Great Ocean Road Photography Location Guide
The Great Ocean Road is on the door step of Melbourne and is one of Australia’s iconic must do drives (if you happen to be in Victoria). The drive offers many photography locations that landscape photographers crave! Waterfalls, beaches, mountains, bays and even the wonders of the 12 apostles. Whilst this post is aimed at landscape photographers, it’s also a handy little travel guide of some amazing locations. I am going to lay down just a few amazing locations for landscape photography along the Great Ocean Road and no doubt will need several more posts in order to get more coverage over all the locations on offer.
Please note the order of the below location is roughly in the order of my preferable spots. It would definitely be worth checking each location along side a map if you planed on visiting several on the same day. For landscape photographers, as you are likely to visit just the one location on any given day (for light), the order isn’t much of an issue (or so I hope).
If you are a waterfall lover, then Hopetoun falls is for you. The waterfall is deep within Otway’s National Park, yet has a well-made walking track and good access. There are a few stairs, so take your time unless you have decent fitness. When you reach the bottom, there is a deck that overlooks the waterfall and amazing rocks. The forest has an obvious cooling sensation and it is common to have newly fallen trees which in the past has given difference in composition if you are a returning photographer. Depending on the time of day and light, you may need to use a neutral density filter to get that silky water look of long exposures, however sometimes the light can be so low it is not needed. My recommendation is to come here outside of golden hour as the light peaking through the forest can be a good addition to a waterfall shot and it also frees up golden hour for another location. More information for Hopetoun falls as well as a bunch of others can be found on this useful website https://www.visitgreatoceanroad.org.au/lets-go-chasing-waterfalls/
Be sure to check the Californian Redwoods while you are here, as its just around the corner. See below for details.
Gibson’s steps is probably my favourite of the the 12 Apostles region, mostly because you photograph from above and below quite easily. Princetown is also quite far away from heavy lit town centres making this location very ideal for astro-photography. I recommend astro-photography in Australia between May and November for good placement of the milky.
Capturing sunset or sunrises at Gibson’s Steps have been hit or miss for me. Mostly I have encountered very overcast and windy conditions or complete cloudless sky’s. It has never stopped me from photographing, however I was lucky enough to be there of this one occasion for sunrise where I was presented with a near pure pink sky. Never give up, keep going back until you get that shot you are after.
The 12 Apostles, the storm carved coastline is the highlight of the Great Ocean Road. Be prepared for a lot of tourists and photographers and happy snappers. I have been a few times, still waiting for that perfect light. The location is beautiful for either sunset or sunrise however I recommend sunset if you are after that iconic 12 Apostles shot. I recommend arriving early to allow for sufficient scoping, as the area is quite large if you wanted to also check Gibson’s steps. However if you wanted the iconic shot, it is only a small walk from the car park. The following website has a bunch of useful information https://visit12apostles.com.au/
Although technically not on the Great Ocean Road (just moments from the Great Ocean Road entrance), the following locations are in between Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road entrance and are definitely worth checking out if you wanted to do a closer range trip.
Point Lonsdale Pier
A fair bit to see in Point Lonsdale and again, not too far away from Geelong, have a browse of this informative website https://www.visitgeelongbellarine.com.au/destinations/point-lonsdale/. I was mostly interested in the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse and pier. I was pleasantly pleased wit the light on this particular sunset. The pier is better suited for sunrise and the lighthouse for sunset, however I was shocked with 360 degree pink sky this evening, I was able to get two shots from either end of the pier! What a winner!
Point Lonsdale Light House
The lighthouse is the obvious point of interest in Point Lonsdale. I have been to the lighthouse on many occasions and always had challenges with compositions of the lighthouse, until this one day at low tide. I was able to walk out where I found this composition and reflection of the lighthouse in some amazing light.
Point Lonsdale Beach – Low Tide
Whilst there is an amazing pier and lighthouse near by, don’t let the subtle formations be forgotten. At low tide there are many formations that create interest.
Bells Beach, Torquay
Torqauy is one of my favourite towns on the Great Ocean Road, not only for the amazing beaches but the town is filled with amazing activities. I found this website that has a great write up on life in Torquay https://www.torquaylife.com.au/. I would definitely list this destination as a stop off.
Landscape photography in Torqauy I found to be quite difficult. I spent a lot of time trying to find the elements I needed to bring a photograph to life. For this photograph, I used the twig, slowed water, & light to bring emphasis to the bluff in the background. The result was one of my all time favourite photographs.
I stayed at the Torqauy Foreshore Caravan Park, the park is a must especially if you have young kids https://torquaycaravanpark.com.au/
Jan Juc, Torquay
A small suburb of Torqauy is Jan Juc and probably a place you wouldn’t originally think to photograph. However at low tide, there are some incredible rock formations – this mixed with a light show brought together an unexpected photo along the Great Ocean Road.
Airey’s Inlet, Beach
A popular stop is Airey’s Inlet, well known for the location of the 90’s television series “Round the Twist”. Filled with some nice walks, beaches and tours of split point lighthouse. There is a bunch of usful infomration on the following websites.
Aireys Inlet, Rock Formation
Below the light house is an entrance to the beach, the beach has some rock formations which can be quite good to play with an ND filter and slowed water movement.
