The epic Grampians Peaks Trail is now open

Words by Tehya Nicholas
Images Supplied

Lace up your hiking boots and hit the Western Highway because 160km of all-new, pristine hiking trails have opened in The Grampians.

As the warmer weather and holiday season approaches, it’s fair to say Melburnians are keen to get some fresh air, and Parks Victoria has come through with a stellar announcement: after 20 years of planning, the Grampians Peaks Trail has been completed and is ready to welcome its first trail blazers.

The epic new track links some of the Grampians most spectacular sandstone peaks in a blood-pumping 13-day, 12-night hike. Starting at the base of Mt Zero, the trail passes over the summit of Gar (also fittingly known as Mt Difficult), before traversing through Halls Gap, then winding across Redman Bluff, Mount William, Major Mitchell Plateau, Signal Peak, Mt Abrupt, Mt Sturgeon and more before finishing up at Dunkeld in the south.

For the experienced hiker, the full trail above is a field day with its challenging inclines, steep descents, rock scrambles and unbelievable views. The difficulty on average is a Grade 4/5, which means sweat will be dripping.

Shorter, less physically demanding hikes and itineraries have been marked out by Parks Vic on their website too, so you can enjoy the natural surrounds and learn about the rich Aboriginal history throughout the country as you wander. The traditional owners, the Jadawadjali and Djab Wurrung peoples, have lived on this land they call Gariwerd for thousands of years, and interpretation signage along the trail will help hikers learn more about their rich cultural heritage and the natural environment.

There’s no cost for hitting the trail, but campers will need to book and pay a fee of roughly $47 to pitch their tents each night. All 11 campgrounds are unique and well-equipped to keep you charged and ready to go. As always, take only photos and leave only footprints to help keep this incredible national park healthy and enjoyable for generations to come.


THE DETAILS
WHAT: Grampians Peak Trail completion
WHERE: Grampians National Park
WHEN: Now open
MORE INFO: Parks Victoria

We wish to acknowledge the Jadawadjali and Djab Wurrung people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Where the wildflowers are: with artist and ecologist Georgina Gould-Hardwick

Words by Della Vreeland
Images supplied

The spring season may be an idyllic time to go wildflower spotting, but these pretty native plants actually flourish in parklands, forests and reserves year-round – all you have to do is look above, around and below.

You’re bound to encounter wildflowers in any natural setting. And while some are endemic, meaning they are native to a certain area, most species can be found all over.

Artist and ecologist Georgina Gould-Hardwick is a graduate of fine arts and environmental science, and her love for ecology, native plants and wildlife inspires most of her art. With Georgina’s help, we have created a list of spots to seek out wildflowers across regional Victoria.

Woowookarung Regional Park
#oneandahalfhoursout

Ivy Lead Wildflower

Located in Ballarat, Woowookarung Regional Park is a new 641-hectare regional park created in 2016 through the ongoing efforts of the local community and its many user groups. ‘Woowookarung means place of plenty in Wadawurung language,’ Georgina says. ‘Walking through the meandering tracks and trails of the Woowookarung, you will find a plethora of wildflowers, including many pea species, such as masses of Golden Bush-pea or the beautiful Herdenbergia sprawling over fallen logs. And don’t forget to watch out for the dainty native Violet or Ivy-leaf Violet that are very small and grow low to the ground.’

Enfield State Park
#oneandhalfhoursout

Enfield Grevillea

Lying on the outskirts of Ballarat, the Enfield State Park boasts a similar landscape and wildflower variety as Woowookarung. ‘Here you’ll find many of the same species due to the bushland once being part of a much larger area of forest prior to European settlement,’ Georgina says. ‘However, Enfield State Park has many of its own curiosities, with endemic species such as the Enfield Grevillea.’

