For me, growing up in Apollo Bay meant spending every day bathing at the beach in summer and exploring the Great Otway National Park in winter.
The cold weather never bothered us. We’d visit the roaring waterfalls, play in the rock pools, coast through the forest on our bikes and nip any calorie deficit in the bud with a fresh serve of fish and chips, no matter the temperature outside.
While I may have since grown up, I still love hanging out at my favourite childhood spots (and I’m still rocking thongs all year round – it must be a coastal thing). Even now, my friends and I still love piling in the car in the middle of winter and getting lost in the beautiful rainforests, woodlands, waterfalls and beach coves sitting right there in our backyard. These days however, we tend follow it up with an ice cold beer or gin instead—delicious modern cafes and restaurants seem to more in vogue. Mind you, the fish and chip shop still gets a good run.
I’ve been exploring Apollo Bay and The Otways like a local for years—here are six ways you can do it too (and I recommend doing them all!)
- Hit the beach and go rock pooling
When the tide is out and the weather is calm, there’s no better way to spend the day than exploring the rock pools and caves in and around Apollo Bay.
My all-time favourites (just follow the signs to find them) can be found at:
– Point Bunbury (on the south side of the Apollo Bay harbour)
– Marengo Beach (just a few minutes south of the town centre)
– Pirated Cove (between Skenes Creek and Apollo Bay)
Each rock pool formation has its own ancient story to tell and its own little ocean community to explore. While you may be lucky enough to spot fish, crabs and molluscs, just remember not to touch them or remove anything from their little underwater homes.
Hot tip: I highly recommend the caves at Pirates—there’s a little something for the whole family to enjoy.
- Enjoy the view from Marriners Lookout
The seaside locals are very proud of our Marriners Lookout. This beautiful spot is just a few minutes’ drive north east of Apollo Bay and overlooks the town, ocean and historic harbour from a whopping 218 metres above sea level.
The best way to enjoy the phenomenal view is bright and early in the morning where you’ll witness one of the most spectacular sunrises of your life. Alternatively, you can also watch the sun set over our beautiful town at the end of the day when the horizon is flooded with rich yellows and pinks.
The lookout is only a five-minute walk uphill from the car park to the look out, but it’s totally worth it. Don’t forget to take a selfie at the top!
Hot tip: Take a jumper or two; it can get pretty chilly.
- Tuck into some seafood straight from the sea
As a coastal dweller, I love good quality fish and chips, and (as an unbiased local) Apollo Bay has always had the best reputation for fresh seafood in the region. These days, it’s the only port on the Great Ocean Road where the local restaurants and cafes serve seafood fished directly from the sea.
In winter, there’s nothing better than cosying up in one of the local restaurant with family and friends around a massive seafood feast. My top seafood spots include:
– Apollo Bay Fisherman’s Co-op
– Chris’s Restaurant
– La Bimba
- Adventure to a waterfall higher than Niagara
The magnificent Stevensons Falls is no less than 84 metres high (Niagara Falls is only 50m!) and is a scenic 45-minute drive from town. The track from the campground to the waterfalls is one of the most camera-friendly in the area, taking you along the beautiful Gellibrand River. If stunning walks aren’t your thing, there’s also a shorter walk starting from the day car park.
And in case one waterfall isn’t enough, the equally stunning 20-metre Beauchamp Falls is a one-hour drive from Apollo Bay, just outside Beech Forest. While it is a decent three-kilometre walk from the picnic area, it’s well worth the trek!
- Get your adrenaline fix with a mountain bike ride
Mountain bike riding is the perfect winter sport. A few minutes on the track will have you warmed up in no time (plus, the cool weather keeps the snakes away!). The region is home to lots of bike trails that start from the township of Forrest (45 minutes from Apollo Bay) and wind their way through the Hinterland, challenging you to different terrains along the way
- Rug up to visit Australia’s oldest lighthouse
Arguably one of the best spots in my ‘backyard’ is the 178-year-old Cape Otway Lighthouse Station—Australia’s oldest lighthouse. You can climb right up to the top (90 metres above the ocean) to enjoy one of the best views in the area. Believe me when I say there’s truly nothing better than the feeling of the wild ocean wind on your face.
And, while you mightn’t stop shivering from the moment you leave the car, there’s a charming café waiting for you at the end where you can warm up with a hearty homemade pie or soup. You’d be crazy not to chase it up with one (or three!) of their famous scones. Call me biased (I might work there…), but they’re hands down the best scones I’ve ever had.
Wondering where to stay during your Apollo Bay winter adventure? Here are my accommodation suggestions:
- Holiday Great Ocean Road
- Great Ocean Road Escapes
Here are a few more local tips to get you sorted for your winter getaway:
- Got time to spare? Check out the towering Californian Redwood Forest(planted in Beech Forest)—a hidden local secret.
- Heading to Lake Elizabeth at dusk? Keep an eye out for our resident platypus!
- Hungry? Grab a delicious feed at the Great Ocean Brewhouse in Apollo Bay, which has craft beer and cider on tap, plus a menu boasting some of the best local produce in the area. They also have accommodation for singles, families and backpackers.
That’s my story! I can’t wait to see yours—don’t forget to share you Apollo Bay and Otways experience using the hashtags #iamwherestoriesunfold #visitgreatoceanroad #iamapollobay #iamotways on Instagram.