“Let’s take an adventure” – Unknown
Road trips are a must-do experience in Australia and there is no road trip more famous than the Great Ocean Road. Camping on the Great Ocean Road is the best way to enjoy this beautiful coastline and the small towns en route. We enjoyed a short week travelling in a rented campervan at a leisurely pace. Read on to discover the top things to do here, driving tips and distances for your journey, as well as our personal campsite recommendations, including free camping on the Great Ocean Road (legally, of course).
Where Is The Great Ocean Road?
The Great Ocean Road is situated between the Australian cities of Melbourne and Adelaide, on Australia’s southern coast. Although coastal driving can be enjoyed pretty much everywhere, the actual Great Ocean Road begins 59km from Port Campbell at Allansford and finishes in Torquay, just outside of Melbourne. The route can be driven in either direction. Whilst Torquay is known as the gateway to the Great Ocean Road, we enjoyed driving from Adelaide, joining the Great Ocean Road at its most western point and travelling towards Melbourne.
How Long Is The Great Ocean Road?
The Great Ocean Road makes up roughly 250 kilometres of coastal road with ample viewing stops where you can snap cool photos. The road is made up of entirely sealed roads so a 2WD vehicle is all you will need. Drive on the left and aim for day time hours to make the most of the scenic views. Fuel stations and shops are aplenty although we recommend doing a camping food shop in one of the larger town’s supermarkets before you set off.
The Great Ocean Road is not a circular drive so plan your trip to start and end in different cities, picking up a rental vehicle in Adelaide and dropping it in Melbourne, or vice versa.
If you do not have the time or means to travel all the way between Adelaide and Melbourne, multiple tours can instead be booked from Melbourne – you can even do the Great Ocean Road in a day!
How Long Does It Take To Drive?
The Great Ocean Road itself takes 3-4 hours to drive. This does not include detours to other towns and things to do, detours to lower cost or free campsites and further driving beyond the route, to/from Adelaide and Melbourne.
We drove leisurely between Adelaide and Melbourne over five days, following scenic coastal detours including the one for the Great Ocean Road, and choosing campsites away from the well trodden path. We clocked up around 2000 kilometres of adventure doing it this way.
Please note: There is a more direct road between Adelaide and Melbourne which follows an inland highway but this does not include the Great Ocean Road. Be aware of this if you are following a sat nav. In order to enjoy the Great Ocean Road, you will need to follow the large and clear signposts instead.
Great Ocean Road Campervan Sites
Although this particular road can be travelled fairly quickly, we recommend you slow down and take your time. The best way to do that, is camping. We enjoyed multiple campsites along the Great Ocean Road and beyond this well known route in other locations between the cities of Adelaide and Melbourne. We highly recommend low cost campsites away from the tourist hot spots. These places to rest your head are usually locally run and full of natural wildlife with wide open spaces.
If you are looking for a Great Ocean Road campervan itinerary, here’s where we stayed.
In Adelaide, we recommend Levi Caravan Park. This campsite is close enough to the city without being too dear. The city centre is a pleasant, scenic walk along the river taking around 1 hour.
This campsite costs $39 for a powered pitch. We received a discount with our Maui campervan rental. The site has clean communal showers and even a bath! The site owners were friendly and welcoming, and when we visited, they had homegrown chillis to give away to campers which we enjoyed with our dinner. We recommend 2-3 nights in Adelaide.
You may also like these top five places to eat vegan in Adelaide.
Consider adding a day in Victor Harbour, an hour south of Adelaide, before heading out in search of the Great Ocean Road. Here you will find plenty to enjoy and do in a sleepy little part of Australia.
On The Road – Night 1: Banealla Rest Area
After leaving Adelaide (or Victor Harbour), this simple roadside rest area is an excellent free spot to camp in. It’s a great idea to get some free sites in before you hit the Great Ocean Road to help keep the cost of your road trip down.
Be aware that some rest areas, especially roadside ones, are only suitable for self contained vehicles. You can check the facilities and what you need to camp there on popular camping apps like WikiCamps.
Night 2: Sawpit Picnic Area
This pretty little campsite is in Mount Clay State Forest. Here you will enjoy waking up to kangaroos hopping around the site freely and brightly coloured parakeets too. This site is free of charge and has communal fire pits for campers to enjoy in a woodland area.
We drove inland to enjoy this free site as coastal sites along this part of the route were limited. It’s well worth the little detour if you enjoy peace and quiet coupled with Australian wildlife.
Night 3: Yambuk Caravan Park
After a couple of nights free camping with limited to no facilities, we then chose a powered campsite with showers and toilets, amongst other camping luxuries. At $27 for a powered pitch, here you’ll enjoy beautiful lake views, welcoming hosts and clean facilities including a communal bbq to practise your Aussie cooking on.
You may also like these healthy camping meal ideas for your camper.
