52 Great Weekends

No 37: Greatest Road Trip

The most visited stretch of one of the world’s most scenic routes.

It is a great weekend on the Great Ocean Road. No wonder, this is the most visited stretch of one of the world’s most scenic routes. First stop – the home of surfing and world-famous Bells Beach. You can even sample local brews named in its honour. Awaken your adventurous spirit in Anglesea – paddle the river then roam the iconic clifftops and beaches on the Surf Coast Walk. Climb the legendary lighthouse and discover the hidden gin garden in Aireys Inlet. Relax in luxurious Lorne with ocean front fine dining and world class waterfalls before zipping into Australia’s most extreme treetop challenge. Get back to nature in the hidden hamlet of Wye River then immerse yourself in the sparkling blue water of Apollo Bay. Walk the towering treetops of the Otways and fill yourself with the wonder of the wildlife and natural beauty of this undeniably ‘great’ region.

TORQUAY SURFING ACADEMY – HOME OF SURFING

Immerse yourself in waves at the birthplace of Australian surfing with a Torquay Surfing Academy surf lesson. Their motto is ‘Real surfers teaching real surfing’ so whether you’re a beginner (like me) or an experienced surfer looking for some pro tips they have you covered.

The Surf Academy is located just a two-minute walk from the beach – but the real schooling happens in the surf. In under two minutes you’ll have your wetsuit on, foam board in hand and be warming up with an on-sand demo at Cosy Corner before hitting the waves. For two hours the surf coaches are in the water with you giving you a little extra push when needed. Even I was on my feet in no time!

WORLD-FAMOUS BELLS BEACH

Breathe in the fresh sea air as you wander the shores of Bells Beach. Experienced surfers can ride the world-class right-hand breaks, at their best during autumn and winter. Sightseers will love watching in awe as they weave their magic on the waves. The high cliffs provide the natural grandstand and amphitheatre of the beach and the large swells of the Southern Ocean.

BELLS BEACH BREWING CO, TORQUAY

Toast the region with a brewery tour of one of the newer breweries on the block. Bells Beach Brewing Co are bottling the Torquay surfing spirit with 8 signature beers (and a number of special releases) inspired by the landscape of the surf coast and named after the famous local breaks – it’s a surfing safari on tap.

Founders Jono and Adam set out to make local beer as popular as the local waves and co-owner and sports photographer Jeff photographed the local beaches for the labels. The beers look as iconic as the landscapes themselves! After the tour relax in the brewery’s street art flanked courtyard with a Hell’s Bells XPA in one hand and a burger from local food truck Gypsy Burger in the other.

CANOEING COGOORAH RESERVE

The Anglesea River snakes through the centre of this vibrant seaside town with boardwalks that allow you to explore the many unique landscapes of the area. Get your weekend off to a great start and hire a canoe, fun- boat or SUP from the iconic Anglesea Paddle Boat and Canoe Hire. Owner Adrian has run this business since 1978 and he’ll soon get you paddling on the calm waters – the shallow estuary of Anglesea River is a great place to get your adventure ‘sea legs’. We launched our two-man canoe beside the Anglesea bridge and set out for a 2h explore of the Coogoorah Reserve, a 2.5km circuit bustling with birdlife, flora and fauna.

SURF COAST WALK

The Surf Coast Walk provides a stunning 44km journey to experience the awe-inspiring landscape from Torquay to Fairhaven. Anglesea sits perfectly in the middle so we set off at Point Addis Marine Park for a 10km clifftop and coastal walk to Pt Roadknight. On this rugged stretch you will rollercoaster from the tops of vibrant ochre sandstone cliffs to the shores of sparkling blue ocean shores, walk the rims of clear rockpools and then through the dappled green heathland. If that wasn’t enough, spotting kangaroos, native wildlife and even whales at the right time of year will definitely keep the walk interesting.

SPLIT POINT LIGHTHOUSE, AIREYS INLET

Venture inside the iconic Split Point Lighthouse, famous for starring in the children’s TV show ‘Round the Twist’. You can spot its iconic red cap from nearly all areas of Aireys Inlet. Still in automated operation today you can see the inner workings for yourself on a self-guided lighthouse tour (open daily, weather permitting). Learn how it was built, how it operates and about the lightkeepers and their families. You’ll be rewarded for climbing the 135 steps of the 34-metre high tower with 360-degree coastal vista views of the Shipwreck Coast.

Continue the adventure with an easy stroll along the Split Point Discovery Trail. From the various lookouts perched high on the stunning 7m tall sandstone cliffs you’ll gain insight into the history of the area, take in the epic views of the Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary and spot the sandy coves, caves and rockpools below.

GREAT OCEAN ROAD GIN TASTING ROOMS, AIREY’S INLET

Let a gin flight transport you to the secret garden and tasting room of the Great Ocean Road. The Surf Coast sourced botanicals of kelp, salt bush, coast daisy, honey and gums will take your tastebuds through native forests, sparkling rockpools and to the tops of windswept cliffs. All while you sip on gin cocktails, snack on cheese, dips and olives whilst sitting in the lush hidden garden of this vintage treasure trove.

DRIVING ONE OF THE MOST SCENIC ROADS IN THE WORLD

Continue along the winding Great Ocean Road towards Lorne – it lives up to its name as one of the world’s most scenic drives. Epic coastal views make the drive part of the destination but you know you’ve arrived in Lorne when you’re greeted by the iconic Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch.

