Every so often nature aligns and it snows in the high parts of the Otways, dusting tree ferns and towering eucalyptus trees with white powdery snow.
Short on time? Post Summary:
You are most likely to see snow in the otways sround dawn on mornings where the temperature is close to 0 and snow is forecast down to around 500 metres.
Where are the Otway Ranges
The Otway Ranges are predominantly protected as part of the Great Otway National Park but also includes the Otway Forrest Park and private agricultural properties. The area has main bitumen roads as well lots of gravel tracks for picturesqe photos of winding roads lined with snowy tree ferns!
The areas most likely to get snow are at least a 2 hour drive from Melbourne or 1 hour 10 minutes from Geelong.
Weather – When is the best time to see snow in the Otways?
The short version is at dawn on days when snow is predicted down to about 500m metres. This is because two of the highest points in the otways region are around 500 metres high and these need to be around the elevation snow fall is predicted to. Unless there is a lot of snow you also want the low temperature to be pretty close to 0 and to be there for first light so that the snow doesnt melt before you get to see it in the daylight.
If nearby Geelong daytime maximum is below 10 degrees this also an indication there’s a good chance of snow because it can sometimes be hard to find locally accurate otway temperatures (as often the forecast covers large regions).
I’m not a weather expert and I’m told that to identify these weather conditions yourself you would be looking at many factors including predicted rainfall/moisture, humidity, surface temperatures and atmospheric conditions and weather from the southwest.
So as you can see unless you have a good understanding of weather (which I do not) just look for the snow forecast to height above sea level for the region, an overnight low temperature close to 0 and go and arrive for first light because once it warms up to much the snow will melt. Seeing snow is definately NOT guaranteed but these conditions are when you are more likely to see snow in the otways.
Where to find snow in the Otway National Park or Otway Ranges
You can find the elevation of an area by turning on the terrain layer in google maps.
The highest area in the otways is around Mt Cowley however there is many seasonal road closures on the tracks around this area as roads are shut in winter to prevent them being damaged while wet.
Instead, I looked for a spot where there was a main road near 500m in height so I could stay on a bitumen road and would have shoulders to safely pull over and take photos (I had a car with 4wd, others with 2wd’s needed to drive very slowly to stay safe). Our logic was since Benwerrin area was on the way coming from Geelong or Melbourne to go via there first. I decided to go down the Deans Marsh- Lorne road because this section of the bitumen road is close to 500 metres above sea level. There was some snow in this area.
From here I turned on the Benwerrin-Mt Sabine Rd (this road was gravel but is usually a hard stand type gravel that stays 2wd accessible)
I’m glad I chose this option as this road traversed lots of pretty bush with huge tree ferns covered in snow, some gravel side roads for photo opportunities and huge gum trees in some places. From here I continued along the Benwerrin-mt Sabine Rd and came in the back road to Lorne via the Erskine Falls Rd where there was also more snow despite it being at a lower elevation. Lorne is a great spot to stay for the weekend or you can drive back along the Great Ocean Road.
There is likely many more tracks to see snow but this gives you a simple place to start when you go snow hunting!
Some may be a open and a good option if you have a 4wd, you can see the Parks Victoria seasonal road closures here . Obviously if you only have a 2wd you want to restrict your driving to a road you can safely drive on anyway.
How early do you need to be there?
Because the snow falls are fairly small you want to be there as close as possible to first light so you can see as much snow and get your photos before the temperature warms up and the snow melts.
Read other posts on the Otway & Great Ocean Road Region or continue reading the article below
Make sure you pull over safely off the road and listen for cars, I had an embarrassing close call when I stepped onto the road to avoid a huge puddle and didn’t hear a car coming around the corner…..needless to say, I won’t be making that mistake again.
Drive to the conditions, on our way back the snow had compacted to an icy slushy mess and given the long drops on the side of some roads in the Otways you want to drive at a slower speed that enables to you safely stop and avoid sliding. You can read more about driving in snow in Victoria on the VIC Roads website (there always changing links so it if doesnt work just search it)
Does it snow in the Otway Ranges?
The otway ranges are a mix of ecoystems like cool temperate rainforest, mountain ash forest and so it does not generally snow in the Otway Ranges except for when snow is forecast to very low elevations like down to 500 metres.