Great Ocean Road & Otways Waterfalls

Touring the Great Ocean Road between Torquay and Lavers Hill you will visit idyllic beaches, take in the breathtaking coastal views from the imposing red ochre limestone cliffs and travel through ironbark forests and heathlands.

At times the Great Ocean Road is literally carved into the near-vertical cliffs as it climbs to more than 100 metres above the blue-green sea and the views of forested hills plunging into the Southern Ocean are unforgettable. 

While you’re taking in the sights and sounds you’ll learn about the Wathaurong Aboriginal inhabitants of the region and see traces of a sustainable way of life that existed for thousands of years. As well you’ll discover the maritime history and early European settlement of this coast, including the building of the Great Ocean Road - the world’s largest war memorial.

You can choose between a picnic or barbecue lunch overlooking the Southern Ocean or in the forests of the Otway Ranges.

After a night in stylish accommodation and breakfast in Apollo Bay we head west again on the Great Ocean Road visiting wetland areas and wild, remote beaches on route to a remnant of Gondwanaland rainforest inhabited by towering mountain ash and myrtle beech trees.

We will find a picnic area for lunch before heading into the Otway Ranges towards Beech Forest, travelling through some of the highest rainfall areas in Victoria.

We visit a number of waterfalls in the rainforest and head along the top of the Otway Ranges on Turtons Track Rainforest Drive. Our last stop for the day will be on the northern slopes of the ranges where we will visit a lake formed by a massive landslide in 1952.

As well as taking you into dramatic coastal and forest environments along the Great Ocean Road and through the Otway Ranges, opportunities to observe native wildlife will occur throughout the tour. Kangaroos, wallabies and koalas can be observed in the eucalypt forests. We will hear and see a range of birdlife including rosellas, kookaburras and some of the smaller forest birds such as robins and fan-tails. We may even see majestic wedge-tailed eagles soaring on thermals.

Along the coast we may observe shore-birds and seals, while whales are regularly spotted along this coast between May and October. 

 

Dates

This tour can be taken throughout the year, with different experiences depending on the season and prevailing weather. The most settled weather – with warm temperatures and low rainfall - generally occurs in February and March. Summer is the best beach weather, but it is also the busiest time of year with heavy traffic, particularly on weekends. The high temperatures and strong northerly winds that create perfect beach (and surf) conditions can also be ideal for bushfires that can restrict travel.  The region has great appeal in winter, with wild weather pounding the coast and waterfalls at their best. Whales can be spotted between May and October. Wildflowers are best during late winter and spring.

Contact us for more information on these and to discuss a time and date that suits you best. We may be able to arrange these tours on alternative dates, including weekends. If you’d like a private, customized or self drive itinerary see Create Your Own Journey.

Full Itinerary

This is a two-day tour. Each day begins with pickup at your accommodation at around 8.30am and we will spend about 9 hours exploring before delivering you to your next overnight accommodation.

DAY 1 - Great Ocean Road from Torquay to Apollo Bay.

Beginning in Torquay we travel through ironbark forests and heathlands, visit idyllic beaches and take in the breathtaking coastal views from the imposing red ochre limestone cliffs. You will learn about the Aboriginal inhabitants of the region and see traces of a life that existed for thousands of years. At Aireys Inlet Lighthouse you will learn about the maritime history and early European settlement of this coast. 

At Eastern View we will visit the Memorial Arch - built to commemorate the World War I veterans who built the Great Ocean Road, before travelling on to Lorne on a road that is literally carved into the near-vertical cliffs as it climbs to more than 100 metres above the blue-green sea.  The views of forested hills plunging into the Southern Ocean are unforgettable.

At Lorne we can choose between a picnic or barbecue lunch overlooking Louttit Bay, or we can venture into the surrounding lush forest for the quintessential Australian bush experience, complete with Kookaburras who will steal your barbecue lunch if you are not wary. Our last stop for the day will be to observe koalas in the woodlands around Kennett River, before travelling on to our stylish accommodation in Apollo Bay.

DAY 2 – From Apollo Bay to Lavers Hill and inland through the Otway Ranges to Torquay.

