You might have enjoyed a road trip along the Great Ocean Road in Summer, but have you experienced one in Winter? Wake up from your hibernation with nature at its wildest, food and wine at its most indulgent and experiences at their most exhilarating, all without the summer crowds. These are just some of the rewards for those prepared to brave the wildest of seasons on the Great Ocean Road.
Step back in ‘mari-time’ at the award-winning 1880’s seafaring village of Flagstaff Hill. Spend your Winter’s day strolling the cobblestone streets of the historic maritime village as you explore what life was like for the Shipwreck Coast’s first European settlers. This is Victoria’s most active maritime museum with Australia’s most significant shipwreck artefact collection. It’s also home to the two heritage-listed Lady Bay Lighthouses. If you scale the staircases you’ll see one of the best coastal views in Warrnambool.
Our Winter is a whale’s summer as these gentle giants make their way from the cold Antarctic waters to the Southern Ocean to breed, birth and raise their calves. Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Portland are the main vantage points on the Winter Whale Trail – and the only places is the world where you can watch whales nursing their babies just 100m from the shore. Get ready for a show as Southern Right, Humpback, Blue and the occasional Orca Whales breach, chin slap, flipper and spy-hop. And if you’re lucky you might see some young calves playfully splashing around too.
Enjoy the warmest welcome to Warrnambool by the geothermal rock pools and sensory caves of The Deep Blue Hot Springs. Feel any stresses slip away as you step into the restorative mineral salts and feel the natural heat of the earth drawn therapeutic waters. The twilight bathing session will blissfully ease you into holiday mode as you make your way through the steamy open-air sanctuary. Here, you’ll immerse yourself in the rainforest pool inspired by the nearby Otway’s, relax in the aromatic lavender mists, indulge the senses in the illuminated colour therapy caves and gaze at the stars in the shallow pools of Reflection Bay. You won’t want to leave and luckily you don’t have too, you can dine and stay at the Deep Blue Hotel too.
Located 15km from Warrnambool, the 90m wide , 12m tall Hopkins Falls is well worth the drive. Winter is the best time to view these curtain-like falls and the two viewing platforms even have their own camera stands to help you snap an Insta-worthy shot. Take the easy path to the pools below making sure to keep an eye out for the baby eels jumping out of the rocky ledges… they are making their winter migration too.
The Aire River flows through a must-see of the Otways – The Redwood Forest. Its banks are lined with native ferns that make way for the towering 85 year-young 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. A winter fog and the lack of undergrowth muffles sound making it feel like an enchanted forest – you could imagine that fairies might just live here.
The lush pastures of Timboon produce some of the region’s finest products and the tall forests are the perfect playground for active adventures. Spend the weekend trying the locally made whisky, organic cheeses, farm fresh fudge, mouth-watering ice cream, hand-crafted chocolates and some of the most luscious strawberries you will ever taste! Then ride off on the historic Timboon to Camperdown Rail Trail before returning to your modern hideaway among native bushland at Modesc.
Looking to spot platypus in the wild? Then this dawn and dusk canoe tour is for you. It even has a 98% sighting success rate. Not only is this your chance to see Australia’s most elusive and ancient animals, you’ll do it in the enchanting location of Lake Elizabeth, just 15 minutes from Forrest. The lush Otway rainforest gives way to reveal the slightly eerie, prehistoric looking mountain lake – it’s like the land before time. Glide past enormous, ghostly tree trunks that emerge from the platypi natural habitat as your guides pass on their wealth of knowledge about these adorable creatures. You might even see glow worms on the dusk tour.
Stop in at Aireys Inlet to visit 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 town. 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.
Treat yourself to the equally famous scones at the historic Lighthouse Tea Rooms below. The café is one of the original lighthouse precinct buildings dating back to the early 1900’s and the outdoor garden offered the perfect, tranquil setting to devour a well-earned morning tea.
Bellbrae Estate is located five minutes from Bells Beach and its vines were planted in 1999 on the rolling green hills of the Surf Coast. Sample the Pinnacle Bellbrae Estate wines and the local Longboard Range at the Cellar Door or during a long lunch on the lawn. Looking for a souvenir to take home? The bottle labels showcase the local spectacular coastline, a sip-able souvenir so you never forget this Winter road trip.
Ease the end-of-holiday blues on your way home and stop in to sample some of the best chocolate and ice cream in Australia. Book a tasting session and try special limited-edition flavours and one-off creations made onsite by the European trained chocolatiers.
The Great Ocean Road is always a Great Call in Winter.
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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.