15 March 2018
AN AUTUMN ROAD TRIPby GREAT OCEAN ROAD
Taking the Great Ocean Road in autumn is spectacular as always, however you could be fooled into thinking autumn has passed you by. Deciduous trees don't tend to like salty air so spectacular displays of autumn foliage are rare by the beach.
You need to head for the hinterland to see the towns and villages of the Otways and Volcanic Lakes and Plains really come into their own during Autumn.
Taking an inland route you'll be rewarded with unexpected shopping and foodie experiences and get the opportunity to meet friendly locals who are more than happy to have a yarn and share local secrets with you.
In Winchelsea you should make it your business to visit Barwon Park Mansion. It's a National Trust building made of bluestone and the former home of the man who introduced the rabbit to our shores. Tours are available at times and from time to time Baron Park hosts special exhibitions. It's only a couple of minutes off the Princes Highhway in Winchelsea.
While you're in "Winch" stop into Run Rabbit Run Cafe for some lovely homemade food (You can' go wrong with the slices!) and to browse through the gift shop and quirky terrariums and homewares. There's even a resident pet parrot.
In Birregurra (The home of Brae - one of Australia's best restaurants and voted the World's 44th best in 2017) you'll discover a beautiful streetscape, park for the kids to enjoy and a selection of collectible and gift shops.
Forrest is Mountain bike central and the heart of the Otways. It comes to life in Autumn and its not a bad place to stop for a bite to eat. The recently opened Platypi Chocolates is THE place to grab a hot chocolate and some handmade confectionaries while The Forrest Brewery is THE place to whet your whistle with a handcrafted beer - brewed on site.
The Forrest General Store is a favourite for a quick coffee, fresh handmade bread, pies, sausage rolls and salads. Their coffee is also pretty good - they use Apollo Bay's own Hello Coffee blend.
Bespoke Harvest is your fine dining option - they deliver a locally sourced degustation with passion and authenticity.... by a nice warm fire.
If you're staying in Forrest for longer make sure you try the bike trails (hire is available at the store) - there are easy options for the whole family to casually enjoy - and plenty for the experienced MTBer. Be careful. We've had plenty of bingles here - fortunately most of them hilarious (can I say there's nothing like watching your mother-in-law sail slowly into a bush when she forgot how to operate handle-bars).
The Colac Botanic Gardens are a gem in this thriving regional town. Colac is a great place to pick up supplies and has many branding shops for those who seek familiarity. The Botanic Gardens are nestled next to Lake Colac. You'll find a fantastic play area for the young ones and a lovely cafe.
From Colac to the west you traverse Australias largest and the world's 3rd largest volcanic plain. Hard to believe, right? Dotted with extinct volcanoes (yes they are little ones and those from the High Country would class them as hills) and crater lakes, the region we call the Volcanic Lakes and Plains is known for it's country charm and hospitality.
Antique and collectible store can be found in almost every town and the food sourced from these landscapes is divine. It's generally served up with a smile and likely some advice on your next stop.
If you're a fishing man or woman you'll be spoilt at Lake Purrumbete. The BIGGEST trout going can be caught here and on the Lakes Edge you'll find one of the loveliest cafes in the region. Be warned, the Lake Edge Cafe is VERY popular with locals from Camperdown and Colac so get there early or make a booking.
If you can't resist a spot of vintage shopping make sure you visit the Pombomart. It's right on the highway and if you miss it there's something wrong. The Immense yellow-gold shed is filled to the brim with second-hand good.
In Camperdown pop into the old Courthouse to arrange a guided tour of the clock tower. Especially in Autumn the view from here down the main avenue is stunning. The Botanic Gardens are just out of the main town centre and overlook lake Bullen Merri. (See main image)
Terang is a little further west on the Princes Highway and serves up a beautiful array of colour in autumn.
For some crisp country air why not climb a mountain?? Our picks are Mount Noorat (five minute drive off the Highway from Terang)and Mount Elephant near Derrinallum - dominating the landscape from all directions. From certain angles it's not clear but from some you'll see the shape of an elephant very clearly. Please note - you will not see actual elephants on this mountain. Mount Elephant Visitor Centre is open on Sundays - on any other days you can pick up a key from the take-away store in town.
On your travels you'll see the intricate work in the stone walls made from volcanic rock along the roadside and fencing off paddocks.
Cobden is south of the highway and a hub of activity for the dairy industry with Factories pasteurising and packaging much of the milk you might be enjoying in your laneway cafe back in the City.
Around the Lake in the town centre you will be rewarded with a beautiful display of colour. The boardwalks and platforms around it's edge are there for your enjoyment. Perfect for a picnic or a stretch of the legs. Tip - if you're now thinking about coffee stop in at the Blue Wren in the main street for a fix of the (very) good stuff.
The Great Ocean Road Woollen Mill in nearby Glenfyne is a working Woollen Milll where you can see how they produce fine blends of Alpaca and Merino. You can buy some wool or a ready made beanie and thank the Alpacas on your way out!!!
Guess what?! you're now on the 12 Apostles Gourmet trail! Cheese, Cheese and more cheese will be coming your way. There's also whiskey, beer, chocolate, ice cream and much more to fuel your foodie desires. Explore around Timboon and Cooriemungle for some direct-from-the-paddock produce.
From here you are so close to the 12 Apostles it's probably worth stopping in! If these are on your bucket list or if you haven't visited for a while it's worth stopping in to say G'day. EVERY time you visit (and we go a lot) you feel dwarfed by their magnitude. There might possibly be a few others stopping to see our rocks so if you want a quieter time there go in the morning. Stay overnight in nearby Port Campbell so you can get there early. On the other hand the sunset here is something that you'll be happy to suffer the crowds for. We highly recommend the 12 Apostles Morning Express if you're there early. Catch the bus at the Visitor Centre car park at 7.30am and be dropped off in Princetown. From here it's an easy 7km back along the last section of the Great Ocean Walk tot he 12 Apostles and your vehicle. Seeing the changing light at this time of the morning is an experience you'll never forget.