The Colac Otway Shire is one of the most picturesque municipalities in Victoria, covering a diverse area from volcanic lakes, craters and plains in the north, through the hinterland forests of the Otway Ranges to the Great Ocean Road coastline.
Small towns within the shire provide a lifestyle choice for those looking for a quieter life with either a sea change or tree change.
Apollo Bay and Marengo has a population of 1,420* which swells to approx. 15,000 over the peak holiday season (*ABS census 2011).
Skenes Creek is on the Great Ocean Road, 6 km north of Apollo Bay.
The bay was named by Captain Loutit in 1845 when he sheltered his vessel, the Apollo, here from a storm.
With the upgrade of the road to the town in 1927 and the completion of the Great Ocean Road in 1932, the town became a tourist destination and an important fishing port.
In winter to spring, southern right whales come to the area mainly to breed, to give birth to their calves, and to raise them in the warmer, calm waters of South Australia during their migration season.
Apollo Bay Links
Great Ocean Road /Apollo Bay
Visit Victoria/Apollo Bay
Travel Victoria/Apollo Bay
Barwon Downs is located in the foothills of the Otway Ranges approximately 30 kilometres from Colac. The name is descriptive of the area, the downs referring to the hilly landscape. ‘Barwon’ was derived from an Aboriginal word thought to describe the magpie.
The main industries in the area are agriculture, forestry and tourism.
Barwon Downs’ and surrounds has a population of 362 (ABS census 2011).
Barwon Downs Links
Barwon Downs Township Master Plan
Located 19 kilometres north of Colac, Beeac is a picturesque town situated between the volcanic plains and pasturelands of grazing cattle and sheep.
The diversity of the town is evident in the main street with shops, some dating from the 1860s, lining one side of the street and farming land and residences on the other. The strong sense of community has seen the town retain many of the original shop fronts and enhance the streetscape.
Beeac is situated beside a hyper-saline lake, Lake Beeac, which shimmers a milky white colour in the sun. Many waterbirds such as the banded stilts travel from Siberia, China and Russia to feed on the briny shrimp. Lake Beeac forms part of the Ramsar Lakes, which have international protection for migratory waterbirds. The lake is clearly visible from Red Rock, a young dormant volcano, which is in the near vicinity.
Beeac Township Plan
Beech Forest is nestled high on the ridge with spectacular views over the Otways and the surrounding fertile farming land.
Beech Forest was the heart of the timber industry which used the Beechy Rail line to transport the logs to the mills. An information bay in the town has many photographs depicting the timber industry and the pioneers of the Otways. A free indoor barbecue area is located at the Information bay.
Waterfalls in the area are Beauchamp Falls, Triplet Falls and Hopetoun Falls. Hopetoun Falls has a viewing platform just metres from the car park with clear views of the falls. A must see and do is a visit to the Otway Fly.
For those interested in the area's agricultural history, there is a display of old farming machinery, including the remains of a horse works, and a very rare tow-way cable plough, which was powered by a stationary steam engine driving an endless steel cable.
The landmark wood sculpture was a community project funded by Colac Otway Shire, which depicts the historical life at Beech Forest - a potato farmer, a pioneer woman with baby, an indigenous man in a possum coat and a woodcutter and smaller carvings of local wildlife and flora.
The Old Beechy Line Rail Trail passes through Beech Forest. This is a 50 km walking and cycling trail following the original railway line through the Otways to Colac.
Beech Forest links
Beech Forest Township Master Plan
Old Beechy Line Rail Trail
Visit Great Ocean Road/Beech Forest
Birregurra is situated on the banks of the Barwon River and is only 30 minutes drive from Lorne and 15 minutes from Colac. The small district township has a residential population of 741 persons (ABS census 2011).
Birregurra takes the visitor back in time to a slower pace of life. There is something for everyone in Birregurra, providing a range of gourmet dining options and plenty of boutique accommodation. The avid shopper will not be disappointed and is well catered for with a variety of clothing and gift shops to browse through at your leisure.
A wide tree-lined main street compliments the heritage facades of the shops
Those who prefer the fresh air can take a leisurely stroll on the heritage trail taking you past the historic churches and buildings or play a round of golf at the golf course while admiring the view over the Barwon River.
Birregurra Infrastructure Plan
Great Ocean Road/Birregurra
Carlisle River is situated amidst farming and grazing pastureland bordering the Great Otway National Park.
This ideal countryside attracts bush walking groups to the area.
The township community group has been active in enhancing the town and upgrading the recreation facilities and river reserve.
Carlisle River link
Carlisle River Township Master Plan
Cressy is a country town about 38 km north of Colac on the Colac Ballarat Road.
