Great Otway National Park
The Otway Ranges were once entirely covered by rainforest and, thanks to the Great Otway National Park
, much of this dense vegetation remains, especially in the area around Cape Otway and to the west of Apollo Bay. This is an area not to be missed, its fern gullies, cascading waterfalls
and lush foliage providing a stark contrast to the rocky coastline it tumbles down to. Get out on two feet and explore the numerous short walks around the park which take you through dripping, misty forests, over trickling streams on stepping stones and to the foot of some of Australia’s most stunning waterfalls.
near Lavers Hill
is one of the most charming in the park, featuring a broad cascade which falls in three sections. Get here on the Triplet Falls Rainforest Walk, a 1.8km loop through ancient forests of mountain ash and myrtle beech which takes you to a series of elevated viewing platforms and the site of an original Otways timber mill. In addition to the area’s natural attractions, there are also a couple of manmade ones worthy of your time.
The Cape Otway Lightstation
, perched on the towering cliffs where the Bass Strait and Southern Ocean meet, is mainland Australia’s oldest lighthouse and offers expansive views of the coastline from its 80-metre tower – if you’re lucky (and here between May and October) you might even see Southern right whales off the coast. Within the Lightstation grounds is the restored Telegraph Station, built in 1859 to connect Victoria to Tasmania, and a cemetery which is the final resting place of numerous intrepid explorers and shipwreck casualties. As you walk around the site keep a lookout for koalas and kangaroos – both are often seen here.
Back inland is another manmade wonder, the Otway Fly
. This 600-metre-long, 25-metre-high elevated treetop walk through cool temperate rainforest is the longest and tallest of its kind in the world and provides unmissable views of the forest.
Starting at the ground-level visitor centre the steel-trussed walkway ascends gently, introducing visitors to the forest slowly as the ground starts to drop away beneath their feet.
Emerging through the ferns of the forest floor and into the canopy of myrtle beech, blackwood and mountain ash trees is truly wonderful and being able to stare at the tops of some trees and get close-up views of the vegetation and plantlife is an experience quite unlike any other.
Thrillseekers won’t want to miss the forty-five metre-high lookout, which is reached by an additional metal spiral staircase and emerges amid the tree canopy. Standing so tall among such giants is an exhilarating experience and one made all the more spinetingling by the swaying of the walkway underfoot. Returning to ground level, there’s even the chance of catching a glimpse of the shy platypus
in Young’s Creek
For a much better chance of sighting this bizarre prehistoric creature, join Otway Eco Tours’ Paddle with the Platypus canoe tour on Lake Elizabeth
, a placid body of water hidden deep in the heart of the Otways near the small, appropriately named town of Forrest
Tours leave at dawn and dusk and paddle gently around the lake as the guide tells passengers all about the life of the platypus, a semi-aquatic mammal endemic to eastern Australia and one of only five extant species of monotremes, or mammals which lay eggs.
These shy animals love the lake so much that the tour is able to guarantee a 95% success rate of seeing at least one and even offers a 20% discount for tours with no sightings.
The Otways are home to a wide variety of indigenous wildlife including 174 species that are known to be rare or threatened and many which aren’t found anywhere else on earth. The Cape Otway Centre for Conservation Ecology
is dedicated to protecting and understanding Australian biodiversity, ecosystems and the ecological processes that maintain them and if you’re a true nature lover, there’s no better way to end a day in the Otways than by staying on-site here. The Great Ocean Ecolodge is an environmentally sustainable guesthouse serving super-local produce (much of it from their very own garden) and regional wines. It also provides guests with exclusive guided dusk walks which offer outstanding opportunities for observing kangaroos, koalas and other indigenous wild animals in their natural habitat.
Find out more about Apollo Bay to Princetown things to see & do