Less than 2 hours drive from Melbourne, the town is built alongside the majestic Lake Colac and Botanic Gardens. Lake Colac is the largest natural freshwater lake in Victoria. Teaming with bird life and surrounded by walking and bike paths, viewing platforms – even a beach. Colac has a rich farming and forestry history and is the perfect central location to explore the Otways and the Volcanic Plains.

Kolijon (or Coladjin) people lived in the Colac Shire region prior to European settlement. The name ‘Colac’ is thought either to derive from this tribal name or from the Kolijon word ‘kolak’, meaning sand or fresh water of lake. ( Source: Museums Victoria)

The Colac Botanic Gardens, designed by Wiliam Guilfoyle (Melbourne Botanic gardens), occupy about 16 hectares in an elevated position along the southern banks of Lake Colac.

Colac serves as a hub for the region, packed with high-quality shopping ranging from quaint country gift shops to antique dealers and specialty stores. Colac has a fantastic array of cafes and restaurants and it’s a great place to source produce from the foodies of the Otway Harvest Trail.

The Old Beechy Rail Trail is also a highlight, a 50km walking/cycling trail, located between Colac and Ferguson. The trail follows much of the original path of the narrow gauge railway “The Beechy” which ran from 1902 until 1962

Dine out in Colac

Colac Botanical Gardens

On the Lake Colac foreshore, the Botanic Gardens were redesigned by William Guilfoyle in 1910. The slope facing the lake was terraced to provide viewing for events such as rowing regattas, while the original caretakers cottage now houses a cafe. This is only one of two drive-through botanic gardens in Victoria.

Colac Botanic Gardens are a fine example of a nineteenth century provincial botanic garden, typical of such gardens created in colonial Victoria.  After being set aside in 1865, the Gardens were developed in the late 1870s and enhanced in 1910 by William Guilfoyle (1840—1912), one of Australia’s leading garden designers. By the time of his involvement with the Colac Gardens, Guilfoyle had already established his reputation as a garden designer with his reworking of von Mueller’s layout of Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens. The Gardens cover some 15 hectares and contain over 1,000 specimens including trees registered by the National Trust. There are barbecue facilities and a children’s playground. The gates open for cars at 10am and close at 4pm, year-round.

Red Rock Scenic Lookout

The Red Rock lookout, 12 km from Colac, is one of Australia’s youngest volcanoes. Forty separate eruption points have been found, and many of the craters are now full of water.

The area is the third largest volcanic plain in the world and estimated to be 8,000 years old. The volcanic complex consists of overlapping maars, scoria cones and small lava flows.

From the lookout, the magnificent 360 degree views include the topography of the volcanic plain and the 25,000 hectare Lake Corangamite.

Arts & Culture

Colac and surrounding areas have a vibrant arts precinct where you could find yourself in the home studio of a local artist during ‘Open Studios’ at Birregurra , being awe struck by the beauty and depth of our local history and heritage in  historical centre’s or by exploring one of the many heritage trails,  expanding yourself in an artist lead workshop or experiencing internationally acclaimed music and  exhibitions in Colac Otway Performing Arts & Cultural Centre or the Red Rock Regional Theatre & Gallery at Cororooke.

Leisure and Fitness

Looking for something to do in Colac? Why not try…

The Barongarook Creek to Lake Colac trail. Starting at the Colac Visitor Information Centre the trail is just under 7km and will take about 1.5 hours to complete. This trail is great for bird watching, hiking, or riding. The trail is fully paved and suitable for wheelchairs and prams.

Bluewater Fitness Centre – Colac’s premier aquatic and recreation centre including a 25 meter swimming pool gymnasium, two indoor sports courts, group fitness program room, spa and steam room.

Surrounding Stone Walls

The most impressive and important network of dry stone walls in Australia is located in the western district of Victoria. The volcanic activity in the district has shaped the landscape and formed stones covering the plains. Dry stone walling was a skilful craft, often handed down from father to son. Most of the substantial walls were built after the gold rush and after the introduction of the rabbit, although there is evidence they were in existence from the late 1840’s.

Nearby towns

Beeac is a township approximately 20 km northeast of Colac, named after a tribal leader whose headquarters were in the nearby Warrion Hills. It was also was also the aboriginal name for salt water or salt lake, referring to the high salt levels in nearby Lake Beeac.

The town was first settled in the 1860’s. In 1884 a railway line connected Beeac to Colac and Ballarat, this line is no longer but you can see some remnants. Windmills are an integral part of the Australian rural landscape. Beeac has created a windmill museum with windmill parts scavenged from farms, to showcase the varying designs of windmills once built locally. Be sure to explore more along the Beeac History Trail.

Lake Beeac; Ramsar listed – an important wetland and water-bird habitat. Its high salinity level gives the lake its milky white appearance. Brine shrimp thrive in the water, an important food source for water birds. In the 1860’s salt was harvested from the lake (see stone markings in lake bed)

Accommodation Nearby

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Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the Great Ocean Road region the Wadawurrung, Eastern Maar & Gunditjmara. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging. We recognise and respect their unique cultural heritage and the connection to their traditional lands. We commit to building genuine and lasting partnerships that recognise, embrace and support the spirit of reconciliation, working towards self-determination, equity of outcomes and an equal voice for Australia’s first people.