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Discover Airey’s Inlet The Great Ocean Road’s Hidden Gem
Are you looking for places to stay, where to eat, and things to do in Aireys Inlet? All you need is this complete guide to this tiny town on the world-famous Great Ocean Road!
You might be surprised to know Aireys Inlet won silver as the Top Tiny Tourism Town in 2023 at the Australian Tourism Awards.
So while it’s no longer an undiscovered secret, Aireys Inlet offers a unique travel destination where the ocean meets the bush.
Whether you’re a foodie who wants to find great Aireys Inlet pub grub, are keen on visiting Fairhaven Beach, would like to see the famous Great Ocean Road sign, or want to take the Surf Coast Walk while using the town as a base, this article shares everything you need to know.
We’ll tell you all about Aireys Inlet, including the location, things to do, and where to stay and eat. Be warned – by the end of this post, you’ll be impatient to visit this gorgeous coastal gem in Victoria!
Here is our complete guide to Aireys Inlet on the Great Ocean Road.
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About Aireys Inlet
The town of Aireys Inlet is named after a former resident, John Moore Cole Airey who made the inlet his home way back in 1842. And, of course, because there is indeed a little coastal inlet here.
Today, Aireys Inlet is best known for Split Point lighthouse, which is still in use today. The town also offers beautiful beaches, a thriving foodie scene, craft distilleries, and breweries, access to the Surf Coast Walk, and much more.
With lots of places to eat, drink, stay, and play, Aireys Inlet is a great place to stop along the Surf Coast and Great Ocean Road.
Where Is Aireys Inlet?
Aireys Inlet is located between the Great Ocean Road towns of Anglesea and Lorne in Victoria, Australia.
One of the many hidden gems in Victoria, the small yet charming town is only a 90-minute drive from Melbourne.
Aireys Inlet is on the iconic Great Ocean Road route and also forms part of the Surf Coast of Victoria. Venture inland and you can also discover Great Otway National Park while exploring this area.
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Things To Do In Aireys Inlet
Aireys Inlet Beaches
If you’re seeking an Aireys Inlet beach, there are three we recommend choosing from. Alternatively, head out of town to Fairhaven Beach.
Sandy Gully Beach
Sandy Gully Beach in Aireys Inlet is located by Eagle Rock Parade. There’s a generously sized car park here, so finding a space should be no problem. Two sets of steps lead from here down to the beach.
Sandy Gully has soft, golden sand, and is a family-friendly but unpatrolled spot. It also makes a good starting point for local coastal walks.
Like neighbouring Sandy Gully, Step Beach in Aireys Inlet is a peaceful place with no lifeguard service.
From here you can discover concealed small coves. Rockpooling and snorkelling are also popular at Step Beach.
Step Beach can be found below Split Point lighthouse, and has its own car park.
Sunnymead Beach can be slightly challenging to reach due to the steep stairs leading down to it, but it’s well worth the effort.
There are some interesting rock formations to be seen here. Avoid visiting at high tide if you can, when there’s only a narrow strip of golden sand.
The views from here are stunning, and there’s a car park for beach visitors on Boundary Road.
Fairhaven Beach is around three kilometres from Aireys Inlet, and depending on conditions can be good for swimming and surfing. In summer, there’s a lifeguard service here.
The long stretch of beach is good for coastal strolls, and many people walk from Split Point Lighthouse to here.
As with other Aireys Inlet Beaches, it tends to be quieter than the busier Great Ocean Road beaches in places like Anglesea or Lorne.
Urquhart Bluff is home to both a beautiful beach and a scenic area for coastal walks. Again, this can be reached on foot from Aireys Inlet.
At low tide, the reefs and marine life here are exposed and are fascinating to discover. There are also some rock pools for kids to poke about in.
It’s a lovely, unspoiled coastal spot with good surf at times. Beware of rips, though, especially as this beach is unpatrolled.
Split Point Lighthouse
Taking a Split Point Lighthouse tour is practically de rigueur in these parts. It’s a famous landmark of the local coastline and an icon of Aireys Inlet.
As well as maritime history, you can learn here how the lighthouse still plays a key role in safety at sea for those navigating Bass Strait.
It’s worth climbing to the top of the lighthouse in any case, for unparalleled 360-degree panoramas of Victoria’s coastline.
You may even spot whales or dolphins swimming around in the ocean while enjoying the far-reaching views.
The lighthouse is also famous for starring in the TV show Round the Twist.
Lighthouse Tea Rooms
Another reason to spend some time in Aireys Inlet and at Split Point is the Lighthouse café – or Lighthouse tea rooms.
Tucked away on Federal Street near the lighthouse the eatery is housed in a traditional building surrounded by a lovely garden.
