Great Otway National Park

Great Otway National Park, Halls Gap Caravan and Tourist Park
Barbecue Bike riding Campfire Caravan Disabled Fishing Horse riding Pets Swimming Toilets Watersports Wildflowers Wildlife Accommodation Camping area Four-wheel drive touring Information Picnic area Ranger Walking


Tall forests and fern-filled gullies, woodlands and waterfalls, an exceptionally beautiful coastline and the lofty beacon of Australia’s oldest mainland lighthouse define Great Otway National Park, south-west of Melbourne. The Great Ocean Road, pathway to the mysteries and dramas of the national park, is one of the most spectacular road journeys in the world.

Towering, rain-drenched forest, often wreathed in mist; the ravaged limestone coast with its beautiful beaches, pounding surf and maritime history; a range of walking trails and plentiful wildlife are protected in this area, much-loved by its visitors. The national park has been extended to include the former Melba Gully, Carlisle River, Beech Forest and Angahook–Lorne state parks. The government’s decision to stop logging leases and prevent clear-felling by 2008 was of critical importance in protecting this region. The park includes magnificent stretches along the coastal rim from just south of Lorne to Princetown, with many memorable views from the Great Ocean Road.

At the time of writing, some campgrounds, walking tacks and vehicle tracks were closed due to flooding; check with Parks Victoria for the latest.

Fact file


From Melbourne via Princes Fwy to Geelong then Great Ocean Road; or via Princes Hwy to Winchelsea then Deans Marsh Rd to Lorne; or via Princes Hwy to Colac then south through Forrest to Apollo Bay or Gellibrand to Lavers Hill

Best season

Mid-to-late summer and early autumn


150 km south-west of Melbourne

Park information

  • PV 13 1963
  • Cape Otway Lightstation (03) 5237 9240


Permit may be required for horse riding


103 000 ha

Visitor information

Aireys Inlet/Apollo Bay/Johanna/ Lorne (03) 5237 6529

Cape Otway (Bimbi Park) (03) 5237 9246

Featured Activities in the National Park

  • Climb the 1848 Cape Otway Lightstation for panoramic views

    Visit the cool environs of Melba Gully at night to see thousands of glow-worms

    Spend time beachcombing, and picnic at Shelly Beach

    Take a walk in the forest and see Hopetoun Falls and Triplet Falls

    Join a night tour and watch for short-beaked echidnas

See Also

A look at the past

In the 1800s, whalers and sealers operated along the coast. Bass Strait was notorious for its dangerous waters, and many ships foundered here after the long journey from England. Tangible reminders, such as the anchors of the Marie Gabrielle and the Fiji, can be seen rusting in the sands. After the Cape Otway Lightstation was built in 1848, development began with the logging of giant mountain ash trees and the clearing of land for grazing, but the more inaccessible areas survived and the national park protects this valuable natural heritage.

Aboriginal culture

The Gadubanud people fished and hunted along this coast until the 1800s, when the increasing intrusion of white settlers left them dispossessed and decimated by disease. Although many coastal shell middens have been submerged, middens at Moonlight Head and Seal Point are reminders of the original inhabitants of the Otways.

Natural features

The park embraces the deep green folds of the Otway Range, created over 150 million years ago. Ancient fossils are embedded in the coastal rock and palaeontologists have discovered evidence of several dinosaurs, including a small herbivore that roamed the region 105 million years ago. The range, rising to 650 metres, bears the full force of the rains that beat in from the Southern Ocean and is clad in wet eucalypt forest and cool temperate rainforest, with lush valleys, rushing streams and waterfalls. The turbulent seas and winds have gouged the limestone coast into craggy forms with small sandy coves and isolated beaches. The waterfalls in the Angahook–Lorne section of the park, such as Erskine Falls, Cora Lynn and Upper Kalimna Falls, are especially beautiful.

Native plants

As you move inland, the coast’s heathlands and open woodlands soon give way to dense forest and rainforest where sunlight filters through the canopy of trees. 

Near Lavers Hill, Melba Gully, at one time the site of heavy logging and sawmilling, is once again a mass of leafy ferns, moist fungi and moss, thriving in one of the wettest places in the state. A surprise for night-time visitors is the sight of thousands of glow-worms twinkling in the dark along the banks above the walking track. These are the larvae of fungus gnats, enclosed in a web that catches other insects attracted by their bioluminescent organ.