After breakfast in Apollo Bay we head west again on the Great Ocean Road visiting wetland areas teeming with birdlife and wild and remote ocean beaches, backed by the rolling green hills of the Otway Ranges, where you will no doubt experience some of the wild weather which resulted in the many shipwrecks along this coast. Near Lavers Hill we will stop for a picnic lunch at Melba Gully, before exploring the surrounding temperate rainforest, with its massive trees and learning something of the early timber and railway history of the area.  From Lavers Hill we venture into the Otway Ranges towards Beech Forest, travelling through some of the highest rainfall areas in Victoria. We will visit some of the many waterfalls in the rainforest and travel along the top of the Otway Ranges on Turtons Track Rainforest Drive. Our last stop for the day will be on the northern slopes of the ranges where we will visit a lake formed by a massive landslide in 1952, after one of the heaviest periods of rain on record. We will head back to Torquay via the Otway Plains. 

As well as taking you into dramatic coastal and forest environments along the Great Ocean Road and through the Otway Ranges, opportunities to observe native wildlife will occur throughout the tour. Kangaroos, wallabies and koalas can be observed in the eucalypt forests. We will hear and see a range of birdlife including rosellas, kookaburras and some of the smaller forest birds such as robins and fan-tails. We may even see majestic wedge-tailed eagles soaring on thermals. Along the coast we may observe shore-birds and seals, while whales are regularly spotted along this coast between May and October. 

 

Price & Inclusions

Contact Around The Sun for the cost of this once in a lifetime opportunity!

Our price includes pick-up from and return to your accommodation in Geelong or on the Surf Coast, a picnic or BBQ lunch of local gourmet food (on both days), and drinking water is always carried in the vehicle. Stylish overnight accommodation and breakfast will be provided in Apollo Bay.

The advertised price is based on a scheduled small group departure with a minimum of seven passengers. Private trips with less than seven passengers, or any customised itinerary, are likely to cost more. Scheduled small group departures will be confirmed not less than 56 days before the trip commences. If we do not have our required minimum numbers anyone who has made a booking will have an opportunity to transfer dates, to continue on the trip at an amended price, or to receive a full refund.

Not Included

Your evening meal in Apollo Bay is not included. We are happy to provide advice on the range of options from gourmet to take away.

A Gourmet Package including luxury accommodation and gourmet evening meal can be arranged at additional cost.

Pick-up from Melbourne (Tullamarine) or Avalon airports can be arranged for additional cost.

Great Ocean Road

Officially The Great Ocean Road runs 243 kms between Spring Creek, at Torquay and Allansford, just east of Warrnambool. From Torquay, on the Surf Coast, it travels inland through heathlands and ironbark forests, before joining the coast at Anglesea. From Anglesea to Apollo Bay the road closely follows the coast in the shelter of the Otway Ranges, providing unforgettable views of the forested hills plunging over 100 metres into the blue-green sea of the Southern Ocean.   At Apollo Bay the road turns inland through the wet sclerophyll forest interspersed with pockets of temperate rainforest in the protected valleys of the beautiful Otway Ranges. While to road cuts across Cape Otway, the iconic Great Ocean Walk takes you along the rugged coast in this area. The Great Ocean Road meets the coast again just past Princetown at the famous Port Campbell National Park, with its sea-sculpted cliffs, arches and stacks, and the start of the Shipwreck Coast.

While officially the Great Ocean road runs from Torquay to near Warrnambool, from a practical point of view, however, either Geelong or Queenscliff (on the Bellarine Peninsula) will be the gateway to the region for visitors who start from Melbourne, and Nelson at the mouth of the Glenelg River on the Discovery Coast (in the far south west of Victoria) is likely to be the gateway for visitors who start in Adelaide. The Great Ocean Road region can be said to take in the entire Victorian coastline west from Queenscliff, and the inland areas up to roughly 100km from the coast. 

The Surf Coast

The Great Ocean Road officially begins at Spring Creek, the boundary between Torquay and Jan Juc on the Surf Coast (100 kms from Melbourne). Although the road doesn’t meet the coast until Anglesea, it is a mistake to miss the section of coast between Torquay and Anglesea, because it has some of the best surf and coastal scenery in the world. The best way to enjoy the views is to take advantage of sections of the Surf Coast Walk, which follows the coast from Point Impossible (east of Torquay near Breamlea) to Fairhaven. 

