Nature and wildlife
around the Great Ocean Road

The distinct landscapes of this unique and endlessly varied area are home to a plethora of wildlife, much of it rare, endangered or unique. From the wet temperate rainforest to the dry eucalyptus forest, and from the coastal heaths to the inland grasslands, this region is home to a truly extraordinary range of species, many of which are not found anywhere else on the planet.
The winding roads and walking paths that crisscross this region will lead you to some of the world’s most intriguing animal and plant life, but only if you keep your eyes, ears and mind wide open. Take some time out to explore the environment here and it will reward you with wildlife encounters quite unlike any you’ve had before, but bear in mind that Australian native species spent thousands of years in isolation and are consequently extremely shy. Take care not to disturb or scare them. Move slowly and quietly or don’t move at all, stopping instead to open your ears to your surroundings and let the wildlife come to you.

Flora & fauna
The flora and fauna of the Great Ocean Walk region is mind-blowingly diverse. In the heathlands look out for echidnas digging for ants and the springtime wildflower displays.

Where the grasslands and the bush meet, watch for troops of eastern grey kangaroos and red-shouldered wallabies grazing in their family groups as the sun goes down. And in the wetlands near the coast keep your eyes peeled for waders and water birds nesting in the thick reeds and rushes.

Numerous species including the black swan, purple swamp hen and mountain duck are found here and this is also the habitat of the tiger snake, a slow-moving snake which is consequently easy to spot.

The Otways are a particularly fruitful area when it comes to wildlife spotting. Once an island range, this area was cut off from mainland Australia for millennia, and is consequently a habitat for numerous endemic plants and animals which are found nowhere else. The rich soils and high rainfall here have combined to produce some of the most impressive forest in Australia, including extensive areas of mountain ash and numerous leafy fern gullies. In the grassy eucalypt woodlands koalas are seen in the trees and crimson rosellas sit like Christmas decorations in the branches.

Deeper in the forest black wallabies can be seen and the eerie call of the yellow-tailed black cockatoo heard, and as the eucalypts give way to myrtle beech and blackwoods the atmosphere is cooler and damper, ideal for the endemic (and carnivorous) Otway Black Snail.

Find out more about the Great Ocean Walk area’s flora and fauna

Fairy penguins and crimson rosella, Victoria. Photos by Victoria Tourist Board
Marine life
Life in the waters of the Southern Ocean is just as varied as that on land. Along the coast, Australian fur seals sun themselves, while the beaches are home to plenty of shore birds including the white-bellied sea eagle, oyster catchers and both black and white hooded plovers. Just after sunset, sit silently on the beach and you may even catch a glimpse of a fairy penguin making its way up the beach from the waves to its burrow.

In the ocean itself, the star of the show is the Southern right whale, which can be seen here from May to October as the pod gives birth to and tends its young, but common and bottlenose dolphins are also often seen and the offshore islands are havens for birds such as shearwaters, Australian gannets and orange-bellied parrots as well as the ever-popular penguin.

More Victoria Read our nature watching tips and about the Great Ocean Walk area’s marine life.

More Victoria Find out more about Great Ocean Road wildlife & Aboriginal heritage .

Responsible Travel would like to thank Tourism Victoria for their sponsorship of this guide
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Photo credits: [Page banner: Melody Ayres-Griffiths]
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