Maits Rest is another place to experience the rainforest. It is set among surviving mountain ash and blackwoods, about 10 kilometres west of Apollo Bay. There is a viewing platform to observe the Big Tree, a majestic 300-year-old beech with a girth of 27 metres, which is listed on the National Trust historic register.

The walking track at Maits Rest (see Madsens Track Nature Walk in the walking feature) provides a loop through the rainforest, travelling beneath understorey vegetation of hazel pomaderris, musk daisy bush and austral mulberry to a small creek dominated by ancient myrtle beech and tall tree ferns. Along the creek look up into the foliage of the myrtle beech and you will see large pendulous clumps of hanging moss and epiphytic ferns. The most prominent of these is the kangaroo fern, frequently coloured in shades of yellow, orange and green. During late spring and summer you may see a curious spherical and bright orange fungus, known as the beech orange. Confined to the myrtle beech, the fruiting body of this fungus is distinguished by an intricate honeycomb pattern of indentations containing the spores. In late autumn and early winter the forest floor is decorated with colourful toadstools and coral fungi, cup fungi and puffballs.

At the Gable, a huge cliff overlooking Moonlight Head, the adjoining heathland is rich with wildflowers including several species of colourful sun orchids, which only open if the temperature is high enough. She-oaks and grasstrees dot the heathland and the gullies carry salt-pruned stands of messmate, brown stringybark and prickly moses wattle. Moonlight Beach is well known for its pebbles of infinite shape and colour, and large potholes on the exposed rock platforms hold seaweeds of several species, sea stars, shellfish and coloured pebbles.


At least 36 native mammal species have been recorded in the park and another 13 marine mammal species have been seen in and around the nearby waters. Keep your eye out for short-beaked echidnas, ringtail possums and swamp wallabies. The latter inhabit the heathlands at the Gable. They are adapted for life in the low and dense vegetation: their teeth differ from those of other wallabies and they have significant differences in their reproductive cycle and chromosome numbers.

The park is also a haven for several threatened species, such as the rare spotted-tailed quoll and the swamp antechinus. Birdwatchers may see the satin bowerbird and Australian king-parrot, or the albatross, pied oystercatcher and hooded plover along the coast. In the Angahook–Lorne section alone 170 bird species have been recorded.


The park offers adventure activities as well as a large number of more leisurely pursuits. Bushwalking, canoeing, fishing, sea-kayaking, surfing, trail rides or fossicking for gemstones are all possibilities, but touring the lighthouse, birdwatching, beachcombing, picnicking, soaking up the sun and just marvelling at nature are other options. The Great Ocean Road passes though the park and is one of the great scenic drives of the world.


Walking is one of the most popular activities in the Otways. The diversity of environments allows you to choose between boardwalks and fern-fringed tracks through rainforest to solitary rambles along secluded beaches (see feature).


There is some great beach fishing (Australian salmon, mulloway, snapper) and inland river fishing (brown trout is typical). Shellfish collecting is not permitted east of Cape Otway.

Heritage trails and tours

Follow the signposted Historic Shipwreck Trail. Tours of Cape Otway Lightstation run daily. Tours run by Koori guides explore significant locations related to the heritage of the local Koori people; contact the Cape Otway Lightstation for details (see Fact File).

Horse riding

Riding and trail rides are another way to explore the park; a permit is required for some sections of the park.

Scenic touring

The Great Ocean Road leads along the coast and provides access to most of the park attractions – or you may just want to enjoy the drive. The famous ocean scenery begins at Anglesea, where travellers are treated to long sweeping beach views capped at the far headland by Urquhart Bluff. At the lighthouse town of Aireys Inlet, the rocky cliffs and stacks, created by the activity of underwater volcanoes, give a preview of the type of land conditions further along the coast. The cliffs grow steeper and the road more perilous from this point, and there are a number of lookouts for those who want time to appreciate the spectacle.

As the road nears Lorne the vegetation on the hillsides grows thicker and more lush. The township of Lorne rises from the sea and disappears into the folds of the lower ranges. There are several popular walks in this area. The track to Erskine Falls, for instance, leads past gullies with tree ferns and spurs covered in tall blue gums and manna gums. At the estuarine villages of Wye River and Kennett River, the road runs almost down to the sea. Carisbrook Falls, just west of Cape Patton, are worth a stop. The cascades and rapids fall 200 metres in just half a kilometre, making them the highest falls along the coast.