This is a great place for coffee and cake or a hearty snack like a toasty – try the Reuben. The pastries, desserts, and cakes are to die for, and you can expect to be served decent coffee here.
The Lighthouse Tea Rooms
Where: 7 Federal Street, Aireys Inlet 3231
When: 7 days 9 a.m – 4 p.m
Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary
Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary can be found beneath Split Point Lighthouse in Aireys Inlet. The centrepiece is Eagle Rock, a limestone-topped stack that’s 20 metres tall.
You can also see the wave-flattened Table Rock and the sanctuary also stands between Castle Rock and Sentinel Rock.
At the sanctuary you can explore the rock pools, or do some diving or snorkelling whenever the water’s calm.
Lots of marine life can be seen, including Neptune’s Necklace seaweed, sea tulips, sponges, decorator crabs, octopi, around 25 fish species, and even Port Jackson sharks (which are, incidentally, completely harmless).
Aireys Inlet Clifftop Walk
The Aireys Inlet clifftop walk takes you from the Aireys Inlet lighthouse at Split Point to unspoiled Sunnymead beach.
It generally takes close to an hour to complete the route, and you can enjoy spectacular coastal views as you make your way along the limestone clifftops.
If you want to, you can venture off the path to visit places that lie close to the track – such as Sandy Gully Beach.
Aireys Inlet Market
Aireys Inlet Market is the ideal place to shop for one-off gifts – or for spoiling yourself with something irresistible.
Art and craft items are sold here as well as food. The market specialises in homegrown produce, vintage wares, handmade goods, and upcycled products.
This unique, boutique-style Aireys Inlet market is held at the town’s Community Hall on Sundays.
Like other markets in the area, it generally operates at least once per month, with extra dates laid on for special occasions such as Labour Day and Easter.
Aireys Inlet Market
Where: Aireys Inlet Community Hall, 6 Great Ocean Road, Aireys Inlet 3231
When: Selected Sundays, Oct – July 9 a.m – 1 p.m
Phone: 0413 254 284
Eagles Nest Gallery
Eagles Nest Fine Art Gallery is a must for any art fans visiting the Surf Coast and Great Ocean Road area.
It’s housed in a modern, specially constructed building, and hosts around 70 artists on a regular basis. These include local and regional artisans.
Two exhibitions per month are also held here. In addition to paintings, other mediums on display include cards, glass art, jewellery, prints, sculpture, and more.
Eagles Nest Fine Art Gallery
Where: 50 Great Ocean Road, Aireys Inlet 3231
When: Fri, Sat, & Sun: 10 a.m – 5 p.m, Monday: 11 a.m – 2 p.m
Phone: (03) 5289 7366
Great Ocean Road Mini Golf
A visit to Great Ocean Road mini golf is great fun for all ages. This Aireys Inlet mini golf venue offers two impressive courses, giving you a reason to go more than once.
The courses have a local theme, meaning you’ll be putting among the likes of the 12 Apostles, shipwrecks, and Split Point Lighthouse.
When you pay for a mini golf session here, you also get to play games in the clubhouse as part of the deal.
Great Ocean Road Mini Golf is set among attractive gardens, which feature a variety of native Otway flora.
Great Ocean Road Mini Golf
Where: 73 Great Ocean Road, Aireys Inlet 3231
When: 10 a.m – 5 p.m Saturday & Sunday Every day in school holidays and public holidays
Phone: 1300 942 397
Painkalac Creek Nature Reserve
Spend some time at Painkalac Creek Nature Reserve and you can fully unwind in perfect peace.
You can explore the area on foot via the creekside trails, or launch a canoe into the Painkalac Creek Estuary.
Simple, relaxed pastimes like waterside strolls, fishing, and stand-up paddle boarding are what the nature reserve is best for.
It’s also perfect for wildlife spotting, and is home to a group of kangaroos who often feed and rest here during the day.
Allen Noble Sanctuary
Allen Noble Sanctuary offers an almost level walking track and boardwalk so that visitors can view the local birdlife with ease.
Located just off the Great Ocean Road, the sanctuary is also set beside a tranquil lake.
If you’re travelling with kids, you could also take them to the nearby Bark Hut Reserve Playground while you’re in the area.
There are also picnic tables at the sanctuary for those who want to make a day of it – or at least stop for refreshments.
The superb Indie Spa can be found at Sunnymead Hotel in Aireys Inlet. It’s been designed as a place where solo visitors, couples, and groups can fully unwind and enjoy being pampered from head to toe.
This is a spa that stands out from the crowd and welcomes day visitors as much as guests staying at the hotel.
Sip a cocktail while soaking in a tub at the bathhouse, or enjoy a hot session in the steam room.
Available treatments include Rasul mud scrubs, a steamy Vichy shower, and an appealing range of facials, massages, and body treatments.
