The Great Otway National Park is a unique Victorian park known for its rugged, beautiful coastline, rainforests and waterfalls. The Great Otway National Park stretches inland from the Great Ocean Road.
Many tourists head to the Otway’s after a stop at Apollo Bay to experience the diversity of the nature offered here, as well as the many exotic animals which call the park home.
Table of Contents
- Where is the Great Otway National Park
- History of the Great Otway National Park
- Flora and Fauna in the Otways
- Highlights of the Great Otway National Park
- Hikes from the Cape Otway Lightstation
- Guided Otways Walk
- Beaches in the Great Otway National Park
- Visit Waterfalls in the Otways
- Hiking in The Great Otway Rainforest
- The Great Ocean Walk
- Camping in the Otways
Where is the Great Otway National Park
Located in one of the most scenic parts of Australia, Victoria, The Great Otway National Park stretches west of Torquay to Princetown, just shy of the 12 Apostles.
The Otway Cape Station could be considered the heart of the Great Otway National Park. It is located 3 hours (225 km) from Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road and 2 hours (145 km) from Warrnambool.
A Brief History of the Great Otway National Park
The Great Otway National Park has a fascinating history. For thousands of years, the Gadubanud Aboriginal People called the park home, and archaeologists have found numerous relics and artifacts. Over time, items such as oyster and cockle shells have been discovered, alongside animal bones and tools made from bone, shell and stone.
To learn more about the Aboriginal history in the area, visitors can check out the Mia Mia Indigenous Culture Centre (found at the Cape Otway Lightstation) where guides will share knowledge about their culture.
In addition to this rich cultural background, there have been dinosaur fossils found in the area, with the largest being a femur the length of 43 cm, which was discovered in 1991 in Dinosaur Cove. The femur belonged to an ostrich-like dinosaur, known as Timimus hermani.
Flora and Fauna in the Otways
The variety of exotic flora and fauna in the park is one of many reasons why visitors enjoy spending a few days exploring in nature and animal watching.
Some of the animals you might be lucky to see here include the Otway Black Snail, which can usually be spotted just after rainfall. Keep your ears peeled for the sound of native Australian birds such as the kookaburra, cockatoo and the currawong, especially during early morning walks.
Kangaroos and wallabies also inhabit the national park, and can usually be spotted at dusk and dawn. A little harder to spot is the Short-beaked Echidna, which tends to come out in warm weather.
As you walk through the forest, remember to look up for koala bears which can be found soaking up the sun in the eucalyptus trees. A great place for spotting koalas along the Great Ocean Road is Kennett River, where the marsupials can be found in abundance.
In the cool, temperate parts of the forest, you can expect to find plenty of Myrtle Beech, Blackwood and fern trees (most notably found at Maits Rest).
Highlights of the Great Otway National Park
There’s a lot to see and do in the Great Otway National Park, and the activities are diverse. From treetop trails and zip lines over the tall forests to waterfalls, the Otway National Park has something to appeal to all travelers, whether you’re staying in Victoria or travelling the Great Ocean Road.
Otway Fly Tree Top
The Otway Fly Treetop Adventures is an adventure center located in the heart of the Great Otway National Park. There are two main activities at the park. Ziplining and the treetop walk.
If you want to get the most magnificent views of the Otway Ranges, head to the Fly Tree Top. It is a series of platforms suspended 25 metres high above the trees. This 600 metre-long walk is the tallest in the world, and gives you unparalleled views over the rainforest. The walk takes approximately 1 hour to complete and makes for a nice break if traveling along the Great Ocean Road.
The Otway Fly Tree Top operates in all weathers, so make sure to dress accordingly and be prepared for showers! In the case of extreme weather such as lightening or gale force winds, the Tree Top adventure will be closed.
The cost for the tree top adventure is $20 for an adult, and $18 for children (online price).
The zip line tour, perfect for thrill seekers, takes 2 and half hours in total to complete, and closes at 4pm, so make sure to allow enough time on your booking to complete the tour before then. It’s important to book in advance online to make sure you get a slot, and wear sensible shoes and clothing.
The cost for the zip line is $114 for adults and $.80.75 for children (online prices) but family packages are also available.
Open on weekends from 10 am – 5 pm (last entry at 4 pm) and school holidays (excluding Christmas day).
Cape Otway Lightstation
A popular tourist attraction which also draws in visitors along the Great Ocean Road, The Cape Otway Lightstation is a historical landmark with a collection of buildings to explore, nearby trails, and whale watching. It has played a major role in Australian history dating back to the indigenous people.
