Mount Cobbler Summit

This is a guest article by Monique Winterhoff.

Reaching the summit of Mount Cobbler can be quite challenging, but the outstanding 360-degree views of the Victorian Alps make the trek well worth the effort.

The climb to Mount Cobbler can be done as part of a longer trail, the Mount Cobbler Plateau Circuit, but one of the simplest routes to take is the four-hour return walking track from Lake Cobbler up to the summit of the mountain. Lake Cobbler is around a five-and-a-half-hour drive north-east from Melbourne, where four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended, as roads can be rough for two-wheel drive vehicles past Bennies. It is recommended to check the Parks Victoria website for road and trail conditions ahead of time, as the trail is only accessible in warmer months due to closure of the Alpine National Parks roads during winter.

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The trail starts 50 metres east of Cobbler’s Hut at Lake Cobbler, following along an old four-wheel drive track before descending to a small creek crossing. From there, the trail has a short, steep climb before easing into a moderate slope. For the majority of the trail, the hike is through beautiful eucalypt forests, surrounded by mountain gums and broad-leafed peppermints. Closer to the peak, the forest opens out to patches of heathland, grassland and herb fields growing between rocky escarpments. In spring, the wildflowers begin to bloom, resulting in a flurry of pinks, reds and yellows along the trail. At the mountain's summit, there are spectacular 360-degree views of Victoria's stunning alpine region.

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Though the elevation and exposed terrain allows for spectacular views at the summit, this does mean exposure to the elements, so it is important to check the weather forecast before heading out for the hike. However, with a bit of planning, the hike to Mount Cobbler can make for an unforgettable weekend trip.

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SUMMARY

  • Spectacular views over the Victorian Alps.
  • Endemic alpine flora.
  • Summit reaching 1,628m in elevation.
  • 5.5-hour drive north-east from Melbourne.
  • Be wary of weather and driving conditions.

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Monique Winterhoff is a MSc student at the University of Melbourne studying blood parasites in small mammals on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. One of her interests is the combination of art and science, using art as a medium for communicating scientific research.


All images courtesy of Monique Winterhoff.

Smiths Gully

This is a guest article by Michael Smith.

October is an ideal time for a gentle walk in the countryside. The extreme heat of December has not yet arrived and you can enjoy wearing some light clothing. I say, what a fantastic time to visit Northern Melbourne for a bushwalk!

About an hour north of Melbourne city, there is a smallish community nestled between Hurstbridge and St Andrews called Smiths Gully. Within this district there is a bushwalk, which begins at Peter Franke Reserve and follows the Smiths Creek all the way to St Andrews. The return walk takes 1.5 hours and is 3km long.

The vegetation along the creek consists of regrowth from two significant events. In the mid 1850s, gold was discovered in Smiths Gully, which convinced thousands of miners to try their luck. As a result, many trees were logged to create shelters and a community was built. After regeneration was well underway, a fire further decimated the bushscape in 1962.

A range of eucalypts on the same slope. Image: Michael Smith

A range of eucalypts on the same slope. Image: Michael Smith

Today, the gully has a diverse array of plants and ecosystem layers. This is thanks to the eucalypts which provided offspring following both events, due to birds and mammals dispersing seeds from nearby land and the efforts of the local Landcare group to conserve native vegetation.

As soon as you begin the walk, it becomes evident that spiny-head mat-rush dominates the understory along the lower slopes. Don’t be fooled though, as hints of purple and yellow can also be found. Love creeper twines around the mat-rush searching for light, and waxlip orchids pop up where space allows. As you encounter more disturbed areas along the track and the northern fence line, the glossy yellow leaves of native buttercup and Austral bear’s-ear become commonplace. Take time to look for pollinators when you find a decent buttercup patch. The wide petals provide an excellent landing zone for hover flies, Lasioglossum bees and native ants. In conjunction with nectar and pollen, buttercups are irresistible for many insects.

