This fantastic post on The Otways is courtesy of Romy Mangan, mother to three children aged 6, 5 and 3. The Otways are located on the Great Ocean Road, about three hours drive from Melbourne.
During the recent July school holidays my family and I decided it was time to get away and occupy the kids with more than the usual round of museums and parks. So I booked us a short get away to the Otways , one of my favourite locations in Victoria. I hadn’t been back since I was pregnant with my 6 year old and have since added a 5 and a 3 year old to the mix so I was looking forward to visiting with them.
Booking couldn’t have been easier, there are many websites to choose from but I selected www.stayz.com for last minute deals. I was delighted to find a two bedroom cottage that was self catering and would be perfect for our needs. So we packed our bags with plenty of warm clothes and gumboots and off we went to our cottage, Nellie Nook which is located in Lavers Hill on the Great Ocean Road.
It is a 3 hour trip from the Eastern Suburbs so I knew we would need to stop for a break and something to eat. We chose the Winchelsea Shire Hall Tea Rooms. It was pleasant and very affordable and provided good food and plenty of space for the kids to run off some steam before we headed back on our journey. On the way we played counting coloured cars, I spy, I went on a picnic and took a….., which always ends in something silly and usually with my kids something involving a bodily function. But it kept them occupied until we got there.
Neal (the owner of Nellie Nook) was there to greet us and had lit the wood heater for us. He was a great host and took us off on a walk around his property which has some woods and a small waterfall. There is also a damn with frogs in it. When we got back he presented us with homemade bread which we scoffed in about 2 minutes.
We then took off for an exploration of Lavers Hill, which to be fair is set in beautiful surrounds but doesn’t offer the kids much so we headed for Hopetoun Falls. There are many waterfalls in the area abut we chose this as we knew our kids would make the walk there and back.
The falls were great and the kids were amazed at sound of the crashing water. A huge tree had fallen into the falls and the kids loved this as it showed the scale and power of the waterfall. They made the walk there and back up the many steps without a moan. Great!
We stopped in Lavers Hill at the motel for dinner. Unfortunately the menu selection wasn’t great and the food though ample in size was just OK, however if the kids were asked the same they would say thumbs up to the chips and sausage rolls for dinner. Our next adventure was to see the Glow Worms which were only a 3 minute drive away in Melba Gully Visit Victoria Glow Worms.
By 6 o’clock it was pitch black so we needed our torches to walk the 10 minutes to where the glow worms are. Neal had given us directions so we knew where we were going; otherwise I think we might have wandered off. The lights of the worms were just lovely and looked like twinkling fairy lights in the trees. After this it was back for a movie and cosy up on the sofa.
Next day we were up and about exploring Nellie Nook again and then we bundled everyone in to the car and set off to Otway Fly Tree Top Walk. This place is great. The Kookaburras were calling on arrival and helped to build the kids expectations from minute one. We booked the Tree Top walk which cost around $50. There is a zip fly wire tour but our kids were too young and also due to the cost, we thought we would wait until they were older and would appreciate it more. The walk through the forest is beautiful with huge gums towering above and the freshest air I’ve ever breathed. We then came to the dinosaur trail. It is a walk that the kids and we loved. There are replica models of various favourite dinosaurs, including Stegosaurus, Triceratops and T Rex. Along this part of the walk there were plenty of really good photo opportunities, we had great fun posing with the dinosaurs. After this walk it was on to the tree tops. If you are afraid of heights this may not be for you but it is perfectly safe and gets you up really high. The kids went charging on and climbed the tower pretending it was a spaceship. My youngest struggled a bit so she needed a shoulder ride from time to time but was able to cope very well.
We had a snack in the cafe which was well priced and went on to Apollo Bay. On our way there we saw a pod of migrating whales. This was the highlight of the trip for me. The kids loved it too but then got fed up with that and played on the beach in the winter sunshine. We had lunch in Apollo Bay and went for stroll. It was busy but it’s a lovely seaside town with plenty of shops to browse through if you don’t have impatient little ones in tow.
From here we headed to the 12 Apostles. We went to the visitor centre but our kids weren’t interested in the geology of the area and got bored on the walk. I tried to liven it up by telling stories of shipwrecks and also about the penguins but they were over it so we headed back to our cottage. Maybe when they get older we will take them back. We saw heaps of Kangaroos on the drive back but sadly no wombats.
The next day we went to Johanna beach (Map for Johanna Beach) and went to the second car park which is closer to the river and if you fancy it can be an option for going for more explorations along its banks. We didn’t do it this time as the kids wanted to play on the beach. My two older boys got drenched playing in the rock pools and chasing waves. Great fun but I was glad they had a change of clothing. We also found huge cuttle fish bones washed up, the kids took home and have now been painted in technicolour glory!
On our way back to Melbourne we decided to stop off at Werribee Zoo. We have been here lots of times as we are Friends of the Zoo but thought as it was on our way it was a great choice for a break and dinner. The Zoo didn’t disappoint with the two highlights being the gorillas that were very active and in full view and the lions were right up next to the glass too. On the safari bus the rhinos were really close and in fact the bus had to move along to keep out of their way.
We got home tired and thinking that we must get down to the Otways again very soon.