Hidden away in Victoria’s South West region — between the world-famous Great Ocean Road and regional hub town of Colac — lies a body of temperate rainforest abundant in natural diversity: Great Otway National Park.
Most visitors venture to this part of the state with one objective only: to drive the famous coastal route. And they often overlook the myriad of other attractions spread across the region, including the magnificent Otway Ranges. Known for its numerous waterfalls, including Hopetoun and Beauchamp Falls, Great Otway National Park is also home to the evergreen Californian redwood forest — one of only two such woodlands in the state.
If you have a spare day on the Great Ocean Road, spend it falling in love with the Otways! Here are some of our favourite things to do in Great Otway National Park.
In our opinion Hopetoun Falls is the most beautiful waterfall in Victoria, particularly in the winter months when rainfall is heaviest and the falls are in full flow. Tackle the pathway through the forest and concrete steps down to the boardwalk and viewing platform to stand in awe of this natural wonder. A photographer’s delight, the falls plummet over a 30-metre escarpment into the Aire River. Massive rocks and moss-covered fallen trees frame the bottom of the fall.
Seeing the grace and strength of these falls is something we’ll recall for years to come. It’s a wonderful way to spend a morning and leads fittingly into the rest of your Great Otways exploration.
It’s just a 13-minute drive from Hopetoun Falls to the entrance of the majestic Otway redwoods forest. These Californian redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens, as the species is officially known) were planted in the late 1930s for a biological study, and may one day claim the title of the tallest redwoods in the world!
Access to the forest is from Binns Road — a branch of Beech Forest-Mount Sabine Road to the north. The entrance has a small gravel parking area, which can hold ten or so cars. If you need to make a comfort stop, there’s a drop toilet up the hill behind the car park (take your own toilet paper and hand sanitiser).
Walking through a small patch of bushland, you’re greeted by the stand of towering trees — all perfectly placed on one side of the Aire River, which is lined by ferny undergrowth. The setting is cool and crisp, no matter what the weather.
Standing amongst these soaring giants makes you feel so small, and there’s a sense of wonder when you consider that they’ve been here since before most people visiting the forest were born. And they’re not yet fully grown! Trek as far as you can manage along the course of the Aire River, until it’s time to make your way back to the car park.
Continuing south through the heart of the national park along tree-lined and winding Binns Road will bring you to one of the region’s most popular rainforest walks — Maits Rest. This 800-metre circuit is doable for most fitness levels and recently underwent a complete upgrade of its trails, bridges, and facilities.
Stroll beneath towering mountain ash and myrtle beech trees, some of which are thought to be more than 300 years old. Fans of the Jurassic Park movies will love this location. While there’s no fear of having to run for your life through the jungle to escape an angry T-Rex, you will be traversing a landscape that feels pretty close to prehistoric!
As an alternative to visiting Maits Rest, head from the redwoods back to Beech Forest-Mount Sabine Road and drive west to Otway Fly Treetop Adventures. Here you can get a bird’s eye view from the epic treetop canopy walk — one of the longest and highest elevated walkways in the world. The entire circuit (rainforest trail and treetop walk) is just under two kilometres. The most challenging part is the steep climb up to the lookout tower (47 metres up!).
For a bite to eat, drop by characterful Otway Nourished on Colac-Lavers Hill Road in Ferguson. This rustic café/general store does tasty and well-priced takeaway food, including a bunch of vegan and vegetarian options.
For more information, visit www.visitotways.com.
Do you have any tips for top things to do in Great Otway National Park? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
Christopher Aiello and Laura Grewcock are the intrepid travellers behind adventure travel blog Chris and Laura Travels. An Australian and Canadian based in Australia, they describe themselves as ‘a real couple doing cool s%&t in a responsible way’. Having travelled from South America to South East Asia and everywhere in between, Chris and Laura Travels evolved from a mutual love of the natural world, and a desire to share its many wonders with readers. Says the couple, ‘We want people to have thrilling and beautiful experiences that keep them excited, curious, and connected to nature.’