Winding its way alongside the Southern Ocean, The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s most iconic drives and, with its abundance of natural and historical attractions, it’s fabulous for families.
For surf and sand loving families, the Bellarine Peninsula is a great starting point. Gateway to the Great Ocean Road, the region is home to many of Victoria’s best beaches including Torquay, Lorne, and the famous surf mecca of Bells Beach, where the Rip Curl Pro is held. The area offers visitors gorgeous walks that take you through spectacular National Parks to jaw-dropping lookouts and plenty of beaches where budding surfers can learn to surf. Keen surfers will also want to visit the Australian National Surfing Museum at Torquay, one of the most renowned surfing heritage centres in the world.
From the beach, head for the trees. Around an hour and half from Torguay is the Otway Fly, an exhilarating fully-guided Zipline Eco-Tour where, suspended 30 metres above the forest floor, you can zip through the leafy treetops from one Cloud Station to another. For those who prefer their adventures on the mild side, there’s also a treetop walkway experience.
Head south down to Cape Otway Lightstation, the oldest surviving lighthouse in Australia, where you can climb to the observation deck and learn about the area’s whaling history in its heritage precinct and Whale Interpretive Area. These days the whales are protected and the waters of the Southern Ocean are home to 25 species of whales. An organised whale watching tour on the water is the best way to see the mighty beasts as they frolic off the coast during their annual migration from May to October.
Further along the Great Ocean Road, at the edge of the Great Otway National Park, is another must visit beach. If your kids are more interested in exploring rock pools and hunting for treasure than taking to the waves, they’ll adore Wreck Beach, where the rusting remnants of several shipwrecks are easily visible at low tide and make for great explorations.
Of course, The Great Ocean Road’s most famous attraction is the Twelve Apostles, which is located around 18 kilometres form Wreck Beach, off the shore of the Port Campbell National Park. Forever changing from the erosive forces of waves, wind and rain against the ancient limestone coastline, the collection of rock stacks is one of Australia’s most iconic natural attractions. But there is more than just a great view to be found. Kids can take advantage of the free Wind Hunter, Digital Detectives and Quick Snap Scavenger Hunt programmes to learn more about the geography and secrets of the southern landscape.
Next stop Warrnambool, Victoria’s largest coastal city, where along with natural attractions including dazzling surf beaches and Middle Island, home to a colony of Little Penguins, there is plenty of family fun to be found. Lake Pertobe Adventure Playground is a fantastic eight-hectare adventure space with sandpits, giant slides, flying foxes, a maze and paddleboats. But the main attraction is Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, home to an impressive collection of maritime and shipwreck relics, and a great place to learn more about the history of the calamitous Southern coastline. And it’s worth visiting after dark for the epic nightly outdoor sound and laser show, Shipwrecked.
Finish up your Great Ocean Road adventures at pretty Port Fairy, a beautiful bluestone town that has been frozen in time with white washed cottages built by whalers and grand public buildings dating back to the 19th century. You’ll find fantastic beaches, lush national parks, historic walking trails and plenty of great food. Not to be missed is a guided tour through the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape with Budj Bim Tours, an authentic indigenous owned tourism company, to learn about the area’s rich aboriginal history.