 The Surf Coast can be divided into two sub-zones, with imposing red limestone cliffs from Torquay to Fairhaven, and hard grey sedimentary rocks from Eastern View on. The softer red stone has been undercut to create spectacular cliffs at places like Bells Beach, Point Addis and Split Point (Airey’s Inlet). Inland, the Otway Plains are dominated by dry eucalypt forests, grasslands and sandy heathlands. West of Eastern View as far as Apollo Bay, the harder grey sandstone has protected the foundations of the Otway Ranges, and near vertical cliffs plunge into the blue-green Southern Ocean. The higher rainfall in this area gives rise to wet eucalypt forests and temperate rainforests, with waterfalls plunging into fern-filled gullies as the creeks and rivers rush to the ocean.

Torquay is a thriving town and home to Surf City Plaza – where you find the largest and most impressive complex of surfing retailers anywhere in the world - and also the home of the Surf World Museum, dedicated to surfing and beach culture and housing the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame. It is forever linked to the surf industry because of its proximity to some outstanding surf breaks - none more famous than Bells Beach, home to the world’s oldest professional surfing contest. The big waves at Bells are not an everyday event, but there are many more surf beaches, often with more consistent breaks, along the coast. Pt Addis is arguably the most beautiful beach on the Surf Coast and there are some great walks in Ironbark Basin behind the cliffs.

Anglesea is where the Great Ocean Road meets the sea at the western end of some of the most magnificent coastal cliffs in Australia. This town has built a reputation as a centre for outdoor activity including mountain biking, surfing at one of the many local beaches, walking in the heathlands, fishing or canoeing on the Anglesea River or playing a round of golf amongst the kangaroos at the local course.

After Anglesea and Pt Roadknight, the road meets the coast and you get your first, literally breathtaking view down the coast past the Split Point lighthouse at Aireys Inlet. Known as the “White Queen”, the lighthouse overlooks Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary and can be seen wherever you are from Point Addis to Lorne. There are at least seven beaches within a 15-minute drive of Aireys Inlet and the six km stretch of beach from Aireys to Spout Creek at Eastern View is one of the finest in the world.

Lorne is one of the few places in Australia where you can have a sea-view and a northerly aspect at the same time, and it is one of the few coastal towns in Australia that is protected from the prevailing coastal winds. It’s a sheltered and beautiful spot with trees literally overhanging the beach. Tourism started early in Lorne, with the first guest house built in 1868, and is still meeting the needs of city people looking to shed their stress. The town hosts some of the most expensive real estate in Victoria and caters to the tourist with a big choice of cafes, restaurants and shops and a couple of art galleries. The thickly forested hills behind the town are home to many spectacular waterfalls and walks ranging from a leisurely stroll to a more strenuous walk through rock-strewn fern-filled gullies.

Cumberland River, a few km west of Lorne has a very secluded and special caravan park, in a beautiful river valley overlooked by Castle Rock. Jebbs Pool and Cumberland Falls are a short walk up the narrow river gorge.

The next towns to the west are Wye River and Kennett River. Both these small seaside hamlets began as timber towns which swell in summer as holidaymakers fill the holiday houses in the hills and camping grounds on the coast. Kennett River is most famous for the koalas that can nearly always be seen in the manna gums around town and up the Grey River Road.

There are cafes, restaurants, farm gate experiences and a range of accommodation options including bush camping, caravan parks, B&Bs and self-catering cabins along the coast and in and around the hinterland towns of Deans Marsh, Birregurra, Moriac and Winchelsea. Deans Marsh is probably best known for berry farms, where you can pick and eat delicious berries. Birregurra is on the main Melbourne to Warrnambool train line and became a thriving town when the Birregurra to Forrest railway opened in 1891. There are several striking examples of 19th century architecture, including the carefully restored facades of Main Street, which now house a gourmet food store and a number of galleries, bookshops and cafes. Winchelsea, to the north of the Otways, was first settled in the 1830s when squatters took up grazing land on the fertile volcanic plains. There are a number of historic buildings in town and several substantial bluestone (basalt) homesteads in the region.