Buckley Casuarina Woodland
#oneandahalfhoursout

Sheoak

Along the Otway Plain around Winchelsea and Wurdale, the Buckley casuarina woodland is home to quite a large remnant of drooping Sheoak. Usually growing in poor, dry soils, the species is wind pollinated and dioecious (male and female flowers on separate trees). ‘The female flowers are very inconspicuous,’ Georgina says. ‘But if you look closely you can see the cutest fuzzy flowers.’

Bald Hill Reserve
#onehourout

Clover Glycine

Renowned for its wildflowers, Kyneton’s Bald Hill Reserve is home to many precious peas including remnants of the nationally threatened Clover Glycine. The reserve is also home to other wildflowers including the Yellow Rush Lily and Sticky Everlasting.

 

 

Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park
#threeandahalfhoursout

Water Ribbons

Wetlands are the best place to spot aquatic species such as Water Ribbons, which are mostly discovered in permanent swamps, lagoons and streams.  They feature an erect spike up to 30cm long and boast cream to pink flowers. Normally a plant of freshwater environments, some Water Ribbons have a huge tolerance to the saline and acid waters in East Gippsland.  Spectacular displays of orchids, wattle and heathland can also be discovered within this extensive coastal park.

The Grampians
#threehoursout

White Heath

The Grampians region is home to a huge variety of emerging wildflowers including pink and white heath, orchids and blooming tea-trees in their natural settings. Wander around the vast bushlands of the region and catch a glimpse of the eye-catching flora, or visit in early October for Halls Gap’s Wildflower Walkabout Weekend.

Slatey Creek
#oneandahalfhoursout

Murnong Daisy

If you’re seeking an overdose of wildflower species, Slatey Creek near Creswick will surely indulge your appetite. Native peas, Goodenia, Drosera and Golden Spray are just a few of the species that can be found here. The area is also home to the Murnong Yam Daisy, a widespread wildflower in Victoria that can be found in dry, open forests everywhere. With a tufted rosette of toothed lanceolate leaves, it is reminiscent of a dandelion due to its yellow head of florets, and its tuberous roots are also edible!

The Great Ocean Road
#oneandahalfhoursout

Parrot Pea

If you’re seeking a wildflower appreciation venture in a coastal setting, the towns along the Great Ocean Road will surely satisfy. Admire banksias, parrot peas and orchids along the Surf Coast Walk, which also crosses the Anglesea heathlands, or traverse more heathland in the Bay of Islands Coastal Park where spring wildflowers abound at the Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve.


A note on Gorse:

Gorse

According to Georgina, the dense shrub known as Gorse is particularly deceitful. With large yellow pea flowers, it is in fact a problem weed. ‘This little devil is extremely hard to remove, with seed that can last dormant in the ground for approximately 70 years,’ she says. ‘If the ground is disturbed within that time, hundreds of gorse can sprout and take over vast areas, out-competing native species and wildflowers.’ Thankfully, Georgina says there are certain task forces that have been tasked with eliminating this weed – heavy gear and machinery in-tow.


According to Georgina,  it is important to show utmost respect to your surroundings during your wildflower wanderings in order to ensure the preservation of these native plants as well as the surrounding flora and fauna.

‘Remember to look up the guidelines to the parks areas that you visit,’ Georgina says. ‘It’s always best to leave natural areas with less rubbish than when you arrived, so please don’t litter! Traveling to regional areas can be dangerous for not just people but for wildlife as well.’

To find out more about Georgina’s work, visit her website here, or her Instagram page here.

We wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Choose your own adventure: Exploring the You Yangs & Moorabool Valley

Words by Amanda Kennedy
Images Supplied

They say life is all about balance, a bit of yin with your yang, so to speak. We all know that getting outside to blow away the cobwebs is not only good for the body, but it’s also good for the soul. We’ve rounded up a host of activities in the Moorabool Valley and You Yangs area to get you out and about and sweetened it with some treats for afterwards.

