The southern tip of the Otways on the Great Ocean Road
Cape Otway is where the Surf Coast meets the Shipwreck Coast and the most southern part of the Great Otway National Park on the mighty Great Ocean Road.
The area showcases some of the most rugged part of the coast in the state, where the forest runs right to the ocean with a coastline that’s made up of large sandstone cliffs, remote beaches and rocky headlands.
Explore the area on one of many hiking trails or dirt tracks that weave around the native Eucalyptus forest that’s teaming with Koalas and other iconic Australian wildlife. If you’re lucky and in the area during winter, you might even see some Whales swimming past as they’re migrating.
Cape Otway Lighthouse
Right down the end of Lighthouse Road (the main Cape Otway road that turns off the Great Ocean Road) is the Cape Otway Lighthouse, which is the oldest running lighthouse in Victoria.
You can get a free view of the lighthouse from either walking a few hundred metres to the east or west along the Great Ocean Walk from the lighthouse carpark, but it’ll be from a distance and you won’t see a lot. Otherwise, for around $25 per person, you can get past the gates and up-close.
We have heard of people spending the night at the lighthouse in some budget accommodation that they’ve got, but we’re now under the assumption that this is a thing of the past. There’s plenty of other campgrounds and BNB’s with-in minutes, although if you’re set on staying in the most historical lighthouse in the state, try giving them a call. If you come across any further information as to whether it is or isn’t still an option to spend the night there, be sure to get in touch with us so that we can update this content.
Cape Otway has one of the largest Koala populations out of anywhere in the Great Otway National Park.
Just as your turn off the Great Ocean Road onto Lighthouse Road, there’s a gravel parking area on your right. You can stop there and take a short walk below the Eucalyptus trees and hopefully you’ll be able to spot a Koala or two – just be sure to stay off the road.
Stopping the car just as you leave the Great Ocean Road isn’t the nicest possible area for having a walk around, so you could keep driving for another 5-10 minutes and try your luck somewhere else. If there’s no other cars behind you, drive slowly and have your passengers look for a little grey ball in the trees, they could be sleeping Koalas.
On a busy day, you’ll come across plenty of cars parked on the side of the road with people pointing their fingers and cameras up at a tree, this is usually the best sign and easiest way of knowing that a Koala is there.
Getting to Cape Otway from the Great Ocean Road
The turn off to Cape Otway is on the Great Ocean Road, between Apollo Bay and Lavers Hill. There’s a huge sign that’s hard to miss.
If you’re coming from east, Melbourne/Torquay, then drive through Apollo Bay and once you go past Maites Rest Rainforest Walk, the turn off is about another 5-10 minutes down the road.
Coming from the 12 Apostles, once you pass Lavers Hills, the turn off to Cape Otway is about another 30 minutes, on your right.
After turning off the Great Ocean Road onto Lighthouse Road, slowly follow it as far as the road will take you and you’ll arrive at the Cape Otway Lighthouse. Be sure to keep a close eye out for Koalas!
Camping at Cape Otway
Cape Otway is home to some of the best wild campsites in the state, so make sure that you bring your tent along and stay a while.
On the eastern side of Cape Otway, about a 10-15 minute drive from the lighthouse is Blanket Bay Campground and it’s a beauty. The campground is just behind a stunning shell covered sandy beach that’s protected from the big swell and usually a pretty safe swimming spot. Each individual campsite is surrounded by bush, making it feel private.
Between Blanket Bay Campground and the lighthouse is Parker Hill Campground, just above Parker Inlet. This is another great spot for camping and close to a stunning small beach, although it requires a 5 minute walk down a hill to get to it. The beach at Parker Inlet isn’t safe for swimming, due to the currents from the Parker River pushing out to the Southern Ocean, but the view will leave you breathless and still suited for experienced surfers.
You can book and check availability for both Blanket Bay Campground and Parker Hill Campground on the Parks Vic website.
We’ve heard of people camping at the Cape Otway Lighthouse in the past, but had a hard time trying to get in contact with them when we were looking at staying there. We assume that you can longer stay in the budget accommodation there or set up a tent, but if that’s what you’re after, then try giving them a call directly.
Half way between the Great Ocean Road and the Cape Otway Lighthouse are a few BNB’s that can be found online. They’re not near the ocean, but you’ll be surrounded by stunning bush land that’s called home by a large population of Koalas.
A little further out of Cape Otway, but still close, is a stunning free campground in the rainforest, Aire Crossing Campground. There’s really only enough room for about 3 groups of people and as it can’t be booked or reserved, it’s best to get there and set up your camp early, then head out exploring.
If you’re just calling into Cape Otway for a day visit and want to camp further to the west along the Great Ocean Road, then try Aire River West Campground if fishing is your thing, otherwise Johanna Beach Campground is pristine and just behind a 3-4km long surf beach. A bit further along, near the 12 Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge in the Port Campbell National Park, you’ll find Princetown with two main camping parks, the Apostles Camping Park and the Princetown Recreation Reserve, they’re both near each other and the closest place that you can go camping to the Apostles.
Hiking at Cape Otway
In the second half of 2020 when the COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions lifted, we went down to the Cape Otway Lighthouse and hiked from there to the west along the Great Ocean Walk all the way to Blanket Bay, then looped back around to the lighthouse car park.
Take a look at the video of us hiking around Cape Otway here: