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Traveling from Melbourne to 12 Apostles on a Great Ocean Road tour is one of the most popular day trips in Australia. Wind, ocean and rain have sculpted seaside rocks into striking natural wonders. The stretch of southern Australian coastline, where thundering waves meet dramatic cliffs, is stunningly beautiful – and we wanted to see it with our own eyes. However, finding a Melbourne to Great Ocean Road tour that fit our budget wasn’t easy!
Great Ocean Road Tours: Cheap Day Trip to 12 Apostles
On our first trip to Melbourne, spending a day seeing the Great Ocean Road attractions was high on our list…but, due to budget and time constraints, it never happened. And, for two years, we regretted the decision to skip a Melbourne Great Ocean Road tour.
When we made plans to return to the city for a month-long stay, we were intent on finding a Great Ocean Road Day Tour on a budget…and we finally succeeded! In our thorough research, we discovered a 1-Day Great Ocean Road experience that cost half as much as most tours. There was just one catch…
1-Day Great Ocean Road Tours from Melbourne
There are numerous ways to take a day trip to Great Ocean Road from Melbourne. For our day on the coast, we were looking for a no-frills 12 Apostles tour that was inexpensive and took less than 12 hours. However, most of the Great Ocean Road day trip options we found cost more than we were willing to pay, included side trips (and meals) we weren’t interested in taking and exceeded the amount of time we wanted to spend on a tour bus.
12 Apostles Tour Bus, Self-Drive or Public Transport
Before booking a tour, we considered all of our options for how to get to Great Ocean Road. We entertained the ideas of joining a 12 Apostles bus tour, renting a car and driving ourselves and attempting to see the region using public transportation.
Great Ocean Road One Day Self Drive
With two people, renting a car seemed to be the most economical choice. As budget travelers, we did consider a car rental to see the Great Ocean Road self-drive style, but we quickly nixed the idea for two obvious reasons. First, neither of us wanted the responsibility of being behind the wheel on a 12 Apostles road trip because we both wanted to be gazing out the window at the scenery. Second, as Americans, we were averse to the mind-bending experience of driving on the ‘wrong’ side of a curving, cliff-edged, coastal road. Therefore, the idea of a One-Day Great Ocean Road Self-Drive trip was out of the question.
GOR Day trips from Melbourne by Public Transport
We have taken a few day trips from Melbourne by public transport – and had read that it is possible to do a Great Ocean Road Trip from Melbourne via bus and train. However, we had difficulty verifying the frequency of buses or if it was even possible to do in one day. While a Great Ocean Road train and bus trip sounds like a phenomenal way to see the coastline, there were far too many uncertainties for using public transport in a single day.
How To Get to Great Ocean Road by Public Transport
For travelers with fewer time restrictions, with a bit of planning, it is possible to take buses and trains. The public transport Great Ocean Road Tour from Melbourne route we considered was the train from Melbourne to Geelong, a V-Line Bus from Geelong to Port Campbell and the train from Port Campbell back to Melbourne.
Great Ocean Road Bus Tour
We settled on the idea of taking a bus tour, but cheap Great Ocean Road tour options were slim. We scoured the internet, but found that most 12 Apostles Melbourne tour options were upwards of $125 AUD. Even with our wintertime visit, there were limited Great Ocean Road day tour deals. We were losing hope…and then we found Extra Green Holidays.
The Great Ocean Road tour we booked through Extra Green Holidays ticked all of our boxes. It was inexpensive ($45 AUD), made only a few stops in Great Ocean Road towns from Melbourne to Twelve Apostles and lasted about 11 hours.
There was, however, one caveat for the Great Ocean Road one-day tour: The tour was only given in Chinese.
We had slight hesitations about taking a 12 Apostles day tour that was in a language we couldn’t understand, but we couldn’t pass up the low price and itinerary that suited us.
Great Ocean Road Day Tour Itinerary
The Great Ocean Road Tour Itinerary was basic, but sufficient. In all honesty, we just wanted the ride to the 12 Apostles from Melbourne. We were not interested in additional sightseeing or an included lunch. We are detailing the outline of our day – so that other travelers will know what to expect.
Great Ocean Road Itinerary: Stops and Sights
We queued up at the meeting spot for the Great Ocean Road tour bus at 8:00am. As soon as all tour participants were on board, we set out on our Great Ocean Road Day Trip from Melbourne.
Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch
After making a short stop in Anglesea (to stretch our legs and use the toilet), we made our first official stop at the Memorial Arch. The arch marks the beginning of the 243-km-long Great Ocean Road. The wooden arch was built in honor of the men – soldiers who had returned from World War I – who built the coastline road.
Memorial Arch is an epic photo op to document your journey on the world-famous road. After snapping a picture, be sure to check out the plaques and statues, too.
Our tour bus wound along the coastal road to Apollo Bay, which was the designated lunch stop. The quaint village is well-known for its numerous seafood restaurants. However, we skipped dining inside and instead indulged in a picnic lunch (that we brought with us) at the park on the beach. We then spent our extra time strolling along the sandy shore.