Walking MelbourneYou Yangs Regional Park

You’ve definitely seen them from across the bay, or perhaps from the city’s outskirts, those hills on the horizon. The You Yangs (Wurdi Youang) are a group of 24km long granite outcrops an hour southwest of Melbourne near the town of Little River. Time to pay them a visit!

Topping out at 319m is the park’s highest point, Flinders Peak. Those who make the 3.2km one-hour return walk will be well-rewarded with stunning views across the volcanic plains back towards Melbourne or south to Geelong.

From the eastern lookout, the eagle-eyed will also spy the geoglyph of Bunjil, creator spirit of the Wadawurrung people, traditional custodians of the region. Artist Andrew Rogers utilised 1500 tonnes of granite and limestone rock to form the wedge-tail eagle geoglyph, in recognition of the Wadawurrung people’s connection to the land.

Iconic Australian painter Fred Williams was known to spend much time painting en plein air in the region. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to create your own masterpiece?

Bike Riding MelbourneIf you’re the type who likes to get the blood really pumping, you might like to bring your mountain bike and hit some of the 50km of purpose-built trails across two dedicated zones. Maybe horse riding, orienteering, rock-climbing, abseiling or bushwalking is more your speed? If so, there are dozens of trails from the family-friendly through to the more challenging to choose from.

If that all sounds a little exhausting, you could always try your hand at some birdwatching or perhaps a gentle stroll to one of the nine designated picnic areas.

The You Yangs Regional Park is open every day from 7am and closing at 5pm (6pm from Daylight Savings). Access to the park from the Princes Freeway is signposted via Lara. Facilities include picnic areas (barbecues, tables and toilets available) as well as drinking water available from the Visitors Centre.

Serendip Sanctuary Wildlife Park

Melbourne wildlife
© Barbara Dawn

Only 10 minutes further south is the Serendip Sanctuary. Soak in the serenity or explore some of the 250ha of wetlands and grassy woodlands. Experience your own close encounter with some native wildlife on one of the popular and wheelchair-accessible nature trails. Spot a mob of emus, Eastern Grey kangaroos or even a Tawny Frogmouth from one of the many bird hides.

With an emphasis on education, the sanctuary offers a Junior Rangers Program for families during school holidays as well as downloadable DIY activity sheets. Discover how some of Victoria’s most threatened species are being protected at the sanctuary’s education facility, old school and screen-free.

Serendip Sanctuary is open every day except Christmas Day & Good Friday from 8am until 4pm. Facilities include picnic areas, barbecues, tables, toilets and drinking water.

Brisbane Ranges National Park

National Parks MelbourneDrive half an hour west and you’ve arrived at Brisbane Ranges National Park and Steiglitz Historic Park. Ten points if you time your visit for spring’s magnificent wildflower displays including the rarely seen Velvet Daisy-bush and Brisbane Ranges Grevillea.

But first let’s start the adrenaline racing with some rock-climbing, abseiling, horse riding, kayaking/rafting or bushwalking (trails range from a couple of hours to several days). Camping areas with tank water and pit toilets available, bookings required. Picnic areas include wood barbecues, tables and toilets.

As with any visit to the great outdoors, best to check forecasted weather as well as location conditions. Visit Parks Victoria for more information.

Reckon you’ve earned a reward or two?

Farmers Market MelbourneFortunately, an area so rich in outdoor activities is also blessed with a cornucopia of food and drink choices.

Golden Plains Farmers Market is held the first Saturday of every month and is the ideal place to begin. If you miss that, no matter; the region is well placed with a slew of farm gates and providores.

Moorabool Valley Chocolate Pick up some handmade truffles made with the freshest ingredients from this family-owned small business.

Meredith Dairy The Cameron family have been responsibly and sustainably farming sheep and goats since the early 1990s, creating one of Australia’s most iconic farmhouse cheeses which are now exported to the world.

Inverleigh Bakehouse An old-school country bakery is a thing of beauty and this converted 1868 homestead doesn’t disappoint with artisan breads as well as tempting pastries and cakes.

