A guide to the wildlife and waterfalls of the Great Otway National Park. Explore the Otway’s and you’ll be amazed at the natural beauty you discover!
About the Great Otway National Park
Located in southern Victoria, the Great Otway National park covers over 100,000 hectares and is one of our favourite places in Australia. Encompassing much of famous 243km long Great Ocean Road (B100) the Great Otway National Park is massive. Full of hugely diverse scenery, from rugged coastline to fern-clad forests and full of a range of wildlife and waterfalls.
With the vast majority people sticking firmly on the famous Great Ocean Road much of this breathtaking park is completely overlooked. And, in our opinion at least, that is a huge mistake! So if you want to get a little off track, or at least, off the Great Ocean Road, head inland and see some of Victoria’s natural wonders away from the crowds and tour buses. Here’s some of our favourite spots to see the wildlife and waterfalls of the Great Otway National Park:
1. Erskine Falls
- Starting Point: Erskine Falls car park – 10km North West of Lorne along the Erskine Falls Access Rd – Click HERE for Map
- End Point: Erskine Falls car park
- Distance: 1km return*
- Time to complete: 30 mins not including photos. All structured steps to lower viewing platform*
The slightly obstructed upper viewpoint is only 80m from the car park and doesn’t offer the greatest view. But it is well worth clambering down the 230 steps to the lower viewing platform of this 30m waterfall.
Whilst on the track and at the waterfalls base, keep your eyes open for one of Victoria’s prettiest birds – the Pink Robin. This is one of the best places in Victoria to find these colourful little birds.
Tip: At either the start or finish of the drive along the Erskine Falls Access Rd, make a slight detour to Teddy’s Lookout for one off the best views of the Great Ocean Road.
Check out our ‘16 Stops along The Great Ocean Road’ guide HERE
Without a car or just want to make a day of it? Then you can hike the 7.5km (one-way) Erskine River Track. Starting in Lorne, this trail travels predominantly along the river, passing Straw Falls and Splitter Falls. For trail info click HERE.
2. Lake Elizabeth
- Starting Point: Lake Elizabeth car park – Click HERE for map
- End Point: Lake Elizabeth car park
- Distance: From the car park it’s about a 700m walk past the camp site to western corner of the lake.
- Time to complete: Allow 2 hours if hiking to the lake and then completing the Lake Elizabeth Walk.
Often described as ‘hidden away’ Lake Elizabeth is a nice quiet and secluded scenic spot. The lake was actually formed in the 1950’s when to torrential wet weather caused a landslide damning the East Barwon River forming this new ‘perched’ lake. The serene lake is somewhat eerie with dead tree trunks popping up out of the lake.
The Lake Elizabeth Walk loops right the way around the lake. Look out for the Eastern Yellow Robins and Superb Fairy Wrens darting around.
The coolest part about this lake is the colony of platypus that live here. If you look carefully and quietly around the lake, especially at dusk and dawn you have a great chance of seeing one of Australia’s strangest creatures – the endemic, semiaquatic, egg-laying Duck-billed Platypus.
3. Beauchamp Falls
- Starting Point: Beauchamp Falls Camp Site/car park – click HERE for map
- End Point: Beauchamp Falls Camp Site/car park
- Distance: From the camp site/car park it’s a steep 3km return hike
- Time to complete: Allow 1-1.5 hours for the return hike
This 20 meter waterfall is a little harder to get to than the others. The 3km trail is moderately strenuous, but well worth it. Once at the waterfall, there are two viewpoints. The upper platform which is on fixed metal viewing deck.
Arguably, the better view is from below at the base of the falls. Regardless of the weather conditions, it can be slippery getting down to the river and especially slippery moving around on the rocks. So, climb around here at your own risk!
The hike itself is beautiful, almost all downhill to get there, taking you into a tunnel like trail, surrounded by the glistening tree ferns with fleeting glimpses of yellow and pinks as various robins dart by. The lush surroundings will help take your mind off the return journey, which is basically uphill all the way.
