Guide to The Great Otway National Park

Located in one of the most beautiful parts of Victoria, the Great Otway National Park is the ideal place to explore the natural wonders of Australia.

Amongst other things, most visitors to Australia come to see its stunning beaches, and iconic Australian animals, and to experience the great outdoors. The Otways has all of these in spades!

Here you’ll find some of the country’s best rainforests, gorgeous waterfalls, beaches, and an abundance of wildlife.  

Located inland from the Great Ocean Road, it makes a great addition to a trip along this famous road.

eroded pillar great ocean road
Limestone cliff along Great Ocean Road

Many tourists include The Otways in their list of things to do when visiting Apollo Bay, as it’s easily accessible from here. However, for a truly memorable experience, I recommend staying in one of the Otways villages.  

I’m lucky enough to live less than an hour away from the Great Otway National Park and visit it as often as I can for as long as I can.

In this article I share the best things to see and do, the best places to stay, and answer some of the most common questions about The Otways.

Ready to discover the Great Otway National Park? Let’s get to it!

Things To Do in the Great Otway National Park

There are heaps of things to see and do in The Otways National Park from walking trails and wildlife spotting to waterfalls and lighthouses, there’s something for all travellers to enjoy.


Hopetoun Falls in Great Otway National Park
Hopetoun Falls

There are so many stunning waterfalls in The Otways that it can be hard to choose just one to visit. Of course, with the right amount of fitness and plenty of time, you can see as many falls as you like.

Some waterfalls can be seen from lookouts that are just a few metres away from the car park, while others require walks of several hours.

The 30-metre-high Hopetoun Waterfall is accessed by walking down (and back up!) 200 stairs, while the impressive Triplet Falls requires a 1-hour return walk through ancient rainforest.

For something a bit easier Carisbrook Falls are located right beside the Great Ocean Road and the walk is only 600 meters long.

The Redwood Forest

Redwoods in the Great Otway National Park

Located just down the road from Hopetoun Falls, the Redwoods Forest is one of Victoria’s best-kept secrets.

The Otway Redwoods were planted by the Forests Commission of Victoria in the mid-1930s, with plans for the timber to be used in construction, cladding, and roof shingles.

Things didn’t work out as though as the trees took too long to grow and the plan was abandoned. Nearly 90 years later the Redwoods are still there soaring to heights of 70 metres or more.

These trees are not native to the area but they live in harmony with the local flora and fauna creating an enchanting environment that is utterly mesmerising.

Otways Walks

The Otways
The Otways

The best way to experience the forest is to stretch your legs on a beautiful nature walk. From short strolls along boardwalks to more challenging rambles, and multi-day hikes the Otways has something to suit all fitness levels.

For those who are looking to do some easier walks Madsens Track at Melba Gully is a 1 kilometre walk under giant myrtle, beech, and blackwood trees.

Madsens Track in the Great Otway National Park
Madsens Track

Maits Rest is another favourite that has a boardwalk protecting the Otways’ delicate ecosystem. Taking only 30 minutes to complete, this walk is a great way to get a taste of the dense rainforest.

For something more challenging, the 10-kilometre hike from Cape Otway to the Aire River Lookout includes stunning coastal views and a stop at Rainbow Falls.

If you have lots of energy and time on your hands the Great Ocean Walk is a 104-kilometre hike between Apollo Bay and the 12 Apostles. Most people complete this walk in eight days and you can either camp or choose to stay in more comfortable accommodation.

Whichever walk you choose to do you’ll be able to enjoy the experience of being in the midst of a cool rainforest. No matter how long it’s for.

Otways Wildlife

Sulphur-crested cockatoo
Sulphur-crested cockatoo

Most visitors to Australia would like to see some of the country’s incredible wildlife. The pristine natural environment of the Great Otway National Park is the perfect place to find them.

Spending a few days exploring the tracks, forests, and lakes while keeping an eye out for wildlife is an experience you won’t forget.

During early morning walks you’ll hear the uniquely Australian sound of kookaburras, cockatoos, and currawongs. Keep an eye out for them in the trees, kookaburras are a little harder to see as they’re well camouflaged.

Some of the animals you’re likely to see include kangaroos, wallabies, and koalas. While they’re usually spotted at dawn and dusk, they can be seen at any time of day usually when you least expect it!

The Otway Black Snail is a carnivorous land snail that is endemic to the Otway Ranges. They can be found at the base of trees and tree ferns, and within deep leaf litter, especially after rainfall.

Australian animals - short-beaked echidna
Short-beaked echidna in Australia

Another unusual animal that calls the Otways home is the short-beaked echidna. They’re shy creatures and a little harder to spot but they tend to come out in warmer weather.