Along the Surf Coast there are great opportunities to experience a natural environment with abundant native birdlife and rare native animals. In the heathlands and eucalypt forests around Anglesea and Airey’s Inlet wildflowers, including rare orchids, put on a brilliant display during winter and spring and attract nectar feeding birds. Native fauna includes many small marsupials, like echidnas, bandicoots, and potoroos; and native placental mammals such as swamp rat and New Holland mouse. Wallabies and kangaroos are common throughout the region and koalas can be found in the dry sclerophyll forests  around Kennett River. More than 80 species of birds inhabit the heathlands including the rare ground parrot and rufous bristlebird. In the forest areas the larger birds such as rosellas, currawongs and kookaburras are common as are some of the smaller forest birds such as robins and fan-tails. Majestic wedge-tailed eagles can be seen soaring on thermals. Shore-birds and seals can be observed along the coast and whales are regularly spotted between May and October.

The Otway Ranges

The Otway Ranges run inland from the coast between Anglesea and Princetown and consist of moderate to steep slopes, sheltered valleys, and swamps and lowlands.

The hills to the south of the main ridge, largely encompassed by the Great Otway National Park, catch the moisture-laden air rolling in from the Southern Ocean and are rich green even in summer. The most characteristic vegetation classes include temperate rainforest and wet sclerophyll forest. Numerous creeks and rivers tumble down to the ocean and a number of picturesque winding roads follow the valleys. The prized remnants of the Otway Ranges’ temperate rainforest are nearly all found in sheltered gullies on this southern flank. The rainforest is principally defined by the beautiful, sometimes massive and ancient, myrtle beech. Instantly identifiable because of its clouds of tiny leaves, these trees once cloaked Gondwanaland, but because they cannot cope with fire, they have found one of their last refuges here. There are also stunning ferns, some reaching heights of three or more metres.

In the hills to the north of the main ridge of the Otway Ranges, partly encompassed by the Otway Forest Park, the rainfall drops away quickly (there’s 25mm less rainfall for every kilometre you go north) and you quickly move from the damp and then dry sclerophyll forests of the Otway Ranges to the volcanic Otway Plains. Weeaproinah, at the top of Otways near Lavers Hill, is the wettest place in Victoria, with nearly 2000mm of rain per year; Colac, 50 km to the north is lucky to get 700mm. This is the catchment area for the water supplies for most of the nearby towns and as far away as Geelong.   

Apollo Bay is a small coastal town, surrounded by the spectacular beauty of steep green hills, wide cloud-torn skies, and clean, cold sea. The first reliable road reached Apollo Bay in 1927 and it was not until the 1980s that the travel time from Melbourne dropped below three hours and it became a weekend destination. Smart holiday homes have mushroomed in Apollo Bay and nearby Marengo and Skenes Creek, and the town now boasts more cafes and restaurants than Lorne, which are a favourite stopover for visitors from around the world to stretch their legs and top up their caffeine levels before tackling the next leg of their journey. The opportunity to explore the natural environment is Apollo Bay’s big drawcard. Aside from the beach, there are walks in the nearby ranges, golf, fishing, sea kayaking (to see seals) and surfing lessons.

You turn south off the Great Ocean Road about 20 km west of Apollo Bay and head through forest dominated by tall straight messmate stringybark on the way to the coast and Cape Otway. Nearer to the cape the dominant trees are manna gums, the preferred food of koalas. Cape Otway is dominated by the lighthouse, and the significant collection of heritage buildings including cottages, a telegraph station and a radar station. There are a number of accommodation options around the cape, including campgrounds at Blanket Bay and Parker River, a number of cottages and an eco-lodge. It is even possible to stay in the lighthouse keeper’s cottages.

Back at the Great Ocean Road, heading west, you skirt around the lakes and wetlands at the mouth of the Aire River and briefly touch the coast again at Castle Cove, before heading back into the bush. It was near here, at Dinosaur Cove, that bones from small plant-eating polar dinosaurs were excavated from 110 million year old rock.

By the time you reach Johanna, by turning off the Great Ocean Road about five km west of Castle Cove, you’ve left the world behind. One of the widest, most beautiful beaches in Australia, Johanna is backed by rolling green hills that roll back to the top of the Otway Ranges. There is basic camping by the beach and a number of excellent self-catering cottages hidden in the surrounding hills. Good or bad, the weather is usually Johanna’s star performer. It’s always dramatic.

Inland from Johanna is Lavers Hill, the largest town in the western Otways. There are a couple of cafes/stores and a hotel. Johanna’s location, at the junction of the Great Ocean Road and the road north to Colac makes it a good base. The small settlement of Beech Forest is only 20 minutes away, leading on to many of the more easily accessible Otways waterfalls, Turton’s Track and Forrest. The Gables Lookout, Moonlight Head and Wreck Beach are about 30 minutes away and beautiful Melba Gully is only three km from town, near Crowes, once Australia’ most southerly railway station.

