Experiences

8 Eco Certified Experiences around the Great Ocean Road

Discover eco tour operators and ecotourism activities across the region.

The Great Ocean Road region is brimming with local history and heritage, natural attractions, exceptional seasonal produce and accommodation unlike anywhere else in Australia. The jewel in its crown is the natural landscape, rich with biodiversity and wildlife, geological formations, endless sandy beaches, ancient forests and hidden waterfalls.

When visiting, more and more travellers are now seeking out tourism experiences that connect them closer to nature, the local people and culture. This shift in mindset and the genuine desire to travel in more meaningful and authentic ways has increased the popularity of ecotourism and eco certified experiences throughout the Great Ocean Road region.

What is ecotourism and why is it so important?

Ecotourism is centred around benefiting three core areas of the tourism economy; the environment, people and place. There is a strong focus on conservation, preserving natural areas and educating visitors about the importance of regenerating damaged ecosystems.

Whilst the environmental benefits of ecotourism and travelling sustainably are more widely understood, seeking out eco certified, responsible and sustainable travel experiences also have a direct impact on local communities, the preservation of local culture and the growth of local economies.

Some of the many ways a destination can benefit from ecotourism and sustainable travel include:

  • environmental conservation and the protection of wildlife
  • the regeneration of natural habitats
  • local job creation
  • increased production of local produce
  • support for local businesses throughout the supply chain
  • protection and celebration of indigenous culture

How can I travel more sustainably?

Visitors can travel more sustainably by choosing eco certified tourism experiences that have been approved by recognised governing bodies internationally. In Australia, Ecotourism Australia’s Green Travel Guide is an excellent resource for information and recommendations on eco certified tour operators, attractions, accommodation and eco tourism locations around the country.

Other ways to travel more sustainably include:

  • choose locally owned and operated travel experiences
  • opt for tour operators that prioritise sustainability and the environment
  • book accommodation and experiences either direct or through booking platforms that are Australian owned and operated to keep booking fees in the local economy
  • seek out authentic experiences that celebrate indigenous culture and history

What are the best eco tours around Great Ocean Road?

A trip to the Great Ocean Road region wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the sights, activities and delicacies through the eyes of the locals. 

Here are the top 8 ecotourism experiences that should be on every Great Ocean Road trip itinerary:

1. Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk, Johanna

Accompanied by local experts with vast knowledge of the area, discover Victoria’s most iconic region and embark on a walking adventure unlike any other. Explore the Great Ocean Walk from Castle Cove to the Twelve Apostles over 3 or 4 days, taking in the sights whilst your guide carries any extra items and points out the natural highlights along this magnificent stretch of Australia’s coastline.

In the evenings, return to your accommodation in a private eco-lodge, enjoy the gourmet flavours of local produce with meals prepared by private chefs and share stories around the communal fire. When your experience is drawing to a close, end your adventure with a breathtaking 15-minute helicopter flight above the 12 Apostles.

2. Wildlife Wonders, Apollo Bay

Created by the landscape designer of the Hobbiton Experience in New Zealand, Brian Massey, this wildlife sanctuary directly supports the environmental conservation of habitats and threatened species in the Otways region.

Don’t miss the daily guided nature tours or try your luck at seeing one of Australia’s rarely seen nocturnal mammals on a tour at dawn or dusk. There are numerous activities for kids constantly being offered, including free talks and story-time, plus school holiday programs.

A visit to the Emu Café offers spectacular views out into the Australian bushland and all proceeds from the café and gift shop go towards the conservation of local flora and fauna.

3. Otway Eco Tours, Lake Elizabeth

When you are ready to venture inland, opt for a dusk or dawn tour of Lake Elizabeth. Located deep inside the national park, the calm waters of this beautiful mountain lake are the perfect place to spot one of Australia’s most iconic creatures, the platypus. Depending on the season, the lake is also home to glow worms and various species of native birdlife.

Otway Eco Tours also offers fully guided walking tours that traverse the Great Ocean Walk at a relaxed pace whilst covering 10-15kms a day.

All tours have been designed to minimise the impact on the natural environment and guests can expect to learn inside knowledge about the local area.

4. Seals by Sea Tours, Portland

Just a 20-minute drive outside the coastal town of Portland is Cape Bridgewater; the departure point for Seals by Sea Tours.

Family owned and operated since 1998, this unique 45-minute educational experience provides guests of all ages with an unforgettable wildlife adventure. Visitors can expect to witness the only maintained breeding colony of seals in Australia with more than 2000 seals and a chance to see dolphins, whales and penguins when the timing is right.

Either before or after your tour, be sure to spend some time on the once volcanic island of Cape Bridgewater and explore the surrounding lakes and caves.

5. Torquay Surfing Academy

This surf school is the real deal. Founded in 2001 by a Torquay local and competitive surfer, TSA offers small group lessons through to private and advanced coaching in some of the most incredible surfing locations in the world including Torquay, Lorne and Point Addis.

The entire TSA team are local surfers with incredible knowledge about the surrounding region and surf, ensuring that both beginners and experienced surfers are in good hands.

Check out the store on Bell Street in Torquay to find quality surf equipment for hire or browse through the second-hand gear available to purchase.

6. Lorne Bush House Cottages + Eco Retreats

Less than 5 minutes drive outside the main town centre of Lorne, escape into nature and unwind in this private bushland setting nestled on 43-acres of Australian bushland.

Choose from a variety of accommodation options including elevated eco retreats that offer a memorable glamping experience with views out into the gum trees.

Guests are encouraged to explore the onsite yabby dam, adventure ropes playground and 15-minute valley circuit walk. Flocks of king parrots and cockatoos are common in the area; don’t forget to feed the wild birds the complimentary birdseed provided in your cottage.

7. Apollo Bay Eco YHA

Stay in one of the most iconic towns along the Great Ocean Road, well-known for its spectacular seafood and the wonderland of natural attractions on its doorstep including petrified rainforests, waterfalls, coastal trails and forests filled with ferns.

Apollo Bay YHA offers spacious communal spaces complete with a rooftop deck, balconies and a BBQ. Accommodation ranges from co-living rooms to private and family options at affordable rates.

Their commitment to sustainability and reducing negative impacts on the environment are evident through their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, minimise waste and water usage. This includes the implementation of passive solar design, low energy electric heating, recycling stations and signage encouraging guests to reduce their water consumption.

8. Southern Exposure Eco Adventure Sports

If adventure activities are your jam, take to the sea by surf kayak or ride a mountain bike along the many trails in Torquay, Lorne, Anglesea and Ocean Grove.
Eco certified and committed to operating their business in an ecologically sustainable manner, this nature-based tourism company offers something for everyone, including surfing lessons and accommodation in Torquay and Forrest.

Don’t miss the Run Forrest Trail Run in June each year. The event attracts more than 3,500 people and is a major contributor to community wealth building in the region.

More than making memories

If you are planning the adventure of a lifetime and are looking for ways to give back to local communities and the environment on your travels, eco certified tourism experiences are a great way to make a difference whilst creating memories.
Find more sustainable tours, eco tourism tour operators and eco certified experiences in Victoria through Ecotourism Australia.

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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.