Out and about in the Otways

Evening mists over the Gellibrand River near Princetown.

David Hume

From lush rainforest to iconic coastline, the Otways region in Southern Victoria rewards visitors with a perfect getaway destination.

Winding through the Otways, the Great Ocean Road is best known for views of spectacular cliffs and rock formations, while just inland there await sedate but majestic mountain ash trees towering over dense ferns and waterfalls.

Whether you are a serious bush walker willing to take on the elements while camping along the 100km Great Ocean Walk, or an ambler who prefers to immerse in nature without too much effort, there is something for everyone.

The Great Otway National Park preserves the habitat for a diverse range of animals and birds. Yellow-tailed black cockatoos and countless migratory water birds frequent the rivers and estuaries as they near the ocean. Shore birds and rarer cliff top peregrine falcons dot the coastline. Koalas are visible in nearby eucalypts at Aire River campsites and along roadsides of the park. To locate them, just watch out for tourists clambering out of their vehicles and looking up with cameras clicking!

Mountain bike riding tracks around the town of Forrest cater for all skill levels, while the Old Beechy Rail Trail from Colac through hinterland towns covers 45km and can be ridden or walked in segments. Rail trails are usually a good bet for those who prefer a pedaling cruise rather than struggling up hills.

While fishing is not permitted in marine national parks and sanctuaries, anglers are to be seen in solitary spots along the wide sandy beaches. Areas such as the upper Gellibrand River are known for river blackfish and brown trout. Adults generally require a Victorian Amateur Fishing Licence.

A clifftop view from a section of the Great Ocean Walk.
It’s easy to overlook the other beauty lying right beneath your feet.
First light over Princetown near Cape Otway.
The rainforest walk near Triplet Falls in the Great Otway National Park.
A spectacular view from Cape Otway.

For those seeking to camp, there is a wide choice, from isolated places to sleep under the stars, to town-based holiday parks and plenty of hotel, motel and B&B-style accommodation. Visitor Information Centres offer local knowledge and are well worth dropping by. Some free or low-cost campgrounds, suitable for smaller vehicles and tents, may not be marked on official maps but friendly staff are happy to share their tips.

Once camp has been established, it is time to explore hinterland towns and enjoy local produce, good coffee and beautiful loop walks. Lavers Hill is an example with its rustic cafe offering delicious homemade lunches and snacks. Stunning forests, waterfalls and beaches are all within easy reach of 2WD vehicles, while tracks requiring 4WD are well marked.

As well as the natural attractions in this region there are also numerous places of historical interest. From a spectacular location, the Cape Otway Lightstation showcases human adaptation to isolation and the perils of seafaring. A bunker tells the history of World War II activity in the area, while a dinosaur display and Indigenous history walk offer very different insights and appeal to all age groups.

The wide mix of languages overheard among the many visitors and tour groups in the most popular spots testify to their appeal, especially near the Twelve Apostles and the Otway Fly rainforest walk. Facilities are generally well established to cater for this.

Despite the bustle of these areas, it is still easy to find many beautiful out-of-the-way places that offer an experience of discovery and quiet contemplation.

For more information, go to visitotways.com

Cape Otway Lightstation.
Looking towards the Twelve Apostles from the Great Ocean Walk.


Subscribe to the Great Australian Outdoors Magazine newsletter