A Local's Guide to Wye River on Australia's Great Ocean Road
January 1, 1970
by Josephine Turner
I write this sitting at a teak dining room table looking out through gum trees to the sapphire blue ocean.
It’s a perfect day – the sun moves as a light breeze rustles the leaves of the towering gum trees that surround me at the aptly named holiday home “The Retreat” in Wye River. Looking out over the valley, you wouldn’t know this area was devastated by bushfires just a couple of years ago.
The recovery from the fires took over a year, but now the dense bush is re-growing, the native Aussie animals like koalas and cockatoos return, the houses are being re-built and the people are starting to come back, Wye is a new and improved version of its former self.
All I can see is dense green bushland over the rolling hills all the way down to the curved beach. The smell of eucalyptus and incense fills the house I’m staying in. I have gipsy beads covering the door that glisten in the sunlight. The only noise is the occasional kookaburra and the distant roar of the waves.
This is paradise on earth.
Wye River is a small town in the Cape Otway Shire, in Victoria, Australia. The vibe is different from other coastal towns along this famous stretch of road. It’s as though someone took an affluent inner-city Melbourne suburb, threw away the yuppie shops (but left a gastro craft beer pub and insta-worthy cafe) chucked a few coastal locals in for good measure, and nestled it neatly into the Wye beach.
This is the place to go to relax if you need amazing coffee and good surfing. Don’t get me wrong, the pub also sells Carlton Draught and there are 2 caravan parks for those who like a good-old-fashioned beach holiday — but if you’re looking for a hippie commune this isn’t your place. If you’re looking for a home away from home; a place to recharge and breathe some salty air: this will suit you just fine.
Nestled in an inlet about 20 minutes from Lorne on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, Wye River is somewhat of an undiscovered gem. With a tiny population, this sanctuary relies heavily on tourism in the summer months. It’ll take you about 4 hours to get here from Melbourne, but it’s well worth the drive.
Stop off at one of Geelong’s laneway cafe’s before heading down to Torquay to begin your picturesque journey along the Great Ocean Road. Taking you on a winding tour through some of Victoria’s quaintest coastal towns, the Great Ocean Road is a constant stream of photo opportunities.
What To Do
The Wye River Beach
Obviously. The protected beach is stunning. The river from the hills comes down to meet the ocean providing a perfect beach for everyone.
With shallows for kids, one of the best swells for surfing along this coastline, a fully operational Surf Life Saving Club for those who like to swim between the flags, and snorkelling and rock pools – it’s easy to spend an entire holiday just relaxing on this secluded beach.
Drive the Great Ocean Road
There’s so much to see on the Great Ocean Road. From Wye, you can easily drive down to the 12 Apostles, where you can take a helicopter ride over the dramatic coastline. If the bush is more your thing, wind your way into the Otway National Park for incredible forests and waterfalls. Or head to Lorne or Apollo Bay for quirky shops, some amazing restaurants, fantastic seaside markets and music festivals. Wye is the perfect base to explore this amazing area.
Walk the Otway National Park
There are trails all around Wye River, and if you’re willing to drive just a short distance there are some amazing waterfalls to be found along the Great Ocean Road. Take a stroll along some of the walking tracks and spot a Koala or a Wallaby in their natural habitat.
The Wye Shop and Pub
The Wye General Store and the Wye Beach Hotel are the only commercial ‘shops’ in town. Head to the store for better coffee than you’ll find anywhere in Melbourne, or to the local pub for a pint and some great food; not to mention live music from local bands every week.
Wye River is quiet, secluded, and beautiful. Take a book or a killer playlist and plan to do nothing. The fresh country air and lazy lifestyle hit a ‘reset’ button every time I venture down here.
Where To Stay
Aside from the two caravan parks in Wye River (the Big4 offering very reasonably priced accommodation for those on a budget) the majority of houses in Wye River are holiday homes available for rental. Because of the terrain, most houses have views of either the ocean or the valley. There are so many to choose from – from beach shacks to luxury architectural mansions. Check out Airbnb or Holidays Great Ocean Road to find your dream home away from home.
Tips From A Wye River Local
I lived in Wye for just over 2 years before I had to move back to reality. When I left and moved to the city I still drove 8 hours every weekend back to my paradise because I missed it so much: so be careful; it’ll probably suck you in too.
I have 3 main pieces of advice for anyone travelling down there:
1: The Great Ocean Road has a million different spots for incredible photos, but pull off the road to take them. Trust me. Not only will your photos be blur-free, but you won’t get a bank of aggressive drivers honking behind you.
2. Take food. As awesome as the pub and General Store are, nothing beats a home-grown BBQ and stubbies. Or a good blanc de blanc; whatever takes your fancy.
3. Beaches aren’t only for summer. Wye provides the perfect beach getaway in the hotter months – but there’s something equally as magical about a roaring open fire and a windy beach to reset your batteries.