Ride the world famous Great Ocean Road
There is a must do ride for motorcyclists worldwide. It really should be on your bucket list, wherever you are from on the planet. It is magnificent.
For those unfamiliar with the history of the area, let’s get you up to speed.
The Great Ocean Road offers a permanent memorial to those who died while fighting in World War I. Carved in rock and built by returned servicemen, it winds around the rugged southern coast. It was a huge engineering feat ending decades of isolation for Lorne and other coastal communities.
Almost 3000 returned soldiers worked on the construction of the Great Ocean Road during the 13 years of its construction between 1919 and 1932, living in camps set up in the bush. It’s an incredible piece of construction.
There are many references and signpostings indicating how it was all done on our route, take the time, you will be truly amazed at the difficulties that were faced and usually overcome during the effort to build the road.
ROUTE MADE EASY
Great Ocean Road to Port Campbell
Distance: 283km (from Melbourne)
Let’s start from the capital of Victoria, Melbourne.
After a mind-numbing hour getting from Melbourne to Geelong on the Princes Highway (mostly three laned freeway), the fun part of the ride gets underway from Torquay, some 94km from Melbourne.
Keep an eye out for speed cameras on this part of the trip, they are all over the place.
The GOR starts proper from around Anglesea (B100 Surfcoast Highway), ambling through what used to be holiday townships such as Aireys Inlet and Fairhaven. These are now being ever-increasingly populated by sea-changers, so take care of mum doing the school run and kids heading across the road to the beach.
This section of the road offers spectacular views of crashing breakers pounding the coastline, but is best treated as a transport section due to the mostly lowered speed limit of 80km/h (was 100km/h until recently).
The simple fact is the road is busy most of the time (weekends in summer and spring especially) and therefore very frustrating as caravans, buses and sightseers in general trundle along and negate what few passing opportunities exist.
Keep a special eye out as traffic exits from lookout areas; the place is very popular with European and American tourists in hire cars and it is a well-known phenomenon that drivers can pull out to the right side of the road instead of the left, and there are stories that you just don’t want to hear around this.
Get past Lorne and things improve markedly; the 44km run from there to Apollo Bay offering riders a taste of what’s to come. At this point you will be in the Otway Ranges, which is a pristine natural bush environment, therefore quite beautiful, but remote.
The road here can be very tricky, with steep climbs and the occasional very tight, downhill, 25 km/h advisory-signposted corner as the road descends from running ridge lines.
Lovely surfacing (recent roadwork and improvements) and corners that range from long and sweeping to very tight, constantly supplemented by that ever-present speccy view.
The stretch of road to Lavers Hill turns inland through towering stands of gums and rainforest, and a rider needs to keep an eye out here for logging trucks as well as wet bark and tree debris. The trucks can pop up when least expected and they have had their effect on the road surface, causing rippling, especially on the downhill run into slow corners.
Fuel and food are available at Lavers Hill, and we recommend a refill here. Bear in mind that there are not a lot of services serving the part of the road from Lavers Hill into our destination of Port Campbell.
The road then returns heads south through the lovely farming hamlets of Yuulong and Wattle Hill before hugging the coast again from Princetown for the entire length of the Port Campbell National Park.
This is the most famous section of the Great Ocean Road featuring an amazing collection of rock formations known as the Twelve Apostles which have been carved out of the headland by the constant fierce wave action of the southern ocean.
There is also the Loch Ard Gorge with its fabulous story of shipwreck misery and incredible survival along with London Bridge (which no longer bridges anything with the centre section falling into the briny in 1990), and we recommend a stop for each. Viewpoints are signposted with information boards and there are boardwalks and parking for easy access.
Keep an eye out for wildlife here, it’s often getting towards late afternoon when riders get to this section and Skippy and his marsupial mates tend to get a little active. Eyes open and speed down is the go here.
This section of the road is fabulous, cutting through limestone cliffs along the “Shipwreck Coast” aptly named as more than 50 ships have run aground or struck reefs and sunk.
From here it is a simple 11km to the lovely seaside fishing town of Port Campbell, our destination. The town is accustomed to being visited by motorcyclists and an overnight stay is well worth considering.
Remember to book ahead though, you’ll struggle for a room in the warmer months and many tour operators use Port Campbell as a place to hole up. Of course, you then have the lovely return ride to do. Lucky you.
Motorcyclists bring good tourism numbers to the towns along the route and, in addition to Port Campbell’s offerings, there are many motels and bed and breakfast accommodation options that will greet the weary rider with open arms.
In short, the road is wonderful. Riders come from all over the world to ride the GOR and an interstate run to do just that should be on your ‘bucket list’.
It’s a great way to enjoy both some of the most picturesque ocean views in the world, in addition to offering a test of both riding ability and bike set up. It’s a must do if you get the chance.
Fact is, no one ever rode the GOR and didn’t get something out of it.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
Keep an eye out for police. The road is way over-represented in regard to accidents and the simple fact is that the policing in the area is super-strict. If you get done on the GOR, they will toss the book at you.
We’ll get this out of the way as well. Get this road wrong and it will bite. There is simply no room to run off on right handers. You could easily becoming the new Australasian high diving champion (if the armco doesn’t get you first), and running wide on left handers will have you under a bus or kissing a cliff face.
It holds true of the entire distance of this trip, it’s a most unforgiving bit of blacktop, and the roadside crosses dotted along the route serve as a constant reminder. Respect.
In the winter, the road stays pretty wet. Because it is lined by cliff both above and below, it dries very slowly. Also, this is not an option for the inexperienced.
You’ll have to have your wits about you, so don’t take your learner mate unless he he/she has a good deal of competence.
The GOR requires a good deal of maintenance, and because it is mostly a single carriageway, roadworks can be a nightmare. Here’s a handy website to check the status of any works on the road.
Snag’s career in motoring journalism spans 29 years with stints at major bike mags Australian Road Rider, Motorcycle Trader and AMCN along with contributions to just about every other outlet worth a hill of beans. He was editor of Unique Cars magazine and hosts his legendary podcast ‘Snag Says’ when he gets off his date.