Where: 64 Great Ocean Road, Aireys Inlet 3231
When: 7 days 9 a.m – 6 p.m
Phone: (03) 5289 6666
Great Ocean Road Sign
You cannot visit this part of Australia without grabbing a selfie at the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch!
This historic landmark is one of the icons of the area and was built to commemorate those who constructed the famous coastal route.
It was soldiers returning from World War II who were responsible for building the road. To honour them, there’s a wooden arch that spans the width of the road, plus a statue featuring some soldiers at work.
You literally cannot miss this, as you’ll have to drive beneath it when travelling along this stretch of the Great Ocean Road in either direction.
Explore the Great Ocean Road
You also cannot spend time in Aireys Inlet without seeing some of the icons of the Great Ocean Road area.
Or perhaps taking a short road trip along it to find out where you might end up.
This region is dotted with appealing coastal towns, breathtaking beaches including one of the world’s top surf spots, and of course the offshore rock formations that this part of Victoria is known for, such as the 12 Apostles.
As well as all this natural coastal beauty, the Great Ocean Road area offers Great Otway National Park if you head inland.
The region is also a major foodie destination, so there are plenty of wineries, cafes, distilleries, and restaurants to try out.
You could also explore the area on foot by taking one of the Aireys Inlet walks from town.
Great Ocean Road Gin
You can taste the wares and find out how gin is made at this local distillery. The Great Ocean Road Gin Kitchen is also here, and this is a real find of a restaurant, serving delicious food and cocktails at reasonable prices.
The eatery is open between Wednesday and Sunday, and offers great value Curry and Cocktail nights every Thursday.
You can also visit the cellar door bar at the distillery. Tasting trays include cocktails and mixed drinks featuring Great Ocean Road gin.
Wines and local beers are also available, as is a casual snack menu.
If you can, head here on Fridays between 5 p.m and 6 p.m for Happy Hour, which will kick things off nicely. You can also stock up on supplies, and buy gifts, at the on-site shop.
Great Ocean Road Gin, Kitchen & Garden
Where: 32/34 Great Ocean Road, Aireys Inlet 3231
When: Wed & Thu: 5.30 p.m – 8 p.m, Fri & Sat: 3 p.m – 8 p.m, Sun: 12 p.m – 8 p.m
Phone: (03) 5210 5705
Salt Brewing Co
If beer is more your thing, then head to the Salt Brewing Co. The Salt Brewery produces its own craft beers, all made using Australian ingredients.
In fact this local craft brewery is Australian-owned and run, unlike around 80% of the beer sold here.
The brewery has won awards for its beers and has a strong eco-conscious ethic: a David Attenborough quote about our dependence on the natural world is on their website home page.
Aireys Pub at the beach is the home of the Salt Brewing Co, so you can sample the range of beers there.
The award-winning selection includes Session Australian draught, Moby Pale Ale, and the super strong Cranky Mrs IPA, as well as the signature Salt brew.
Salt Brewing Co
Where: 45 Great Ocean Road, Aireys Inlet 3231 (Inside Aireys Pub)
When: 7 days 11.30 a.m – Late
Phone: (03) 5289 6804
Surf Coast Walk
The Surf Coast Walk stretches for 44 kilometres (or 27 miles) between Aireys Inlet and Torquay.
With a dozen trailheads to choose from, you can walk as much or as little of the route as you’d like to. Most of the trailheads start at a car park making life a tad easier.
If you want to complete the entire walk, allow two to three days or more, depending on the pace you set.
The whole route connects Torquay and Anglesea with Aireys Inlet. It’s classed as an intermediate level walk, and the longest section is 8 kilometres (or 5 miles).
Aireys Inlet Restaurants
Le Comptoir is a French restaurant in Aireys Inlet. It also has a deli on-site, so you can take more good food away with you – perhaps to enjoy the next day on a picnic. Locally sourced regional produce is used to create the dishes on the menu.
The menu is short, yet appetising. Aperitifs and starters include anchovy skewers, saucisson with pickles, a pate and mushroom platter, and scallops.
For the main course, you can devour potato pie, beef bourguignon, or poached cod, before ending your meal with the dessert of the day.
A La Grecque
A la Grecque is probably the most popular of all Aireys Inlet restaurants. It specialises in innovative Greek cuisine. The spacious restaurant has a fireplace indoors and a verandah outside.
The Chef’s Selection Menu is a good bet if you don’t mind not knowing exactly what you’re going to get.
Typical inclusions are local fish and seafood such as whiting or calamari, or even meats like grilled Porterhouse steak. Modern twists on classic Greek dishes also feature.
A la Grecque is open between Wednesday and Saturday, for both lunch and dinner.
Aireys Pub is located right by the beach and features Salt Brewing Co. beers which are made on the premises. It also has a bistro, a large decked beer garden, and a welcoming atmosphere.
