The Great Ocean Road is renowned as one of the world’s great drives, with stunning beaches, quaint seaside towns and as an added bonus the Otway Ranges curl along the coast. In the morning you can be hiking through the bush by a waterfall in the morning, sunning yourself on the beach by lunchtime and enjoying dinner in a “hatted” restaurant for dinner.
Australia seems to be getting a reputation as an expensive travel destination and after 12 months away we have to admit we are surprised by the cost of many of the things you might like to do on holiday, like eating out or grabbing a few beers, even the price of a cup of coffee has surprised us.
So in acknowledgment of “our poor traveler’s just arrived home situation” we have been exploring the budget options near home and hope we can help you save a few dollars too.
Driving yourself is the most cost-effective form of transport if you want to visit more than the 12 Apostles, as tour groups are expensive and public transport is limited.
We drive on the LEFT-HAND SIDE of the road – yes it is weird but we recommend you do it, even if it is only for this part of the country. Being able to stop wherever you like, to snap that awesome travel shot is super important on this amazing stretch of coastline.
Go During the Week – If you are planning to head to the 12 Apostles, Lorne or one of the amazing beach towns here is our local tip, go on a weekday.
A day trip to one of the many stunning locations along the coast can be ruined by crowds, long lines and let’s be honest too many of us. So if you can, go on a weekday.
We find the best cafes, restaurants, and bars are much easier navigate without the crowds. And you are on holidays, why not have a long lunch at the beach if you can?
Add travel time particularly during summer but pretty much most weekends the GOR can be super busy, so if you are planning a day trip be sure to include time for slow moving traffic on the windy, hilly road.
Plan a circular trip – We usually plan a circular trip rather than battling the traffic down and back along the coast. There are many routes through the Otway’s and Western District for day trips from Melbourne, Geelong or Warrnambool.
You may even fall in love with one of the many cute little cafes, pubs, galleries or wineries along the way. There are too many gorgeous little towns and photo opportunities to mention in this post, so enjoy exploring.
Other than the cost of your petrol, you can spend nothing or lots depending on your budget
Caravan Parks have powered, unpowered sites and cabins available, usually provide toilets, showers and cooking facilities i.e. bbq
Cost- tent sites start at $20 AUD/night with cabins starting at $120 AUD/night, check with booking sites or the caravan park direct
National Parks provide camping grounds, that may have some facilities but they may be limited Cost- permits start at $20 AUD/night
Free Camping – There is local camping restrictions along the Surf coast area of the Great Ocean Road, from Torquay to Lorne. It is best to check with local council websites and there are signs posted within towns, the general rule is free camping is only available in National Parks. Fines imposed by the local council can be up to $125 AUD.
Choosing accommodation away from the coast can save you some cash, especially during Peak Season (November-February & Easter). Some of the smaller towns have a range of budget accommodation styles that will be cheaper than along the coast.
COST In some cases you might find a cheap hotel for $80 AUD/night, check with booking sites such as Expedia
AirBnb – is legal and available on the coast and inland towns, it may be more expensive due to high demand in the summer and high season. You can access our AirBnb discount code here.
What to do
Walks – the Great Ocean Road and Otway Ranges region are full of spectacular walks along pristine sandy beaches, along with cool forest tracks or to thundering waterfalls everyone can find a walk that suits them in this region. You can find walks in the Otway’s here and the Great Ocean Road, on the VisitVictoria website.
The Lorne Sculpture Biennale – Every second year the Lorne Foreshore is transformed into a free sculpture festival. Running for 3 weeks it showcases local and international contemporary artists. You can download an interactive map and enjoy the 3-kilometer stroll along the bay and through the surrounding bush landscape.
The Beach – We are pretty lucky when we come home from traveling to have a local region with beautiful natural landscapes, right near our major cities and towns.
The beaches are clean, safe and free to visit, in fact, no one is allowed to “own” part of the beach as in other parts of the world. All you have to do is bring your towel and find a spot to claim as your own.
However, the beaches along the coast are prone to “Rip Tides” which can be deadly, every summer we have people drown. There are Surf Life Saver patrolled beaches right along the coast and it’s advisable to visit the website for heaps of information about beaches and conditions across Victoria. Oh and wear sunscreen, sunburn ruins a day at the beach.
Photography – choose a location such as the iconic 12 Apostles (don’t pay to visit at the visitor’s center you can get a great view by stopping along the roadside), set up on the beach or cliff at your chosen time of day and click away, your Instagram feed will thank you.
Save money by taking a picnic – Eating out is notoriously expensive in Australia but we are blessed with the mildest weather and great outdoor spaces, making a picnic the perfect budget option. Along the Great Ocean Road, it is hard to not want to have a picnic along many of the beaches.
Utilise the BBQ’s – most local council regions supply BBQs and picnic tables for public use. You can find them at the beach and in parks. They may be free or require gold coins ($1 or $2 AUD). They are usually clean but take a bit of paper towel just in case. We would advise having about $5 worth of change in your pocket to cook a meal. You can find out more about the locations of BBQ’s on the local council website.
The region also has many food tour routes, if you have lots of time you can lose yourself in the myriad food choices from gourmet restaurants to dairies selling local cheese, yogurt and ice cream. The visit great ocean road website has maps and information about each of these routes. You can buy everything you need for your picnic along the way, pick a spot and have a superb meal with fresh, local produce.