The Great Ocean Road is the perfect weekend getaway for both adults and kids of all ages. Whether you're looking for the ultimate adventure or some ultimate relaxation, here are ten amazing ways to explore the scenic coastline.
1. Hit up the most iconic kid-friendly beaches in Australia
From Torquay to Lorne to Apollo Bay, the beaches across the Great Ocean Road are an absolute must-see. Whether you’re craving an afternoon swim in the many pristine beaches or prefer to simply lap up the sun, there is something for everyone.
Warrnambool Beach is our top pick for families as it has everything your crew needs to enjoy a full day in the sun. With a mix of protected beaches for swimming, exposed surf breaks for swimming or boogie boarding and a fun foreshore promenade for biking or skating, there’s excitement around every corner.
Another Great Ocean Road favourite is Torquay, for its close proximity to Melbourne and its family-friendly attractions. Imagine spending the day on the grassy knoll cooking up a barbecue while the kids learn to surf along the gentle rolling waves. The best part? The beach is fully patrolled by life savers, allowing you to soak in the holiday vibes without stress.
Find your perfect family paradise just minutes from the beach in one these spacious coastal holiday homes.
2. Kangaroos, koalas and platypus, oh my! Discover wildlife on the Great Ocean Road
A highlight of a Great Ocean Road tour is getting up close and personal with Australia’s native wildlife.
No road trip across the Great Ocean Road is complete without a meet-and-greet with the most famous Australian animal — the kangaroo. On the eastern section of the highway, the town of Angelsea promises a large eastern grey kangaroo population. On the western end, the Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve is the best known hangout for roos and other furry friends, including wallabies.
To catch a glimpse of the cuddly cute koala in the wild, we recommend heading towards a small settlement near Lorne, called Kennett River. Look up high into the gum trees as you drive along Grey River Road to spot these sleepy-eyed creatures.
Finally, if your family is up for a challenge, take a cruise over to Lake Elizabeth to try to spot the elusive platypus. Keep in mind the best time to spot these semi-aquatic mammals is either at dusk or dawn. Whether you see the local platypus colony or not, the lake makes for a beautiful, child-friendly walk.
Tip: Make sure to remind your kids that these are wild animals and there is no guarantee that they will be able to spot these creatures in their natural habitat. Spending a few days in each location will up your odds for this once in a lifetime encounter.
3. Do go chasing waterfalls (at least the ones on the Great Ocean Road!)
Nature-loving families will get a kick out of the incredible waterfalls and cascades spanning the Otway Ranges and Great Ocean Road region. It is recommended to stay as close to Lorne or Apollo bay as possible if your family is to take full advantage of the spectacular falls on offer.
Just a stone's throw from Lorne, you’ll find one of the most popular waterfalls in the Otways, Erskine Falls. There are two viewing options for the falls, making it perfect for families with children big and small. The upper lookout is an easily accessible five-minute walk that still provides a fantastic view over the tumbling rapids. For the more adventurous, venture slightly further to the lower viewpoint, where you can feel the mist on your face from one of the highest falls in the region.
Do you have an hour to spare? Then Triplet Falls is calling. A 60-minute loop trail offers ancient rainforest, wildlife abundance and not one but three cascading waterfalls! Plus, it’s also the site of a former timber mill, which means history buffs can inspect log carts and other artefacts that still line the trail.
Whether you station yourself in Lorne or Apollo Bay, creating a home base in a holiday home on the Great Ocean Road is a fabulous way to start all your waterfall adventures.
4. Capture the beauty of the 12 Apostles
The most famous landmark on the Great Ocean Road needs no introduction. Unlike anything you have seen before, the enormous and magnificent rocks jut directly out of the South Ocean along the Victorian coastline.
If you haven’t captured the quintessential family holiday photo, this is the place! There's a viewing platform as well as a short coastal walk where the family can enjoy the sights and sounds of this spectacular feat of nature. If you want more, swiftly drive three minutes west of the Apostles towards Loch Ard Gorge. This stopping-off point is home to a clear blue bay surrounded by two massive sandstone cliffs.
With a variety of lookouts and walking tracks on offer, let the map and your heart guide you along. If you’re having trouble choosing, follow the Thunder Cave, which guides you on an easy adventure along the trail suitable for both prams and wheelchairs.
To make getting to the 12 Apostles easy, booking accommodation in the town of Port Campbell is best. Book a holiday home in this popular coastal town with enough bedrooms, bathrooms and space for the whole family to enjoy.
5. Splash about with water activities for both parents and kids
Up for a bit of adventure out at sea? Well, you don’t need a captain's license to try out kayaking or canoeing along the Great Ocean Road. These little vessels will allow you to explore bays, beaches and secret inlets that are often not accessible by land.
