The Great Ocean Road

Ultimate guide to things to do on The Great Ocean Road with kids

The Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s great ocean drives, linking old fishing towns and secluded surf beaches along a dramatic coastline. Dotted with pristine beaches, world famous surf breaks, waterfalls, pretty seaside villages, nature walks and beautiful scenery, a world of natural delights await visitors.

The Great Ocean Road’s most iconic attraction is the Twelve Apostles, a collection of rock stacks located off the shore of the Port Campbell National Park that is one of Australia’s most Instagrammed locations. The monoliths are protected as part of the Twelve Apostles Marine Park. The traditional ownership is split between two groups; to the west of the Gellibrand River is Kirrae Whurrong Country and to the east of the Gellibrand is Gadubanud Country.

For lovers of sand and sea the Bellarine Peninsula boasts some of Victoria’s best beaches, including gorgeous Torquay and surf mecca, Bells Beach, home of the annual Rip Curl Pro.

Otway Fly biplane adventure. Photo: Shutterstock

There is no shortage of spectacular National Parks to explore. The Great Otway National Park is one of the best. Along with its impressive wilderness areas, it’s home to several must visit beaches. Kids will especially love exploring the rock pools and hunting for treasure at Wreck Beach, where the rusting remnants of several shipwrecks will add an almost piratical twist to their explorations. 

Cape Otway Lightstation is another great spot to visit. The oldest surviving lighthouse in Australia, you can climb up to the observation deck for amazing views. From May to October you may even spot one of the 25 species of whales that pass by during their annual migration.  

Otway Fly is a must for thrill seekers boasting an exhilarating fully-guided Zipline Eco-Tour through the treetops, and for younger visitors there’s also a gentle treetop walkway experience.

Top things to do on The Great Ocean Road

From the iconic Twelve Apostles to its famous beaches, the Great Ocean Road has an abundance of fun for the family. Here are ten to add to your list.

  1. Soak up the sight of the iconic Twelve Apostles.
  2. Get exploring on a Wind Hunter, Digital Detective or Quick Snap Scavenger Hunt.
  3. Watch surfers take on epic breaks at Bells Beach.
  4. Discover the history of surfing at Torquay’s Australian National Surfing Museum.
  5. Explore the rockpools and wrecks at Wreck Beach.
  6. Take to the trees at Otway Fly.
  7. Visit Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village to view its maritime and shipwreck relics.
  8. Run wild at Lake Pertobe Adventure Playground.
  9. Learn about the region’s indigenous history on a guided tour through the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape.
  10. Climb to the top of Cape Otway Lightstation for incredible views.

Things to do on The Great Ocean Road with…

While some of the beaches along this stretch of coast can be a bit wild for younger kids, but if your seeking sand, sun and a little vitamin sea, you’ll find protected swimming spots at Torquay, Anglesea, Aireys Inlet, Lorne and Apollo Bay that are popular with families.  There are also safe swimming spots at Port Campbell, Warrnambool and Port Fairy that are ideal for tots.

When they’ve had their fill of buckets and spades on the beach, let the kids fill up a bucket of a different kind at Gentle Annie Berry Gardens in the Pennyroyal Valley, around 20-mintutes drive from Lorne. Here they can pick luscious berries, fruits and vegetables straight from the garden, before stopping for a snack at the on-site café. 

Visit Lake Pertobe Adventure Playground in Warrnambool, an enormous eight-hectare adventure playground that comes complete with sandpits, giant slides, a maze and even paddleboats.

Head to the Port Campbell Visitor Information Centre for the Craters to Coast Discovery Program. This free program allows kids to hunt the wind, navigate for hidden treasure, track local fauna and learn to read history in the rocks using telescopes, GPS units, digital cameras and compasses to complete themed activities. 

And a visit to Tiger Moth World is sure to be a hit. Here you can explore the Mothball Musuem, see restored cockpit biplanes, play mini golf, soccer and volleyball or let loose in the Giant Tiger Moth Play Park.

Lovers of all things feathered and furry will enjoy the Great Ocean Road Wildlife Park which offers the opportunity to experience Australian native wildlife in an interactive but natural way. Get up close with dingoes, hand-feed kangaroos, wallabies, emu and deer, or just roam amongst the animals in the free-range sanctuary.

