Regional Victoria is brimming with world-class art, culture, food and adventure. Take a drive along the Great Southern Touring Route and experience the state’s very best.
Visit Victoria and the travel experts at RAA are sharing the best road trip stops in Victoria.
There’s never been a better time for an unforgettable road trip, with the Great Southern Touring Route spanning many of regional Victoria’s most incredible experiences. Departing on this 876-kilometre looped adventure, you’ll traverse pristine coastal landscapes, summit mountains, dine at award-winning wineries and much, much more. Dive into this comprehensive guide to discover why the Great Southern Touring Route is considered one of Australia’s top self-guided journeys.
DISCOVER GEELONG AND THE BELLARINE PENINSULA
Setting your sights on Geelong, the bayside city has come on leaps and bounds by adopting its own cosmopolitan heartbeat that distinguishes it apart from Melbourne. While Victoria’s second-largest city gets slightly busier every year, it still hasn’t lost any of its easygoing atmosphere.
Grab a specialist brew from Fuel Coffee + Food and soak up the historic waterfront before taking a short stroll to Little Malop Street for a bite to eat. This charming European-style strip offers plenty of choices, but The Arborist’s Modern Australian cuisine is bound to impress.
Further along the Bellarine Peninsula, the fertile hills surrounding Clifton Springs, Drysdale and Ocean Grove attract road trippers who are keen to visit an award-winning cellar door for lunch. Enjoy a fine glass of wine alongside a heavenly sea view at the Jack Rabbit Vineyard, while the Oakdene Vineyards on the opposite side of the peninsula also deserve a pitstop.
CRUISE THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
Leaving behind the Bellarine for the Surf Coast, Torquay is a standout community featuring the world-renowned Bells Beach. Hosting the leading surfers from around the globe for the Rip Curl Pro since 1962, this sandy stretch has long been cemented in the sport’s folklore for its big swells and stunning scenery. Before hitting the water, enjoy stellar views up and down the rugged coastline from the clifftop lookout spots.
A short drive away via Anglesea and Aireys Inlet, Lorne is the first town on the doorstep of the Great Otway National Park that will undoubtedly capture your attention. As the coastal landscapes become increasingly overrun by lush rainforest, head into the hills to roam a myriad of scenic hikes and towering waterfalls.
The 30-metre tall Erskine Falls will coat you with refreshing mist as whitewater plunges into the gully below, although adventuring spirits will also enjoy the nearby Phantom Falls, reached via a 90-minute hike through dense rainforest. There’s even a thrilling zipline experience amongst the canopies with Otway Fly Treetop Adventures.
If you’re looking for a quality place to eat, MoVida Lorne brings Meditteranean flavours to Victoria’s coastline, offering a delightful waterfront companion to the long-standing Melbourne restaurant.
THE OTWAYS AND BEYOND
Hugging the steep hillsides as you cruise down the coast, set aside some time to hang out at Apollo Bay Beach before trekking up to Marriners Lookout for unmatched Southern Ocean views. This part of the world is also celebrated for its seafood, so don’t miss your chance to drop into Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant for a delicious dish with a scenic backdrop.
The next stop on this wonderful journey is Cape Otway and its headline destination, the Cape Otway Lightstation. Climb to the top of Australia’s oldest operating lighthouse to catch the panoramas, then take a well-earned break at the nearby Lightkeepers Cafe for freshly baked scones and handmade jams. Just an hour’s drive up the coast, via a serpentining stretch of the Great Ocean Road, the unmistakable 12 Apostles punctuate this windswept coastline.
Formed over millions of years, these soaring limestone spires are ideally admired at sunrise or sunset when the light is especially soft. Once you’ve snapped enough photos, stop nearby at Loch Ard Gorge for one of Victoria’s best-kept beachfront secrets. Then it’s onwards to Warrnambool for some much-needed geothermal pampering at the Deep Blue Hotel & Hot Springs.
SUMMIT THE GRAMPIANS
The last stop on this tour of Victoria’s remarkable coast is Port Fairy, which features an eclectic arts, culture and dining scene. Pop into Blarney Books and Art where you’ll likely find something fascinating hidden in the motley new and second-hand goods. For a special feed served in Victoria’s oldest inn, head to Merrijig Inn for an ever-evolving menu using ingredients gathered from either the garden or local farmlands.
The scenery changes dramatically as you shift north away from the ocean and into the Southern Grampians. Edging closer to Dunkeld, there’s a worthy detour to Hamilton where you can explore local art galleries and wander the William Guilfoyle-designed Hamilton Botanic Gardens.
Located 30 kilometres away, Dunkeld is another regional centre that loves its food and culture. You can sip down a barista-made coffee inside a reinvigorated mechanic’s workshop at Koopmans Dunkeld or pay a visit to the acclaimed Wickens at Royal Mail Hotel for high-end cuisine that celebrates the Grampians’ fresh flavours. If the timing makes sense, don’t skip sunset overlooking the Dunkeld Arboretum.
Deep within the Grampians National Park, Halls Gap reveals why this region is so beloved by nature-lovers. Hike up to The Pinnacle to receive rewarding vistas across the surrounding mountaintops, while the challenging Boronia Peak Walk showcases marvellous views down the Fyans Valley. The immense MacKenzie Falls is also a must for outdoor enthusiasts, rising to 35 metres and flowing all year round.
RELAX IN BALLARAT AND THE MACEDON RANGES
Heading eastbound on the final leg of this monumental road trip, you’ll soon arrive upon the historic towns of Stawell and Great Western. This region is bursting with First Nations history, with significant rock art paintings like Bunjil’s Shelter offering invaluable insight into Australia’s ancient past. You’ll also come across Best’s Wines, one of the longest-running wineries in the country, which has been passed down through five generations.
With Ballarat needing a multi-day stay of its own, you won’t have any problem creating a jam-packed sightseeing itinerary. Home to Australia’s gold rush during the 1850s, Sovereign Hill’s living museum depicts Ballarat a decade after riches were first discovered. Try panning for gold or explore the mines deep underground.
Elsewhere, the Ballarat Wildlife Park showcases free-roaming kangaroos and koalas, alongside a large enclosure for two Sumatran tigers named Maneki and Satu. If you still have a thirst for outstanding art and culture, the Art Gallery of Ballarat presents stirring exhibitions from esteemed local and international artists.
Before making tracks for home, Daylesford is the last must-visit destination on the Great Southern Touring Route. Culminating this legendary journey in style, spend a while recuperating at one of the town’s mineral spring bathhouses. For a luxe affair, choose The Spa at Lake House or the Daylesford Massage Spa.
CONTINUE YOUR JOURNEY AROUND VICTORIA…
Once you’ve finished the Great Southern Touring Route, drive onwards to the Mornington Peninsula to explore Victoria’s other, equally beautiful, coastline.
Set out on an adventure and discover one of Australia’s most scenic coastal drives. Drive along cliff tops, past surf beaches and through lush rainforest. Stop to see the famous Twelve Apostles, the incredible limestone stacks that rise out of the ocean. Feel the sand between your toes while strolling along empty beaches. Scale the peaks of the Grampians National Park. There’s so much to discover! Plan your self drive holiday with the travel experts at RAA travel.