Clyde ParkBread cheese and chocolate – tick! Now you need something to drink. Thankfully this cool climate wine region offers boutique wineries, renowned cellar doors and winery restaurants both large and small, so you’re sure to find one to suit.

Clyde Park Vineyard and Bistro Step into the cellar door and secure a spot by the fire before tasting through their award-winning wines whilst taking in sweeping views over the Moorabool Valley. This family-friendly bistro is open daily offering everything from a quick nibble through to a three-course meal.

Del Rios Wines Enjoy a long, lazy lunch centred around their estate-grown produce (including Black Angus beef) complemented by an extensive wine portfolio.

No doubt this has whet your appetite to explore the region. You’ll only wonder what took you so long.

We wish to acknowledge the Wadawurrung people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Six secluded picnic areas for your post-iso getaway

Words by Tehya Nicholas
Images Supplied

As the end of lockdown approaches and our love of the humble picnic reaches its triumphant peak, we have taken it upon ourselves to round up some of the lesser known picnic areas you can unfurl your rug on once restrictions ease. Here are six spots to soak up the spring air, munch on cheese and biscuits and enjoy your newfound freedom.

Sanatorium Lake
Mount Macedon #onehourout

Untarnished bush land, a bright shimmering lake, and ample space to spread out, Sanatorium Lake is a hidden gem within the Macedon Ranges for picnics, nature walks and wildlife watching. A man-made lake originally constructed for a nearby hospital (which was actually never built), the lake is now shrouded by towering eucalypts and a wet fern gully that gives it a fairytale feel. Thanks to the picnic facilities and public toilets nearby, you could practically stay all day.

Check out the facilities here

Mount Franklin Reserve
Hepburn Springs #onehourout

Fancy picnicking in a volcanic crater? Here’s your chance. Deeply sacred to the traditional owners the Djara Wurrung people, Mount Franklin Reserve is one of the more unique locations to enjoy a day on the green. In spite of it’s proximity to Melbourne, this spot is still off the beaten track and mostly enjoys the company of resident kangaroos and wallabies. If you’re lucky, you may get to meet a few while you enjoy some nibbles.

Click here for more info

Kennett River
Great Ocean Road #twohoursout

On the banks of the Kennett River lies this idyllic picnic spot just a stones throw away a rainforest walk, a pristine beachfront and best of all, glow worms! Sit amongst the leafy reserve, drink a kombucha and keep an eye on the eucalypts for koalas in the daytime, and if you’re feeling up for a nighttime adventure, look out for the glow worms on the embankment near the bridge. The perfect day out.

Tips for how to get there

Blue Rock Lake
Moe #twohoursout

One of the larger picnic spots on this list, Blue Rock Lake is the family’s dream locale. There’s plenty of wide open grassland for the kids to run around, water sport access (we’re talking kayaking, fishing, swimming, boating) and oodles of shady spots to take refuge in and crack open a cold one. If you happen to catch an Australian Bass, you may even be able to cook it up at one of the BBQ’s dotted around the place. Delish.

Find out more here

Dunkeld Arboretum
Dunkeld #threehoursout

Find your inner peace at Dunkeld Arboretum, the botanic garden overflowing with giant red gums, birdlife and picturesque viewpoints to settle for a few hours. The arboretum is centred around a pristine lake and features walking trails, a jetty to while away the time and even a labyrinth for walking meditation! We recommend bringing a rug and picnic kit, as there are no tables here just yet.

Click here for more

Lions Park
Lakes Entrance #threehoursout

For the lovers of a salty breeze, Lions Park along Eastern Beach Road could be the ultimate picnic spot. With the ocean in front and parkland all around, good views abound – which we all know make the picnic a whole lot sweeter. The park itself features a playground (with a built-in trampoline!), picnic tables and toilet facilities. Once you’ve finished picnicking, wander through the boardwalks and sand dunes and brave a dip in the ocean.

