Great Southern Touring Route

Melbourne to Melbourne (Loop)

Total Distance: 860km
11hr 40min

View on Map View on Map

From dramatic coastline and world-class beaches to dazzling national parks and leading heritage spots, the Great Southern Touring Route is a stunning loop that rewards at every turn. The path begins in Melbourne, follows the Great Ocean Road, heads inland to uncover iconic spots, and returns to the Victorian capital.

Highlights

  • Satisfy a hunger along the Bellarine Taste Trail
  • Walk within Great Otway National Park
  • Marvel at the iconic Twelve Apostles
  • View MacKenzie Falls in Grampians National Park
  • Be enthralled at Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill
Gibsons Steps, Great Ocean Road

Gibsons Steps, Great Ocean Road

Bike riding, the Grampians

Bike riding, the Grampians

Children at play, Torquay

Children at play, Torquay

Melbourne

Start

Melbourne regularly ranks as one of the world’s most liveable cities, but you don’t need to be a resident to appreciate its immense appeal.

Spotted on the banks of the Yarra River, Melbourne serves up a raft of attractions to suit any visitor. Top-shelf dining, shopping, arts, and events are all on the menu.

Cultural goodies like leading galleries and museums mix with relaxing outdoor experiences: take a casual stroll through the vast Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne.

Grand old buildings sit side by side with funky modern architecture. Federation Square is a regular hive of activity, as is the Southbank precinct. In fact, Melbourne constantly buzzes thanks to an outstanding events calendar.

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Melbourne to Geelong

75km (1hr)

After devoting ample attention to Melbourne, carve through the southwest suburbs and – within the time it takes to watch an episode of 60 MinutesGeelong will emerge.

Located on the shores of Corio Bay, Geelong was as an integral seaport during the 1850s gold rush. Today, it’s Victoria’s largest regional city with the greater area accounting for more than 220,000 residents.

Yet its past is easy to spot – an incredible 100 National Trust-listed buildings are dotted around Geelong. The National Wool Museum and the Old Geelong Gaol are prized historical attractions.

The waterfront is a crowd-pulling precinct, lined with inviting restaurants and cafés. It’s also home to Eastern Beach Reserve, which is a great place for a swim or a picnic.

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Geelong to Queenscliff (Bellarine Peninsula)

30km (0hr 30min)

Before following the Great Ocean Road, discover a wealth of appeal at the Bellarine Peninsula, which is reached with ease from Geelong.

The Bellarine Peninsula shines with its delectable food and wine, endless ocean views, myriad water activities, and historical seaside villages.

Queenscliff is one of the more prominent villages and it bursts with reminders of its absorbing past. Wander the streets to view stately Victorian-era buildings and quaint fishermen's cottages.

Fort Queenscliff Museum is housed in a magnificent building and comprehensively reawakens the area’s military history. Or stop by the Queenscliffe Maritime Museum to explore the peninsula’s link with the sea.

Be sure to grab a copy of the Bellarine Taste Trail. It’s a great guide to the many first-rate wineries, restaurants, cafés, and produce outlets that are found within the Bellarine Peninsula.

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Queenscliff (Bellarine Peninsula) to Anglesea

60km (0hr 55min)

Depart from the Bellarine Peninsula and hit the Surf Coast Highway to reach a destination that deserves its association with this road – Torquay.

This famous surf town features iconic Bells Beach, which hosts the Rip Curl Pro surfing event each Easter. Year round, Surf World Museum allows a detailed insight into Australia’s surfing culture.

From here, it’s time to link up with the Great Ocean Road and soon the town of Anglesea beckons. Although Anglesea's permanent population is roughly 2500 residents, that figure increases tenfold during the summer holidays – and with good reason. Its main strip of sand is a strong allure for swimming and surfing and Anglesea Golf Club is well-known for the many kangaroos that roam the fairways.

Attractive parks line the coastal foreshore and the picturesque Anglesea River. Coogoorah Park is a highlight for families.

