Whether you’re searching for outdoorsy activities or a family-friendly treat, here are 11 of the best activities to try on your next Great Ocean Road holiday with the whole brood.
The self-declared surfing capital of Australia, Torquay is a mecca for any surfer, seasoned and wannabes alike. Beginners can hit the slightly more protected waters of Torquay Back Beach, which offers great conditions for amateurs, while those with more experience can tackle the heavy swells at Bells – the world’s first Surfing Recreation Reserve – which peak come winter. There’s a bounty of operators who can give the whole family lessons at some of the best surf beaches on the Great Ocean Road; try Go Ride A Wave or Torquay Surf Academy.
Coffee, pastries, chocolate, ice cream: whatever your vice, the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery delivers. While mum and dad enjoy a well-earned five-minute break, the kids can run around the lawns or tackle the sand play area before enjoying a scoop or two of ice cream. Chocoholic little ones aged six to 12 can even take a hands-on Junior Chocolatier class in the venue’s parent-free zone. If you’re looking for something to do all together, there’s a family high tea to indulge in at the Pod Cafe, which will sate the sweet tooth of adults and children alike.
Promising plenty of low-key intergenerational fun, you can tackle 12 or 18 holes (or all 30) on the custom-built Aireys Inlet mini golf course. The aptly named Shipwreck Coast Course features replicas of local landmarks, such as the nearby Split Point Lighthouse, scattered among native gardens; on the shorter 12 Apostles Course, you’ll learn something new about the limestone pillars at every hole. Those who prefer digital over analogue can tee off on the indoor virtual golf course.
The family can frolic on the waters of the Anglesea River and soak up the scenery with a canoe, paddle boat or motorboat trip. You’ll traverse estuarine wetland and cruise past patches of heathy woodland as you venture further down the river, which snakes through the Coogoorah Park nature reserve.
Flanked with swamp gums and shrubs, the Anglesea River sustains all kinds of flora and fauna. It’s a haven for birdlife, with more than 60 species observed here – keen twitchers should keep an eye peeled for superb fairy wrens, New Holland honeyeaters and grey fantails, among others. You may even spot eastern grey kangaroos and short-beaked echidnas roaming through the scrub.
Afterwards, let the kids get stuck into the riverside playground or have a paddle in the water before sharing an alfresco family lunch at one of the picnic tables on the river’s banks.
Victoria’s first professionally designed mountain cross-track, Anglesea Bike Park – located just a kilometre from the town centre – is equipped to meet the needs of riders big and small, from novice to veteran. Streak over rollers and fly off jumps up to 1.8 metres high, all set between the sun-dappled surrounds of tall pine trees.
The countryside that envelops Anglesea also offers plenty of opportunities for capers on two wheels. Hire bikes from Great Ocean Road Adventure Tours and the team can point you in the direction of trails fit for all the family; better yet, their instructors can take you out to hit the best mountain biking trails on the Great Ocean Road.
This treetop adventure park in the Otways is ground zero for high-energy kids who crave adrenaline-fuelled exploits. Live Wire Park’s signature Shockwave Zip Coaster is billed as the most extreme zipline in the country, sending riders racing around a 525-metre corkscrew circuit high in the treetops of native blue gums. There are no age restrictions but your little ones need to weigh at least 30 kilograms to ride.
Less adventurous kids can still reap the rewards of a visit to this off-grid adventure park, which is also home to an elevated trampolining net park and ropes courses. The mid-intensity short circuit was designed with children and tweens in mind.
Get the kids out into the fresh air at this Great Ocean Road wildlife sanctuary, where visitors of all ages can revel in animal spotting and forest bathing. On one of Wildlife Wonders’ guided tours you’ll likely spy koalas napping in the woodlands, and you might even chance upon a long-nosed potoroo pausing between the giant mountain ash trees, or a swamp wallaby roaming through the bushlands. A conservationist will share their knowledge of the Otway Ranges’ ecology as you wander through tree fern gullies and eucalypt woodlands, eying the Southern Ocean on the horizon. Best of all, your visit helps to ensure the future of this habitat, and many others like it across the Otways: this Apollo Bay attraction is a social enterprise that funnels all profits into conservation projects across the region.
If you’re looking for an activity that’s low-key (and low budget), pack up the car and whisk the kids off to Lorne Pier. Known for its offshore fishing, throw a line in here and you might walk away with a bucketful of barracuda, bream, snapper, garfish, salmon or squid. You can pick up a recreational fishing licence at the Lorne Visitor Information Centre.
Kids will be captivated by the nightly light and sound show at this Warrnambool museum. Projected onto a nine-metre wall of water, Tales of the Shipwreck Coast chronicles Australia’s whaling past, the perils faced in the turbulent waters of the Southern Ocean and the tragedies that occurred within them, as well as local Aboriginal stories. The museum itself is also well worth a visit, showcasing the richest collection of shipwreck artefacts in Australia. Each entry includes a 40-minute tour led by a guide in full period costume.
When little ones need to burn off extra energy, take them to Warrnambool’s vast Lake Pertobe Adventure Playground. A whopping eight hectares in size, the playground features giant slides, flying foxes, a maze and boat rides. Once they’ve exhausted all the rides there’s still more to see and do in the precinct as a family: go on a walk around the lake (or have a picnic beside it), play a round of mini golf or visit the skatepark.
Encounters with wild animals, insights into the culture of the land’s traditional custodians and panoramic views over volcanic landscapes all await at this national park. On a two-hour tour of Tower Hill you might spot emus, grey kangaroos, wallabies, koalas and echidnas. The kids can also enjoy learning how to throw a boomerang and have fun trying to identify the native plants used as food and medicine.
Casterton, near the South Australia border, holds an unusual claim to fame: this small town is known as the birthplace of the kelpie. And to honour the heritage of the beloved Aussie sheepdog it now boasts the Australian Kelpie Centre, dedicated to the homegrown breed. This Great Ocean Road attraction opened its doors in 2018 and among the modern venue’s features you’ll find an interpretative display showcasing the history of the working dog, as well as a visitor information centre and insights into Casterton’s intriguing history as the first inland European settlement in Victoria.
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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.