The yellow flower head of Austral bear's-ear. Bees are attracted to yellow and blue petals. Image: Michael Smith

The yellow flower head of Austral bear's-ear. Bees are attracted to yellow and blue petals. Image: Michael Smith

An ant feeding on native buttercup. Image: Michael Smith

An ant feeding on native buttercup. Image: Michael Smith

Within the midstory of the slopes, thorny plants such as prickly moses and sweet bursaria are dotted about. Scrubwrens and fantails can be seen darting to and from these trees. These birds feel comfortable feeding on the food provided by prickly shrubs because predators are less likely to risk receiving a thorn in their side.

One of the most magnificent facets of this walk is the array of tall canopy trees that you can see in one glance. Within the forest foothills, narrow-leaf peppermint, swamp gum and the ghost-like trunks of candlebarks tower over the ground story. Alongside silver wattles, these trees provide food and resting perches for honeyeaters and insectivorous birds. White-eared and yellow-faced honeyeaters, as well as spotted pardalotes can be heard regularly, providing a beautiful melody on your gentle walk.

As the track winds down the slope and closer to the riparian zone, the vegetation changes slightly. Swamp and manna gums now become the dominant eucalypt, and tea-tree adorns the riverbank midstory. Common froglets make their home in this zone, and their call, not unlike a ratchet, can be heard in October.

The beautiful flower head of early Nancy (Wurmbea dioica). Image: Michael Smith

The beautiful flower head of early Nancy (Wurmbea dioica). Image: Michael Smith

Yam daisy (Murnong in Woiwurrung language). Image: Michael Smith

Yam daisy (Murnong in Woiwurrung language). Image: Michael Smith

At regular intervals along the track, signage boards explain the unique relationship that the Indigenous people have with the Smiths Gully area. The local Wurundjeri tribe would move about the wider Yarra River catchment. Their movements were determined by the seasonally available flora and fauna, and some of the bulbous food they would have eaten, including yam daisies (Murnong in Woiwurrung language) and green-hood orchids (multiple species), are on show during the 1.5km stretch.

As you stop to read these signs, or rest by the river, it is easy to quietly reflect. One may think of the deep connections that the Wurundjeri people share with this land. The goldminers might also come to mind, their days spent standing in the cold creek for hours, hoping to finally come face to face with a gold nugget.

Once you reach the end of the trail, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to head back. If you continue down Proctor Street for five minutes, you will come across the small township of St Andrews. Here, you will find an old-fashioned pub and other eateries. What’s more, between 8am and 2pm on Saturdays the renowned St Andrews Market will be in full swing where you may find a trinket or have an interesting conversation with a local.

So, if gentle walks and encountering wildflowers, eucalypts and subtle changes in ecosystems sound like fun, have a crack at the Smiths Gully walk.

Birds identified on the walk: Spotted pardalote, striated pardalote, yellow-faced honeyeater, white-eared honeyeater, grey fantail, white-browed scrubwren, golden whistler, Australian wood duck, superb fairy-wren, crimson rosella, shrike thrush, fantail cuckoo.

Plants identified on the walk: Native buttercup, native violet, early Nancy, waxlip orchid, sweet bursaria, prickly moses, dogwood, prickly tea-tree, yam daisy, Austral bear's-ear, blackwood, silver wattle, snowy daisy-bush, narrow-leaf peppermint, swamp gum, candlebark, manna gum, tall greenhood, nodding greenhood, blunt greenhood.

A waxlip orchid appearing through gaps in Lomandra. Image: Michael Smith

A waxlip orchid appearing through gaps in Lomandra. Image: Michael Smith

SUMMARY

  • A 3km return walk from Peter Franke Reserve in Smiths Gully to St Andrews.
  • Whilst in St Andrews, check out the eateries or visit the St Andrews Market on Saturday.
  • Bring your binoculars for bird spotting and a camera to capture the magnificent scenery.
  • Information boards along the track outline the significance of the area to the Wurundjeri people and the gold mining history of the township.

