Road, Otway Fly Treetop Adventures offers a couple of fun-filled options for exploring the forest.
Alternatively, you can go at your own pace and explore a couple of the walking trails and fantastic waterfalls in the area. My picks would be Triplet Falls and Hopetoun Falls which are both near Otway Fly Treetop Adventures.
Apollo Bay, Victoria
A little over 30 minutes drive from Cape Otway, Apollo Bay is a great option to stop and break up your trip.
Whether that be just for lunch if you’re trying to conquer the Great Ocean Road in a single day, or if you’ve given yourself a couple of days to really take in what the route has to offer then Apollo Bay is ideal for an overnight stay.
If it’s just a feed that you are after, then all you need to do is find a parking spot. In Apollo Bay on one side of the Great Ocean Road, there is a wide variety of restaurant and cafe options to cater to your tastes. While on the other side of the road is the Beach. Regardless of if you are looking for Lunch or Dinner, my pick would be The Great Ocean Road Brewhouse, just as you arrive into town, which has a good solid menu to choose from.
If you’ve given yourself enough time, then a relaxed stop in at Apollo Bay’s beach will be much deserved after a full day of exploring.
For a different view of the beach and varied landscape that makes up this section of the Great Ocean Road then take a quick trip up to Marriners Lookout is also worthwhile
If you are looking to stay in Apollo Bay overnight I would suggest.
- Beachfront Motel – Right across the road from the beach these spacious studio-style rooms will give you a bit of room to spread out and relax a bit after a couple of big days on the road.
- Apollo Bay Waterfront Motor Inn – Another good option near the beach with a variety of room styles to choose from.
- The Apollo – Planning on staying in Apollo Bay for a couple of days and really making the most of the trip? These apartments might be a better option.
A further hour along the Great Ocean Road you’ll discover the township of Lorne.
Much like Apollo Bay, Lorne’s beach and lookouts are the highlights of this town making it another great spot to stop to take in some on the sites and alternative to Apollo Bay if you are looking for a different option.
Of particular note is Teddy’s Lookout which offers stunning views over the Great Ocean Road giving you look at how the scenic drive winds along the coastline.
If you want to get out and stretch the legs properly, there are also a number of bushwalks and waterfalls in the area well worth checking out. It would be a challenge to see them all in one trip, but a couple of my picks include Phanton Falls, Erskine Falls and Sheoak Falls.
Once you leave Lorne, keep an eye out for the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch. Obviously going in the reverse direction, it doesn’t have the same impact appearing on the horizon as making the from Melbourne, but it’s still worth pulling over and seeing it from the right direction.
No doubt there will be a large number of tourist trying to get the iconic photo with the sign, but if you’ve never done the drive it’s a fun little memento of the trip.
Bells Beach, Victoria
For surfing fans, Bells Beach will need little introduction. For those of you not familiar, Bells, as it’s known by the locals, is home of the world-famous Rip Curl Pro, the longest-running event on the WSL World Championship Tour.
The quick detour off the Great Ocean Road to stop in at Bells Beach is well worthwhile as Torquay marks the last coastal point along the Great Ocean Road before heading inland to Geelong.
It’s worth noting, that there are two beaches at the Bells Beach viewpoint. Winkipop is the first beach you will see, a bit of a walk down the hill will reveal Bells Beach.
If you are a surfing fan, or just keen to know more then stopping in at the Australian National Surfing Museum in Torquay is also a good idea.
Geelong marks the end of the tourist trail and your last stop before the final hour or so of the drive to head into Melbourne.
A tourist hub in its own right, Geelong has plenty to offer, particularly around the harbour and waterfront area. Especially the art deco style Cunningham Pier and sea bath at Eastern Beach.
Otherwise, Geelong is also where the Great Ocean Road (B100) rejoins the Princes Highway (A1) which turns into the Princes Freeway to take you the rest of the way into Melbourne.
If you’d like to get more information to help plan your trip to and around Australia… Check out the rest of my blog posts.