The camp ground at the car park is a lovely spot. Ideal for free camping, with long drop toilets and small areas for fires. It’s equipped with picnic tables too, making it the perfect spot for a post walk picnic. As with the trail, we found the campsite brimming with birdlife. Lookout for the Pink and Eastern Yellow Robins and Superb Fairy Wrens.
4. Hopetoun Falls
- Starting Point: Hopetoun Falls car park – click HERE for map
- End Point: Hopetoun Falls car park
- Distance: From the car park it’s a relatively easy 1km return hike
- Time to complete: Allow 1 hour for the return hike with plenty of time for photos
The 30m Hopetoun Falls is probably our favourite falls in this region and much quieter than the nearby Little Aire and Triplet Falls. As with Erskine Falls, there is a nearby upper viewpoint, but with obstructed views you’ll definitely want to head down to the base of the falls.
These falls really are photogenic. With its fern-fringed banks and mossy rocks, if you like photography, factor in a bit more time here!
5. The Redwoods (Californian Redwoods)
- Starting Point: The Redwoods car park – click HERE for map
- End Point: The Redwoods car park
- Distance: 20m walk from the Redwoods car park
- Time to complete: Allow 15-20 minutes.
Very close by to Hopetoun Falls, the Redwoods is a nice quick stop. This pocket of Coast Redwoods (Californian Redwoods) is quite different to the surrounding scenery. It was actually planted in 1936 as an experiment and many of the trees now tower over 60 metres tall.
As a massive conifer species, this plantation is devoid of undergrowth and a far cry from the moist and mossy trails of the nearby falls.
6. Triplet Falls
- Starting Point: Triplet Falls car park – click HERE for map
- End Point: Triplet Falls car park
- Distance: 2km return from car park
- Time to complete: Allow about 1 hour to complete the loop**
Triplet falls is probably the most popular waterfall in the region. The 1.8km circuit of boardwalks and viewing platforms makes this a very accessible and satisfying walk for the whole family. Inevitably because of its accessibility, it feels pretty touristy and can be crowded. Its popularity is well-deserved though, as it is an impressive sight, if somewhat obstructed from the viewing areas. Named Triplet Falls because of 3 separate shoots of water cascading down in three distinct sections, it a lovely set of falls.
** As of beginning of 2020 you could not walk the full loop due to storm damage. As a result, you have to head right (as if doing the circuit counter clockwise), then when you reach the falls you have to return the same way. Check for updates if planning to do this route.
7. Little Aire Falls
- Starting Point: Triplet Falls car park – click HERE for map
- End Point: Triplet Falls car park
- Distance: 5.2km (with Triplet Falls Circuit)***
- Time to complete: Allow 2-2.5hr if incorporating into Triplet Falls Circuit***
Most people do this in tandem with Triplet Falls, as part of the 5.2km circuit. But the 15m Falls is well worth the visit regardless, well signed and a great track through the surrounding rainforest.
***As of beginning of 2020 you could not walk the full loop due to storm damage. You can walk from the carpark to Little Aire Falls, but when you return to the Triplet Falls Track, you can’t continue on to Triplet Falls, you need to return to the car park and access it from the counter clockwise direction.
Wildlife of the Great Otway National Park
From the iconic eucalyptus forests and towering redwood plantations, to the moist and mossy fern gullies and picturesque plunging waterfalls, the Great Otway National Park has truly diverse habitat. And with this habitat diversity, comes a huge range of wildlife, a lot of which is pretty easily found!
Koala sightings can be pretty much guaranteed in The Otway National Park. The famous Kennet River on The Great Ocean Road is a koala hotspot. But there’s plenty of other places to find them all over the park. One of our favourite area’s is on the way down to the Cape Otway Lighthouse (Light House Road -C157). Keep you eyes peeled on this quiet road and you’ll have a far more intimate experience with the Australian icon.
Kangaroos & Wallabies
The different terrain generally dictates where you’ll find the different macropods. The paddocks around aforementioned Light House Road (C157), are a good spot to see the Eastern Grey Kangaroo’s in largish groups, known as ‘mobs’. In contrast, the very similar looking but solitary Red-Necked Wallabies are far more elusive. If you come across one, it will usually be on the edges of dry forest.