To learn about the indigneous people and how they used the native plants in their everyday life, head to the aboriginal talking hut. Other fascinating things to do at Cape Otway Lightstation include Heritage trail, where you visit the The Assistant Lightkeepers cottage (built in 1859), the Telegraph Station, built in 1859 and the original Keepers lodgings and workshop constructed in 1848.
In addition, make sure to stop at the radar bunker, built in 1942. During WW2, men were stationed here to protect the coastline after a US ship was sunk off the Cape.
A must do activity whilst at the Lightstation is to keep your eye out for whales. Between May and October, 25 species of whales migrate past the Lightstation including Blue Whales, Southern Right Whales, Humpback Whales, and Killer Whales (Orcas).
With different lodges available to stay in, and group packages which cover accommodation and food, there’s plenty to explore here which could easily take a couple of days.
Adult tickets cost $18.50 and children $7, and the Lightstation is open daily from 10 am – 4 pm.
Hikes from the Cape Otway Lightstation
There are a number of trails and hikes starting at the Cape Otway Lighthouse, with different lengths and ability levels. With beautiful views over the ocean, it’s worth embarking on a hike and exploring the surrounding areas of the Lightstation.
Lightstation – Cemetery and Lookout
Distance: 2.8 km
This walk starts at the Otway Lightstation car park and ends at the cemetery, which where victims of shipwrecks and brave explorers are laid to rest. During the walk you can admire the beauty of the ocean and get a great view of the Lightstation. The walk is easy and suitable for all levels, and takes 1-1.5 hours to complete.
Lightstation – Aire River Walk
Distance: 10 km
This 4 hour walk encompasses a variety of landscapes, from coastal scrubland to cliffs and beaches. It finishes at Aire River, where you can head to the lookout for a great view over the river. It’s a medium level in terms of intensity, and due to the length it’s advised to take water and snacks with you.
Guided Otways Walk
To gain more knowledge about the area, consider a guided walk through with a conservationist. This 75 minute walk leaves from the Otway Visitor Center, passes by the Conservation Ecology Centre Research Hub and along a 1.4 kilometre pathway through the Otway forest.
Guests on the tour will learn about the ecology of the area, native wildlife, local legends and more. But best of all all profits from this tour go to fund conservation efforts to protect Australia’s threatened species. Book your tour here.
Beaches in the Great Otway National Park
The beaches located in the Great Otway National Park are a must visit to encompass all the stunning nature and scenery which takes place along the coastline. Depending on your travel direction, nearby Apollo Bay along the Great Ocean Road is also a good place to start or end your Otway, Victoria trip.
Johanna Beach is located along the Great Ocean Road and is steeped in history such as dinosaur fossils and is great for surfing. In addition, the beach has an official site for camping and is a popular stopover on the Great Ocean Road as well as the national park.
Wreck beach is famed for being the site where two anchors of shipwrecks haunt the area; the Maria Gabrielle and the Fiji. You can reach it by way of a quick turn off from the Great Ocean Road, the 350 steps down to the beach can be a bit of a challenge but reward with spectacular views. The beach is great for exploring only in low tides and calm conditions.
Shelly Beach is an un-patrolled beach which isn’t ideal for swimming, but is the perfect place to walk and reconnect with the rugged coastline. With a sheer cliff line, it’s perfect for taking pictures and admiring the view. There are also picnic areas available.
Seal Point is a great beach for fishing, but if you plan to swim make sure to stay near Point Franklin, and remain cautious of the rip at all times. The beach strip itself is suitable for relaxing and sunbathing.
Read Next: The 10 Best Great Ocean Road Beaches
Visit Waterfalls in the Otways
There are many waterfalls dotted around the Great Otway National Park, so many that you could easily spend a couple of days checking them all out. One of the most popular waterfalls along the Great Ocean Road is the Triplet Falls. After a beautiful 1.8km hike through the ancient forest, the viewing platform at the Triplet Falls offers fantastic views of the cascadingthree-segment waterfall.
Another great waterfall after Triplet Falls is Hopetoun Falls. It stands impressively at 30 m tall, and the viewing platform offers visitors the chance to refresh themselves with the mist from the waterfall and take in the spectacular view.
