52 Great Weekends

No 38: Apollo Bay & Otways with Kids

All ages adventures where the forest meets the sea.

Mountains or sea? Why choose, when you can have the best of both worlds in Apollo Bay. Nestled between the Great Otway National Park and the stunning coastline of the Great Ocean Road the area offers endless family adventures – from all-abilities hikes, beautiful waterfalls, native wildlife experiences to just relaxing on the pristine beach. It’s no wonder this is one of the best family-friendly holiday destinations in Victoria.

Apollo Bay

STAY:

BIG4 APOLLO BAY PISCES HOLIDAY PARK

The Big4 Holiday Park is a 5min drive or 1.5km bike path ride from the centre of Apollo Bay. The tiered layout gives most sites glimpses of the sparkling waters of Apollo Bay. Your Ocean View Cabin with its stunning views and modern amenities makes it the perfect base for the whole family to explore the Great Ocean Road and Great Otway National Park.
The park boasts fantastic facilities that will keep the whole family entertained – dive into the heated swimming pool then test out the adventure playground with flying fox and interactive water play zone, the modular bike/scooter pump track, games room, basketball half court, tv lounge and entertainment shelter. The Big4 team also host a range of seasonal activities that include kids club, live music, yoga, twilight cinema, boot camp and marshmallow roasting around the communal firepit.

EXPLORE:

SWIM, SURF, FISH OR STROLL APOLLO BAY

The 3km crescent-shaped, eastern facing beach of Apollo Bay is framed by the stunning backdrop of rolling green hills. It offers safe, patrolled (during peak season) waters for walking, swimming, fishing, boarding and boating.
Families and bathers alike will love the sheltered shores of the South end of the beach. Flanked by Point Bunbury and the harbour wall this sandy cove is protected from wilder swells and the gentle waves provide the perfect boogie boarding and learn to surf spot. This area is patrolled by the Apollo Bay Life Saving Club during the summer months and popular weekends.
As you venture north you will see that the swell starts to build, providing a space for more advanced surfing and fishing. Explore cautiously as the further north you go the wilder the waves and rips get. Dog walkers will love the off-lead shores to the north too!

 

KAYAKING WITH AUSTRALIAN FUR SEALS

*This is for children aged 12 years and over.

Conditions were perfect for our guided kayaking tour with Apollo Bay Surf & Kayak. We were headed to the nearby Australian Fur Seal Colony at Marengo Marine Sanctuary, an easy 150m paddle on two-seater kayaks from Marengo Beach. Founder Mark has been running this 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. These boisterous, highly entertaining blokes like to put on a show, grunting, groaning and picking fights with each other.
Naturally curious, these playful creatures are often called ‘sea puppies’. 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!
The 1.5h tour flies by. But for one last thrill you can kayak the surf break into shore. Might inspire you to do a surf tour with the team next time!

 

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. See if the kids can spot the shipwreck of the historic SS Casino. There isn’t a better view of Apollo Bay unless you can fly high above, hang gliders often launch from here too.

EAT:

FISHERMAN’S CO-OP – FROM BOAT TO BELLY

The Apollo Bay Fisherman’s Co-op has been serving up the freshest seafood in Apollo Bay for over 70 years. Founded in 1948, local fishermen grouped together to increase and better market their catch.
Take away to your Big4 Ocean View Cabin balcony or sit on the restaurant deck and watch the fishermen unload their catch of the day at the harbour below. Southern rock lobsters, scallops, flake, snapper, barracouta and octopus caught in Bass Straight are then served straight to your plate. No wonder it is billed as the best place in town and on the south coast for seafood.

JUDGE THIS AWARD-WINNING ICE CREAM FOR YOURSELF

Dessert calling? The walls of local icon Dooleys Ice Creamery are lined with the uncountable awards that they have won. Dooley’s is right in the heart of Apollo Bay with a mission to share their love of ice cream home-made with the finest of ingredients. They score a gold medal in our book too.

