Stay close, go further
Get off the beaten coast this holiday season. Immerse yourself in breathtaking forests, pick your own berries, savour seasonal produce and try some new aquatic activities. Here are our tips for a summer road trip with a difference on the Great Ocean Road.
1. Rainforest walks
Walk through forests of magnificent mountain ash, large myrtle beech, blackwoods and thick ferns to arrive at the spectacle of Beauchamp Falls as it crashes over a ledge into a large pool. One of several waterfalls in the Great Otway National Park, this 20-metre cascade rewards a somewhat strenuous walk.
The trail to Triplet Falls is a stunning one-hour loop walk through ancient rainforest within the national park. View the lower cascades as you follow raised walkways beneath forest canopy to the main falls.
Discover Australia's natural beauty at Wildlife Wonders. Let a conservationist guide you through encounters with unique wildlife roaming free in stunning bushland environment overlooking the ocean.
2. Relaxed dining
Summer got you parched? The Great Ocean Road Brewhouse in Apollo Bay has you covered with more than 100 frosty craft beers on tap and a fresh, seasonal menu. Book in at Great Ocean Road Gin's Gin Kitchen. Pick plates from their Asian cuisine-inspired menu, to pair with their small-batch graft gin and creative cocktails.
Come in to roost at The Perch at Lavers Hill, where you can sample fresh produce from throughout the region. Or drop into Port Fairy's Merrijig Inn, to soak up the sun in their beer garden.
3. Outdoor adventures
Freshen up along the coastal Great Ocean Walk. Make the most of the scenery on a multi-day journey, or break it up: start in Princetown and hike towards the 12 Apostles for a single-day adventure.
Hang ten with surf company Go Ride A Wave, who offer lessons in Lorne, Anglesea and Torquay. Experienced surfers can grab ocean essentials from Anglesea Surf Centre, only ten minutes from the region's famed Bells Beach.
Get a fresh perspective on the Otway Ranges with Otway Fly Treetop Adventures. Take in spectacular views during an hour-long rainforest canopy walkway experience and chase thrills on a Zipline Eco-Tour. Or take up the challenge of the Shockwave Zip Coaster at Lorne's Live Wire Park.
4. Local produce
Taste-test your way around the region. Sample award-winning Apostle Whey Cheese – delectable hand-made cheeses made from pure milk produced by a specially bred herd.
Drop in for a tasting session of single malt whisky or settle down for a long lunch at award-winning Timboon Railway Shed Distillery. Learn about the colourful history of whisky-making in the region. Apollo Bay Distillery handcrafts its exotic gin in one of the oldest buildings in town. Get a taste of the landscape in handcrafted tipples made with local botanicals.
Everyone's on board with a stop in at Timboon Ice Creamery on a hot summer's day. Or cool down with freshly churned gelato at the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery.
5. Close encounters
Plan your time to spot some of the Great Ocean Road's most incredible creatures. Get up early for the platypus tour at dawn along Lake Elizabeth – one of the most prized sightings in Australia. Stay up late (and bring a torch) to catch the incredible galaxies of glow worms along the pitch-black Melba Gully loop.
Guided seal kayak tours from Apollo Bay get you up close and personal with a colony of seals as the creatures swim, dive and play in the water. Or you can head out with a conservationist at Wildlife Wonders: they run dedicated wildlife tours through Apollo Bay's hinterland forests.
6. Pick your own berries
Load up on sun-ripened strawberries at Timboon's Berry World. Picking is thirsty work – take home a bottle of their strawberry summer wine or cans of feisty rooster dry cider for later.
Tucked away in the Otway foothills, Pennyroyal Raspberry Farm and Cidery is a hidden delight. Pick your own raspberries, brambleberries, currants, jostaberries, gooseberries and strawberries. Book a cabin stay at the berry farm for easy touring of local attractions, the Great Ocean Road and inland volcano country.
Soak up Ocean views at Whitecrest Great Ocean Road Resort in Wongarra and be lulled to sleep by the sound of waves breaking on the nearby shore.
Sleep in luxury within Warrnambool's Deep Blue Hotel and Hot Springs. Book in a relaxation massage at the Day Spa, clear your mind in the new Salt Room and soak in the geothermal waters of the hotel's open-air hot springs. For a good summary of accommodation options in the region, check out Great Ocean Road Holidays. They've got more than 800 holiday rental homes ready to go.