18 September 2018
SCHOOL HOLIDAY TIME! 72 HOURS OF FREE FAMILY FUN ON THE GREAT OCEAN ROADby SHERYL ALLEN
For our family, the spring school holidays signal a budget mini-break along the Great Ocean Road. September hits and our whole crew (young and old) is itching to escape the city and get walking, riding and playing in the great outdoors.
It’s a family tradition – squeezing three days out of our schedule and pulling together a wishlist of activities to keep everyone happy without blowing the budget. Who doesn’t love free stuff? With so many free holiday activities on offer, we’re spoilt for choice every single year.
We never get through it all, but this spring our wishlist for 72 hours of free family fun looks like this.
We brush off the winter cobwebs with a no-holds-barred play session at Torquay Play Park. Play equipment for days and space to run, climb and cartwheel. Plus top-notch coffee and ice cream nearby. Yum!
Next stop: adventure-filled Anglesea Riverbank where we stretch into the 1.6km section of the Surf Coast Walk, pondering public art and paddleboats as we go.
We roadtrip into the Otways, stopping at Beech Forest to unload our bikes and tackle a few kilometres of the Old Beechy Trail. Can we reach the tiny forest town of Gellibrand?
We save the Lake Elizabeth Loop Walk for dusk, knowing we might glimpse a platypus.
Come nightfall, we grab take-away and chill out in a holiday home within a stone’s throw of the Lorne foreshore. Great Ocean Road Real Estate Holidays always have plenty of places to fit our family and budget.
We rise early, hop into a shared breakfast along the Lorne café strip, then hit the road for the eye-popping drive to Apollo Bay.
Our sights are set on a new-to-us stretch of the Great Ocean Walk. The 2km Shelly Beach Circuit Walk ribbons through coastal scrub, fern gullies, along the beach and rocky platforms to Elliott River and back again. We take our sweet time, keeping our eyes peeled for koalas and yellow-bellied gliders in the towering trees.
Spring afternoons are for poking around Apollo Bay harbour, watching crayboats and fishermen, marvelling at waves crashing on the breakwater, wandering the beach and paddling the shallows. Just before dusk, we rug up, roll out our picnic blanket on the sand and tuck into the freshest-ever feast of fish and chips.
Evenings are for giggling through board games in our quintessential Apollo Bay beach house, which we’ve booked through Holiday Great Ocean Road.
We swing by the 12 Apostles early morning – my favourite timeslot for ogling these beauties! We track the coastline, reaching Warrnambool’s amazing Lake Pertobe Adventure Playground in time to ride the giant slides and get lost in the maze before deciding which rail trail to cycle today. Will we revisit the Port Fairy – Warrnambool Rail Trail and whir 37km through open farmland? Or should we strike out on a new adventure together on the 34km Camperdown to Timboon Trail winding through farmland, forest and grassland? Either way, we ride our hearts out.
On the scenic hinterland drive home, we have just enough energy left to call into the picture-perfect Colac Botanic Gardens Playspace for one last spring-inspired freebie frolic before heading back to the city.