Stay close, go further

Shake off winter with a trip along the Great Ocean Road. Make the most of popular tourist spots outside of peak season and taste the epicurean delights of the surf coast. Here's our pick of top stops in spring.

1. Put a spring in your step

Stock up on wholesome food and everyday supplies at Wye General Store, or drop into the adjoining cafe for delicious coffee and pastries. Icaro Wholefood Cafe in Apollo Bay offers a delicious menu of locally sourced produce. For a sweet treat, stop in at Timboon Ice Creamery. Get hands-on and book into the Sundae School Class. It’s a weekly run tutorial where you'll learn all about the history of ice cream and churn out your own gourmet batch.

2. Twelve Apostles

Make an off-peak trip to the Twelve Apostles. Sunrise and sunset are the most impressive backdrop for the iconic limestone pillars, no matter the weather. Engage with a tour group or a knowledgeable eco-guide to learn about local flora, past shipwrecks and the primordial coastline. Take a self-guided 45 minute walk from the Visitor Centre along a series of boardwalks and viewing platforms.

3. Ancient forest walks

A surf coast pilgrimage is not complete without a visit to Great Otway National Park. Stroll through ferny gullies at ground level, or head to Otway Fly Treetop Walk, for a breathtaking bird's eye view of the forest floor.

Connect with the region's Aboriginal heritage at Budj Bim National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage List site central to the history of the Gunitjmara people. This long dormant volcano provides pleasant bushland surrounds for nature trails, and hikes along the old crater rim.

4. Plunging beauty

Rushing water is the signature sound of spring in the rainforests along the Great Ocean Road. Take an hour-long walk through thick ferns, blackwoods and myrtle beech and be rewarded by the site of stunning 20-metre waterfall Beauchamp Falls. Erskine Falls plunges a full 30 metres into the tree-fern gully of the Erskine River and can be viewed from two lookouts. Experienced walkers can traverse a further 7.5 km downstream, to take in both Straw Falls and Splitter Falls, as well as the lush river surrounds.

5. Pubs with a view

Atop the intersection of the Wye River and the ocean, the Wye Beach Hotel offers fantastic views all year round. Choose from a hyperlocal classic pub menu or the chef's special, set at two or three courses. It's not uncommon to see koalas in their natural habitat, relaxing in the big eucalyptus trees right outside the door. The Great Ocean Road Brewhouse in Apollo Bay features a seasonal menu and has over a hundred craft beers on tap to enjoy inside, or in the dog-friendly beer garden.

6. Down-to-earth distilleries

The award-winning Timboon Railway Shed Distillery is inspired by the colourful 1890's illicit whisky makers of the region. Drop in for tasting sessions of their single malt drop, or settle down for a long lunch. Apollo Bay Distillery handcrafts exotic gin in one of the oldest buildings in town. Get a taste of the surrounding landscape with these handcrafted gins, which are made using local botanicals.

The Forrest Brewing Company is independently owned and family run, with all beer brewed using water from the Otways rainforest. The adjoining restaurant serves fresh, locally sourced fare, a perfect match for their micro-brewed ales.

7. Wash away winter

Make the most of crisp mornings and cool afternoons with a dip in the region's hot springs. Deep Blue Hot Springs in Warrnambool provides a myriad of open-air pools, fed from the 50 million year old Dilwyn Aquifer.

Saltair Day Spa in Lorne is Australia's first BABOR concept Spa, designed in Germany and located in the main street of the town. Choose from day spa packages, world-class skincare treatments and heavenly massages.

8. Paradise by the sea

Soak up ocean views at Seahorse Retreat in Skenes Creek and be lulled to sleep by the sound of waves breaking on nearby Snapper Rocks. For a truly maritime experience, indulge in accommodation right at the edge of the water at Cape Nelson Lighthouse. The original lighthouse keepers' cottages have been restored with modern touches of comfort, including open fireplaces and luxurious bathtubs.

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