More information here

We wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Your Guide to the Goulburn River and Ranges

The Goulburn River might not have the PR team of the mighty Murray but as Victoria’s longest river it has long been a part of peoples’ daily lives. It is the region’s lifeline of agriculture, a cultural and historic touchstone as well as a magnet for outdoor activities.

Your road trip offers so many waterways to choose from, including one of Victoria’s largest man-made lakes, enchanting waterfalls and secluded fishing spots. No matter the season, you’ll be greeted with breathtaking scenery, pretty little towns and down to earth hospitality as you wind your way through this special part of central Victoria – all within a short, easy drive out of Melbourne.

Here’s an itinerary to get you started.

Goulburn River & Ranges Road Trip

Words by Amanda Kennedy
Images supplied

Central Victoria was sometimes seen as a drive-through rather than a drive-to area; a place where you’d stop to use the restroom facilities, grab a coffee or fuel up the car.  Our Goulburn River and Ranges Road Trip proves otherwise.

Goulburn Rover Things to DoIt is a place that is filled with a rich history, both recent and more ancient. A place of sweeping landscapes, enchanting waterways and stunning scenic drives, all within an easy drive out of Melbourne.

Head north-east from Melbourne firstly to Marysville and Eildon then on to Yea.  From Yea it’s over to Trawool and Tallarook before heading north to Seymour, Avenel then Nagambie and finally arriving at Euroa.

Marysville
#oneandahalfhoursout

EuroaOn the edge of the Yarra Valley is the (in)famous Black Spur Drive. Marvel as the road twists and turns beneath towering eucalypts and movie-worthy mist. Soon enough you arrive in Marysville, a pretty little town with a big heart. It is also a convenient jumping-off point to visit Lake Mountain, with plenty for adventure seekers no matter the time of year.

If you want to stretch the legs a little further, Steavenson Falls (Victoria’s tallest with a drop of 84m) is just the ticket. Be well-rewarded for an easy 250m walk from the carpark with sensational views of one of the region’s most iconic waterfalls.

Eildon
#twohoursout

Lake EildonNext up is the town of Eildon and one of Victoria’s largest man-made lakes, with a whopping 500km coastline. Lake Eildon was created in the 1950s with the damming of the Goulburn River for supply of drinking water, hydro-electricity generation and irrigation.

Naturally this makes it a popular spot for all the water recreational activities you can think of: boating, fishing, kayaking, waterskiing, sailing and house boat hire. It’s also an ideal place to just kick back and watch the changing reflections of the clouds and hills on the water.

Yea
#oneandahalfhoursout

Yea WetlandsOur next stop is Yea – yay! A perennially popular stopping-off point to refuel both the car and the driver, Yea easily recalls the grandeur of the area’s gold mining past with historic buildings and graceful wide streets. It is also where the Goulburn River meets the Yea River and the Yea Wetlands, a treasure trove of flora and fauna.

Yea’s historic Gothic-styled railway station is beautifully preserved with its red brick façade. It’s a great place to pick up The Great Victorian Rail Trail or allow the kids to let off some steam at the playground.

Trawool
#oneandahalfhoursout

TrawA short drive and it’s on to the district of Trawool, for there is no township as such. It is here that the Goulburn Valley Hwy plays cat and mouse with the Goulburn River and its lagoons. Holiday makers have been visiting Trawool Valley from the early 1900s to take in the area’s scenic charms and it’s easy to see why.  A visit to the iconic Trawool Estate will not disappoint.

Tallarook
#onehourout

Tallarook Farmers’ MarketNext stop is Tallarook and the start of the 134 km Great Victorian Rail Trail connecting Tallarook to Mansfield. Whether you choose to explore the trail by foot, by bike or by horse it certainly offers a unique way to take in some fresh air. Like so many townships along this great drive, a weekend trip to the farmers’ market is a great way to sample local produce and stock up at the same time. Since 2009, locals and visitors have been filling up their baskets and supporting producers and makers alike at Tallarook Farmers’ Market on the first Sunday of the month.