The Great Ocean Road’s striking cliffs emerge out of the sea either side of the Anglesea River, making for spectacular walks.

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Anglesea to Wye River

55km (0hr 50min)

Although this is a short portion of the Great Southern Touring Route, it contains some of the most prominent destinations.

Stop at charming Aireys Inlet and enjoy panoramic vistas of these glittering surrounds on a guided tour of Split Point Lighthouse.

Lorne is another holiday hotspot that marks the beginning of sensational Great Otway National Park, which extends all the way to Princetown. Walking trails among this cool-climate rainforest are highly rewarding. Several waterfalls are within close range of Lorne, including Erskine Falls.

Wye River might be sandwiched between more notable locations, but this small town overlooks a spectacular stretch of the Great Ocean Road. Head to a lookout to best appreciate the bewilderingly beautiful views.

Near Wye River is a famous wreck and monument that is not to be missed: the Lonely Grave of the WB Godfrey, which was shipwrecked in 1891. Also, be sure to have the camera handy to photograph the unusual Artillery Rocks.

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Wye River to Apollo Bay

30km (0hr 25min)

Enjoy more glittering views along the next short stint of this touring route before reaching the crowd-pulling destination of Apollo Bay.

Visitors gravitate here to take advantage of a sparkling stretch of surf and sand that suits a plethora of water leisure. Cafés and restaurants are plentiful and often come with ocean views, and the foreshore community market each Saturday morning is a lively affair.

Apollo Bay is another great base if you wish to plant your feet along a walking trail within Great Otway National Park.

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Apollo Bay to Warrnambool

160km (2hr 25min)

The camera battery requires full charge before commencing this stretch of the touring route.

A diversion to the Cape Otway Lightstation rewards and guided tours of this historical structure are held daily.

Back on the main path, the road heads inland and Lavers Hill is an ideal place to break up the journey with a bite to eat. The popular Treetop Walk – part of Otway Fly Treetop Adventures – is a breathtaking experience that can be accessed from here.

Once past Lavers Hill, the route regains its coastal focus. Soon enough you’ll come across a creation that has been photographed countless times – the Twelve Apostles. This gathering of rock stacks makes for an incredible sight and is joined by a series of weather-beaten formations within Port Campbell National Park. Be sure to take the Gibsons Steps: descend to the beach for an awe-inspiring view of the towering cliffs.

From here, pass through Port Campbell before you reach Bay of Islands Coastal Park where lookouts deliver even more outstanding views.

The end point of this leg is Warrnambool, the largest city on the Great Ocean Road.

Warrnambool’s sheltered beaches are inviting – even for giants of the ocean. Logan's Beach is ideal for whale watching, primarily from June to October.

Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village is the biggest attraction in Warrnambool and among its appeal is a fascinating sound and laser show.

Lake Pertobe Adventure Playground and Warrnambool Botanic Gardens will appeal to families. Or check out an impressive collection of works that adorns the walls of the Warrnambool Art Gallery.

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Warrnambool to Port Fairy

25km (0hr 25min)

Another superb natural wonder presents itself along this next short leg of the touring route: Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve. Tower Hill is a gigantic volcanic crater and this area attracts abundant wildlife. See the sights on a pleasant walk.

Soon enough you’ll reach the charm-filled fishing village of Port Fairy, which exudes old-world character. Dozens of heritage buildings can be admired on a stroll: the Port Fairy Maritime and Shipwreck Heritage Walk is a great option.

Or wander to the Port Fairy Lighthouse or around Griffiths Island, which hosts a large shearwater seabird colony.

Port Fairy has a beautifully sheltered harbour and spending time at its wharf allows further opportunity to embrace the relaxing holiday vibe.

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Port Fairy to the Grampians (Halls Gap)

155km (2hr 10min)

Although this section of the Great Southern Touring Route veers from the coast, there are plenty more scenic highlights to uncover. Prepare to enter ancient volcanic plain territory.

