Top 10 Great Ocean Road pit stops

It's a tall order but Paul Edwards names his favourite cafes along the coastal road.

Those with long memories will remember when coffee outside Melbourne was an instant affair.

Our love affair with the real thing took a while to spread to prime tourist regions but today we're romancing the bean at every turn - especially along the Great Ocean Road.

Picking a top 10 is always problematic - while you might win 10 friends, you could make many more enemies. This is my call as an enthusiastic drink-driver. Of coffee Arabica, that is.

1. A la Grecque, Airey's Inlet

Alonissos it ain't but there's a definite Greek flavour to this unprepossessing cafe in the less attractive part of town. That's because the owner and constant host is Kosta Talimanidis, who ran the successful Kosta's in Lorne. Call in for breakfast and you'll drool over field mushrooms with thyme and feta, agonise over the sourdough with bacon, avocado and lemon, lust after the poached pear with Meredith sheep's milk yoghurt and possibly settle for spanakotiropita. If you're nostalgic for that trip to Delphi and in plate-smashing mode, turn the pressure down with as good a coffee as you're likely to find.

60 Great Ocean Road, Aireys Inlet. Phone 5289 6922.

2. River Tea House, Lorne

It has quickly acquired the status of a Lorne institution - not easy in this hotbed of hot cafes. This rustic establishment beside the Erskine River, is designed for tea enthusiasts - with more than 50 kinds of chai, tea and various herbal potions - but also offers a choice of coffee. Breakfast is a simple affair - muesli or sourdough toast - while lunch has many tried-and-true favourites.

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4B Mountjoy Parade, Lorne. Phone 5289 2099.

3. Kafe Kaos, Lorne

This is where you'll get the best pancake fix on the entire GOR. In the centre of town, it can get very crowded. However, I've found places usually get crowded for good reason and here it's the coffee and food rather than the chic surroundings. With pancake stacks like these, who needs chic?

54-56 Mountjoy Parade, Lorne. Phone 5289 2639.

4. The Bay Leaf Cafe, Apollo Bay

Although it doesn't have much competition, The Bay Leaf Cafe behaves as though it's on Chapel Street, getting adventurous with several menu items. Crowded on any fine day, it also offers plenty to look at. Check out works by local artists and if you're the designated drinker, explore the thoughtful wine list.

131 Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay. Phone 5237 6470.

5. Waves, Port Campbell

A combination cafe-bar-restaurant-boutique hotel, this Port Campbell landmark offers eggs benedict or florentine as well as other must-have breakfast items. It also does a neat line in gluten-free sausages and health foods. No surprise to find standard fish and chips on the menu but Waves ups the ante with chilli and ginger-coated goujons with jasmine rice. For carnivores, there's a mouth-watering char-grilled eye fillet that comes with red-onion jam cuddled up to a slow-braised Asian-style oyster blade steak. Oh, and there's also good coffee.

29 Lord Street, Port Campbell. Phone 5598 6111.

6. Timboon Railway Shed Distillery, Timboon

Worth the 16-kilometre detour, this is a standout stop. The cafe doubles as a distillery and scores heavily in each guise. The rustic wood-tin cafe fits in well alongside the old rail track. Highly polished copper stills take up much of the front half and if you're in the mood for tasting a dram of single malt with your coffee, just ask. Local produce features strongly in the retail section so stock up on jam, wine, cheese, free-range eggs, bread, berries and beer.

The Railway Yard, Bailey Street, Timboon. Phone 5598 3555.

7. Cafe Lava, Warrnambool

Locals vote this the best spot in the 'Bool. It's a little out of the centre of town, which means parking is easy. The cafe-produce-store-gift-gallery is a vast converted stable and has the district's largest selection of teas and coffees. While your meal and drinks are being prepared (the big breakfast is a knockout), check out the books, homewares and wines on offer. You might even see local musos belting out their stuff.

235 Lava Street, Warrnambool. Phone 5561 0001.

8. Koroit Country Bakehouse and Crater Cafe

OK, so we've moved away from the Great Ocean Road again but you couldn't visit the south-west without a trip to this time-warp town near the Tower Hill State Game Reserve. The cafe is opposite Mickey Bourke's Irish pub and has its own claim to fame as a bakehouse, art gallery and bastion of good coffee. It's a friendly, laid-back place, with wooden floors and a wood-burning fire. Upstairs, local artists display their talents.

126 Commercial Road, Koroit. Phone 5565 8958.

9. Rebecca's Cafe, Port Fairy

Rebecca's Cafe just squeezes in as the town's top coffee spot but if you can't find a table, you'll find excellent meals and drinks elsewhere in this picturesque old town. Rebecca's is noted for its sinful cakes and the instantly addictive Timboon ice-cream. At lunchtime, there are pastas, savoury tarts and some interesting blackboard specials. Breakfasts range from ultra-healthy to what-the-hell-we're-on-holiday. Somewhere in between is an exotic number consisting of wild rice porridge topped with rhubarb, berries, roasted almonds, sesame seed and maple syrup.

72 Sackville Street, Port Fairy. Phone 5568 2533.

10. Bridgewater Bay Beach Cafe, Cape Bridgewater

Worth a visit just for the spectacular setting, 10 minutes beyond Portland. The cafe's deck almost merges with the beach and has close-up views of Cape Bridgewater and the wide bay. Breakfast continues all day and includes poached eggs with smoked salmon; coffee is by Amanti and lunch includes several versions of fish.

1661 Bridgewater Road, Cape Bridgewater. Phone 5526 7155.

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