Enjoy thrills and spills at Adventure Park Geelong with its thrill rides, water play zones and water slides, including the Tornado, Victoria’s biggest and longest waterslide. Or take to the treetops at Otway Fly for an exhilarating fully-guided Zipline Eco-Tour through the treetops.

Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village is a must visit. Home to a fascinating collection of maritime and shipwreck relics, it is a great place to learn more about the history of the wild Southern coastline. Stay until after dark for the epic outdoor sound and laser show, Shipwrecked.

Tower Hill Wildlife Sanctuary is a great spot for close encounters with koalas, emus, kangaroos as well as many species of waterbirds in their natural habitat. The sanctuary is located inside an extinct volcano that formed some 30,000 years ago and in springtime is carpeted with wildflowers. Be sure to take the kids on a Worn Gundidj guided tour of the Tower Hill Wildlife Sanctuary to explore its Aboriginal history and cultural heritage.

Adventurous teens will find so much to get the adrenalin pumping along the Great Ocean Road.  Give yachting, water-skiing and windsurfing a try at Lake Colac. Paddle out to sea to ride the waves by kayak and paddle out to visit a seal colony. Or maybe you’d rather ride the waves on a stand-up paddle board. If it’s more cruisy paddling you seek, hire a canoe to explore rivers that wind through bushland and ancient gorges. 

Experienced surfers can take on the famous breaks at Bells Beach, while wannabe groms can sign up for lessons with the experienced pro surf schools along the coast.

Hire a mountain bike, or BYO, to ride along sheer limestone cliffs through beach resort towns, inland through lush fern gullies rainforest or hit the well-maintained local rail trails.

See the Great Ocean Road from the sky in an historic WWII open cockpit biplane on a Tiger Moth World adventure flight or, for the ultimate thrill, try a tandem skydive over beautiful Bells Beach.

A Day on the Hill at Flagstaff Hill. Photo: Visit Melbourne

Best time to visit The Great Ocean Road as a family

While there’s something to see and do all year around, summer (from December to February) offers the sunniest and driest weather along the Great Ocean Road and is the best time to enjoy the water. However, along with the warm weather comes an influx of tourists and an increase in rates for accommodation. The shoulder seasons of Spring and Autumn can be a great time to visit with still warm weather but fewer visitors and lower prices, though it is worth noting that conditions can be a little erratic, so you’ll need to pack for fine and wet weather.

Winter is also a great time to visit, though not for the water activities. Even though it is a lot cooler, it is the peak of the whale migration and opportunities abound for spotting the magnificent beasts of the sea as they pass by the coastline.  

Freshly caught and grilled octopus tentacles, calamari rings in tempura, giant shrimps, clams, fish fillets and mussels. Picture: Veronika Kovalenko / Shutterstock

Family-friendly places to eat on The Great Ocean Road

There are many excellent places along the Great Ocean Road where you can enjoy a taste of the region. From casual sidewalk cafes with views of the ocean to high end restaurants, there’s something for everyone in this neck of the woods.

Given its location, fresh local seafood is an abundance along the Great Ocean Road. Visit the local fishing coops alongside the wharfs at Apollo Bay, Port Campbell, Port Fairy and Portland for the catch of the day. Must try dishes for seafood lovers include the Scallop Pie at the Apollo Bay Bakery, tender pickled octopus at A La Grecque in Aireys Inlet and the best traditional fish and chips at Anglesea.

The region is also famous for its cheese and you can pop in to sample the local delights at Cheeseworld, just outside of Warrnambool. And lovers of berries can pick their own, fresh from the farm at Gentle Annie Berry Gardens and Pennyroyal Raspberries.

Loch Ard Gorge

Things to do for free on The Great Ocean Road

  • There is plenty to see and do for free along the Great Ocean Road.  Surf, swim and explore the many stunning beaches along this scenic stretch of coastline. While there are plenty of surfing options, Apollo Bay’s protected waters make it popular with families, and lifesavers patrol in summer. 
  • Head to Warrnambool’s Lake Pertobe Adventure Playground, with its enormous adventure playground with giant slides, flying foxes, a maze and boat rides. 
  • Stop to explore the famous Twelve Apostles in Port Campbell National Park. Kids can use their detective skills to hunt the roaring wind, navigate for hidden treasure and track local fauna on a series of free adventures. And don’t miss the stunning Loch Ard Gorge, just a few minutes from the Apostles, for more incredible views. London Bridge and The Arch, located between Port Campbell and Peterborough, are more must see natural spectacles.

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