WHERE WE FOUND 72 HOURS OF FREE FAMILY FUN

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For our family, the spring school holidays signal a budget mini-break along the Great Ocean Road.

September hits and our whole crew (young and old) is itching to escape the city and get walking, riding and playing in the great outdoors.

It’s a family tradition ­– squeezing three days out of our schedule and pulling together a wish list of activities to keep everyone happy without blowing the budget. Who doesn’t love free stuff? With so many free holiday activities on offer, we’re spoiled for choice every single year.

We never get through it all, but this spring our wish list for 72 hours of free family fun looks like this:

Day 1 - Torquay to Lorne

We started our time outdoors with a play session at Torquay Play Park, where there's lots of different play equipment and space to run, climb and cartwheel -plus top-notch coffee and ice cream nearby. Yum!

We then walked a 1.6km section of the Surf Coast Walk along the Anglesea River in Anglesea, pondering public art and watching paddle boats along the way.

The road trip took us into the Otways, where we stopped at Beech Forest to unload our bikes and tackle a few kilometres of the Old Beechy Trail.

At dusk. we walked around the Lake Elizabeth Loop Walk looking for a platypus.

Dinner and accommodation

We grabbed take-away and chilled out in a holiday home within a stone’s throw of the Lorne foreshore. Great Ocean Road Real Estate Holidays always have plenty of places to fit our family and budget.

DAY TWO - Lorne to Apollo Bay

We started with an early breakfast at a Lorne café (there are plenty along the strip), then hit the road for an eye-popping drive to Apollo Bay.

We stopped to tackle a 2km stretch of the Great Ocean Walk called the 'Shelly Beach Circuit Walk', which ribbons through coastal scrub, fern gullies, along the beach and rocky platforms to Elliott River and back again. We took our sweet time, keeping our eyes peeled for koalas and yellow-bellied gliders in the towering trees.

Once we were at Apollo Bay, we poked around the harbour; watching cray boats and fishermen, marvelling at waves crashing on the breakwater, wandering the beach and paddling the shallows.

Dinner and accommodation

Just before dusk, we rugged up, rolled out the picnic blanket on the sand and tucked into the freshest-ever feast of fish and chips. Back at the Apollo Bay beach house, which we booked through Holiday Great Ocean Road, we spent the night giggling and playing board games.

DAY THREE -  Apollo Bay to Colac

We were up early to see the 12 Apostles (my favorite time of day to ogle these beauties). 

Then we followed the coastline around to Warrnambool and spent time at the amazing Lake Pertobe Adventure Playground in time to ride the giant slides and get lost in the maze before deciding which rail trail to cycle.

There are some impressive trails, including the Port Fairy – Warrnambool Rail Trail (37kms) and the Camperdown to Timboon Trail (34kms), which winds through farmland, forest and grassland.

On the scenic hinterland drive home, we have just enough energy left to call into the picture-perfect Colac Botanic Gardens Playspace for one last spring-inspired freebie frolic before heading back to the city.

And, that perfectly ended our 72 hours of free family fun in the Great Ocean Road region!

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