When you can’t decide whether to see the ocean, walk in the forest, chase some waterfalls, or camp by the river, then the Great Otway National Park is the place to go so you can do everything. This national park begins at Torquay and goes through Princeton and Otways hinterland before ending in Colac. It features lush forests, beautiful waterfalls, and serene lakes in the north, and has picturesque coastlines, beaches, and grasslands on the other side.
Most people come to this national park for the Great Ocean Walk. The Great Ocean Walk is a 91 km trail that extends from Apollo Bay to Glenample Homestead. It’s a great way to see the entire park! The trail will take you through the forests, the rugged shores, rivers, and clifftops with amazing views as you go from east to west. You can step off the trail whenever you want to explore the areas further. Another great thing about this trail (and the park in its entirety) is that most of it is wheelchair accessible. All-terrain wheelchairs are rented out from Colac Otway Shire and Surf Coast Shire.
14 km further from the Great Ocean Road stands the Cape Otway Lightstation Entrance into the lightstation is paid and you can choose from the following guided tours: Lighthouse Tower Tour, Koori Tours, and Paleontology Tours. It’s a great destination for families with children.
To get another spectacular view of the ocean, take the Gables Lookout Walk. The walk begins at the carpark and goes through the groves before you reach the cliff –one the highest in mainland Australia. From June through September, you can get lucky and spot some whales.
For a cool forest walk head to the Melba Gully, an abundant forest that is dense with low ferns, mosses, Myrtle Beach, Blackwood, and Tree-ferns. The Madsen track is a 35-minute walk that ventures deeper into the greeneries. Night walks can be fascinating because of the glow worms. There are picnic tables and gas BBQ on this site but camping is not allowed.
Great Otway National Park is also home to Triplet Falls which is always such a treat to see. The falls cascades into the forest creating a magical scene. You can take the Triplet Fall Walk, a 2km loop that you can finish in an hour, which will take you to the upper and lower cascades of the falls. Or you can take the longer Little Aire Walk which diverts away from the falls, goes through the forest and ends in a viewing platform of the same falls you walked away from.
The park has plenty of really nice picnic areas and places to walk, making it worthy of its title of most diverse.
Where to camp
Great Otway National Park has 10 campsites to choose from and they are all quite different from one another!
If you want to be close to the water to enjoy some canoeing and fishing, Aire River West is the spot for you as it lies west of the river. This campground is flat, grassy, and suitable for caravans. Closer to the beach is Aire River East which is good for both caravans and tent-based camping. Both campsites cost $34 per night.
A cooler place to camp would be at Lake Elizabeth Campground which is hillside and shaded by the Mountain Ash surrounding it. This campground is for tent-based camping and if you’re into birds, make your way into the lake early in the morning or at dusk for some birdwatching.
Planning just a couple of day hikes during the weekend? You can stay at the Otways Tourist Park which has comfortables cabins and villas. The 3-hectare park is 20 minutes away from the closest attractions and 40 minutes away from Great Ocean Road.
Most campsites have toilets but only a few have showers. Water supply can be limited so bring plenty of your own. Or bring treatment tablets for water you collect along the way. Gas BBQ is available in some campgrounds but it is advisable to bring your own fuel stove for cooking.
Pets are allowed in a some of the campgrounds (like Lake Elizabeth and Johanna Beach) with conditions. Before bringing your pets, it’s best to check which of the campsites can accommodate you.
Top Image Source: GrahamPics1 – flickr.com