Aireys Inlet Split Point Lighthouse
The split point lighthouse is one of the most popular destinations on the Great Ocean Road.
Make sure to check out the links above.
The Great Ocean Road has some of the best waterfalls in Victoria (the best in my opinion). Whilst ever tourist will be at Hopetoune Falls, be sure to check out Bauchamp Falls. Not as many people will be here as it seem to be not as popular. For photography, I would recommend bring some waterproof shoes or gumboots as the best angles are across the stream. You will have to walk across in order to get the waterfall in full view.
Lorne, Teddies Lookout
This is an amazing spot to watch the sun rise, high with beautiful views, mountains and beach. To top it off, you will only have to walk about 100 metres and a nice maintained walk way. For those just getting into sunrise photography, This is a definite recommendation, as it brings epic views, as well as being easily acceptable at night (before sunrise). If capturing long exposure headlight trails are your thing, this probably the best location to do so along the Great Ocean Road.
This photograph, I feel captures the heart of the Great Ocean Road, the twisted road with mountain to the right and coast to the left. This is the Great Ocean Road summed up in one photo.
Make sure to come at low tide and sufficient time for sunset, as it can be quite dangerous and also takes some time to walk all the stairs. The walk takes you to the anchors of the Marie Gabrielle and the Fiji. The location has somewhat of an eerie feeling (to me anyway), probably a reminder of the power of the ocean.
Find some more information here https://www.visitmelbourne.com/regions/Great-Ocean-Road/Things-to-do/Outdoor-activities/Walking-and-hiking/VV-Wreck-Beach-Walk
A landscape photographers dream if you love mood, this old pier in Clifton Springs brings a depth like no other. Approximately 100km from Melbourne CBD and a stone throw from Geelong, its also a nice beach if you wanted to get fish and chips while you waited for the sun to set. However the location is often swarming with other landscape photographers, so make sure you are okay with sharing! Haha. Also you may want to bring a second pair of pants or some type of water proof clothing, I walked in knee deep for this shot in winter. Otherwise you could always stay on the shore line.
Cape Otway’s Light Station
Built in 1848 and likely the first sight of land for European migrants Cape Otway Light station is an important piece of Australian history. More importantly it makes for a great photo! However don’t do what I did and show up 10 minutes prior closing time, I nearly was not aloud in. That’s right, there is an entrance and entrance fee. You should check out the opening hours when you plan to attend, there website provides a lot of helpful information https://www.lightstation.com/explore/lighthouse/ and the entry fee is well worth the tour and sights. However, they do open and close outside of golden hour, I was lucky enough to make golden hour for the below photograph as in winter the sunset is around 5:15pm, very lucky.
Another one of my favourite places to be is Port Fairy. A wonderful little town on the outskirts of the Great Ocean Road. I feel like I have entered another country when I spend time here. The most famous photograph location is the Lighthouse, however there are some interesting mountains, and water displays on the walk.
Find some more information of Port Fairy here https://www.portfairyaustralia.com.au/
Port Fairy Lighthouse
The Port Fairy lighthouse has many composition opportunities for both sunset and sunrise. The walk is quite lengthy and spooky, so be preferred with a torch or headlamp and a friend (if you’d prefer not be alone). After scoping out the location the day prior, I braved this walk on my own at sunrise, and while it was a bit of a challenge, I am happy with my capture.
The width of the Queenscliff Pier is surprising! There is obviously one main composition, straight down the middle, however there are some other interesting aspects on the beach with the plants as foreground elements.
I think blue hour suited the location quite nicely. I recommend bringing yourself an ND filter to slow the shutter speed. Not only to smooth the water, but you are likely to see a lot of tourists and fishers on the pier. A long enough shutter speed will make the walking people vanish.
Stopping in Apollo Bay is a must, not only because you will be hungry and need coffee, but Apollo Bay has some pretty amazing sights. The beach is awesome and along the shore line there are several walking tracks that will lead you into the rock formations along the beach. I happened to stumbled across some sea weed along the rock formations at Shelly’s Beach giving me a unique interest from the foreground, mid ground and background.
I found the visit Apollo Bay website quite helpful https://www.visitapollobay.com/ and even though I live quite close to Apollo Bay, I never knew whale watching was a thing in Apollo Bay! Among other things, Apollo Bay is a place to stop in for a while.
Barwon Heads Bluff
Barwon Heads on Bellarine Peninsula is a popular destination for holiday, being close to Great Ocean Road, Geelong and fun activities. The beaches are really nice, however photographing the beaches I found to be quite the challenge so please keep this in mind. Finding a composition that was strong was difficult. I arrive 5 hours prior sunset and explored the area before finally settling on this spot, half was down a walkway to the beach.
Around the corner from Hopetoun falls is the Californian redwoods, also known as the giant trees. A must to see and probably the most idea place to stop in for lunch. These giant trees are huge and are amazing to be around. The redwoods are actually a 85 year old plantation of Californian redwood trees.
Definitely worth a visit, however this is one of those location that are more beautiful in person than in photograph. The below photo is not of the triplet falls themselves, as I preferred this more subtle stream off one of the falls. However getting to this location is quite the battle, I recommend sticking to the path and capturing the triplet falls. Just note, there is a lot of detail so a composition is quite difficult. Amazing to be and observe though!