In 1837, a Frenchman named Jean Duverney crossed the Woady Yaloak River, claimed land on both banks, and named the area "Frenchman's Run". Duverney called the small, developing village Cressy, after Crécy in France where he was born.
Cressy Discovery Trail details the history of the town. The Discovery Trail information board is located next to the public restrooms, which back onto a picnic spot with a children's playground.
Cressy and the surrounding area have a population of 433 (ABS Census 2011)
Cressy Township Master Plan
Forrest is situated in the Otway Ranges, 27 km south east of Colac. Forrest is a small community with 238 residents (ABS census 2011).
Originally called Yaugher, the name was changed to Forrest when the township was established. The Post Office opened as Yaugher on 27 July 1891 and was renamed Forrest a few weeks later on 15 October 1891.
The West Barwon River flows through the township and it is near the West Barwon reservoir, which services Geelong.
Historically, a timber town which had 4 sawmills in Forrest and nearby Yaugher. All of these mills are now closed.
After the cessation of logging in the Otways, the Victorian Government made funds available for the creation of dedicated Mountain bike trails in the Yaugher area, in order to replace the logging industry.
Mountain biking was seen as an addition to the already plentiful eco-tourism industry. Mountain biking now makes up a large portion of the economy in Forrest. The area now has over 60 km of sign posted "single track". Further details can be found at the official website Ride Forrest.
Great Ocean Road/Forrest
Forrest Infrastructure Plan
In 2016, Forrest was home to the following annual Mountain Bike Events
Forrest Festival 2 day multi stage event
Otway Odyssey 100k event
Forrest 6 Hour 6 Hour event by teams and individuals
Chase the Dog 88km event
otway300 300km and 600km over 2 days
Gellibrand River, Kawarren and surrounding area has a population of 383 (ABS census 2011)
Gellibrand River township is positioned close to the Gellibrand River, with tourist attractions including fishing, access to the Old Beechy Rail Trail for cycling, walking, and horse-riding, and proximity to many of the Otway Ranges' walks and waterfalls.
The Gellibrand Blues and Blueberry Festival is an annual event. The Festival includes a market in the Rex Norman Reserve providing arts, crafts, food and local entertainment. The Music Festival which takes place at the Otways Tourist Park features some of the top Australian Blues talent.
Gellibrand Township Master Plan
Lavers Hill was named after two settlers from Gippsland called Stephen and Frank Laver. Old families from as far back as the 1880s still reside near Lavers Hill. The first saw mill and a Church were opened in 1900.
Development of Lavers Hill happened quickly. The township depended on logging and agriculture for its income and in more recent years it is also depended on tourism.
Lavers Hill is located on the Great Ocean Road, 56 km south of Colac (almost 1 hour), 48 km west of Apollo Bay (less than an hour) and 48 km east of Port Campbell. It is approximately half an hour to the Otway Fly and half an hour to the twelve apostles. It is the meeting point of the roads to Colac, Cobden, Apollo Bay and Port Campbell. Lavers Hill is a central point to access some of the Otways beaches, rainforests and waterfalls.
Lavers Hill caters well for tourists and has a general store, information Shoppe and cafés, Hotel and bistro, accommodation, school and public hall facilities.
Population of Lavers Hill and surrounding areas including Beech Forrest, Yuulong, Ferguson, Weeproinah and Chapple Vale is 479 (ABS census 2011)
Lavers Hill links
Lavers Hill Township Master Plan
Great Ocean Road/Lavers Hill
Travel Victoria/Lavers Hill
Red Rock, Victoria’s youngest volcano (approx. 8000 years old) is still being monitored for any activity by Melbourne University. Red Rock is located 16 km north of Colac.
The Red Rock region includes the townships of Cororooke, Coragulac, Alvie and Warrion.
These towns provide local residents and visitors with a general store, café, gallery and theatre, schools, churches, lookout, Lake Corangamite
Cororooke ~ Cororooke has a population of 236 (ABS census 2011)
Coragulac ~ Coragulac population of 223 (ABS census 2011)
Alvie ~ Alvie and the surrounding Dreeite area population of 276 (ABS census 2011)
Warrion ~ Warrion has a population of 307 (ABS census 2011)
Red Rock Region links
Red Rock Region Community Infrastructure Plan
Coragulac & Cororooke
Coragulac & Cororooke Website
The three coastal hamlets of Wye River, Kennett River and Separation Creek are located along the Great Ocean Road half way between Lorne and Apollo Bay.
Each hamlet offers pristine beaches, a river and backs onto the Otway National Park.
At the ABS 2011 census, Wye River had a population of 236, although it’s holiday population is ten times that number.
Wye River, Kennett River & Separation Creek Links
Great Ocean Road/Wye River
Great Ocean Road/Kennett River