The best way to see the South Coast, Great Ocean Road & More in just 3 weeks
At the beginning of January, We hired a van and set off on a three-week road trip from my home in Sydney to Adelaide via the Great Ocean Road (& back via the Murray River & the Blue Mountains).
Below you can check out some of my photos, itinerary, and other notes of commentary which might help you with your trip. It is important to note that our van was built to function off the grid with its own water supply & electricity.
This was a big four-hour drive but a great start to our trip. Tuross Head is a small town just beyond Bateman's Bay. We have family in Tuross, so we decided to visit them in lue of staying in Batemans Bay.
We started the day by heading to Narooma (30mins from Tuross Head) to swim with Seals off Montague Island. (This is a must-do!!!)
We had lunch in town and set off towards Eden in the late afternoon. In Eden, we showered in the Wharf Public Toilets, which also had free hot showers. We ended up camping in the same car park overnight. (Maybe not entirely legal, but there were no signs saying not to).
This was another big day of driving, and due to our booking at the Burchan Caves, we missed out on seeing the Whale Museum at Eden, which looked terrific. We will make a trip for it in the future.
At the Buchan Cave, we originally booked the Fairy Cave tour. Still, after finding it quite damaged, we opted to do a second tour at the Royal Cave, which was absolutely stunning. I recommend doing both, but the Royal Cave is our top pick if you only have time for one. We showered at the Burchan Caves Campground (the $2.50 fee was well worth it)
We drove 30mins to our destination at the Lakes Entrance, where we stayed at the free camping site behind the Kilcunda Pub and enjoyed a stunning sunset on the Wharf below.
After a relaxed morning and stroll along the Lake Entrance main beach, we headed to our campground in Wonthaggi and chilled out most of the day. We watched the sunset on Kilcunda Beach whilst also checking out the iconic bridge.
We stayed put today, enjoying all the beautiful things that Phillip Island offers. We headed to the Forrest Cave Walk, but as we arrived at the caves, the tide was too high to appreciate them, so we left.
Instead, we headed to Clip'n'Climb, which was so much fun, and Mum was awesome. If you are into sports or action activities, this is for you. Each session is an hour (but you will only need that).
We then browsed the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory. The tour is well worth the $18 each. It features information about the production process, chocolate art, and interactive activities (plus lots of sneaky chocolate).
We spent the afternoon napping and relaxing in the van overlooking Shelly Beach. There are better spots for swimming or walking, but the surfers love it, and we loved watching them.
To end the day, we had to watch the iconic Penguin Parade, which happened after sunset at 8:45 pm. This is a perfect experience for all animal lovers like ourselves. I suggest paying the extra for Penguin Plus for some of the best seats with a much smaller crowd than the 2500 people who come each night.
We spent the morning revisiting the Forest Caves about an hour before low tide, and it was such a better experience than the day before. We could wade through the beach to reach some of the caves further into the ocean and had it to ourselves before the crowd arrived right on low tide.
We then continued the drive to Melbourne, where we stayed in the Melbourne discovery park. We were tired, so we spent the afternoon strolling around the local suburb, swimming in the park pool and washing.
Today we jumped on the bus using our Myki cards on the google wallet app. The bus took us to Sunshine station so we could train to Flinders Street Station to brave the city centre of Melbourne. We were surprised and a little disappointed in the graffiti that seemed to litter every building, sign and even trees. We visited Hosier Lane and, although cool, did not live up to the hype, and with the crowds and smell, we left very quickly.
We headed to the Old Melbourne Gaol, which was the highlight of our Melbourne stay. We paid the extra $10 for the tour, which was well worth it for BTS stories and more detailed information. After the tour, we read all the displays and did the watch tower experience next door. If you like true crime and Australian history- you need to do this.
We then continued onto the Melbourne Museum, which had some fantastic displays- I particularly enjoyed the biggest Melbourne photo album and the Pharlap presentation. We were hoping to do the Tyama exhibition, but we missed out because it was fully booked.
To end the day we caught a Tram to St Kilda, which was highly disappointing. Although it looked amazing, we found the cafe's low quality and the vibe off, so we left on a bus to Brighton to watch the sunset. Brighton isn't a great place to swim or even walk the beach because of the rocks and sharp shells, but it is fantastic for photography.
