Colac Otway ShireCommunity profile

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Colac Otway Shire

About the profile areas

The 2016 Estimated Resident Population for Colac Otway Shire is 21,359, with a population density of 0.06 persons per hectare.

Location and boundaries

Colac Otway Shire is located in the south-west of Victoria, about 160 kilometres from the Melbourne CBD. Colac Otway Shire is bounded by Golden Plains Shire in the north, Surf Coast Shire in the east, the Southern Ocean in the south, and Corangamite Shire in the west.

Name origin

Colac Otway Shire is named from the words "Colac" and "Otway". Colac is thought to be named after the Coladjin Aboriginal tribe that once lived in the area. Otway is named after Cape Otway, which was named by Lieutenant Grant in 1801 after Captain Otway.

Settlement history

European settlement of the area dates from 1837 when pastoralists settled around the eastern and southern banks of Lake Colac. Settlers and pastoralists arrived in the rural areas from the 1850s, when timber-getting and sawmills were established. Development was slow until the 1880s, following improved access to the area brought about by the opening of the Princes Highway and the railway line from Melbourne. The township of Colac continued to grow in the early 1900s. The coastal townships were established largely from the 1880s, although Apollo Bay was established in the 1860s. Some development occurred in the interwar period, mainly in the rural townships of Irrewarra and Larpent, where land was purchased for soldier settlement. The Great Ocean Road was opened in 1932, improving access to the coastal towns and villages, with tourism spurring growth from the 1950s. The most significant development occurred in the post-war period, particularly between 1947 and 1961. In the 1960s some subdivision of coastal areas occurred, with growth continuing in Apollo Bay. Since the 1970s rural-residential living has become increasingly popular, with growth in smaller settlements in the Otways and further inland, such as Barongarook, Birregurra, Cressy, Forrest, Johanna and Lavers Hill. The population of the Shire has been relatively stable since the early 1990s, at about 20,000 people.

Land use
Land use 2% 1% 27% 70%

Land use

Colac Otway Shire is a rural, residential and resort area. The Shire encompasses a total land area of 3,250 square kilometres, of which a large proportion is State Forest and National Park, including beaches, coastline, rainforests, waterfalls, lakes and craters. Much of the rural area is used for timber-getting and agriculture, with farming, cropping and dairying being the main agricultural pursuits. Agricultural activity is concentrated in the northern part of the Shire, although timber and fishing are prevalent in the south. Tourism is an important industry, especially in the southern section along the Great Ocean Road. The Shire has two main townships, with many small villages and localities. The largest town is Colac, which serves as an administrative, retail and commercial centre. The other major township is Apollo Bay, which serves as the major tourism centre.


Colac Otway Shire is served by the Hamilton Highway, the Princes Highway, the Great Ocean Road and the Geelong-Warrnambool railway line, with stations at Colac and Birregurra.

Major features

Major features of the Shire include Great Otway National Park (formerly Angahook-Lorne State Park, Carlisle State Park, Melba Gully State Park and Otway National Park), Lake Colac, Cape Otway Lightstation, Otway Fly Treetop Adventures, the Great Ocean Road, the Great Ocean Walk, Maits Rest Rainforest Walk, Barham Paradise Scenic Reserve, Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary, Apollo Bay Boat Harbour, the Colac CBD, Colac Otway Performing Arts & Cultural Centre (COPACC), Colac Botanic Gardens, Gordon Institute of TAFE (Colac Campus), several waterfalls and various beaches.

Indigenous background

The original inhabitants of the Colac Otway area were the Coladjin Aboriginal tribe.

Included areas

Colac Otway Shire includes the townships and rural localities of Aire Valley, Alvie (part), Apollo Bay, Balintore, Barongarook, Barongarook West, Barramunga, Barwon Downs, Barunah Plains, Beeac, Beech Forest, Birregurra (part), Bungador, Cape Otway, Carlisle River (part), Carpendeit (part), Chapple Vale (part), Colac, Colac East, Colac West, Coragulac, Cororooke, Corunnun, Cressy (part), Cundare, Cundare North (part), Dreeite (part), Dreeite South (part), Elliminyt, Eurack, Ferguson, Forrest, Gellibrand, Gellibrand Lower (part), Gerangamete, Glenaire, Grey River, Hordern Vale, Irrewarra, Irrewillipe, Irrewillipe East, Jancourt East (part), Johanna, Kawarren, Kennett River, Larpent, Lavers Hill, Marengo, Mount Sabine, Murroon, Nalangil, Ombersley (part), Ondit, Pennyroyal (part), Petticoat Creek, Pirron Yallock (part), Separation Creek, Simpson (part), Skenes Creek, Skenes Creek North, Stonyford (part), Sugarloaf, Swan Marsh, Tanybryn, Warncoort, Warrion, Weeaproinah, Weering, Whoorel, Winchelsea (part), Wingeel (part), Wongarra, Wool Wool (part), Wyelangta, Wye River, Yeo, Yeodene and Yuulong.