Lake Elizabeth

Lake Elizabeth in the Great Otway National Park
Lake Elizabeth

When it comes to exploring the natural wonders of the Otways National Park, Lake Elizabeth is a hidden gem. Less well-known than other attractions in the area, there’s a good chance you won’t encounter any other travellers during your visit.

One of the first things you’ll notice at Lake Elizabeth are the dead trees that emerge from its waters creating an otherworldly atmosphere, that’s perfect for nature enthusiasts and photographers alike.

The lake is also home to the elusive platypus so if you’d like to see one a visit here is a must. Twilight and nighttime when they’re busy looking for food, are the best times for spotting these egg-laying mammals.

where to see platypus in Tasmania

For those seeking outdoor adventures, Lake Elizabeth offers a range of activities to choose from. You can take a leisurely stroll along the lake’s shores, go kayaking and canoeing, or try your hand at fishing.

As you explore the area, be sure to keep an eye on the eucalyptus trees surrounding the lake. They are home to koalas that often make appearances – another reason for visiting this picturesque spot.

Lake Elizabeth has a well-equipped campground that requires advance booking. If you stay overnight be sure to take a night walk to witness the glow worms illuminating the path.

Live Wire Park

Live Wire Park in the Great Otway National Park
Live Wire Park

Whether you’re an adult seeking an adrenaline rush or a family looking for some fun, Live Wire Park offers a range of activities suitable for all ages. This elevated adventure features two main circuits, the Super Circuit and the Short Circuit.

The Super Circuit is designed for adults and teenagers, offering a challenge with swinging planks, ladders, zip lines, and more, all high up in the bush.

For younger adventurers (110cm+), the Short Circuit provides a kid-friendly version of the obstacle course. The course is designed to test balance and problem-solving skills while building self-esteem at the same time.

The Spring Circuit is a series of elevated trampoline areas enclosed in nets. It’s a great option for family fun, but it’s worth noting that it might be a bit challenging for younger ones. Our 6-year-old grandson had a great time here, but it might not be the best fit for toddlers.

The Shockwave Zip Coaster is advertised as being the most extreme zip line in Australia. I’m not sure how true that is as kids as young as 10 can hop on this ride, but it’s still lots of fun.

Keep in mind that each family member entering the park will need to pay an entry fee, which includes access to the Canopy and Spring Circuits.

After that, you can pick and choose which additional activities you’d like to try. If we had to recommend one, it would be trying out one of the big circuits.

Otway Fly Treetop Adventures

Otway Fly Treetop Adventures is another outdoor adventure park located in the national park. The crown jewel of this adventure is the Otway Treetop Walk, a 600-meter-long elevated walkway that stands an impressive 25 meters above the forest floor.

As you traverse this walkway, you’ll be treated to an awe-inspiring bird’s-eye view of the rainforest below.

The highlight of the walkway is the 45-meter Spiral Tower and cantilever, perched high above Young’s Creek. Here, you’ll have the experience of gently swaying with the rainforest canopy. Not great if you suffer from seasickness!

The walk takes approximately one hour, allowing you to fully absorb the beauty of your surroundings.

For those seeking a more exhilarating adventure, the Otway Fly Zipline Tour awaits. You can zip through the leafy treetops from one “Cloud Station” to another, suspended up to 30 meters above the forest floor. This 2-hour and 30-minute ride takes you through eight cloud stations, six flights, and two suspension bridges, providing an extreme rainforest experience that you’re not likely to forget.

But Otway Tree Top Adventures isn’t just for adults; there’s something for the younger visitors too. Kids can step into the shoes of a Rainforest Ranger for the day, embarking on the Rainforest Ranger interactive trail.

This trail is an opportunity for young explorers to discover the secrets of the rainforest, search for ancient tree species, and keep an eye out for the region’s unique wildlife.

Where To Eat In The Otways

swamp wallaby
Swamp wallaby

When it comes to exploring the Great Otway National Park there’s no denying that its natural wonders steal the show. But what’s a great adventure without some equally great food to fuel your explorations?

Luckily there are plenty of great dining options in the area. You can choose from boutique cafes, hearty pub meals, and general stores, or treat yourself to a fine dining experience. Here are just a few of our favourites.

With stunning views across the Otway Ranges from its floor-to-ceiling windows, The Perch at Lavers Hill is a favourite stop for lunch. The food here is inventive and delicious and the service is impeccable. The beef brisket melts in your mouth but there are plenty of share plates if you prefer something lighter.