The Swamp (Black) Wallabies tend to be seen in the thicker undergrowth. Occasionally you’ll come across one on a trail, but more often than not, you’ll see them on the roadside when driving from waterfall to waterfall. On our last overnight visit here, we saw 5 Black Wallabies over the two days.
Trouble telling the 3 of them apart? Check out our ‘Wildlife of The Grampians’ HERE for more
If you like birds, the Otway’s are packed full. Scattered throughout the park in the varying habitats – costal scrub, wet forest and heathlands you can find several hundred species. Other than the previously mentioned Pink and Eastern Yellow Robins, there’s also both Rose and Scarlet Robins found here. Some other more easily seen birds include different Honeyeaters, Superb Fairy-Wrens, Kookaburra and Australia’s largest bird of prey, the Wedge-Tailed Eagle.
Of the more ‘exciting’ Psittaciformes (Cockatoo’s and Parrots) look out for the colourful and commonly seen Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoo, Galah, King Parrots, Eastern Rosella, Crimson Rosella and our favourites, the Gang-gangs.
One other unique bird seen here is the Satin Bowerbird. The males have glossy blue-black plumage and the females duller grey-green colour, both have striking blue eyes. But what makes these birds particularly interesting isn’t their looks, but their home decorating skills! The male Bowerbirds are renowned for building and then decorating their stick bowers with anything shiny and blue that they can get their beaks on, in order to lure in females.
Getting to/from and around
The only way to see the wildlife and waterfalls of the Great Otway National Park properly, is by car. There’s no public transport or shuttles servicing the area and many of these places aren’t visited as part of organised tours. A private tour would be a good option if you don’t have access to a car.
There’s numerous little towns to stay around the Great Oteay National Park Where you stay really depends what you want to see and where you want to base yourself.
Our favourite is undoubtedly Bimbi Park – Camping Under Koalas. The name says it all, this holiday park has resident Koala’s in the surrounding Eucalyptus trees! It’s a peaceful and perfect location with a variety of accommodation styles to suit everyones needs.
Best time to visit
The summer months of December – February offer the warmest temperatures and are considered the best time to visit The Great Otways National Park by many. This is also the peak season, particularly school holidays from mid-December to end of January and is also the busiest time to visit.
Early Spring and early Autumn in our opinion is a better time to visit, as there are less crowds yet still nice weather. Winter usually brings cold, rainy and windy days and can be unpleasant time to visit. Having said that, Victoria’s weather is temperamental and can change without warning!
Try to avoid weekends, particularly in peak season, as these areas will be much, much busier. If you have flexibility in your schedule, check the weather forecast in advance and try to plan around the rain and wind!
How much time do you need
This really depends on how much time you have! But if you’re tossing up between 1 or 2 days then we’d definitely recommend the latter. There is so much to see and do, give yourself as much time as you can. Trust us, you’ll want to stay longer! We recommend combining a visit to the Otway National Park with a drive along The Great Ocean Road, so allow 3-4 days for all of this.
Don’t miss our guide – 16 stops along The Great Ocean Road HERE
Essential information and packing tips
- Drive carefully, especially at dawn and dusk as Roo’s and Wallabies are particularly active. Use some common sense. These bouncy creatures can jump in front of your car in a split second. ‘Reduce your speed by 10 km an hour and reduce your risk of hitting wildlife by 20%!’ Wildlife Victoria.
- During the summer months, bushfires can occur in the surrounding areas. For details on bushfire activity click HERE
- Some of the inland roads are narrow and unsealed. You will need to drive much slower on these roads, so allow extra time.
- Take some warm clothes and wet weather gear. The weather can change very quickly here and it can get very wet and windy.
- Take sturdy shoes. If it has been raining, the trails will be muddy and slippery.
- Take a refillable water bottle and do your bit to minimise plastic waste, as well as saving the pennies.
- Pack Reef-friendly sunscreen. The Australian sun is brutal.
- Don’t forget a hat and sunnies
- Charge you camera batteries/phone.
Check out our guides on other awesome Victorian destinations:
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