Seasonal menus are very much a thing here, and much of the produce used in the kitchen is sourced locally.
There’s something for all diners here, with kids’, pizza, and sharing menus as well as mains.
The dishes take inspiration from around the globe, and feature options such as Thai beef salad, chicken tandoori, veggie enchiladas, chicken parmigiana, and good old Aussie-style fish and chips.
Onda Food House
We recommend taking a table for breakfast at Onda Food House. Great coffee is always guaranteed, and food-wise it’s all about nutritious and delicious meals.
The cafe overlooks Painkalac Creek and has huge folding glass doors to let in lots of natural light.
You cannot book a table here, so it’s simply a case of walking in and hoping you get lucky. Onda Food House is committed to sustainability and also offers a good vegan and gluten-free selection.
Brunch dishes to dive into here include the vegan breakfast with scrambled tofu, eggs benedict, or a veg-packed harvest bowl.
Aireys Inlet Accommodation
Sunnymead Hotel in Aireys Inlet is a bright, fresh property offering a solar-heated swimming pool.
It’s just a few minutes’ walk from the coast, and has free parking for paying guests. Standard and superior twins and doubles are available here.
Accommodation at Sunnymead Hotel comes with air conditioning, tea and coffee-making facilities, a microwave, a fridge, and a hairdryer.
The property also offers an outdoor barbecue area, a spa, and a restaurant serving Australian and Asian food.
Despite the name, Sandy Gully is the closest beach to the hotel, that’s around 350 metres away.
Guests who’ve stayed here love the generously sized rooms, the cleanliness, and the tropical ambience of this low-rise property.
Located at Fairhaven Beach, The Pole House is one of Australia’s most photographed properties.
It’s certainly distinctive, with the building suspended above the ocean via a sturdy pole.
A stay at this one-off holiday spot is something you’ll never forget, from the cosy indoor fireplace to the stupendous views from the huge glass windows.
You can be lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves rolling in and sit out on the terrace with a drink whenever you like.
It’s not cheap, but staying at the Pole House is a bucket list kind of experience. Sleeping two, it’s perfect for couples in search of a romantic and unique getaway.
Split Point Cottages in Aireys Inlet are attractively set among an acre of landscaped gardens.
The complex offers a tennis court, a barbecue area, and an outdoor spa bath. Each of the four cottages also has its own barbecue facilities.
You can book a one or two-bedroom cottage here. Each is contemporary in style, with a cosy stove and large windows opening out onto a private patio.
Sunnymead Beach is the closest beach and is only ten minutes walk from the cottages.
Parking is provided on-site, and guests can also use the bikes supplied for free.
Pets are permitted to stay upon request, and each cottage comes with modern conveniences like a flatscreen TV in the lounge and a proper oven in the kitchen.
Guests rave about the cleanliness and comfort here, and the fenced-off yard is a real bonus for those bringing young kids or dogs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Aireys Inlet Worth Visiting?
Yes, Aireys Inlet is worth visiting. Don’t be fooled by its size, this small but beautiful coastal town has a lot to offer. From the famous Split Point Lighthouse to coastal walks, and beaches, a pub with a brewery, a distillery, and a thriving foodie scene, this town is a hidden gem on the Great Ocean Road.
Why is it called Aireys Inlet?
It’s believed the town is called Aireys Inlet after John Moore Airey who was granted a pastoral lease in 1842. However, it may have been named after his brother George who was a Crown Lands Commissioner in the district of Geelong.
Does the Aireys Inlet lighthouse work?
Yes, Aireys Inlet lighthouse still works. Called Split Point Lighthouse, it’s still a vital working lighthouse helping vessels to navigate the treacherous waters of Bass Strait by an automated system every night of the year. Known for its role in the TV series ‘Round The Twist’ the lighthouse is open daily for tours, weather permitting.
Can you visit the lighthouse from Round The Twist?
Yes, you can visit the lighthouse from ‘Rond The Twis’. Called Split Point Lighthouse, tours are available daily where you can learn about the construction of the building, how it operates, maritime history, and the lighthouse keepers’ stories. Climb to the top level for 360 degree views of the beautiful coastline.
Whether you choose to base yourself in Aireys Inlet for a Great Ocean Road break or intend to visit for the day, there’s plenty to see and do in this charming, award-winning coastal town.
From beach life, breweries, or wildlife to an iconic working lighthouse, a flourishing food and drinks scene, and local cliff-top walks, something is bound to float your boat when visiting Aireys Inlet.
This small town is still something of a hidden gem, so make sure you get there before the crowds do!
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By Audrey Chalmers
Audrey grew up in Victoria and travelled the world but she always called Victoria home. She loves nothing more than exploring her home state and sharing it here.