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Image credit: Australia Tourism

Great Ocean Road

All roads lead to greatness

With a long stretch of road before her, Aleney de Winter discovers that Victoria’s most famous drive remains a family favourite.

Winding its way along the wild and windswept Southern Ocean, the Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s iconic drives and the jewel in Victoria’s scenic crown. With its abundance of natural attractions, fishing villages, shipwrecks and even migrating whales, it’s packed full of fun for families.

Sun and surf
Many of Victoria’s best beaches, including the famous Bells Beach – home of the Ripcurl Pro – are found at the northern end of the Great Ocean Road. Lessons for your little groms take place at some of the smaller, safer breaks near Torquay and Lorne, and make a perfect start to your southern road trip. Surfing fans should also take a quick detour to visit the Australian National Surfing Museum, considered one of the most significant centres of surfing heritage in the world with a surfboard-shaping bay, ‘boardroom’ and a theatre screening some of the world’s best surf films. Paddle in to Torquay Holiday Park to continue the H20 action at the solar-heated pool.

Image credit: Australian Surf Museum

The call of Cape Otway
Two hours south, take a break and visit Cape Otway Lightstation, the oldest surviving lighthouse on mainland Australia, where you can even spend the night in the old keeper’s house. When day breaks, climb to the observation deck of the 167-year-old watchtower for amazing views of the Southern Ocean and Bass Street colliding before exploring the heritage precinct.

The area also features a fascinating Aboriginal Cultural Site, historic Telegraph Station, a secret World War II No. 13 Radar Bunker and a year-round Whale Interpretive Area. Offshore, you’ll find a huge diversity of marine life including dolphins, seals and the 25 species of whales that migrate past each year between May and October. Though you can spot the magnificent migrating beasts from the lightstation, the best way to see the area’s marine creatures at play is to get out on the water on an organised tour.

Image credit: Victoria Tourism

School Holiday Activity
Make sure you check out ‘Oddball’, an Australian film about a chicken farmer who trains his mischievous dog to protect a wild penguin sanctuary from fox attacks off the coast of Warrnambool on Middle Island.

Shipwreck Coast
The history lesson doesn’t stop there, with the magnificent Wreck Beach accessible via the Great Otway National Park. Kids will especially love the rusting remnants of the Marie Gabrielle and Fiji that are meshed into the reef and easily visible at low tide. They are just two of the hundreds of known vessels that fell victim to the Shipwreck Coast that extends as far as Port Fairy. If you’re planning to see it in full, BIG4 Port Fairy Holiday Park provides the perfect accommodation for a family weary after a busy day of ship spotting.

Before setting off on your Great Ocean discovery once more, a detour to Weeaproinah is a must-do for families that like to get a little wild. The Otway Fly Zipline Eco-Tour is sure to thrill with an exhilarating fully-guided 2.5 hour adventure through the canopy of the rainforest with eight cloud stations, six flights and two suspension bridges or a one-hour treetop canopy walkway experience without a harness in sight for those who prefer their fleet planted on solid ground.

Image credit: Otway Fly

Almighty Apostles
By now, the kids (and parents) will be itching to see the Great Ocean Road’s main attraction, and in just over an hour they can. Forever changing from the relentless attack of the blasting winds and powerful waves of the Southern Ocean, the craggy limestone stacks of the Twelve Apostles provide much more than just a great photo opportunity. A variety of family activities are on offer including free binocular and telescope hire plus digital detective and scavenger hunt programmes to engage the kids (while also providing an unforgettable lesson in geography!).

At nearby Gibsons Steps, take the 86 stone-cut steps down to the beach to see Gog and Magog, another pair of iconic, giant limestone stacks that rise from the sea. Other fascinating rock formations in the area include Loch Ard Gorge and London Arch where the kids can marvel at the sight of the ocean at its powerful, pounding best.

Wonderful Warrnambool
An hour north of these beauties is the town of Warrnambool, where a stay at Discovery Holiday Parks – Warrnambool is the ultimate ‘Stop, Revive, Survive’. While in town, learn more about its maritime past and head to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, built around the local lighthouse and home to Victoria’s largest collection of maritime and shipwreck relics. There, you can witness ‘Shipwrecked’, a nightly outdoor sound and laser show that will leave the whole family wowed.

Image credit: Australia Tourism

Image credit: Flagstaff Hill

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