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Michael Smith is a trained ecologist who currently works in bush regeneration, habitat engineering and environmental education. He is passionate about community engagement and teaching the importance of biodiversity.


Banner image of a yam daisy courtesy of Michael Smith.

Breakneck Gorge

This is a great half-day walk for locals or visitors to the Daylesford and Hepburn Springs area, giving you a good taste of the surrounding bushland in a peaceful gully.

The walk begins in Bryces Flat Reserve, which is easily accessed from Bald Hill Road in Hepburn. You will come to a bridge; cross it, and the turning to Bryces Flat is on the left, where parking is available. 

Image: Alex Mullarky

Image: Alex Mullarky

Set out following the signs to the Blowhole, taking the footbridge over Sailors Creek and following the track up. You will cross back over Bald Hill Road before reconnecting with the path on the other side, which will lead you up into the trees and over the hill to the gully on the far side. Forming part of the 210km Goldfields Track, the path is always clear and well signposted. 

Following it for half an hour will bring you to the Blowhole, a good place to stop to refuel. The Blowhole is a remnant of the gold rush, created to expose gold in the water, and after heavy rainfall it appears to shoot water. Unfortunately, the viewing area is currently closed due to a recent rock fall. 

From the Blowhole, follow the signs towards Breakneck Gorge. The Dry Diggings Track temporarily joins with an unsealed road before turning off to meet the riverbed, currently dry. If in doubt, just follow the yellow signposts. 

Image: Alex Mullarky

Image: Alex Mullarky

The trail becomes trickier here, negotiating a few more hills and with some rocky spots to navigate. The slope becomes quite steep to your left in some places and it’s best to walk carefully. Small lizards are common along the path on a warm day and the odd swamp wallaby can be spotted down in the leafy gully. 

It takes around an hour from the Blowhole to reach Breakneck Gorge: a deep, tree-filled gorge that appears suddenly around a bend. It’s a great place to watch some birds in the treetops below. And if you’re not feeling too worn out, the walk can easily be turned into a return trip, back along the same path.

Image: Alex Mullarky

Image: Alex Mullarky

SUMMARY

  • A 4km route from Bryces Flat in Hepburn to Breakneck Gorge.
  • Opportunity to continue along the Dry Diggings Track which leads into Daylesford.
  • Spectacular scenery and seclusion not far off the beaten track.
  • See the Daylesford area from a different perspective.

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Alex Mullarky

Alex Mullarky is a writer and environmentalist from the UK who has called Melbourne home since 2014. She is a graduate of English Literature and is particularly interested in the connection between language and landscape.
You can find her on Twitter at @saesteorra


Originally published on Walking Maps.

Banner image courtesy of Alex Mullarky.

Wombat Trail

Approximately an hour and a half’s travel north-east of Melbourne CBD, Trentham is a small town on the edge of the Wombat State Forest. There are a number of small reserves and walking trails around town, and the Wombat Trail, a loop of approximately 8km, takes the walker right around the edge of the houses into the surrounding bushland. 

Parking is available at the Quarry St Reserve, where the trail begins. A large pond in the reserve is home to a variety of waterfowl, and the path leads south along its banks. 
Cross the High St and you’ll enter the community-managed Stoney Creek Reserve. There has been some flood damage to the path here but it has been well marked out by the reserve’s managers and is easily avoided. 

After leaving Stoney Creek, follow Park St until you reach Trentham Cemetery, where a grassy track follows the fence-line of the graveyard before veering into the trees. 

Cross over the Trentham-Blackwood Road to enter the forest, where kangaroos can usually be spotted in the morning and evening grazing in the neighbouring paddock. The path will lead you down to the Trentham Racecourse Reserve, where the last race was run 110 years ago. All that remains of the racetrack is a wide path through gum trees which have reclaimed the reserve over the past century. 