Pop over to any of the tour operators at Anglesea, Lorne or Apollo Bay to rent a kayak. They offer both single and double, which is ideal for all experience levels. Before you head out to sea, ask your operator about the seal colonies that often frolic and sun themselves around those areas. If you’re lucky, you might even get a few swimming next to your boat!
Stand up paddle boarding is another great water activity for those with a bit more balance and agility. Not only is it a great way to burn a few calories, but it’s also top notch for exploring more of the beautiful waterways and oceans in the area. Drop in to Anglesea, where you can take a lesson or venture out on your own. Either way, it’s sure to be a memory you’ll never forget.
6. Take the holiday to new heights with a 12 Apostles helicopter ride
Adrenaline junkies will be delighted over this option! Take your family holiday to new heights with a helicopter, seaplane, or two-seater plane ride over the Great Ocean Road. If you thought a road trip along the coast was spectacular, you will be in awe over the stunning southwest scenery from above.
Soar over the Southern Ocean and take in the most iconic sights like the famous Shipwreck Coast, Loch Ard Gorge, Bay of Islands and, of course, the 12 Apostles. If you’re visiting between the months of June and December, keep your eyes peeled, as you might be lucky enough to see blue whales just off the coast of Portland.
While there are a variety of departure points along the coast, station yourself near Torquay or along the Bellarine Peninsula. With heaps of family-friendly accommodations boasting ocean views, the hardest part will be deciding your favourite.
7. Embark on a kid-friendly bush walk
The best way to stretch your legs after a long road trip is with a nature-filled bush walk. The Great Ocean Road is perfect for families as it offers walks that can accommodate walkers of any ability. Grab your boots, fill the little ones water bottles and get out into the great unknown.
For those of you who prefer a breezy more gentle walk, a top choice amongst holidaymakers is the Marengo to Shelly Beach walk. Expect to follow low clifftops that overlook the blue ocean until you end up on the picturesque Shelly Beach.
Tip: Go at low tide so the kids are able to hop from rock to rock hunting for tiny tide pool creatures.
If your family is a bit more on the adventurous side, the Cape Otway to Aire River is a real treat. Although the hike requires approximately four hours, it is worth every minute. Imagine trekking along the water's edge with idyllic views of sculpted sand dunes and calcified cliff faces. The highlight of this walk? Rainbow Falls! If you catch a glimpse of this incredible falls during peak afternoon sunshine, you will be treated to a rainbow spectacular.
8. Have a whale of a time whale watching on the Great Ocean Road
Whale watching is guaranteed fun for the whole family. Whether you jump aboard a boat or spy them from shore, don’t miss the opportunity to observe southern right whales and blue whales as they make their annual migration south across Australia’s coastal waters.
One of the most popular viewing spots to see these majestic creatures is from Logan’s Beach, located in the city of Warrnambool. If you’re travelling in the winter months of June through October, you may be lucky enough to see whales breaching or even mothers nursing their young just 100 metres offshore.
A few tips to increase your chances of seeing a whale during your visit: Remember to call the Visitor Information Centre ahead of time to see if whales have been spotted in the area, bring binoculars for better viewing, and bring cold weather gear in case of high winds or wet conditions.
9. Keep the whole family happy with these pitstops in foodie heaven
Want to know where to eat on the Great Ocean Road with kids? We've got you covered!
Hankering for a meal that will satisfy the whole family? Make a pit stop at Jum’s BBQ Chickens in the holiday town of Angelsea — a place so good that nobody has a bad word to say about it. Go for the classic chicken roll or opt for the best chips and gravy on the surf coast.
Another great option is the Wye River General Store, which promises cosy vibes all year round. If you fancy brekkie, take a seat with a coffee and a french butter-filled pastry. For a more hearty meal, they serve up a mean pie and beer in the afternoon. In a hurry? The general store has everything you need to stock your Great Ocean Road holiday home with the local essentials. Pack your pantry with local delicacies like fresh produce, homemade bread, farm-fresh eggs, and artisan cheese.
10. See the sights on wheels and go cycling with the kids along the Great Ocean Road
If your kids enjoy biking, the Great Ocean Road will be right up their street. Whether you’re taking a road trip with bikes in tow, or choose to visit one of the local rental shops, a cruise along the beautiful coastline is sure to delight.
Did you know that the town of Forrest has been named the number-one mountain biking destination in Australia? Regardless if you are a seasoned vet or a beginner, the mountain biking trails in Forrest are the best way to see the Otways. The Barre Warre track is an easy and family-friendly 2km and weaves from way above the Barwon River down to the Forrest Township. This truly is a local favourite!
For a little less effort, but just as much fun, give an e-bike a try. You and your family can make unforgettable memories as you cruise on comfortable electric bikes through the Cape Otway region. Take a tour that will introduce you to historic sites, amazing views and some cheeky Aussie wildlife along the way.
Written by Taylor Wright