Seymour
#oneandahalfhoursout

Food SeymourA short drive from Tallarook is Seymour, located on the banks of the beautiful Goulburn River. Very much the platonic ideal of a country town with its wide, welcoming streets and riverside parks, Seymour has always been a major stop on the Melbourne-Sydney route. The area has also had strong military connections since the establishment of a nearby training camp prior to WW1 and then later Puckapunyal Army Base.

If you’re lucky enough to be visiting during blueberry season (summer) a stop-off at Blue Tongue Berries needs to be top of the list. The Brewer’s Table is your best bet for quality local food, craft beer and cider. While your wine needs are all taken care of with a visit to Wines By Sam, Sam Plunkett’s cellar door in the expertly refitted old Seymour dye works building.

Avenel
#oneandahalfhoursout

AvenelThe historic township of Avenel was established in 1849 as a stop-over point between Melbourne and Albury. It is also known as the place where Ned Kelly’s family lived in the 1806s. Ned is now known as a bushranger and outlaw, but he was once hailed a hero after rescuing a young boy from drowning in a local creek. Fowles Wines is the perfect lunch spot; after all who can resist a wine with the name Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch?

Nagambie
#oneandahalfhoursout

Mitchelton Gallery of Aboriginal ArtNagambie calls and it’s our next stop. It is little wonder wineries are a great drawcard of Nagambie and surrounds. The cool climate (influenced by the Goulburn River and Lake Nagambie) combined with the area’s red sandy loam soil adds up to a distinctive wine region.

Look no further than the historic Tahbilk Winery and Mitchelton wineries for evidence. Situated within the Mitchelton estate in a disused underground wine cellars you’ll find the Mitchelton Gallery of Aboriginal Art, regional Victoria’s largest indigenous art gallery, celebrating the art of Australia’s First People, including local Taungurung people.

Euroa
#twohoursout

EuroaOur last stop is Euroa at the foothills of the Strathbogie Ranges. You’re definitely in Kelly country now – Ned Kelly and his gang bank robbed a local bank here in 1878. These days the town is a good base to explore the nearby Strathbogies, take a scenic drive to the Gooram waterfalls or perhaps take a quick dip in one of the popular swimming holes if weather allows.

Whether you are seeking a nature-lovers paradise, a taste of the region’s best restaurants and wineries or a relaxing getaway full of country hospitality, a Goulburn River and Ranges Road Trip has it all. Murrindindi, Mitchell and Strathbogie regions are an easy drive out of Melbourne with no end of things to experience whatever the season.

We suggest you plan to stay a while.


DOWNLOAD GOULBURN RIVER & RANGES ROADTRIP MAP

Goulburn River Road TripDiscover the huge variety of attractions across the region with this printable map. Download here.

Or use our helpful itinerary to plan your trip around the region.

 

 

 

 


 

We wish to acknowledge the Taungurung people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

 

Five Favourite Forest Walks

Words by Richard Cornish
Images supplied

There is something about the primal beauty of mature trees that feeds our body, our brain and our soul. The sun filtering through the canopy, the cloak-like protection from the weather outside, the fragrance from the living leaves, and the earthy aroma from those dead and decaying into the soil. Walking in nature is hard-wired within us. 

The fresh air cleans our lungs, the vistas ease our eyes and the act of walking itself promotes an overall feeling of wellbeing. There is also the Japanese concept that people are embracing called forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku. This refers to the therapeutic effect the aromatic compounds emitted by the trees are said to have on peoples’ wellbeing.

Whether you’re into forest bathing or not, here are some of our favourite places to reinvigorate your body and soul, with a stroll in Victoria’s native forests.