Night 4: Princetown Recreation Reserve
After leaving Yambuk Caravan Park, you will meet the official beginning of the Great Ocean Road, although you will have already been enjoying scenic drives up til now in the south of Australia. For your first overnight on the official Great Ocean Road, we can’t recommend highly enough a little campsite called Princetwon Recreation Reserve.
Costing $20 for an unpowered pitch, this site is fantastic, mainly because it is home to lots of kangaroos. You’ll likely be surrounded by them! Watch them play fight as you walk to and from the shower block or enjoy your campsite meal with them grazing nearby and a sunset sky. We covered huge distances in Australia and saw many kangaroos, but nowhere else had the concentration of kangaroos we found here.
Night 5: Leigh River
For our second night camping on the Great Ocean Road, after a day filled with photo stops and beach walks, leave the popular seaside towns of the area and head for this free site. This nice spot is a cheaper option than coastal or city sites if you are looking to keep the costs down.
Arriving in Melbourne: Discovery Parks
Depending on how far in advance you plan your road trip, campsites in Melbourne can be difficult to get availability for. We wanted a site not too far from the airport or campervan depot to make our following morning as easy as possible.
At $51 for a powered site with our Maui rental discount, Discovery Parks Melbourne was the most expensive site we paid for in the six months of campervan travel we enjoyed in Australia. We chose it for convenience; it lives on the same road as the Maui/Britz depot making for easy early morning returns before a flight out of Melbourne. It also has clean facilities including a sauna, pool and more. This is an excellent site for anyone travelling with children.
You may also want to enjoy these top three places to eat vegan food in Melbourne.
Things To Do
The Great Ocean Road is well known for the scenic driving it provides. You can easily spend your time here simply enjoying the winding roads with the sea splashing and crashing alongside you. However, we feel this part of Australia is best enjoyed when coupled with a little time out of the car or campervan too.
Here are our top five recommendations for ways to enjoy your Great Ocean Road adventure:
1. Stop for photos with the famous signs
Both the Great Ocean Road sign furthest east and the one furthest west are worth taking a snap of. You’ll find these signs in Torquay and Allansford near Warrnambool.
2. Visit the Twelve Apostles
A Great Ocean Road road trip would not be complete without photos of the Twelves Apostles. Find the popular walks around the nearby cliff tops well signposted with ample parking too. This short walk and others along the route similar to it are also a great way to stretch the legs after time spent in the car.
3. Choose the Gibson Steps
Whilst at the Twelve Apostles, make time for the Gibson Steps, a short walk down to the beach and back where you’ll get a different angle for your Twelve Apostles photos. Enjoy sand writing or jumping shots here, as well the beauty of a few less people.
4. Camp Cooking
One of the best things to enjoy on a Great Ocean Road adventure is some traditional camp cooking. Either from a small camping stove, your campervan kitchen or one of those handy communal BBQs, enjoy delicious food in a scenic and wild location – how Australian!
5. Pick a Good Playlist
Driving the Great Ocean Road involves just that, driving. Make it part of the fun things to do with a pre-prepared driving adventure playlist to sing and dance along to as you enjoy Victoria’s most impressive coastal views.
There are many other things to do along the Great Ocean Road, including other towering cliffs and coastal formations to admire, as well as seaside towns to enjoy shopping in. Prepare food for the beaches, take a dip in the sea or enjoy a variety of cliff walks.
The entire route is extremely well signposted with the variety of places you can stop in so allow a little extra time for the places that you don’t plan. Parking in these spots is free and easy, with larger bays provided for campervans, cars with caravans or trailers and even coaches.
You may also like our 5 Best Beach Camping Spots Across Australia.
The Costs of Camping on the Great Ocean Road
Road trips are by far the most cost effective way to see and do more in Australia, especially if you are travelling in a small group or as a couple. We spent approximately £20 a day on camping food, £12 a day on campsites and £60 a day on camper van rental. Fuel cost us approximately £70 per 1000 kilometres.
This means that our Great Ocean Road adventure between Adelaide and Melbourne in a rented campervan cost us approximately £300 per person.
If you are planning a Great Ocean Road adventure in Australia, check out low cost campervan hire today. If you have your heart set on a road trip but can’t quite stretch to the price of a camper, compare costs for car hire instead.
Australia’s Most Iconic Road Trip
Driving adventures across Australia are definitely the best way to experience this country’s natural rhythm and beauty. If you love the sound of this iconic Australian road trip, we highly recommend you go further into nature with our Blue Mountains Road Trip from Sydney, or adventure for longer with our Epic East Coast of Australia Road Trip.
Camping on the Great Ocean Road is a fun Aussie adventure full of diverse wildlife and natural places. Wind along cliff hugging routes whilst singing your favourite tunes, stretch your legs on multiple beaches … o and stop at the campsite with tons of kangaroos.
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