Adventure beckons: Aireys Inlet, Victoria

Rock-pool-hopping at Eagles Nest, Aireys Inlet, Victoria.
Photographer, Mark Chew.
We love a craggy, snap-tastic coastline, horse rides on the beach, gourmet food and bush settings, which is why Aireys Inlet, sitting pretty between the big guns of Anglesea and Lorne, is so attractive.

Aireys is where the artisan shop Lulu and Mr Q sells hand-made ice-cream, where the shoreline has epic rock-pool-hopping potential to spot crabs and sea urchins at low tide, where kids can snorkel in Mermaid Pool and where crumbling cliffs above the sand burn a vivid ochre in the afternoon sun.

The essential items for a summer holiday based at Aireys Inlet are a well-stocked picnic basket and blanket: set up on the benches by the barbecues at Moggs Creek or in a bushland setting at Sheoak Falls in the Great Otway National Park.

If the kids whine, "But what else are we going to do?" there's an arsenal of off-sand activities at your fingertips, from mountain biking around Distillery Creek to canoeing down river where Painkalac Creek meets the ocean. See Great Ocean Road Adventure Tours; gorats.com.au.

Or you can stretch your legs along the Surf Coast Walk from Aireys towards Torquay, taking in sheltered nooks and windswept scenery alike. Then there's the White Queen - the Split Point Lighthouse - now open for guided tours. See splitpointlighthouse.com.au.

With the kids
Under fives
* There's sheltered swimming at Sunnymead and at Sandy Gully beaches.
* The reef at nearby Step Beach forms a swimming hole at low tide, while Aireys Inlet Beach suits experienced body surfers.
* It's Victoria: sometimes it rains. Aireys Inlet's Great Escape Books hosts kids' readings at 11am on Wednesdays in the summer school holidays. Otherwise, order a hot chocolate and snuggle in for a read or ransack the store's toy box; greatescapebooks.wordpress.com.

Older children
* Explore Fairhaven Beach on horseback; blazingsaddlestrailrides.com.

Teenagers
* Take a photography walk along the coastline with a guide-teacher; surfcoastwalks.com.au.

Dining there
Pull up a seat with water views at Aireys Inlet Foodstore & Cafe and order home-made baked beans with Otway pork or free-range eggs. Then stock the larder with local produce from its foodstore; aifsc.com.au.
It's the perfect marriage: a parma and locally made beer at Aireys Pub, which earns its stripes as a great all-rounder, with a sandpit in the beer garden and live music every Saturday; aireyspub.com.au.
Add a touch of the Mediterranean to your getaway with lunch at A la Grecque. Order the seafood, order the wine - it's your holiday; alagrecque.com.au.

Getting there
Aireys Inlet is about a 90-minute drive west of Melbourne at the start of the Great Ocean Road.

Staying there
The Aireys Inlet Getaway Resort has one-, two- and three-bedroom villas with a pool, picnic spots and koalas and birds on the guest list; aireysinletgetaway.com.au.The Glen Farm Cottages are self-contained, mud-brick stays on Old Coach Road, a few kilometres inland from the beach; aireys.com.au.Private holiday homes are plentiful and listed on stayz.com.au. B&Bs are dotted throughout the region. Aireys Inlet Holiday Park has cabin accommodation ranging from three-bedroom, two-bathroom executive cabins to smaller cabins, aicp.com.au.

Camping there
Also at Aireys Inlet Holiday Park are ensuite sites with power and private bathroom, powered sites and grassed tent sites.

More information
See visitgreatoceanroad.org.au.

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in Sydney Morning Herald Traveller.

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