The Otway ranges have a special history beyond what walkers passing through might appreciate. Currently, the area is filled with a temperate rainforest, which might evoke feelings of ancient dinosaurs skulking through its underbrush. It’s not hard to believe, or a stretch of imagination, that the area holds a significant history of fossil discoveries!
The Otway Ranges date back to the Cretaceous period, around 120 million years ago, when Australia was connected to Antarctica as part of the supercontinent Gondwana. As it began to break up and move northwards, wide rift valleys and flood plains were formed. Streams flowed into these floodplains carrying silt and sand, eventually covering the bodies of dead and dying dinosaurs. All of this occurred 65 million years ago. Fast forward to 1984, and a team of palaeontologists began a decade-long dig at a remote location along the Great Ocean Coastline, now named ‘Dinosaur Cove’.
In 1903, geologist William Hamilton Ferguson was mapping the rocky coastal outcrops a few kilometres west of Inverloch and uncovered the first dinosaur fossil ever discovered in Australia.
This finding not only propelled Ferguson into the limelight of the scientific community, but also marked the beginning of a new chapter in the study of prehistoric life on the Australian continent.
Although Ferguson had found the first, it wouldn’t be the last of many fossil finds in the area.
One of the greatest discoveries here is that of our very first evidence of a Southern Hemisphere breed of Tyrannosaurus Rex. This ancient relative of the mighty reptile was much smaller, at just 3m long and weighing 80kg, and existed 40 million years before the 7 ton Tyrannosaurus Rex of the north.
Perhaps the daintiest dinosaur fossil found here is the 100 million year old Leallynasaura amicagraphica, a polar dinosaur weighing just 65kg. She was quick and super smart, with one of the biggest brain cavity ratios of all dinosaurs. Leallynasaura had excellent eye sight, essential for the long polar gondwanan winters.
Not limited to the ground, Pterosaurs were flying reptiles that lived alongside their dinosaur cousins during the Mesozoic Era, which began 252 million years ago. They were the first and largest vertebrates to fly — taking to the skies 65 million years before birds – and they lifted off using membranous wings that were more bat-like than bird-like.
Our greatest treasure has to be the discovery in 1994 of a hitherto unknown Echidna dinosaur, Kryoryctes cadburyi, it existed with Leallynasaura, but was much larger, like a huge toothless cat covered with quills.
Volunteer students working at Dinosaur Cove were promised a tonne of chocolate if they found a dinosaur bone, and they did!! And Cadbury chocolates came good with the bet. About 700 volunteers helped and were abseiled down 90m cliffs on a low tide to work on the excavation site. What a bunch of legends!!
Dinosaur Cove is located in the south east of Australia, along Victoria’s famous Great Ocean Road to the west of Cape Otway.
Our guided walking tour travels close to its exact location, but ultimately it’s very hard to get to.
You need to climb dangerous cliffs and walk over slippery rocks to gain access to the site. The other way you can get there is by helicopter or by boat at low tide, which is very precarious and risky.
The map shows the various Australian dinosaur fossil sites, including Dinosaur Cove.
Craving a distinct outdoor experience? Traverse the dramatic coastlines, untouched rainforests, and the iconic Twelve Apostles along the Great Ocean Walk. Our guided journey provides the perfect balance of relaxation and challenge – from panoramic coastal vistas to the breathtaking clifftop outlooks… and a memorable detour to the historic Cape Otway Lighthouse (day 4).
Return each evening to comfortable lodgings, allowing you to shed the heavy baggage and relish the natural wonders with ease. Ready to witness the most spectacular landscapes Victoria’s coastline has in store? Join us on this remarkable guided expedition!
Let’s get you started on your first unforgettable experience with us!