Today we started the Great Ocean Road with Aireys Inlet Split Point Lighthouse and Lorne. Here we checked out the Erskine Falls & Phantom falls. The Erskine Falls were lovely, but the Phantom falls were not worth the hike on the 38°C day. I was hoping for a swim in the Phantom Falls but saw an Eel and chickened out.
We spent the rest of the evening enjoying a beautiful sunset overlooking the Lorne beach and enjoyed a cold shower. We couldn't find a place to camp, so we drove to Wyd and slept in a Brewery Carpark with no dramas.
We started the morning with the lovely Sheoke falls. Again, not the best for swimming but a nice walk. We didn't sleep well, so we headed to (Beach Apollo bay) for a nap before heading to Apollo Bay.
In Apollo Bay, we walked the length of the Beach and Wharf, which was beautiful. Apollo Bay is the best swimming spot so far. We had a relaxed afternoon before heading back to Kennet River to look for Koalas. We didn't find any worth mentioning apart from one sleeping in the trees about 15m into the bush.
We continued along the Grey River Road to find some glow worms. They were spectacular and honestly looked like fairies.
Our goal was to drive to the free Beauchamp Campground, but we were too tired and slept on the side of the road instead.
We began the day by driving to the Beauchamp Campground to cook breakfast. It is a fantastic campground, and I was sad to have missed it. Here we found the best waterfall (Beauchamp Falls). This is the perfect swim spot, so bring a towel on your walk.
We then continued to the Beech Forrest, full of American Redwoods and Hopetoun Falls. Both were short stops, but worth it to fill time before our Otway Zipline booking. You need to book to get a place, but worth it if you wish you could fly.
We started the day by heading to the Cape Otway lighthouse and checking out the incredible history of this lighthouse and its many lives. This is a must for Australian & War history lovers or if you are interested in the shipwreck tragedies that plagued the Bass Strait coast.
We then started to make our way towards the iconic 12 apostles and many other gorgeous rock displays until Port Campbell Town. We stayed in the Port Campbell Recreation Park for a small fee which we didn't need to book in advance. This gave us power, a kitchen & HOT SHOWERS.
We went for a swim on the Port Campbell beach, which was very still and magical with the vast limestone cliff faces on each side of the bay.
You can read more about the 12 Apostles and other must-see rock stops along the way in a separate post. (There were too many to document here)
After brunch at a local Cafe, we saw some of the rock formations beyond Port Campbell. You can read about them in the other blog.
We then headed to Port Fairy for a casual stroll around Griffith Island to view the Port Fairy lighthouse. It looked very similar to the Split Point Lighthouse, but we were both surprised to see it sitting on such low ground. Most lighthouses are on mountains or hills, but the waves could kiss this one at rough and high tides.
Many wallabies enjoyed the shrubbery on the island, so an excellent opportunity to catch some wildlife other than the highways.
We camped at a free campsite near Warrnambool. Although it had minimal facilities, it was a peaceful way to end the night.
Today we set out to the iconic Port Fairy Flaggstaff Hill Maritime Museum in Warrnambool. It was one of the best museums I've ever been to as it was centred around the first fleet and gold rush era, which are some of my favourite parts of history.
You got to walk between different buildings as if it was a town and read, see and experience the gold rush era as if you were in it. We started at 10:30 am and walked out at about 1 pm. On the way out, we cooked lunch on the Wharf across the bay and had the best churros of my life at the Shipwreck Cafe.
We headed to Cape Nelson, hoping to continue our lighthouse trail. Unfortunately, it was getting painted, so we missed seeing it in full glory without the scaffolding. Instead, we headed into Portland to see their lighthouse, which was very cute and in a perfect park for dinner.
On our way to a free RV park in town, we saw a koala stroll along the Wharf before climbing into the wrong kind of tree and hanging out for a while. We were happy to finally see a wild koala doing its thing, as we didn't see any in Kennet River.
To end the day, we watched Oddball on Netflix because it is based around the Maremma Sheepdog and the little penguins on Middle Island around Warrnambool, which we learnt about at the museum. It was amazing to see so many places featured in this movie. It is a must-watch based on a true Australian Story.
Day 14: Portland to Robe
Today we crossed into South Australia! On our way out of Portland, we visited Cape Bridgewater to see the Petrified Forest, Blowholes and the Seal Colony. Honestly, the 2km upwards hike to see the seal colony almost killed me. I was very disappointed that the seals were so far away that they barely looked like slugs. On a positive note, we met a friendly echidna who came right up to me on the trail so it may be worth it. The other lookouts were unique, but you could miss them if you are short on time.
