EXPLORE THE CHARM OF HISTORIC TOWNS ON THE PRINCES HIGHWAY

by GREAT OCEAN ROAD

What if we said you can see a scattering of extinct volcanoes, crater lakes and forests all within 100 kilometres of each other? Would you believe us? Well, you can!

We think this beautiful patch of the Great Ocean Road region between Colac and Terang makes for a great autumn road trip. The farmlands are green, the lakes are full, the forests are lush and the trees are bursting with vibrant autumn colors.

In the historic towns (on and off the highway) the coffee is freshly roasted, the antique shops full of treasures, and the menus based on local produce grown in the local fertile soil.

All you need to do is pack a bag, hit the Princes Highway from Melbourne and you'll be there within a couple of hours!

Here's our suggested  itinerary:

Stop #1 - Winchelsea

If you're heading to the region on the Princes Highway from Melbourne, Winchelsea will be your first stop as is considered the tippy top part of the Otways.

This gorgeous highway village still retains its historic aesthetic, and boasts a number of quirky little coffee shops and cafes. If you can, see if there are any tours of Barwon Park Mansion on the day you'll be in town. The National Trust building is made of blue stone and is the former home of the man who introduced the rabbit to our shores.  

Just 20 minutes off the highway at Deans Marsh is Dinny Goonan Wines.  They specialise in Shiraz and Riesling and also produce limited quantities of Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio and a sparkling wine - all which are exclusively available at the cellar door. On weekends they have cheese platters.

Stop #2 - Birregurra

Just 14 minutes down the highway is the small, but creative village of Birregurra.

The home to artists, producers and other creative folk, Birregurra is a lovely little place to visit, especially in autumn when the air is crisp. There's a park for the kids and some really cute shops with unique wares. 

It's also home to the highly acclaimed fine-dining restaurant Brae, headed by renowned chef, Dan Hunter. 

If you want to treat yourself to some luxury accommodation you don't have to go far, as Brae also has guest suites.

STOP #3 - Colac

Further along the highway is the major service centre of Colac. You can base yourself here to explore the Otways (ie Forrest), or continue west along the Volcanic Lakes and Plains landscape.

Colac has some great eateries and coffee shops, lots of shops and places where you can grab any supplies.  There are beautiful public gardens, including the Botanic Gardens right next to the amazing Lake Colac, where you can see lots of wildlife and birds.

Stop #4 - Forrest

Just 30 minutes into the Otways from Colac is the magical village of Forrest.

It's where mountain bike enthusiasts flock to in order to take on the labyrinth of forest tracks. If you didn't have room in the car for your own bike, you can hire one at Forrest Hire Bikes.

It's also the hub for some pretty amazing food. Check these out:

- Platypi Chocolates (amazing hot chocolate!)

- Forrest Brewing Company (superb handcrafted beer)

- Forrest General Store (great locally roasted coffee and fresh home made bread)

Stop #5 - Camperdown

Head back up to the Princes Highway and keep moving towards Camperdown. As you drive along, you'll see lots of hills. These are, in fact, extinct volcanoes!

Mount Leura is just five minutes from Camperdown and you can walk to the top for a magnificent view of the volcanoes, lakes and plains. The car park and lookout offer commanding views of Lake Corangamite and views across Lake Colongulac towards Mount Elephant. On a clear day you can even see the Grampians mountain range and the Otway ranges!

In autumn, make sure you pop into the old courthouse to arrange a guided tour of the clock tower.  The views from up high down the big, tree lined main avenue are stunning. 

For some more natural beauty, the Botanic Gardens are just out of the main town centre and overlook lake Bullen Merri. 

TIP: Just a few minutes from town is Lake Purrumbete. If you brought your rod on holiday with you, you're in for a treat (big trout, anyone?!).

Stop #6 - Terang

Terang 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. The 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.

Stop #7 - Cobden

Just 20 minutes from Terang (on the Cobden-Terang Road) is the little dairy town of Cobden. You would have seen lots of cows in the paddocks during your drive and that's because the region's dairy industry is one of the biggest milk producers for Australia!

There's a gorgeous lake in the town centre, with boardwalks and platforms. If you've managed not to eat all the locally made goodies on your road trip so far, this is the time to have a picnic.

And, there's a hidden treasure in Cobden - the Miniature Railway and Mini Golf Park! It's open on the third Sunday of every month, as well as all Sundays during school holidays.

From Cobden, you can head back home along the Princes Highway, or, if you have more time, move south into the 12 Apostles and Hinterland area and explore this equally amazing part of the Great Ocean Road region! 

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GREAT OCEAN ROAD

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A blog contributed by a weekend adventurer, casual walker, coffee lover and market enthusiast. Enjoying days along the Great Ocean Road.

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