Loch Ard Gorge and Shipwreck Coast
After Apollo Bay, we didn’t stop again until we were nearly at the 12 Apostles rock formations. Loch Ard Gorge marked the first 12 Apostles viewpoint on our tour. The gorge is named for a ship that wrecked on the offshore island and there are many information plaques along the pathways that provide a history of Loch Ard Gorge. However, what is most intriguing is the mesmerizing beauty of the scenic landscapes.
Twelve Apostles Visitors Facility Viewpoint and Gibson’s Steps Beach
Our next stop was the 12 Apostles at Great Ocean Road in Port Campbell National Park. The bus circled around to the Twelve Apostles Visitors Facility, where there is a wealth of information, free toilets and paths that take visitors to magnificent viewpoints of the majestic rock formations and coastline.
We had just enough time during the tour bus stop to walk to Gibson’s Steps. The 86-step staircase, which is cut directly into the natural rock, leads to a stretch of beach that offers a unique vantage point of the rocky coastline.
We took the quickest route – A1 highway – back to Melbourne. During the ride, we made a brief stop at Lake Colac. The reason for the stop was for a bathroom break, but we were treated to a spectacular sunset over Lake Colac. We were back in the Melbourne CBD by 7:00pm.
Fun Great Ocean Road Signs
Great Ocean Road Day Tour Map
Our 1-Day Great Ocean Road Experience
Our Great Ocean Road day tour from Melbourne was nothing short of spectacular. The day of our tour to Great Ocean Road was clear and sunny – which are ideal conditions for a Twelve Apostles tour. The scenery – even from a bus window – was simply stunning.
The 1-day Great Ocean Road tour simultaneously satisfied our curiosity and stoked our desire to see more of it. We are already dreaming of a future Great Ocean Road adventure – one that lasts an entire week, rather than trying to see the Great Ocean Road in one day.
Great Ocean Road Tour Review: ExtraGreen Holidays
A day trip to Great Ocean Road is a fantastic way to get an introduction to the coastline and we are glad we found a 12 Apostles day trip that worked for us. The Great Ocean Road 1-Day Tour with Extra Green was exactly what we wanted: A trip from Melbourne to 12 Apostles via Great Ocean Road.
It sufficed in getting us from Point A to Point B with a qualified driver…and the cost fit our budget. On our Great Ocean Road bus trip, both the driver and the tour guide spoke English, so even though we couldn’t understand any of the spoken information provided about the areas we were driving through, we were always kept informed of the length of time we had at each stop and the name of the place we were stopping.
We did, however, feel quite rushed at the two 12 Apostles stops where there were multiple vantage points and limited time to see them all. This wasn’t a fault of the tour company, but simply the type of tour we selected. The reality is that the 12 Apostles rock formations are quite a distance from Melbourne…and that is the reason why most tours exceed 12 hours.
Great Ocean Road Packages
We were intent on seeing the Great Ocean Road in a day at a low price, which is what dictated our decision to book a tour that was not given in English. However, we understand that everyone’s travel style and budget are different – and there are many Great Ocean Road bus tours from Melbourne to choose from. Fellow travelers searching for the perfect tour can find Great Ocean Road package deals – like the ones offered on Viator. Whether you are looking for a one-day Great Ocean Road Tour or a multi-day trip, you can find your ideal 12 Apostles tour from Melbourne.
Viator Great Ocean Road Tours: Melbourne One-Day Tour Options
While our 12 Apostles tour package only included the highlights, there are more things to do on the Great Ocean Road. Visitors can choose a tour to Great Ocean Road from Melbourne that best fits their travel style and interests. Check out the following highly-rated Viator Great Ocean Road tours to find your perfect tour.
Small-Group Eco Day Trip: Great Ocean Road Melbourne
This one-day trip to Great Ocean Road gets rave reviews from fellow travelers. The small group tour is by minivan (rather than tour bus) and includes a bushwalk in Great Otway National Park where koalas, kangaroos and wallabies live. Get the details!
Classic Great Ocean Road Bus Tours Melbourne
A classic 12 Apostles Great Ocean Road Melbourne tour, participants travel by luxury coach (which includes USB ports at each seat and an on-board bathroom). In addition to the top attractions, this tour also makes stops at Port Campbell, London Bridge, Lorne and makes a stop for koala spotting. Find out more!
Private One-Day Tour Great Ocean Road
If a Great Ocean Road private tour more suits you and your travel group, check out the specifics of the Full Day Private Tour here.
3-Day Ocean Road Tour Melbourne
Why limit yourself to a 1-Day Great Ocean Road Tour when you can spend 3 adventurous days discovering the region?! This 3-day tour includes visiting the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge and the Grampians National Park. Book it now!
Great Ocean Road 12 Apostles Day Trip Tips
We have a few Great Ocean Road tips that will enhance your time on the coast!
