This area is one of Victoria's finest.
Our suggested route takes in some of The Otways highlights, but it’s possible to spend a lifetime exploring this mountainous region.
The Otway Ranges formed around 150 million years ago, when the great landmass of Gondwana began to separate. Fossils of dinosaurs have been found in the region.
The Wathaurung, Gulidjan, Gadubanud, and Kirrae Whurrong Aboriginal people inhabited this resource-rich area for thousands of years, before white settlement.
Steep slopes restricted settler movement into The Otways, but the lure of timber saw exploitation begin in the 1850s.
The proliferation of Beech and Blackwood trees in the Beech Forest area led to the construction of a railway line in the 1880s, to haul the logs to Colac. Logging continues today, in areas that integrate jigsaw-like with the multiple sections of the Great Otway National Park.
The coastline is dotted with shipwreck sites, because of the way the coast projects into Bass Strait. If ships coming out of the Southern Ocean made landfall to the east of Cape Otway they were on track for Melbourne's Port Philip Bay, but if to the west they could be in trouble.
A lighthouse built at Cape Otway in 1848 reduced the incidence of ship strandings.
Our suggested route through The Otways is a two-day jaunt, assuming overnight camping or accommodation in the area. The Otways can be driven all year, but some roads and tracks closed after rain and during winter. Bushfire risk can also mean closed tracks.
It's important to note that steep tracks are slippery after even a little rain and mountain weather can change without warning.
The drive starts heading east on the Great Ocean Road at Port Campbell, followed by visits to the 12 Apostles viewing area, Melba Gully and the Cape Otway Lightstation.
A few kilometres east of the intersection of the Great Ocean Road and the Lightstation road is a turnoff to the left, on Binns Road, leading to Beech Forest. Highlights on this road are a stand of California Redwoods and Hopetoun and Beauchamp Falls.
Just west of Beech Forest is Old Beech Forest Road that roughly follows the path of an old railway line to Colac. It’s an interesting drive, past tiny railway stations.
Retracing your steps from Gellibrand, keep heading west on C159, as far as the Phillips Track turnoff to the Otway Fly and Triplet Falls.
Retrace from there to the C155 and then take the Wait A While Road back to the Great Ocean Road and head east as far as the left turn up the C119 to Forrest.
A short distance east of Forrest is a right turn on Kaanglang Road to Lake Elizabeth (note this road is tight and winding and unsuitable for caravans).
After the walk to Lake Elizabeth, continue east and turn right on Benwerrin Mt Sabine Road, then take the right turn to Erskine Falls. From the Falls it’s an easy run down the hill to Lorne.
Our suggested route takes in some of The Otways highlights, but it’s possible to spend a lifetime exploring this mountainous region. At last count there were around 40 official walks in the area and there are many tracks suitable for mountain biking – www.rideforrest.com.au .
The Otway waterfalls are among the most spectacular in Australia and there are many of them, not far apart.
The Otways’ proximity to the coast means there’s plenty of foreshore activity available and many great restaurants and places to stay. Useful contacts are www.visitotways.com and 1300 OTWAYS,13 1963.
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