For beer enthusiasts, a visit to Forrest Brewing Company is a must. Situated in the town of Forrest, this microbrewery is a hotspot for craft beer lovers. They offer a rotating selection of beers brewed on-site, as well as a menu that features locally sourced ingredients. Pair your brew with one of their tasty dishes, such as a ‘beer fed’ beef schnitzel, chicken tikka masala (personal fav) or a gourmet burger.

If you’d like something a little more fancy, then head to Brae Restaurant in Birregurra. This award-winning restaurant is considered to be one of the best in the country and showcases unique Australian cuisine based around nature and seasonality.

The set menu changes regularly with dishes created from produce grown at Brae Farm, the surrounding land, and local producers. Opening times are limited so booking ahead is essential.

Where To Stay In The Otway Ranges

Laughing kookaburra at Euroka clearning
Laughing kookaburra

Although you can get a taste of the Otways in just a few hours, it’s a good idea to stay a night or two to really experience everything this region has to offer.

There’s a whole range of accommodations available to suit all budgets from camp sites to luxury stays.

The Glenaire Cottages are self-contained cabins with wood burners, spa baths, and private balconies with forest views.

For a fabulous farm stay take a look at Johanna River Farm and Cottages. The accommodation here also has balconies and fireplaces, and at night you can see glow worms!

For the ultimate in luxury, the Sky Pods in Cape Otway offer incredible coastal views right from your bed. The self-contained eco pods are located on a 200-acre wildlife refuge and are completely private. Perfect for a romantic getaway.  

Where Is Great Otway National Park

The Great Otway National Park is located on the southern coast of Victoria, Australia, to the south-west of Melbourne.

It starts in Torquay, and extends along the Great Ocean Road, through the Colac hinterland, finishing at Princetown just before the 12 Apostles rock formations.

This expansive natural reserve is a prime destination for nature enthusiasts and tourists alike. The most popular time of year to visit is during the warmer summer months when the park can get very busy.

However, it’s equally as good in winter when the waterfalls are full, the foliage is lush, and you’ll have the trails all to yourself. It’s also when you can get the best accommodation deals.   

How To Get To The Otways

To reach the Great Otway National Park from Melbourne by car, follow the Princes Highway (M1) heading westward. The journey covers approximately 150 kilometres and typically takes around 2 to 2.5 hours by car, depending on traffic conditions.

You’ll pass through various towns and scenic landscapes along the way, including Geelong and Torquay, which marks the eastern entrance to the park.

From there, continue along the Great Ocean Road (B100) as it winds through the park, leading you to the various attractions within.

For an alternate route that takes you through the towns of Birregurra and Forrest, you can follow the Princes Highway (M1) heading westward as you would for the previous route.

However, after passing Geelong, take the exit onto the C151 towards Birregurra. This route will lead you through Birregurra, a charming rural town known for its historic buildings and lovely countryside.

From Birregurra, continue on the C151 and then onto the C155, which will take you through the aptly named town of Forrest. This route provides an opportunity to enjoy the scenic beauty and unique character of these towns along the way.

It’s advisable to plan your route and check for any road closures or updates before embarking on your journey to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip.

Visit The Otways with a Tour

If you are short on time or don’t have your own transportation, you can visit The Otways on an organised tour that will include the Great Ocean Road as well. You can either opt for a day trip or an overnight adventure.

Final Thoughts

koala in heathcote national park

The Great Otway National Park in Victoria, Australia, offers a blend of natural beauty and outdoor adventures for travellers of all interests and fitness levels. This pristine park is home to waterfalls, lush rainforests, and a rich diversity of wildlife, making it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers.

Exploring the park’s numerous walking trails allows visitors to immerse themselves in the rainforest environment, from short strolls on boardwalks to challenging multi-day hikes. The Otway Redwoods stand as a testament to nature’s resilience and coexistence.

Wildlife enthusiasts can spot kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, and even the unique Otway Black Snail and short-beaked echidna. Lake Elizabeth, within the park, offers a chance to see platypuses and other wildlife in their natural habitat.

kangaroo at Green Patch, Booderee National Park
Kangaroo joey resting in the shade

For those seeking an adrenaline rush, Live Wire Park provides a range of adventurous activities, while the Otway Fly Treetop Adventures offer treetop walks and exhilarating zipline tours through the rainforest canopy.

In summary, the Great Otway National Park invites travellers to immerse themselves in its natural beauty, embrace outdoor adventures, and appreciate the diverse flora and fauna that call it home.

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, adventure seeker, or simply looking for a tranquil escape, this national park has something to offer everyone, making it a remarkable destination in Victoria, Australia.

About the Author

Audrey is the principal blogger behind Victoria Uncovered. A site that helps people get the most out of their visit to Victoria Australia. Book Lover | Breakfast Nut | Aussie Gal | She’s usually craving coffee.

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