This bustling regional centre is the gateway to the Otways.
Built aside the huge Lake Colac and on the doorstep of the Great Otway National Park, Colac is one of the largest towns in the region. And a perfect gateway to some of the Great Ocean Roads most-loved natural attractions.
If you’re spending the weekend in this bustling regional centre you’ll discover quaint gift shops, antique dealers, art galleries, beautiful botanical gardens and lakeside beaches and bike paths. You’ll also get a taste of regional hospitality at the abundant cafés, artisan providores, exciting dining destinations and rich nightlife. Adventure seekers don’t need to travel far to immerse themselves in the towering treetops of the Great Otway National Park. Foodies can hit the Otway Harvest Trail to sample some the region’s best fresh produce. Or if you drive just a little further you can see the great icons of the Great Ocean Road – The Twelve Apostles.
We stayed in the original two-bedroom maid’s quarters of the magnificent Coragulac House. This historic homestead, built in 1873 is newly opened to guests and tour groups after owners Garry and Sharon have meticulously returned it to its former glory. Passionate about sharing its story, Garry gave us a private tour of the property explaining the majestic architecture (2h tours can be booked by appointment).
As soon as you step into the grand entrance hall you’ll step back in history. The 6metre tall cedar panelled ceiling, family crest embossed wallpaper and beaten copper duelling dragons hold the secrets of a bygone era. Luckily Garry knows a few stories too and will share what life was like through the generations in this awe-inspiring home as you wander the grand rooms.
Coragulac House is nestled at the foot of Red Rock Scenic lookout – Colac’s best sunset spot and one of Australia’s youngest volcanoes. A short stroll will take you to breathtaking 360 degree views of Lake Corangamite, Australia’s largest natural lake and the scattered peaks of over 40 ancient volcanos. This area is the third largest volcanic lakes and plains in the world – estimated to be over 8,000 years old. The red sky cloaking the red rock whilst the 25,000-hectare lake shimmers like an iridescent mirror is unmissable.
This regional centre was built beside Lake Colac, the largest natural freshwater lake in Victoria, one of more than 50 lakes in the district. For thousands of years the area was home to Gulidjan Aborigines and it is thought that ‘Colac’ was an abbreviation of ‘Coladjin’, the Gulidjan word meaning “fresh water”.
Lake Colac is the natural center of Colac – popular for fishing, water activities and other recreation along its shoreline. To gain a different view of the Colac, set of on the easy foreshore walking and bike paths or if you’d like a longer ride the total lake circumference is 33km.
Jo’so Pantry doesn’t just have the best coffee in town, she also bakes the tastiest treats and selects only the best organic and local region produce for her health food pantry too. The Irrawarra Sourdough and Otway Pasta Company are just some of my top picks off her well-stocked whole-food shelves.
Enjoy a little retail therapy while wandering the streets of Colac. Browse country gift shops, specialty stores and stock up at the community markets.
Make sure to visit the maze of ecclectiveness that is Murry St Market. With over 90 mini-stores of vintage treasures, crafts and collectables to explore in one vibrant space you’re guaranteed to take home a left-of-centre souvenir.
The Red Rock Regional Gallery (open Sat/Sun 11am-4pm) is situated in the township of Cororooke. You can’t miss it on your drive to Coragulac House.
The light filled gallery occupies the towns historic Saint David’s Uniting Church and offers a diverse ever-changing range of exhibitions and performances to the public.
The newest dining destination in Colac, Babil is serving up hearty Turkish and French banquets in a beautiful heritage building on Gellibrand St – built in 1891. You won’t go hungry as you feast on mouth-watering kebabs, hot and cold mezes, baba ganoush, grilled halloumi, steaks, char-grilled delights and Turkish desserts.
Grab a request slip from the bar, write down that song you’ve been yearning for and get ready to sing-a-long while some of Australia’s premiere musicians and vocalists belt out the classics. Whether you’re a chair dancer or want to shake your groove thing on the dance floor, you’ll have a great night at the Piano Bar.
Start Sunday slowly with a leisurely 1.2-kilometre track through Colac’s Botanic Gardens on the Lake Colac foreshore. The various paths cover some 15 hectares of these historic gardens with over 1,000 specimens including trees registered by the National Trust. You can even cruise the gardens by car if you like, this is only one of two drive-through botanic gardens in Victoria.
These gardens were redesigned by landscape architect William Guilfoyle in 1910, famous for redesigning Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens. A clever idea of Guilfoyle’s was to terrace the gentle slope facing the lake to provide viewing for events such as rowing regattas. Another smart move in more recent times was to convert the original caretaker’s cottage into a café. Our next stop.
Lunch is served at Lake View Cafe with indeed a great view at this boutique, historic café set on the edge of the Colac Botanic Gardens. Take a seat indoors, amongst the gardens or on the sunny deck overlooking Lake Colac. Then the friendly staff will tempt you with the ever-changing seasonal menu’s sourcing the best of local produce. Beautiful coffee, famous scones and fresh homemade cakes and treats are hard to resist, while the lunch menu offers a range of hearty and healthy options.
Colac is famed as the ‘Gateway to the Otways’. Before heading home hit the road and sample the region’s best fresh produce, wines, beers and gourmet treats along the Otways Harvest Trail. Walk one of the many trails of the Great Otway National Park or drive further to the southern coastal cliffs, beaches and mighty 12 Apostles.
Colac is less than 2hours from Melbourne via the M1 inland route.
Living in history at Coragulac House
The spectacular sunset at Red Rock Lookout
Biking the trail around Lake Colac
Lunch with a Lake Colac view
Singalongs at The Piano Bar
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Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the Great Ocean Road region the Wadawurrung, Eastern Maar & Gunditjmara. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging. We recognise and respect their unique cultural heritage and the connection to their traditional lands. We commit to building genuine and lasting partnerships that recognise, embrace and support the spirit of reconciliation, working towards self-determination, equity of outcomes and an equal voice for Australia’s first people.