Arimo travels

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1-Day Great Ocean Road Self-Drive from Melbourne

Planning to self-drive from Melbourne to the Great Ocean Road without a tour? This guide tells you how to make a 1-day Great Ocean Road self-drive from Melbourne to the Twelve Apostles and back.

The Great Ocean Road is one of the most popular and scenic road trips in Australia. Stretching along the southeast coast of Australia in the state of Victoria, the 243 km drive offers beautiful views of the Indian Ocean and the landscape of southern Australia.

The Twelve Apostles are the most famous landmark along the Great Ocean Road. The Twelve Apostles are limestone stacks that rise from the ocean near the coast, offering very scenic views. In this guide, I give tips how to self-drive the Great Ocean Road in one day, driving all the way to the Twelve Apostles and back.

1-Day Great Ocean Road Self-Drive

If you want to visit the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne, you can either rent a car or book a tour.

Is it possible to self-drive the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne in one day?

Yes, it’s possible to do a 1-day Great Ocean Road self-drive from Melbourne, although you won’t have enough time to drive all of it in one day. However, you will be able to reach the Twelve Apostles and nearby sights before heading back.

Not enough time? Why not?

Most car rental companies in Australia want the cars returned at working hours. The car rentals close at around 5 PM, so you need to be back by then.

Another reason is that although the Great Ocean Road is only 243 kilometers, the road doesn’t begin from Melbourne. Instead, the road officially begins from the coastal town of Torquay,  a hundred kilometers southwest from Melbourne.

Of course, you can always rent the car for two days and return it the following morning if you have the chance.

On a 1-day Great Ocean Road self-drive from Melbourne.

On the way to the Twelve Apostles.

So, where do I begin my self-drive to the Twelve Apostles? Melbourne, right?

Wrong! If you want to maximise your drive time on the Great Ocean Road and avoid the heavy traffic around Melbourne, it’s easier to take an early regional train to Geelong. Geelong is a smaller town one hour away from Melbourne, and it offers plenty of car rentals.

Thrifty is a good option for a car rental in Geelong. The place is within a walking distance from the train station, and it is open from 7.30 am to 17.30 pm. Most car rentals open at 8 am and close at 5 pm, so this gives you an extra hour on your 1-day Great Ocean Road self-drive.

We took a train that left Melbourne Souther Cross station at 6 AM and arrived in Geelong at 7 am. The train ride costs 8.8 AU$ (5.9 €) one way. On the way, you can enjoy your almost empty train out of Melbourne and catch glimpses of the crammed trains heading to the opposite direction.

The route from Geelong to the Twelve Apostles.

Great Ocean Road drive map from Geelong to the Twelve Apostles.

How long does it take to drive from Geelong to the Twelve Apostles?

It took us three hours and 50 minutes to reach the Twelve Apostles from Geelong. We didn’t rush and we had a few shorter stops along the way.

At a viewpoint in Torquay.

At a viewpoint in Torquay in the beginning of our 1-day Great Ocean Road self-drive.

Shorter stops? What’s there to see on the way from Melbourne to the Twelve Apostles?

There are several interesting stops along the Great Ocean Road. The coastal town Torquay has a nice beach and scenic viewpoints to the ocean. Right after Torquay, you can make a very short detour to see Bells Beach, one of the most famous surf breaks in Australia.

If you have enough time in your itinenary, you can make a longer side expedition to see the lighthouse of Cape Otway. And that’s just the start of it – there are plenty of beautiful viewpoints and landmarks along the way.

The Twelve Apostles

Tourists at the Twelve Apostles

Ok, I’ve driven from Melbourne to the Twelve Apostles. What next?

When you’ve driven all the way from Geelong to the Twelve Apostles, you’ve got a few other sights nearby. A famous shipwreck site called Loch Ard Gorge is a few kilometers away from the Twelve Apostles. There are many landmarks and walking routes nearby, so you’ve got plenty of activities to choose from.

If you’ve only rented your car for a day, this is a good time to check how much time you have left. We arrived at the Twelve Apostles at 11.30 AM. We spent half an hour on the site, and then another 30 minutes around Loch Ard Gorge. Thus, we had five hours to grab a lunch and drive back to Geelong.

The shorter way back.

The shorter way back.

It’s possible to return from your 1-day Great Ocean Road self-drive the same way, but that’s not the only option. The fastest route back to Geelong goes on a faster road away from the coast. This way passes through a small town called Colac, which offers several lunch options along the main road. So, if you’re worried about time or just want a change of scenery, I recommend returning this way.

Loch Ard Gorge

Loch Ard Gorge

How long does it take to self-drive from Melbourne to the Twelve Apostles and back?