Approximately halfway around the track is the site of the grandstand and finishing post, now unrecognisable, save for the bench and interpretive sign that mark the spot. As you complete your circuit of the track, crimson rosellas, corellas and kookaburras are a common sight in the treetops.

Retrace your steps with the aid of the Wombat Trail signage, then follow the path right; here, you may find yourself surrounded by common brown butterflies. Gleeson St will lead you around the back of the town, then simply pass along Trent Creek and turn down Albert St to return to your parking spot. 

Signage is regular and reliable all the way along the route, making it very difficult to lose your way, and the going is easy underfoot. It’s a steady, flat trail that’s best enjoyed early in the morning while the town is quiet.

SUMMARY

•    A loop around the town of Trentham through the Wombat Forest
•    Sites of historic interest including the old Trentham Racecourse
•    Listen out for corellas and kookaburras along the forest trails
•    Easy terrain for young children or older walkers

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Alex Mullarky

Alex Mullarky is a writer and environmentalist from the UK who has called Melbourne home since 2014. She is a graduate of English Literature and is particularly interested in the connection between language and landscape.


You can find her on Twitter at @saesteorra


Originally published on Walking Maps.

All images courtesy of Alex Mullarky.

Mount Buller to Mount Stirling

Visiting Mt Buller for some skiing or mountain biking this year? Don’t feel like hitting the slopes? If you’d prefer to head out in your hiking boots, this walk will give you a fantastic view of the Victorian Alps along trails in truly beautiful country.

Beginning in the alpine town of Mt Buller, head out along Chamois Road with the centre of town behind you. You will come across a staircase leading down to the Village Circuit Track, often used as a cross-country skiing trail. Follow it past the water treatment facility until you hit the unsealed Cornhill Road. This road will lead you around a bend before Cornhill Track takes you up into the bush.

From here the route is fairly straightforward all the way to the summit of Mt Stirling. First, however, there’s a long, steep descent into Howqua Gap, where the huts and camping area make a great place to stop and have a rest before tackling the ascent to Stirling. The Howqua Gap Trail, which leads you to the summit, is always fairly clear underfoot and easy to locate, but the steep climbs and descents each way make this a challenging walk.

You’ll pass through some extraordinary snow gum forests as you make your way to the Stirling summit, where the trees give way to a beautiful alpine plain. From the summit, watch crows lifting off and butterflies weaving around you, and take a break to recover your strength before tackling the return journey.

This is a great walk to build up strength and fitness while enjoying the peaceful quiet of the summits – a good getaway from the noise and bustle of the ski village!

SUMMARY

  • A great day’s excursion while staying at Mt Buller.
  • Steep climbs and descents going both ways.
  • Spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.
  • Not advisable for snowy conditions; always carry a map.

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Alex Mullarky

Alex Mullarky is a writer and environmentalist from the UK who has called Melbourne home since 2014. She is a graduate of English Literature and is particularly interested in the connection between language and landscape.


You can find her on Twitter at @saesteorra

 

Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve

One of the most spectacular sights Victoria has to offer is to be found, unexpectedly, just off the Princes Highway between Warrnambool and Port Fairy. Tower Hill is an extinct volcano, a massive crater filled with conical hills and round lakes created by an ancient explosion. The primeval landscape of the reserve is brimming with wildlife, from kangaroos and emus, to koalas and snakes.

A single-track road winds through the hills, descending into the centre of the crater. If you haven’t already spied an emu from the road, they can be seen strolling through the car park in the area surrounding the visitor centre. From there, walking trails extend in all directions, following the contours of the reserve’s extraordinary geology.

The Journey to the Last Volcano loop is only a couple of kilometres return and takes you up and around the rim of one of the crater lakes, giving you a panoramic view of the vivid hues of green that colour the reserve. If you’re short on time, the Lava Tongue Boardwalk takes only half an hour to walk. A short loop which takes you out into the wetlands, you’ll find lizards scattering beneath your feet, snakes patrolling the path’s edge, and you may even spot an emu pushing through the reeds.

