As frugal travellers, we often try and give group/private tours a miss wherever possible and rely more on public transport and self-exploration. Well, it is almost impossible and impractical to take the public transport in order to explore the Great Ocean road and the Twelve apostles, but we do recommend you explore it on your own and for that there is no better way than to hire a car and drive yourself.
A lot many people make a day trip out of it, but we won't recommend doing that as you would be missing out on so many things and will have a quite a bit of distance to cover. Having said that, if you are short on time and have only one day for this exploration, a tour bus would be your best option. But if you can spare at least 2 days and love to drive - READ ON!
In Australia, you drive on the left side of the road, which was an advantage for us since we drive on the same side here in India, however we still went through a few websites/videos and got ourselves accustomed to the driving rules in Victoria.
As a tourist you don't need an international licence or an international driving permit if your licence issued by your country is in English.
Next up, you need to hire a car. Well it may seem obvious to hire a car from Melbourne itself but the fact is that Great Ocean Road officially starts at Torquay, which is like almost a 100 kms away from Melbourne.
Here's what we did - instead of hiring a car from Melbourne, we took an early morning train to the town of Geelong and hired a car from there. This saved us a lot of time and hassle of driving in the city.
Also, we would suggest you follow the speed limits and lastly, plan your pit stops and leave early.
There are quite a few car rentals companies, so be sure to do your research and compare the prices before you book. We rented ours from The store is a comfortable 15 mins walk from the Geelong station. We had booked an automatic Toyota Yaris but since it was unavailable we got an automatic Suzuki Swift. The car was in perfect condition, we payed AUD 152 for two days which was inclusive of Ultimate Protection and recovery plus protection plan. They give the car with the fuel tank full and you have to return the car with a full fuel tank as well, or you are charged twice the amount for the fuel. There is a Shell station nearby from where we got the fuel filled just before returning the car and it costed us AUD 30.
We took a 7: 40 am train from Southern cross station in Melbourne to Geelong and arrived an hour later. We started our drive from Geelong at 9 :30 AM and took several stops before we could finally reach the Twelve apostles. Later in the evening we checked in at our hotel in Port Campbell and enjoyed a delicious dinner at the 12 rocks restaurant.
There are several great pit stops, scenic locations and points of interest at the Great Ocean road, below mentioned are the ones that we checked out and in our opinion they are an absolute must. Without visiting this places you are actually not experiencing the beauty of the Great Ocean road drive!
Just 30 mins away from Geelong, Bells Beach was our first pit stop. It is a popular spot for surfers, but when we visited, we didn't see a single surfer (guess the weather wasn't right). However, the views were amazing.