The Otway Ranges offer an almost unrivalled camping experience for the whole family, with tall forests, cascading waterfalls and lush rainforests dominating the area, all framed by one of Victoria’s main tourist attractions, the Great Ocean Road.
This feature was originally published in 4x4 Australia’s April 2011 issue
Amalgamated in 2005, the Great Otway National Park extends along the state’s southern coastline, comprised of the former Otway NP and Angahooke-Lorne, Carlisle and Melba Gully state parks, as well as areas of state forest. Scattered along its length, patches of the Otway Forest Park cater for four-wheel drivers, trail-bike riders and horse riders. Other activities include camping, fishing, diving, scenic touring, photography, bushwalking, and mountain biking.
There are several suggested touring routes throughout the park, including the Otways Drive, part of the new 4WD Adventure series, a collaborative effort by Parks Victoria, the Department of Sustainability and Environment and Four Wheel Drive Victoria.
The track sets out from Anglesea, meandering through coastal heath before delving into cool temperate rainforests and fern gullies, stopping at a number of popular waterfalls. The tour continues to Cape Otway and Apollo Bay via Maits Rest, a spectacular rainforest walk, then back to Anglesea via the Great Ocean Road.
In comparison, ExplorOz.com details a shorter, one-way route departing from Aireys Inlet, traversing some seasonally closed tracks and finishing in the town of Forrest. With all the areas of interest documented on the Parks Victoria website, it’s just as easy to make up your own route from a mix of unsealed roads and easy 4X4 tracks, depending on what you want to see.
Our favourite points of interest in the area include the Alcoa open-cut mine on Coal Mine Road in the Anglesea Heath Reserve; Lake Elizabeth, with walks to the lake and beyond; the forests and gullies of Mt Sabine Road; and Gentle Annie Track – a good 4X4 option.
Another one, Big Hill Track, runs off the Deans Marsh-Lorne road (C151), near the intersection of Mt Sabine Rd. Ominously named, Big Hill Track won’t raise the pulse too much, but still offers an interesting drive, running along the ridge before dropping to Loutit Bay, the site of numerous shipwrecks.
Wildflower enthusiasts should head to any of the Anglesea locations: the Anglesea Bushland Reserve (Elizabeth Street); the O’Donohue Rd walk in Great Otway NP; Edna Bowman Reserve (cnr Evans and Purnell streets); and the Anglesea Flora Reserve Lookout (cnr Great Ocean Rd and Harvey St).
4x4 Gear: Camping tips and tricks
Our visit in early September rewarded us with an array of orchids, including the spider, waxlip, donkey, nodding greenhood and tall greenhood. Other wildflowers include the love creeper, egg and bacon, running postman, common heath, early nancy, dusty miller and the fringe lily.
The Otway Forest Park permits campfires, with facilities at Stevensons Falls and Dandos campgrounds, however a number of last season’s wildfires were caused by improperly extinguished campfires, so ensure fires are fully extinguished before you retire at night or break camp in the morning. All it takes is a gust of wind and a spark.
As traditional and enjoyable as they are, the only location where campfires were allowed in the national park campgrounds was at Lake Elizabeth, although this was under review at the time of writing. (However, there are campfire facilities at most picnic areas in the vicinity.)
The Otways are a popular holiday destination, so the peak periods of Christmas and long weekends are best avoided, unless you enjoy the close proximity of thousands of others.
4x4 getaway destinations on Explore
From combing the rugged coastline, to exploring the network of 4X4 tracks and unsealed forest roads, the Otways has something for everyone – all within a stone’s throw of Melbourne.
The eastern Otway Ranges are 120km west of Melbourne on the Great Ocean Road. The best time to travel is from November to May, when the tracks are open. Check with Parks Victoria for track closures before travelling.
Great Otway National Park: Hammonds and Big Hill camping areas are suitable for camper trailers (toilets, no fires); Lake Elizabeth (toilets, fires) and Allenvale Mill site (toilets, no fires) are both walk-
in tent sites.
Otway Forest Park: Stevensons Falls and Dandos are suitable for camper trailers (toilets, picnic tables, fire pits, and bushwalks).
No camping fees for all locations.
If hot showers and kids activities are high on the agenda, book into any of the commercial caravan parks along the coast.
CONTACTS AND INFORMATION
Parks Victoria, Apollo Bay Office, 03 5237 2507.
Lorne Visitor Information Centre, 03 5289 1152.