WALK TO LORNE PIER

Swim in the sparkling water or stroll the shores of Loutit Bay and explore the rock pools at Shelley Beach on your way to Lorne’s iconic pier. Throw in a line to reel in trevally, barracuda and whiting or keep an eye out for whales as they migrate between May and September.

Sunday

FINE DINING OCEAN FRONT AT MOVIDA

Get dressed up and ready for the mouth-watering dinner at Movida. A Melbourne favourite, Movida brings their spectacular Spanish style dining and serves it up with ocean views and only the best Victorian produce. It was hard to pick a favourite out of the Anchoa (Hand-filled Cantabrian Artisan Anchovy on Crouton with Smoked Tomato Sorbet), Pea, Mint & Buffalo Cheese Croqueta, Lamb Backstrap Tartare, Heirloom Tomato and Whipped Ricotta Salad or the Whole Flounder in Saffron butter.

ERSKINE FALLS, LORNE

Erskine Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in the Otways. No wonder, as its 30m drop into a cascading gully makes for one impressive waterfall! Take in the view from two lookouts – the upper is an easy 5-minute stroll from the carpark and the lower takes you down 240 steps into the lush tree-fern gully of the Erskine River. Make sure to get here early to avoid the crowds, it’s popular for a reason!

FEEL ELECTRIFIED AT LIVE WIRE PARK

Tackle Australia’s most electrifying zipline and treetop challenge – Livewire Park. This elevated experience set in the towering treetops of the Otway’s is not for the faint hearted. The Shockwave Zip Coaster is the most extreme zip line in Australia, twisting and turning for 525 exhilarating metres through the towering treetops of the Otway’s. And the Super Circuit is the most challenging of the treetop trails with 53 mid-air trails, suspended bridges, tree scaling activities, Tarzan swing and a supercharged 10m QuickJump bungee – it’s not just a physical challenge but a mental challenge too!

CAMP WITH THE KOALAS AT WYE RIVER

Set amongst the world-famous Otway Ranges, BIG4 Wye River is nestled between native bush and the beach, with the Wye River running through the park. The 25acre campground showcases the best nature has to offer – with regular visits from koalas, kangaroos and abundant bird life. Fishing, surfing and beach combing are right on your doorstep and the range of facilities and activities at BIG4 Wye River Holiday Park offers something for everyone including a jumping pillow, basketball courts, go carts and a fantastic play area to keep the whole family happy.

SEAL AND SURF KAYAK TOUR, MARENGO

Keen to try a guided kayaking tour to a seal colony with Apollo Bay Surf & Kayak? An easy 150m paddle on two-seater kayaks will take you to the nearby Australian Fur Seal Colony at Marengo Marine Sanctuary, just off Marengo Beach. Founder Mark has been running this is awesome experience for over 11 years, it’s the only one like it on the Great Ocean Road.
All the equipment and instruction you need is provided for this 1.5h adventure around the two reefs of the Marine Sanctuary – home to hundreds of adolescent, mainly male Australian Fur Seals. As we arrived, a bunch of them comically clambered down from the rocky outcrops and into the water around us – not in a threatening way, they wanted to play! Leaping, diving, bobbing and weaving these cheeky chaps want to check out who’s come to visit and prove that when it comes to water agility, we’ve got nothing on them!

MARRINERS LOOKOUT – THE BEST VIEW OF APOLLO BAY

Leave the sand behind and check out this tranquil fishing village from great heights, at Marriners Lookout. A short drive from Apollo Bay and an easy 10-minute walk from the carpark takes you to this must-see spot. Here, the whole town, spectacular ocean and lush, green hills lay themselves at your feet. There isn’t a better view of Apollo Bay unless you can fly high above, hang gliders often launch from here too.

OTWAY FLY TREETOP ADVENTURES

Get a bird’s eye view as you wander the 600m long, 30m high elevated rainforest walk through the lush Otway National Park. This experience offers unrivalled views of the region’s flora and fauna from the rainforest floor into the soaring heights of the towering treetops. Don’t miss the 47m Spiral Tower and cantilever perched above Young’s Creek, a truly exhilarating experience that allows you to gently sway with the rainforest canopy.

WILDLIFE WONDERS TOUR

Take a walk on the wild side of the Great Ocean Road at Apollo Bay’s newest attraction – Wildlife Wonders. For an informative 75 minutes you will explore this spectacular bushland wildlife walk with your own conservation guide – and if luck is on your side meet the animals that call the Otways home. The odds are in your favour as Cape Otway has the largest koala population in Australia.

Keep your supplied binoculars at the ready as you walk along the 1.4km all abilities walk. It was designed by the art director of ‘The Hobbit’ films and landscape designer of the award winner ‘Hobbiton’ in New Zealand. What make you feel as warm and fuzzy as a koala is that all profits from your visit go towards projects being under taken by the Conservation Ecology Centre. As part of your walk you will be able to stop into the Research Base where you’ll be able to learn about the local projects they have on the go. On our visit, a koala strolled right up to the centre, it must have wanted to see research in action too! Make your way back to the visitor centre to browse the gift shop or enjoy a well-earned snack or drink at the café.

Watch the episode

Top 5 things that made the weekend great

  • A surf lesson at the home of surfing

  • Tacking the Surf Coast Walk

  • Dining ocean front at Movida, Lorne

  • Walking in the treetops of the Otways

  • Seeing koalas in the wild

It is a great weekend on the Northern End of the Great Ocean Road.


 

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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.