Phantom Falls is a spectacular, 15 m fall with surrounding alcoves and and a well-shaded plunge pool. The waterfall leads on to the George River. Less well known than the previous mentioned waterfalls, this stunning waterfall is still worth visiting when at Cape Otway National Park.
Read Next: The 10 Best Great Ocean Road Waterfalls
Hiking in The Great Otway Rainforest
One of the best ways to experience the forest is to take a hike. Some are longer than others, but all provide a fantastic experience filled with wildlife amongst the tall forests.
Mait Rest Trail
Length: 800 m
Maits rest is home to giant rainforest trees and a plethora of wildlife and gardens, some of which are up to 300 years old. Enjoy nature by taking the rainforest boardwalk, and keep your eyes peeled for wallabies, possums, kangaroos and koalas. The self guided boardwalk through shaded forests is 800m long and takes roughly 30 minutes to complete.
Length: 1.6 km
Melba gully is famous for being one of the wettest forests in the state, and is home to a dense rainforest with unusual and exotic plants and wildlife. It was originally formed to protect the natural rainforest, as much of the ranges had been burnt out by bushfires.
With picnic areas and BBQ facilities, it’s a great place to stop off during your trip to the Great Otway National Park. Keep in mind that camping at Melba Gully isn’t permitted, but it’s worth sticking around after dark as Melba Gully is full of glow worms.
The walking trail starts close to the picnic area and takes you deep into the rainforest. It’s suitable for all age groups and abilities.
The Lake Elizabeth Walk
Length: 4.7 km
Located in the thick of the Otways, Lake Elizabeth is home to platypus, which draws in visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the shy animals. The best time to sight them is early in the morning, and there’s options to head out onto the water by boat. Alternatively, enjoy the early morning sun and walk around the lake.
Lake Elizabeth is ideal to stop over for a night as a campground surrounded by fragrant eucalyptus trees is a short 20 minute walk from the lake.
The California Redwoods
Length: 500 m
The California Redwoods are impressive in height and stature. Located by the Aire River and surrounded by eucalyptus trees, these giant trees have been here for 85 years. With a picnic area, this trail is easy at 500 m and only takes 15-20 minutes.
The California Redwoods are also located in close driving proximity to Hopetoun Falls and Beauchamp Falls.
The Great Ocean Walk
The Great Ocean Walk is perfect for those who want to get down to ground level and explore the rugged beauty of the coastline by foot. The walk, which is 104 km long, stretches between Apollo Bay and the 12 Apostles, and most people complete it in eight days.
Keep your eyes peeled for many animals along the way, including whale watching opportunities and viewing the Seals and Marengo Reef Marine Sanctuary.
There are numerous viewing platforms and plenty of amenities and facilities to make the walk easier, and it is accessible for all travelers. Whichever stretch of the walk you attempt, you won’t be disappointed with the stunning views along the way.
For all the information you need about completing this iconic trail, check out of our comprehensive guide on completing the Great Ocean Walk.
Camping in the Otways
Camping in Otway National Park is the perfect way to detach from everyday life and reconnect with nature. There are a plethora of Great Otway National Park camping sites, with a variety of landscapes to choose from. They also make the ideal stop over for those who want to camp whilst travelling the Great Ocean Road. With plenty of options for Cape Otway camping, you can spend as much time in the National Park as you wish.
If you would like to stay at a campsite that is located directly inside the park you’ll have to book on the Victoria Parks website. Choose from Aire River East or West Campground, Lake Elizabeth Campground, Blanket Bay Campground or Parker Hill Campground. These are basic camping sites, some of which are only available by walking track.
For private camping near Otway National Park choose Bimbi Park Holiday Park at Cape Otway. The property is surrounded by nature and wildlife like koalas and native birds, they have a variety of cabins available and a children’s playground with mini-putt.
Another great option for camping in Otway National Park is the Kennett River Family Caravan Park. It is located by minutes from the famous Kennett River Koala Walk and is close to some of the Otway’s most beautiful waterfalls. The park is close to the beach and has lots of modern cabins to choose from.
The Great Otway National Park is the ideal place to explore, and with the many natural wonders to view in the region, it’s no wonder it attracts visitors year after year. The National Park is easily accessible for those travelling by car, but there are also many tour options which stop off at popular parts of the park. These can be in the form of day trips or multi-day tours, and usually depart from Melbourne.
Waterfalls, gullies and the thick rainforest are just some of the spectacular things to see, and with the many camping option and the proximity to the Great Ocean Road route, it’s a must see in Victoria.