Start with the small town of Penshurst. Here, a drive to the top of the extinct volcano, Mount Rouse, provides superb views. Learn more about these remarkable surrounds at the Penshurst Volcanoes Discovery Centre.

A quick diversion to Hamilton won’t disappoint. The Hamilton Art Gallery has a remarkable collection, while the Sir Reginald Ansett Transport Museum traces the history of a former Australian airline. Further west are the mighty Nigretta and Wannon Falls.

Arrive at Dunkeld with an appetite. This idyllic town, shadowed by Mount Sturgeon, is home to the iconic Royal Mail Hotel.

From here, cut through Grampians National Park on your way to Halls Gap. This pretty village is at the heart of the Grampians region and makes a super base for exploring these wonderful surrounds.

Grampians National Park hoards ample wealth: towering peaks, rugged cliffs, gushing waterfalls, colourful wildflowers, and ancient Aboriginal rock art all feature. Taking to a walking trail is essential. A relatively easy but rewarding stroll leads to MacKenzie Falls, one of the Grampians more popular features.

Brambuk – the National Park and Cultural Centre is located in Halls Gap and is the ideal starting point before exploring Grampians National Park. It provides up-to-date park information and is a great place to learn about the area’s indigenous culture.

Keep little ones entertained at Halls Gap Zoo, which has a large collection of native and exotic animals and provides thrilling up-close encounters.

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The Grampians (Halls Gap) to Ballarat

145km (1hr 45min)

Taking the slightly longer path through Stawell serves up a few pleasant surprises. This town is home to the famous Stawell Gift running race every Easter. Learn more about this historical event at the Stawell Gift Hall of Fame Museum.

Neighbouring Great Western has a couple of historical wineries and the cellar-door experience is rather unique. Head underground to explore their cellars.

Whatever route you take, all roads leads to Ararat. The old gold-mining city has a strong Chinese flavour – learn more at the Gum San Chinese Heritage Museum. Or face a series of spine-tingling yarns on an evening ghost tour of a former lunatic asylum.

Press ahead and note a small detour to Mount Buangor State Park. Spot waterfalls and climb to Mount Buangor summit for sweeping views.

A cluster of striking buildings provides a snapshot of the gold-rush days at Beaufort; and pretty Burrumbeet is located on the shores of picturesque Lake Burrumbeet.

From here, it’s a short drive to one of Victoria’s largest regional centres, Ballarat. This vibrant city was built on the wealth of the 1850s gold rush and resplendent historical buildings provide a throwback to its glittering days.

One of these striking buildings is home to the Art Gallery of Ballarat. This is the oldest regional gallery in Australia and has an enviable collection of Australian works.

However, the best way to step back in time is at Sovereign Hill. Stroll around the various shops that make up this recreated gold-rush village, pan for gold, and take an underground mine tour among much more.

Or be enthralled at Kryal Castle, a medieval adventure park with the power to captivate. Ballarat Wildlife Park also entertains with its wide assortment of native and exotic animals.

Lake Wendouree is Ballarat’s best picnic spot. It includes walking and cycling trails and is home to the Ballarat Botanical Gardens. While at the gardens, view the various busts of Australian Prime Ministers.

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Ballarat to Melbourne

125km (1hr 15min)

Before journeying back to Melbourne, consider taking the 20km drive north to reach Creswick. The collection of magnificent historical buildings in this former gold-mining town provides a vivid reminder of a time gone by. Children might not appreciate the historical ambience, but they’ll certainly love Creswick’s Magic Pudding Playground.

Another consideration on the last leg of this touring route is taking the slightly longer path that leads to Werribee. This outer suburb of Melbourne has several key attractions, including Werribee Open Range Zoo, which replicates an African safari; Werribee Mansion, a marvellous Italianate-style building; and the Victoria State Rose Garden, which displays 5000-plus roses.

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