Flora & fauna of the Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road flora and fauna

Whichever part of the Great Ocean Road region you’re visiting, you’re sure to encounter an array of animal and plant life – you just need to know where to look.
If kangaroos are top of your must-see list, the open grasslands found along the coastal region are the best place to spot them. Head out at nightfall when they are at their most active and, if you’re really lucky, you may even see the young males fighting or the females tending their young.

Alternatively head to Anglesea Golf Club where a mob of eastern grey kangaroos has made their home, or Tower Hill State Reserve where they live in the wild in large enough numbers that a sighting is more than likely. Cape Otway Lightstation is also a good bet.

Finding koalas is more of a challenge but no trip to Australia would be complete without an encounter with one.

A short walk through the volcanic crater of the Tower Hill State Reserve is likely to yield at least one sighting but a better bet is the Kennett River Koala Walk, an easy stroll which provides almost-certain sightings as you wind your way through the gum forest inland between Lorne and Apollo Bay. Bring a pair of binoculars and look high up in the trees for the best chance of sighting them and be aware that they often nestle in forks in the branches.

Safe in the trees koalas aren’t bothered by an audience and will often sit still for hours on end, gradually gathering a larger and larger crowd! Take time to sit and observe them and in the spring you may even see mothers with their babies.

Koala, swans and snake, Victoria. Photos from Victoria Tourist Board
Bird watching
For bird watching, the best place to head is the wetland area along the coast where a diverse range of birds can be seen nesting in the thick reeds and rushes.

Look out for the bulky, dark blue, purple and black purple swamp hen which flicks its tail up and down as it walks, the vibrantly coloured wood duck with its distinctive iridescent plumage and the beautiful black swan which has a bright red bill and a musical, far-reaching, bugle-like call.

Reptiles & amphibians
The wetlands are also home to a range of frogs including the pobblebonk, the Victorian smooth froglet and the little brown tree frog, all of which can be heard calling at dusk. The tiger snake, which can be all black or black with vivid yellow stripes, also makes its home here and moves slower than any other snake in this area, making it the easiest species to see. If you do come across one, don’t panic – it’s likely to raise its head in alarm but will slink off into the undergrowth if you stand still.

One of the oddest creatures found in the Great Ocean Walk area can be seen in the sandy coastal heathlands. Spiny, long-nosed monotreme, the echidna, digs for ants on the Anglesea heath, and here you can also see a dazzling wildflower display as the blue-cream of the smoke bush, the yellow and red of the bush peas and the red, pink and white of the common heath burst into life all at once in the spring. This is also one of Australia’s most orchid-rich sites, home to 79 different species.

Echidna and aerial view over the Otways, Victoria. Photos from Victoria Tourist Board
The Otway Ranges
This whole region is like one giant wildlife park but perhaps the most interesting area for wildlife spotters is The Otways, an area home to some truly unique species.

Near Cape Otway you’ll find large areas of eucalyptus trees, a favourite of koalas, while deeper into the rainforest you’ll see the large, scaly trunks of the myrtle beech and numerous tall, straight Australian blackwoods. The dense canopy drips with pure water here and little sunlight can break through.

The resulting cool, damp mossy earth is the ideal environment for the Otway black snail, a shiny, black carnivorous gastropod which feeds on worms and other snails and is only found in the rainforests of the Otway Ranges.

The platypus
The creeks that run through the rainforest gullies here are home to another indigenous, rare animal. The platypus is one of only five species of monotremes (mammals that lay eggs) remaining on the planet and is a painfully shy creature which consequently is extremely tricky to spot – give yourself the very best chance by joining a Paddle with the Platypus canoe tour on Lake Elizabeth deep in the heart of the Otways.

Find out more about nature & wildlife around the Great Ocean Road
Responsible Travel would like to thank Tourism Victoria for their sponsorship of this guide
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