At Apollo Bay the Otway Ranges meet Bass Strait, and the coastal woodland is rapidly replaced by cool fern gullies and areas of rainforest. Here you can venture into an ancient landscape, following the raised boardwalks through canopies of myrtle beech. On the western side of the ranges the road drops down to the sea once more, leading on to the dramatic coastal formations of Port Campbell National Park.

Swimming and surfing

Safe swimming beaches are dotted along the east coast, many located at the popular seaside resorts. Johanna Beach, to the west of Cape Otway, is favoured by surfers but is not suitable for swimming.


The diverse habitats ensure plenty of opportunities for wildlife-watching. Check with the rangers about night tours with spotlights to view the park’s nocturnal creatures and evening walks during the summer months.


Aire Crossing camping area

Just north of this riverside campground is the magnificent Triplet Falls, cascading down through untrammelled old-growth forest. Also in the vicinity is the walk to Little Aire Falls, which weaves through rainforest to... Find out more

Aire River East camping area

This shady campground is about half the size of the camping area on the other side of the river, and so may afford a little more peace and quiet. It’s accessed via Horden Vale Rd, signposted south off the Great... Find out more

Aire River West camping area

This camping area on the western side of the Aire River, near the mouth of the watercourse, is big, flat and open, making it ideal for large groups. You can reach it by travelling 5.3 km down Sand Rd (seasonal access);... Find out more

Allenvale Mill Site camping area (walk-in camping)

The old Allenvale Mill site lies just beyond the outskirts of Lorne, which is handy for campers who like to have all the conveniences of a modern township within easy reach. This is a walk-in campsite, but it’s... Find out more

Blanket Bay camping area

This is a very popular camping area with shaded sites near an ocean beach to the south-west of Apollo Bay. A little further around the coast is the historic Cape Otway Lightstation. About 20 km west of Apollo Bay, turn... Find out more

Cora Lynn camping area (walk-in camping)

The 2 campsites at Cora Lynn offer intimacy and tranquillity. They are accessed on foot via a track leading from the Blanket Leaf picnic area – you can take a walk from the carpark here to scenic Erskine Falls. The... Find out more

Fork Paddock camping area (bush camping)

There’s seasonal, dry-weather access only to this remote spot, as the track leading in becomes treacherous after rain. The reward for those who venture to the half-dozen or so sites here is relative isolation.... Find out more

Hammonds Road camping area

There’s plenty of open space at this campground up in the far north of the national park. Back towards the coast, close to Aireys Inlet, nice short walks include the easy Distillery Creek Nature Trail and the Moggs... Find out more

Jamieson Track camping area (bush camping)

Jamieson Track is a remote bush camp with only a handful of sites and no facilities, and is subject to seasonal access. You’ll need a 4WD to reach it. Turn onto Jamieson Track from the Great Ocean Rd about 10 km... Find out more

Johanna Beach camping area

This large campground is nestled behind the dunes at Johanna Beach, a popular surfing spot to the north-west of Cape Otway. There are 2 ways to reach it. The first is to turn off the Great Ocean Rd onto Red Johanna Rd,... Find out more

Lake Elizabeth camping area (walk-in camping)

Lake Elizabeth had an unusual genesis, forming in 1952 after heavy rains caused a landslide that dammed the East Barwon River. It’s a very pretty place, with a campsite you walk to via a 50 m path from the carpark.... Find out more

Parker Hill camping area

A small collection of campsites on Parker Hill look out over a sparkling inlet between Cape Otway and Point Franklin, where the Parker River empties into the ocean. From Cape Otway Lighthouse Rd, travel for 1 km east... Find out more

Sharps Track camping area

This site is up in the hinterland behind Lorne. To stretch your legs, head to the nearby Sheoak Picnic Area and follow the well-graded trail to Upper and Lower Kalimna Falls. To reach the camping area from Lorne, take... Find out more

Wye River Road camping area

Wye River is a peaceful beachfront settlement on the Great Ocean Rd between Lorne and Apollo Bay. An even more-peaceful campground is almost 2 km inland on the Wye River Rd; camper trailers will need to be towed here by... Find out more

See Also

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