The Otways – a region of missed opportunities

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Despite oppressive heat, I am loving Victoria. It is an easy State to drive around and for a first-timer other than Melbourne, there is so much to see. For the last couple of days we’ve been doing the Great Ocean Road and the Otway Ranges. We’ve seen some wonderful things, but I’ve also left plenty on the table making a return trip mandatory. Part of the lost opportunity was merely a function of time and children. Part was also poor planning and ignorance.

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My two faux pas were not to phone ahead and to not even be aware of a venue that looked really cool. I’ve been a fan of Prickly Moses and knowing I was in the Otways, I was always going to pay a visit. After dropping the girls at Les Mis in Lorne, I set off for the Otway Estate in Barongarook, where the brewery is located. This is a 60km drive through forests and fields and dirt roads and by-ways. Not too tough, but bloody disappointing when you’ve navigated through back-roads that only locals use and the sign declares – CLOSED. D’oh, d’oh, d’oh.

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I consoled myself, marginally, by visiting the Gellibrand River Hotel. This pub is a little like the Tardis. The front bar is minute, but the dining room is expansive and must have a reputation with a $33 surf and turf on the menu. Photos of when Gellibrand had a large population (maybe the 30s) adorn the walls and it was clear this place had some grandeur.

After doing the Otway Fly, I stopped at the Beech Forest Hotel. This is as simple as it gets. One beer on tap (VB) and a simple, single large room. Interestingly it’s for sale. Very remote. Beech Forest’s claim to fame is the Cliff Young, the inaugural winner of the Sydney to Melbourne running race came from here.

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The frustrating thing for me was after finding some of the more obscure back roads and hamlets of the Otways, the one place I didn’t visit was Forrest, which it turns out has a microbrewery. D’oh. The way my luck was running, it would have been shut, if I had passed through. Self described as equal parts microbrewery, eating place and mountain-biking hang out – the Forrest Brewing Company looks really intriguing, and a must-visit next time.

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As I reflected that evening over a couple of very sessionable Bellarine Heads Ales, I thought about all the things I would have to do the next time I visit this wonderful part of the world. Do the Gibson Steps next to the 12 Apostles, see Johanna Beach at Sunset, go to Cape Otway and of course call into Prickly Moses and Forrest Brewing Company. Hopefully it won’t be 40 degrees the next time.