1. Mountain Giants, Dandenong Ranges
#onehourout

Here, the mountain ash trees tower above the cool clear waters of Sassafras Creek, their smooth creamy bark shining like columns. The mute-coloured forest erupts with red and blue and swooping and squawking, as a family of Crimson Rosellas fly noisily in shallow arcs. There’s a brilliant flash of sapphire as a little Superb Wren dances about to impress his mate. Somewhere, under the ferns on the hill above, comes the noise of a wagtail, kookaburra, currawong and cockatoo, and then there’s a lyrebird showing off his repertoire of near-perfect impersonations.

Walk quietly along the Sassafras to Monbulk trail and there’s a good chance you’ll experience all this. It’s 12km one way, starting at the Sassafras Hall, and perfect for a half day walk.

If you don’t have time for the entire walk, try a section of it. We would recommend the 4km walk from Sassafras Hal to the 1950s Kalista Tearooms (103 Monbulk Rd) – this is one of many walks in the forest of the Dandenong Ranges, which can range from short to strenuous.

When the weather is wet the well-made tracks at the RJ Hamer Arboretum offer forest bathing amongst dark and mysterious exotic conifer plantations.

After a walk through the forest giants, try pastries and light meals at the highly recommended Prosperina Bakery and Café (361 Mount Dandenong Tourist Rd, Sassafras). For a bowl of warming soup or great dish of roast pork and cabbage try Seasons Restaurant at Cloudehill (89 Olinda-Monbulk Rd, Olinda). The best reference for forest walks in the Dandenong Ranges is https://explorethedandenongs.com.au/ 

2. Seaside Forest, Bells Beach
#oneandahalfhoursout

There is a certain tough beauty about the west coast bush. The prevailing winds bring salt-laden breezes from the surf-pounded coast, stunting the banksias and colourful correas, and twisting the trees – sending many on a leeward tilt. Under the canopy of the ironbark trees there is a sense of stillness; their bark is such a deep red that it is almost black.

After rain, the almost invisible moss swells and grows deep green, cloaking these hardy trees with another layer of life. Late winter and spring see the wattle burst into their tiny pom poms of yellow, and below them are the small but intricately beautiful terrestrial orchids.

This is the forested part of the Iron Bark Basin walk, an 8km hike from Bells Beach to Point Addis. Much of the forest is regrowth, the ancient ironbark removed for firewood to feed the jarosite mine – a mineral compound that was mined and used to colour the paint on Victoria’s famous red rattlers trains in the 1920s. This walk weaves through the forest, around groves of grass trees and opens out onto clifftop lookouts, offering breathtaking views of Bass Strait and the ochre-colored cliffs of Point Addis. In summer, bring your towel and bathers as Point Addis beach is popular with families.

A casual eatery and bar focusing on seasonal produce awaits you at the Anglesea Surf Life Saving Club (100 Great Ocean Road, Anglesea).

For more information, head to https://www.surfcoastwalk.com.au/.

3. The Rainforest,  Great Otway National Park
#threehoursout

Soon, parts of the forest at Melba Gully will take on autumnal hues of deep red and vermillion. These are the juvenile leaves of the myrtle beech – an ancient forest tree that covered the earth from Papua New Guinea to Antarctica millions of years ago.

Under them are unfurling fronds of tree ferns and a thick mat of deep forest litter. Along the 1.2km Madsen’s Track Nature Trail in the Great Otway National Park you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back millions of years, when Australia was part of the mega continent Gondwanaland.

Many of the species that were around back then still inhabit this damp, dark forest. The raised walkway takes you deep into this forest, interlaced with babbling brooks and the sound of waterfalls in the distance. At night, the forest comes alight with thousands of glow worms dotting the undergrowth and sheltered nooks like natural fairy lights.

If you’re travelling to Otway Ranges National Park through Apollo Bay, order a serve of fish and chips at the Apollo Bay Fishermen’s Co-op (2 Breakwater Rd, Apollo Bay).

