SURF, RIDE, PADDLE AND HIKE THE SURF COASTby RACHEL WAGNER
While some families prefer their getaways to be spent poolside with a book in hand, the rest of us gadabouts believe it’s not really a holiday until you’ve launched yourself down a mountain or head first into a wave. If you’d rather be out exploring all the beautiful nooks and crannies of the area than stuck inside, pack your bathers, load your bike and buckle up the kids. We’re headed to Victoria’s Surf Coast.
This cluster of beaches, rainforests and coastal towns between Torquay and Lorne is packed with enough incredible cliff walks, hidden surf breaks and winding bike trails to keep adventure-seekers busy for a lifetime. We’ve rounded up the best outdoor escapades for everyone in the family, including the littlest intrepid explorers and your four-legged friends. The best bit? Wherever you choose to stay, you’ll have all this action less than an hour from your door.
It’s right there in the name - there’s no better spot to carve up some waves than the Surf Coast.
If you’re new to surfing, Torquay and Lorne are brilliant spots to get started, with surf patrol and sheltered town beaches. Visit Go Ride a Wave or Torquay Surfing Academy to get kitted out with a wetsuit to keep you toasty warm and a giant soft board that’s easy to stand up on. Grab a lesson (they cater to all ages) and the friendly instructors will have you up and riding the waves into shore before you can throw a shaka.
Urquhart Bluff is another great beginners beach that’s situated between Anglesea and Aireys Inlet and is usually a dash quieter. Just outside Torquay, Point Impossible is ideal for some peaceful longboarding. Bear in mind it’s a clothing-optional beach, so don’t be alarmed if you spot a cheeky bit of nudity!
If finding a spot on the sand and spectating is more your speed, head to the iconic Bells Beach and its neighbour Winkipop. These breaks are frequented by some of the world’s best surfers and it’s well worth a trip down to watch the pros. Be sure to stop in town a while to experience the surf culture of Torquay, after all, it’s the home of Australian surfing.
Let’s stray into the foothills of the Otways now, where you’ll find some of Australia’s most scenic mountain biking trails. At Pennyroyal Creek you can zoom along both adrenaline pumping and family friendly routes. All abilities are covered from Sunday riders to the hardcore pros but be warned - the black diamond route is best suited to the thrill seekers in the family. You’ll also find a small BMX track nearby in Deans Marsh to practice your jumps.
Anglesea has bushland trails to explore around Eumeralla, plus Australia’s first professionally designed Mountain Cross track. At Anglesea Bike Park you’ll find tracks for all skill levels including a dirt jump area and skills course that the kids will have an absolute ball on.
If you’d prefer a leisurely bike ride to mountain biking mayhem, there are also plenty of coastal trails to cruise along including The Surf Coast Walk but we’ll get to that later...
Riding isn't confined to bikes on the Surf Coast, in Torquay you take a leisurely horse ride with Spring Creek Horse Rides.
There’s nothing like gliding along the sparkling ocean waters on a sunny day in Anglesea. This bustling beach town right in the middle of the Surf Coast is where the eponymous Anglesea River meets the sea and the estuary is a beacon for families year round.
Find some serenity paddling upstream on the Anglesea river at your own pace, meandering past parklands and listening for native bird sounds. If you’re feeling more daring, venture out into the open waters of the ocean. There’ll be side splitting laughs as you battle to catch a wave without tipping sideways.
If the kids aren’t up for wrangling a paddle, put their legs to work on a paddle boat. They’ll love cruising around in control of these retro pedal-powered boats and the Anglesea River’s shallow waters are the perfect safe spot to splash around in.
Hiking is the best way to slow down and immerse yourself in the beauty of the Surf Coast.
One of the most iconic hikes in the area is the Surf Coast Walk. A 44km trail connecting Torquay, Anglesea and Aireys Inlet, it boasts flat, kid-friendly and easy shared paths, with dogs allowed on lead for most of the trail. Look out for the crashing waves of Bells Beach as you traverse sand dunes and cliff tops. For a shorter walk, the trail is split into twelve distinct (and equally stunning) sections.
In Aireys Inlet you’ll find pretty Moggs Creek which is perfect for picnics and bushwalking, plus Ironbark Gorge Walk. This dog-friendly trail passes through eucalypt forests and heathland and is perfect for wildlife spotting.
Over in Lorne, hike the Queens Park Lookout Loop through dense bushland to Teddy’s Lookout for panoramic views of the Great Ocean Road, or make your way into the Otways and follow the Waterfall Trail. There are trails for all fitness levels showcasing the powerful Erskine, Sheoak and Cumberland Falls and you can pick up a free Lorne Walks & Waterfalls Map at the Torquay or Lorne Visitor Centres to guide you.
For nature combined with culture, visit the Koorie Cultural Trail at Point Addis. It shares how the local Indigenous Wathaurung people lived and is dog-friendly to boot. If you want to soak in a little bit of history, wander the Winchelsea Heritage Walk past grand old buildings, a steam train and gorgeous antique stores.