We then headed to Mt Gambier in SA, where we visited the Umpherston Sinkhole. Stunning!!! The gardens around the town and the sinkhole were impeccably maintained and swarmed with friendly wildlife, such as curious possums, tiny birds and bees. I would have loved to have spent more time in this beautiful country town and visited other local attractions such as the Blue Lake and caves.
For the day's final stretch, we drove to Robe to check out the famous Obelisk that features on the welcome to SA sign. It was lovely with the sun setting around it, and the town was a gorgeous place to cook dinner.
We camped 45mins out of Robe in a free camp carpark on granites beach.
Day 15: Robe to Adelaide
Today we drove into the city centre of Adelaide, where we stayed in the Adelaide Caravan park. Although most of the morning to mid-afternoon was spent driving, we got to walk around and see a few things around the city. We walked to the central Adelaide station to get our travel cards and then to the MOD (museum of discovery). The MOD is an immersive museum experience that the University of SA brings together. It showed us how they are growing organs, finding a new home in space and helping us understand what humans are capable of.
I recommend this museum if you are a bit of a science nerd or just into learning about the possibilities of the future world.
We then took a Tram to Victoria square for ice cream, checked out some of the beautiful buildings and headed home for the night.
We love Adelaide. It is clean, tidy and full of green parks. Much better than Melbourne...
Day 16: Adelaide
Today was an absolute scorcher, and we were headed to the Adelaide zoo.
As we walked in, we headed straight for the giant panda enclosure. However, unfortunately, the pandas were still in bed.... as were most animals. After lunch, we headed to the giraffe enclosure. We had booked the Giraffe face-to-face experience months prior, and it exceeded every expectation. We got to hand-feed beautiful giraffe carrots, pellets and hay.
We went back to the park afterwards for a swim and had a relaxing afternoon trying to stay cool.
Day 17: Adelaide to Balranald (via Mildura)
We decided to brunch outside the van at a local Cafe UR caffe. The staff were terrific, and the food was even better. If you are in Adelaide for brunch- this is where you want to go.
We then began a trek to one of Mum's old childhood stomping grounds in Mildura. We found that the original buyers from her family still lived in the house, and we had a friendly little chat at the fence. It was 38°C, so we took refuge in a shopping centre before continuing onto Mungo National Park.
We were meant to stay in the park overnight, but unfortunately, the roads were too rough for our little old van, so we decided to skip the park (much to my dismay). We headed straight to Balranald, which welcomed us with cold showers and free WiFi. Pretty good for a free overnight RV spot.
Day 18: Balranald to Temora (via Wagga Wagga)
After a night of rain, we enjoyed a coffee and hot chocolate in a community cafe before heading towards Wagga Wagga. First, we stopped in Lockheart to see a stunning mural on the town water tower painted by the incredible Scott Naggy from the Blue Mountains. A beautiful place to stretch our legs.
Next up Wagga Wagga- we had lunch right next to Wagga Wagga beach which rested on the Murrumbidgee River. We found that a lot of the "beach" had washed away in the recent floods, but the council are in the process of fixing it all up, and I would love to go back to explore this wonderful town. It was a humid day, so naturally, we had to check out the local strawberry fields and have a cup of freshly made strawberry ice cream and sorbet.
To end the day, we headed to Temora; the friendliest town; aka Mum's birthplace. We arrived late in the afternoon, so we enjoyed a relaxing evening on Lake Centenary watching people water ski and cooling off in the Lake. We stayed at the old Temora Railway, which had free overnight camping. We explored the beautiful displays of history over this historic train station. Who would have thought this small rural town would have so much to offer?
Day 19: Temora to the Blue Mountains
We escaped the morning heat by visiting the iconic Temora Aviation museum. It has many beautiful and historical aircraft from wartime, but they still actively fly, unlike other museums. PLEASE TAKE TIME TO SEE THIS INCREDIBLE MUSEUM.
We then headed to the Blue Mountains to watch the sunset over the three sisters. At dusk, the blue haze of the mountains becomes even more apparent. The oils of the eucalyptus cause the blue haze you see over the mountains.
We tried to camp at a stunning free camp in the Megalong Valley. Still, it was packed.... we forgot about the Australia Day public holiday. We had to be happy with a side-of-the-road camp behind a train station.