Our 1-day self-drive from Melbourne to the Great Ocean Road took around 13 hours. We left Melbourne at 6 am on a train that arrived in Geelong an hour later. We left Geelong at 7.40 am. The drive to the Twelve Apostles took us nearly 4 hours, with a few short stops on the way.

We spent an hour on the Twelve Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge. Driving back to Geelong took us 3 hours and 30 minutes on the shorter route. The return trip included a lunch break in Colac, which slowed us down. We took a regional train to Melbourne and arrived in the city at around 7 pm.

There was very little traffic on the way in May, but the parking area of the Twelve Apostles was nearly full.

There was very little traffic on the Great Ocean Road in May, but the parking area of the Twelve Apostles was nearly full.

How much does it cost to make a 1-day Great Ocean Road self-drive from Melbourne?

If you can share the cost of the car rental with more people, it naturally makes your self-drive from Melbourne to the Twelve Apostles a lot cheaper. Our car rental cost us 56 AU$ (37.3 €). Besides that, we paid 30 AU$ (20 €) for “Ultimate Protection” insurance and 50 AU$ (33.3 €) for gasoline. In total, we paid 136 AU$ (90.5 €) for the car.

Besides the car rental, we paid 17.6 AU$ (11.8 €) per person for our train journeys from Melbourne to Geelong and back. There were two of us, so our 1-day Great Ocean Road self-drive cost us 76.8 AU$ (51.1 €, food excluded) per person.

There's a surprising amount of variety in the scenery of the Great Ocean Road.

There’s a surprising amount of variety in the scenery of the Great Ocean Road.

Alright, I’ve got it. But does it make sense to drive from Melbourne to the Twelve Apostles and back in one day?

If you have limited amount of time, a 1-day self-drive from Melbourne to the Great Ocean Road is still worth it. It gives you a good idea of the route and the landscape, although you won’t have enough time to stop in landmarks that are too far away from the main route.

However, if you can make an overnight trip from Melbourne to the Great Ocean Road, I recommend that option. Having an extra day gives you a chance to put a lot more destinations in your itinenary, and you won’t need to worry about your schedule.

Any other questions?

Yes, just one.

Shoot.

One of the viewpoints near the Twelve Apostles.

One of the viewpoints near the Twelve Apostles.

Are there really twelve limestone pillars at the Twelve Apostles? I can’t see that many of them in the pictures.

No, there are only seven or eight limestone stack at the Twelve Apostles. One of the stacks did collapse in 2005, but there’s never been twelve of them. The name is just there because it sounds nice and attracts tourists.

Oh. That makes sense.

It does, doesn’t it?

One, two, three, four, twelve.

One, two, three, four, twelve.

9 Comments

  1. Purvi sonkiya

    18/09/2017 at 3:07 am

    Thank u so much for this description.it is really very helpful..
    I have booked my tickets to Australia in May with 4 pax 2 adult 2 kids(10 both)
    Please if u have written other blogs regarding
    Sydney blue mountain
    Gold coast
    Great barrier reef
    ND other sight seeing in Melbourne
    Thank you
    Purvi
    Indian

  2. Purvi sonkiya

    18/09/2017 at 3:16 am

    This is the best review so far I come across .

    • Arimo

      18/09/2017 at 3:28 am

      Thank you Purvi, I’m glad to help! 🙂

      I did not write a blog post about them, but the Blue Mountains in Sydney are great! It’s easy to go there on public transport, too. Sydney also has a big zoo with both Australian and foreign animals.

      In Melbourne, I liked the ACMI (The Australian Centre for the Moving Image), which is free of charge. It is a museum about the history of movies, television and other media. Near Melbourne there’s also a place called William Ricketts Sanctuary, which is not very famous but I thought it was interesting. Here’s a blog post I wrote about it:

      http://arimotravels.com/william-ricketts-sanctuary-melbourne/

  3. Purvi sonkiya

    18/09/2017 at 3:54 am

    Thank u

    I read ur review fr sanctuary, and added in my list to do…
    I wish some one had written so descriptive review for great barrier reef..haha

  4. This is really great as i was browsing around on how to get to the Great Ocean Road for 2 people and your option is perfect for us as we only have 5 days in Melbourne and planning to visit the Great Ocean Road in one day. Thanks for the sharing.
    Anyway i cant help but noticed that the total cost should be 136AU$ instead of 126AU$ if i’m not mistaken because you stated that the car rental is 56 AU$ and 30 AU$ for “Ultimate Protection” insurance and 50 AU$ for gasoline.

  5. Hi Arimo,
    Would you be able to recommend some places for a night stay in Geelong and another night of stayover along Great Ocean Road as I will be travelling with elderly and we have to go slow.
    Thank you.

    • Arimo

      25/09/2017 at 7:02 pm

      Hi Sandy!

      Unfortunately not, as we only visited the Great Ocean Road on this day trip and we stayed in Melbourne.

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