The Otways

STAY:

CAMPING UNDER THE KOALAS, BIMBI PARK

Bimbi Park is located in Cape Otway, 30 minutes from Apollo Bay. Home to the largest koala population in the world. No wonder, it is a natural wilderness with magnificent forests, beaches, secluded bays and a spectacular coastline far away from the bustle of towns and traffic.

Whether you are pitching a tent, staying in an onsite camping pod, van, bunk room, cabin or in off-grid eco-luxury you will be camping under the koalas. The other animals that live at the park are pretty cute too – kids can feed the chickens, collect farm fresh eggs and even walk the resident goats!
Still wanting more… the whole family can challenge themselves on the unique rock-climbing wall and on-site mini-golf course before hiking to the secret sandy beaches – you’ll most likely have them to yourselves.

EXPLORE:

WILDLIFE WONDERS

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 meet the animals that call the Otways home – koalas, wallabies, kangaroos and emus just to name a few.

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 winning ‘Hobbiton’ in New Zealand. What makes you feel as warm and fuzzy as a koala, is that all profits from your visit go towards projects being undertaken 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 check them out too!

See research in action as you make your way back to the visitor centre to browse the gift shop or enjoy a well-earned snack or drink at the café. It’s the perfect spot to plan the next leg of your trip!

OTWAY FLY TREETOP ADVENTURES, OTWAYS

Get a bird’s eye view as you wander the 600m long, 30m high elevated rainforest walk through the lush Otway National Park. This 1h 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.

SEARCH FOR GLOWWORMS AT MELBA GULLY

As the sun sets, head 50 minutes West to Melba Gully. Known as the Jewel of the Otways and also one of the wettest places in the state! The gully is a dense, mossy rainforest with prolific plant growth, impressive in daylight but majestic at night. From the picnic ground car park, take the short walk along an easy gravel track, and you will be rewarded with hundreds of glittering glow worms, creating the most majestic experience through the forest. Bring a torch to illuminate your way but never point the torch directly at the glow worms as this will ruin their glow. As a tip, there are guide rails beside the best viewing areas, but generally, look towards soil banks or any overhanging ledges along Melba Gully, and you will find clusters of these star-like twinkles.

MAITS REST RAINFOREST WALK

All ages and abilities will love taking the rainforest walk through Maits Rest. The winding boardwalk leads you through centuries-old trees and stunning fern gardens. Not only does the boardwalk protect the fragile ecosystem of the area but offers unique views across the forest. If you’re lucky, you may make a few friends along the way as koalas, swamp wallabies, possums and kangaroos are common in the area. Maits Rest is a 20-minute drive from Apollo Bay, and at only 800m (around 30 minutes return) it is ideal for little ones and grown-ups alike.

HOPETOUN FALLS

The Great Otway National Park not only has the largest population of koalas, it’s got its fair share of waterfalls too – it’s rumoured there are over 400 here. Our next stop was the roaring Hopetoun Falls, it plummets 30m into the Aire River. Soak up the view from the upper platform (20m from the carpark) or descend the 200 steps, the kids will love feeling the fine spray on their faces. The lower platform is roughly a 1km, 30m minute trip but don’t worry, there’s a rest stop at the bottom if big or little kids need to rest their legs.

THE REDWOOD FOREST

The Aire River flows through another must-see of the Otways – The Redwood Forest. Its banks are lined with native ferns that make way for the towering 85 year-old California Redwoods. On this 500m easy walk the whole family wander through their massive trucks, jump over fallen logs and gaze up at an awe-inspiring canopy. The lack of undergrowth muffles sound making it feel like an enchanted forest – you could imagine that fairies might just live here.

Watch the episode

Top 5 things that made the weekend great

  • Staying and playing ocean front at Big 4 Apollo Bay

  • Kayaking with the playful fur seals in Marengo

  • Camping with the koalas at Bimbi Park

  • Exploring the enchanted forests of The Otways

  • Walking in the treetops at Otway Fly

It’s a great weekend to explore Apollo Bay and The Otways.


 

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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.