Colac Visitor Information Centre is turning 30

Published on 10 March 2017

Colac VIC Queens and Murray Sts Corner

The Colac Visitor Information Centre is turning 30 and the community will have an opportunity to help blow out the birthday candles.

An open week from March 19 to March 26 will provide locals an opportunity to discover what’s on offer at the Colac VIC and perhaps plan their next holiday in their own backyard.

During the open week, visitors to the VIC from locally and further afield will enjoy free samples of local produce from the Otway Harvest Trail, 10 per cent off retail sales and more.

The Colac VIC officially opened on March 21, 1987.

Council provided the land for this building and more than 50 local businesses contributed labour and materials. The Colac Apex Club was at the centre of the project and provided a huge amount of coordination, goodwill and manpower as part of their 50th year celebrations.

The architecture of the wood cabin-style is a nod to the spirit of the Otways with its central blackwood pole, which was donated by the local sawmillers’ association and weighs a whopping 2.5 tonnes.

Prior to that, the visitor information centre operated out of a caravan and was attended by volunteers.

Mayor Chris Potter said the Colac VIC’s 30th birthday was a great opportunity to get reacquainted with a great community asset.

“Because we live in this beautiful place it’s easy to take for granted the attractions we have in our own backyard,” he said.

“Seven days a week, 364 days a year we have staff and volunteers at the centre ready to help people discover what’s great about our region, so I encourage people to call in.

“I think people would be surprised at the range of things that can be purchased from the retail section too, including an impressive range of locally produced arts, pottery, timber and artisan produce such as shitake mushrooms, black garlic salt and jams.”

When the centre first opened, it averaged 20-30 visitors per day.

In its 30 years of operation, the Colac VIC has welcomed more than a million people through its doors.

In recent years, there has been a monumental increase in tourists using online mediums for research.

Last July, Council and Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism launched new websites for our region. In eight months the Visit Otways and Visit Apollo Bay websites have received 21,600 and 34,484 unique visits respectively.

Colac Visitor Information Centre Coordinator Deb Frizon said Council’s Visitor Information Centre staff and volunteers in Apollo Bay and Colac dedicated a lot of time to keeping the Visit Otways and Visit Apollo Bay websites up to date with the latest tourist news and attractions.

“Social media and websites have changed the way we do business. People are researching their holidays online so we’re constantly feeding through information to keep our websites up to date. Our accommodation referral service remains popular.

“Most of the people who call in are doing the Great Ocean Road loop, taking in the Twelve Apostles, the Otway Fly, Apollo Bay and Lorne.

“The Colac Botanic Gardens are always popular with visitors, as is the Red Rock Volcanic Loop. Fourteen years ago we didn’t have mountain bike trails, but now they’re hugely popular for leisure and events.

“We’re also noticing an increased interest in locally produced food, wine and produce and there are lots of people doing the Otway Harvest Trail.”

Today, the Colac VIC is staffed by a full time coordinator, four part-time tourism assistants and 23 enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers.

Among those volunteers are Stuart Currie and Len Porter, who have racked up 26 and 38 years of volunteering respectively, with Len having originally served behind the counter of the visitor caravan.

Cr Potter said the VIC’s 30th birthday was an opportunity to acknowledge the enormous amount of community goodwill that was associated with the centre.

“From the original building of the centre to its ongoing operations, our community has been at the forefront of making our VIC the success it is today,” he said.