52 Great Weekends

No 31: Nelson

The charming fishing village that’s the last stop on the Great Ocean Road.

Located at the mouth of the Glenelg River and Discovery Bay the charming fishing and holiday village of Nelson is the last town before the South Australian border. A rugged coastal wilderness where seemingly endless sand dunes meet the mighty swells of the Southern Ocean. Its secret coves become untouched wildlife havens and sheltered swimming spots. The Glenelg River flows through the tiny town center – home to a hotel, general store, post office, roadhouse and tourist information center.

Whether you’re keen to drop a line, hike a section of the Great South West Walk, enjoy a scenic Glenelg River cruise or self-guided kayaking tour you won’t want to miss the picturesque last stop on your Great Ocean Road journey.

Accommodation

CASUARINA CABIN

Home for the weekend was a comfortable, self-contained Casuarina Cabin nestled in two acres of native garden surroundings and only 400m from the Glenelg River. Perfect for bushwalkers, birdwatchers and fisherman alike looking to easy access to Great South West Walk trails, wildlife reserves and the many river banks and jetties to throw in a line.

This quiet and tranquil retreat is only a 10minute walk from the centre of town. And those looking to sit back and enjoy the serenity will discover a piece of local history in the front garden – part of the capstan (turntable) which powered by horses used to draw a punt across the river.

Saturday

AM SUNRISE: FISHING GLENELG RIVER AND OXBOW LAKE  

The Glenelg River is one of Victoria’s longest and deepest rivers – over 500km long offering plenty of great spots to cast out. The Nelson River Mouth and Oxbow Lake is a hugely popular fishing spot offering prized catches of large bream and the elusive Mullaway – on top of many Victorian anglers bucket lists.

Cast from along the banks, bridge and jetties or launch your fishing vessel or kayak from over 29 ramps, many with picnic facilities. Boats can be hired in Nelson too.

NELSON KIOSK
Mullaway are largely active at night. So if you need bait after hours, no worries! The handy vending machine outside the Nelson Kiosk will sort you out 24-7! This general store is ideally situated on the banks of the Glenelg River and is a great place to pick up an ice cream, coffee or snack and enjoy the peaceful surrounds.

MIDDAY: SELF-GUIDED KAYAKING TOUR – NELSON CANOE AND KAYAK HIRE

Paddling the mirrorlike water of the Glenelg River is one of the best canoe trips in Australia. You’ll glide through rolling bushland, ancient gorges into the sweeping estuary. Say hi to Chris for me when your hire a canoe or kayak from the large fleet at Nelson Canoe and Kayak Hire. As the longest running canoe company on the Glenelg River, Chris is the adventure tour specialist and can help you plan your paddling adventure as well as offering transport services and tour itineraries for all ages and experience levels. Whether you’re looking for a half day, full day or multi-day tour, canoe or kayak is the ultimate way to explore the Lower Glenelg National Park.

Sunday

DINNER & DRINKS: NELSON HOTEL

Situated at the mouth of the Glenelg River, this one-and-only hotel and bottle shop is ideally placed for fisherman, travellers and beach-goers. Enjoy an ice-cold beer or locally sourced wine at the character filled bar or enjoy country pub-fare in the dining rooms or front beer garden – bookings essential.

SUNSET: LIVINGSTONE ISLAND NATURE WALK & ESTUARY BEACH

This bird watchers paradise loop walk starts and finishes at the Estuary Beach, only 1km from the town centre. You may spot swans, pelicans, spoon bills, herons and ducks as you meander along Livingstone Island to Estuary Beach. Equally impressive was the sunset over the mirror-like water at Estuary Beach.

Sunday

SUNRISE: THE GLENELG RIVER GORGE WALK

Keen to discover more about Portland’s maritime history? At the Portland Maritime Discovery Centre you’ll learn about Portland’s whaling history, explore the lost treasures from the shipwreck trail and hear stories of Portland’s rich maritime past. Grab a coffee and a bite at the café then pop into the Portland Visitor Centre (located in the same building) to find out if there have been any more whale sightings in the area – they will fly a yellow flag if there’s been a recent sighting in the area.  

Sapling Creek to Discovery Bay

This 19.8km loop trail follows the slow bends of the mighty Glenelg River or your ‘All about Us Bus’ transfer service can see you travel one way from Sapling Creek to Discovery Bay. The trail winds through untouched bushland and along the rim of the towering gorge, reaching up to 50m in places. Centuries of flowing water has dissolved the limestone rock forming caves and revealing fossils of long-extinct marsupials such as the Giant Kangaroo and the Marsupial Lion, as well as remains of the Tasmanian Devil, now extinct on the mainland. There’s plenty of living wildlife to see too. Platypus, ducks, moorhens, emus, kangaroos, wallabies, possums, koalas, wombats and kingfishers all call the area home as do more than 700 species of native plants that bloom in the bush, including dozens of different wildflowers.

The Glenelg River is tidal and the estuary widens as it approaches Discovery Bay. The sound of the wild waves crashing can trumpet through the gorge up to 30km upstream.

TRANSFER SERVICE

A pick up/drop off service is a great option for Great South West Walk hikers that prefer their creature comforts over camping or day walkers looking to tackle a non-loop trail and be conveniently returned to their car. After a big day walking you’ll be very happy to see your friendly shuttle driver Gary and his comfortable ‘All About Us Bus’, ready and waiting to take you back to your Nelson accommodation.

PICNIC AT SAPLING CREEK

Pack a picnic and enjoy a riverside lunch in the Lower Glenelg National Park. Settle in on the Sapling Creek jetty and dip your toes in the water as you enjoy the view of the river winding through the ancient gorge.

4PM: GLENELG RIVER CRUISE

For the perfect finale to a great weekend, all aboard this relaxing river cruise. Climb to the top deck of the Nelson Explorer and take in the uninterrupted majestic views of the Gleneg River and soaring gorge with limestone cliffs up to 50m high or enjoy them from the cosy comfort of the cabin. It’s the most leisurely way to enjoy the beauty of one of Victoria’s most scenic waterways. Departing from Old Bridge Road Nelson River Cruises offers a range of cruises to suit all occasions, private functions and charters. Bookings required.

Watch the episode

Top 5 things that made the weekend great

  • A self-guided kayaking tour of the Glenelg River

  • Hiking a section of the Great South West Walk – Glenelg River Gorge Walk to Discovery Bay

  • Fishing in the Glenelg River

  • The relaxing Glenelg River Cruise

  • Sunset at Estuary Beach, Discovery Bay

Halfway between Melbourne and Adelaide, Nelson is a great place to explore both the Victorian Great Ocean Road and the South Australian Limestone Coast.

 

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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.