With about 20,000 vehicles using the Great Ocean Road (GOR) daily, you’d be hard-pressed to find a secret spot along this most famous of Aussie roads, right? Try again – here are the experts’ favourite secrets, numbers 28, 29, 30, 31 on Australian Traveller’s ‘100 amazing places you haven’t been to yet‘. Nominated by: Steve Madgwick, AT digital editor; Patrick Higgins, AT travel journalist; Craig Tansley, travel journalist; Dan Hunter, chef and owner of Brae restaurant; David Hobson, tenor and composer; Sam McDonagh, Airbnb country manager.
28. Wye River
Wye River “is a beautiful little town off the beaten track,” says Sam McDonagh. “It’s away from the waves of tourists of Lorne, but still close to the action if you feel like it.” But what makes it so great? “Well, it’s absolutely gorgeous,” says Patrick Higgins. “Rather than being an overrun tourist trap, it doesn’t really have any infrastructure,” says Dan Hunter.
“There’s a pub, a general store and a beach. And it’s literally right in the middle of Lorne and Apollo Bay.” Make sure you have a Prickly Moses beer at the pub, says Higgins, and enjoy the scene before you: “It has one of the best pub views in Australia.”
29. Aireys Inlet
Aireys Inlet is a little nook in between Anglesea and Lorne,” says David Hobson, “and it’s my little spot.” Unlike other main towns on the GOR, you can’t see the beach from the road, he says, “so not so many people stop here.” Little do they know. “There are beaches tucked away beneath that have spectacular sandstone cliffs and are never crowded,” he says. “It has a fantastic cliff-top run, which is the ultimate in fresh air. And it’s got some good shops, too.
There is a very cool little café called Truffles (03 5289 7402), where fresh fish gets delivered, and they do a great beef rendang with local beef from the Otway Ranges. There is a general store, a petrol station and another great restaurant I like to go to for Greek-Australian fare called A la Grecque.” And you can’t skip out on the pub, he adds. “It was about to be sold, but rescued by locals who got together and bought it. It’s got sweeping views stretching out to Lorne from the beer garden. It’s brilliant.”Great Ocean Road
Few know the GOR has a hinterland that is just as spectacular as the coast. “Some of the country’s cutest getaways can be found in the tiny town of Forrest,” says Craig Tansley. Originally the centre for the area’s timber industry, Forrest faced a dire future when its last sawmill closed in the 1990s. These days, the area is filled with B&Bs and lodges, mountain biking and hiking trails, and activities on nearby Lake Elizabeth, including kayaking, platypus spotting and glow-worm spotting at night.
Tansley suggests renting one of the farmhouses in the area, “I stayed at the cute Straw Bale Cottage, which has a log fireplace and is made of recycled materials” (from $130 a night), then hiring a bike and cycling the many pretty trails in the area. “The Brewery is also very cool – you must eat here,” he says. Dan Hunter agrees: “check out Bespoke Harvest guesthouse. We go there a lot because it’s peaceful, the food’s great and no one bothers yo!
31. Kennett River
Kennett River could be any of the little towns along the GOR, says Hunter – and that’s what makes it so perfect. “The area is very pretty, there’s a little caravan park at the back, you’ve got a little point break that’s great for kids, and the beach itself is lovely.”
If you’re interested in foraging for produce in the same place Hunter does, simply head along the beach toward Apollo Bay. “You’ll come to these little caves that have hanging gardens of warrigal greens, samphire and succulents – all completely edible,” he says. “We use them for cooking in the restaurant.”
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