Make the Most of Your Time
On our day trip from Melbourne, we didn’t want to spend any time away from the coast. We were always the first to get off the bus and the last to get back on (but verifying time schedules was essential – as we didn’t want to get left behind!). We also opted to bring a packed a lunch with us on the Great Ocean Road day tour. At our lunch stop, instead of going inside a restaurant, we quickly grilled our sandwiches at the oceanfront park and then ate them while sitting on the beach at Apollo Bay.
Have a Great Ocean Road Trip Plan
Rather than relying on your guide to give you information, enhance your Great Ocean Road sightseeing experience by doing a little pre-trip research. Purchase a guidebook or research information online to supplement a Great Ocean Road one-day trip (we used the information from Wiki as a resource).
Where to Sit on Your Bus Tour: Great Ocean Road Route
On your Great Ocean Road by bus tour, make sure you sit on the ocean-view side of the bus where you will have a clear view of the coastline and beaches. If traveling from Melbourne to Port Campbell along the coast, like most tours do, when seated you want to be on the left side of the bus.
Great Ocean Road: Things To Do and See
Organized GOR tours limit participants to seeing only what can fit into the scheduled tour. However, there are several Great Ocean Road tourist attractions – from lighthouses to walking trails to surfing. To see what you want to see on a 12 Apostles tour from Melbourne, it might be best to self-drive Great Ocean Road. In order to not feel overwhelmed by being behind the wheel, we recommend planning a Self-Drive 2-Day Great Ocean Road Itinerary (at minimum!). Don’t forget to book your hotel in advance!
What You Will Need for Great Ocean Road Day Tours
On a 1-Day Great Ocean Road Tour you will want to make sure you are prepared! Don’t forget to bring the following items with you on you 12 Apostles day tour.
While there isn’t a lot of walking required on a 12 Apostles Great Ocean Road Tour, there is enough that you will want to be wearing comfortable walking shoes – especially if you want to scamper out to the viewpoints, like we did. My slip-on Skechers were perfect for the Ocean Road tour; Kris wore his Merrell trail shoes.
Hopefully the weather on your Melbourne 12 Apostles Tour is sunny and bright! If it is, remember to bring your sunglasses and some sunscreen. However, as weather can change quickly on the coast, we also recommend bringing a packable raincoat and travel umbrella (which can also double as a sun shade!).
Camera with Zoom Lens
If you are anything like us, you will be snapping tons of photos during your Great Ocean Road Day Tour. While mobile phone cameras are okay for some travel pics, we recommend using an actual camera with a zoom lens on your day trip to Great Ocean Road to capture the beauty of the rock formations.
On our 12 Apostles Australia tour, we used a DSLR Canon Rebel with an everyday 18-135mm lens. Not only does the camera take quality photos, but it is easy to use for beginners. Plus, the camera comes in a bundle with heaps of great accessories!
We think travel insurance is essential on every trip. When you purchase trip insurance, make sure it covers more than just your flight – you will want it to cover your trip to Great Ocean Road, too. World Nomads offers full trip insurance that protects your entire trip – check out their website for coverage and rates!
More Melbourne, Australia Tips
Now that we have covered what to see and do on a Great Ocean Road day tour, we have a few final tips for your trip to Melbourne.
Melbourne Sightseeing Tips
Looking for more advice on what to see and do in Melbourne? Use our complete guide to the 21 Best Things To Do in Melbourne, Australia!
When checking out the sights, a Melbourne sightseeing pass – like the iVenture Card – can save tourists money.
More Melbourne Day Trips
In addition to the Great Ocean Road Day Tour, there are many other Melbourne one day trip options. Two other popular Melbourne day trips are a Yarra Valley Wine Tasting (book it now!) and Phillip Island Penguins (reserve your spot!).
Where To Stay in Melbourne
We have found that staying in apartments is often less expensive than hotel rooms – with the added benefit of a kitchen and, usually, more space. Not already a member of Airbnb? Use this link to create an account and save money on your first stay!
However, for those who prefer staying in traditional accommodations, there are many Melbourne hotels to choose from in – or close to – the city center.
Getting To Melbourne
Our preferred method of getting anywhere is by flying (we are JetSetting Fools, after all!) and when we do need to purchase plane tickets, we start our search for the best deals on airline tickets on Skyscanner.
Most visitors arriving in Melbourne via plane will land at the Melbourne International Airport (MEL). From the airport, you can take the SkyBus, a mini-van shuttle bus or arrange private transfer into the CBD.
In the CBD and surrounding region, there is ample public transportation, including a network of trains, trams and buses, which all accept fares via the Myki Card. We aren’t keen on driving abroad, but renting a car can often save time and money (especially when traveling with more than two people) – and it allows for greater discovery and day trips from Melbourne by car.
We Want To Know: Have you been on a Great Ocean Road One-Day Trip? What was the highlight of your Great Ocean Road day trip itinerary? Do you have inside scoop to Great Ocean Road tour deals that you can share? Give us your best tips in the comment section below!
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