Fifteen km from Lavers Hill, at the old Wattle Hill Hotel, you turn onto the Moonlight Head Road, to reach The Gables lookout and Wreck Beach. The Gables is perched 130 metres above the Southern Ocean and you have commanding views of the coast including Moonlight Head and the reefs below. On nearby Wreck Beach you can still find wreckage from the Marie Gabrielle (1869) and Fiji (1891).

There are cafes, restaurants, farm gate experiences and a range of accommodation options including bush camping, caravan parks, B&Bs and self-catering cabins along the coast and in and around the hinterland towns of Beech Forest, Forrest and Gellibrand. These towns were established as timber and railway towns when the area was opened up in the 1880s. Beech Forest is best known for the nearby attractions of waterfalls, Turton’s Track Rainforest Drive and the Otway Fly. Forrest has established itself as a centre for mountain biking, with over 60 km of trails around town and out to nearby Lake Elizabeth. Gellibrand is known for fishing in nearby rivers, especially blackfish and trout.

Further inland still is Colac, the regional centre on the shores of Lake Colac. Established in the 1840s to service the graziers who took up land on the fertile volcanic plains, Colac has a wide range of shops and services, including hotels, motels, B&Bs, apartments, cottages and caravan parks. There are a number of bakeries and cafes, and several good restaurants. A heritage walk takes you to some of the town’s interesting 19th century architecture. At Red Rock Volcanic Reserve, 17 km northwest of Colac, you can view the dramatic landscape resulting from the many volcanic eruptions that occurred on this vast volcanic plain. Lake Corangamite, 15km west of Colac, is the largest permanent saline lake in Australia, and supports over 70 species of birds.

Throughout the Otway Ranges there are great opportunities to experience a range of ecosystems with abundant native birdlife and rare native animals. In the temperate rainforests and sclerophyll forests the fauna includes kangaroos and wallabies, antechinus and native rats, brushtail possums and sugar gliders. You may also be lucky enough to carnivorous Otway black snail, which thrives in the cool, damp conditions. Platypus are hard to find, but at Lake Elizabeth, deep in the Otways near Forrest, these shy nocturnal creatures may be sighted around dawn and dusk. Glow worms are common in damp, dark places in the Otways and put on a fascinating light display at night.  In the drier sclerophyll forests koalas spend most of their time regally sitting or sleeping in the fork of a tree, slowing digesting the leaves of manna gum and other eucalypts. The whipbird, king parrot, crimson rosella, kookaburra and rufous fantail are common and the currawong can be found in dry sclerophyll forests. The wetlands around the larger rivers such as the Aire and Gellibrand support numerous species of plants and animals. More than 100 water-dependant bird species have been recorded, including straw-necked and sacred ibis, fairy tern, pelican and brolga. Shore-birds and seals can be observed along the coast and whales are regularly spotted between May and October.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

If you have any questions, please contact us. We have an enormous amount of experience – and we have expert operators on the ground in all our destinations.

If our small group guided tours don’t meet your needs we can create custom tours that are both private and customised to meet your wishes. Or perhaps you’d like us to arrange a self- guided driving tour for you.

Practicalities
Travelling in a luxury four-wheel-drive vehicle provides comfort, safety and good visibility, and there are regular short walks to places of interest.

Total walking time each day is about two hours. If you would prefer, there is an option to spend more time walking.

You won’t need specialist walking gear, just comfortable, sturdy shoes and clothes appropriate to the season – protection from wind and showers in winter and sun in summer.

Some sections of the tour are on winding roads, so take precautions if you suffer from motion sickness.

A picnic or BBQ lunch of local gourmet food is provided each day and drinking water is carried in the vehicle.

Stylish overnight accommodation and breakfast will be provided in Apollo Bay.

Your evening meal in Apollo Bay is not included. We are happy to provide advice on the range of options from gourmet to take-away.

All you need to worry about is getting the most enjoyment possible from your adventure! 

Great Ocean Road & Otways Waterfalls

Days:2
Luxury:**** Four Star
Type of Tour:Small Group Guided Tour
Experience: Car Touring / Nature
Challenge: Easy
Cost: From $747

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