This is one of the many walks in the Great Otway National Park, which can be accessed via the Great Ocean Road. Some of the tracks have been closed for winter and early spring for repairs. Visit https://parkweb.vic.gov.au/ before you leave for track and camping information.

4. Ancient River Red Gums, Barmah
#threehoursout

With a massive girth and twisted limbs ending in stumpy hollows, the old river red gum is old. Very old. It was most likely a sapling when Shakespeare was writing his sonnets. But then the river red gum forests are ancient; they have been there since the Dreamtime. Ask the Yorta Yorta indigenous people – this is their home.

A vast forest of silver barked eucalypts whose wood is the deep, red-colour like the flesh of people. You get a sense that they are more than alive when you walk amongst them. The big trees hold – in their limbs and inside the nooks and crannies of their trunk – birds, possums, insects, spiders and lichens.

On a warm spring day, the sounds of buzzing bees and flying beetles, all feeding on the nectar in the tree’s flowers, fill the forest with a low-pitched hum.

Some of the best walks can be found at Barmah, about 30 minutes north-west of Echuca. Start at the Dharnya Cultural Centre, where you’ll learn how to identify the numerous canoe and scar trees in the forest as well as how to look for a clay oven – mounds of baked earth where the Yorta Yorta people would have cooked their meals of fish, turtle, mussels and freshwater crayfish.

From here start a series of walks ranging from short to several hours. For coffee nearby try The Forest Door (3 Maloney St, Barmah) or for some more substantial pub grub try the American Hotel in Echuca (239 Hare St, Echuca).

5. Errinundra Plateau, Errinundra National Park
#sixhoursout

Mist and fog are not uncommon up on the Errinundra Plateau. Moist air rolls in from the coast and gathers around this ancient forest, some 1000m above sea level. Here, ancient mountain plum pines grow amongst giant granite tors – both covered in moss and lichen and creating a world so beautiful yet foreign that it could have been devised by the mind of Tolkein. This is a land of towering old-growth shining gum trees (some 80m tall), of plunging ravines and soft, silent trees fern groves.

There are a series of walks cut into this wild forest that allow you to travel back in time to the Gondwanaland rainforests and later, when the people of the Kurnai Nation walked the ridgelines throughout the seasons.

This is remote and rugged country, accessible only by mountain tracks shared by massive logging trucks. The roads can be impassable after rain. Make sure you bring water, food and protective clothing.

There’s excellent coffee and fresh bakery items at Wild Rye Bakery at Cann River (14a Princes Hwy, Cann River). There is a range of eateries in Orbost, but book in for a sunset dinner of really decent pub grub at The Marlo Hotel, on the banks of the mouth of the Snowy River. (19 Argyle Parade, Marlo)

Grampians Road Trip with Tim Bone

Like many Victorians, Tim Bone’s (Masterchef 2019) first experience of the Grampians was campfire songs and orienteering at school camp.

There is so much more to explore in this region which is rich in wildlife, indigenous history and fantastic food and wine. So we thought it would be fun to send Tim back out on a Grampians road trip to rediscover the region with fresh eyes.

 


PLAN YOUR OWN GRAMPIANS ROAD TRIP

Explore Ballarat’s Great Outdoors

Words by Della Vreeland
Images Supplied

Ballarat’s cool-climate might make for some chilly winter days, but it also works to create some profoundly rich natural surroundings.

Many a time when friends and family visit my neck of the (literal) woods, they can’t help but comment on the lushness of the land, the green that surrounds and the serenity that abounds – regardless of the season.

And while my hometown is best known for its heritage, its burgeoning food scene, and of course its gold-rush history, there’s no doubt the great outdoors play a part in the creation of its marvel.

So if you’re thinking of hitting up Ballarat and harnessing your inner-adventurer, take a look at the itinerary below and start planning your special outdoor adventure.