Not only home to an abundance of wildlife, Tower Hill is rich with history. Originally, the area was inhabited by clans of the Gunditjmara nation, who may have witnessed the eruptions that shaped the landscape we see today. The visitor centre is now managed by the Worn Gundidj Aboriginal Cooperative, who offer guided walks and sell arts and crafts. Tower Hill has long been recognised as an extraordinary place; in 1892, it became Victoria’s first National Park.

Whether you’re in the area for a while or passing through along the Great Ocean Road, make sure you factor Tower Hill into your trip. It would be easy to spend a day or more exploring the maze of trails that traverse the park. 

SUMMARY

·      An extinct volcano which has created spectacular landforms.

·      A range of walks for all abilities.

·      Abundant wildlife easily spotted from the trail.

·      Make sure to factor it into a Great Ocean Road trip.

 

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Alex Mullarky

Alex Mullarky is a writer and environmentalist from the UK who has called Melbourne home since 2014. She is a graduate of English Literature and is particularly interested in the connection between language and landscape.


You can find her on Twitter at @saesteorra


All images courtesy of Alex Mullarky. 

Tarra-Bulga National Park

Tarra-Bulga is one of the lesser known temperate rainforests we have in Victoria, tucked away in South Gippsland in the Tarra Valley. Even the drive to the park feels magical. As you wind your way through the tall cliffs of the valley, water cascades down through the rainforest into the Tarra River, which runs beside you. As the car creeps upwards, the air becomes crisper and you leave the rushing sounds of the river – and the rest of the world – behind you.

There are a number of different trails to explore at Tarra-Bulga, as well as picnic and camping areas if you wish to make a day (or two) of it. The Tarra Valley Rainforest Walk is a short and easy stroll to Cyathea Falls, which is a small but beautiful waterfall that you could very well have all to yourself.

Images: Ella Kelly

Images: Ella Kelly

Image: Ella Kelly

Image: Ella Kelly

If you have a bit more time, make your way to Corrigan’s Suspension Bridge – head out from the Visitor Centre Carpark via the Lyrebird Ridge, Ash, and Wills Tracks. This secluded suspension bridge gives you a fantastic view, allowing you to take in the sights from above and get a different perspective of the forest canopy. (And if you’re super lucky, it may look like this.)

But possibly the thing I enjoyed most at Tarra-Bulga was simply wondering along the rainforest paths. You will feel dwarfed by the towering mountain ash trees as you wind your way through the thickets of ferns and fallen logs that make up the crowded understory. The air is filled with the sounds of male lyrebirds calling to attract mates, and if you go quietly you may even catch a glimpse of one running across the path – they are everywhere!

Image: Ella Kelly

Image: Ella Kelly

Summary

  • Towering mountain ash forests

  • Quiet and easy walks; wide paths with some stairs and steep inclines

  • Highlights include Cyathea Falls and Corrigan’s Suspension Bridge

  • Abundant local wildlife, particularly lyrebirds

  • Fantastic atmosphere - a real escape from the world!

 

 

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Ella Kelly

Ella is a PhD Candidate at the University of Melbourne, where she spends a lot of time thinking about why some quolls don’t eat cane toads (if only she could ask them!). She also enjoys talking and writing about science, and would ultimately love to have an actual impact on the conservation of Australia’s biodiversity.

You can find her on Twitter at @ecology_ella


Banner image courtesy of Ella Kelly.

Mt Feathertop & The Razorback

Summiting Mount Feathertop, Victoria’s second highest peak, via the Razorback Trail is not without its challenges, but the unique terrain and 360-degree views across the Alps have made it one of the most beloved tracks in Victoria.

Both Mount Feathertop and the Razorback can be done as part of several longer trails within the region, but the simplest and most popular route is the return trail across the Razorback from Mount Hotham to Mount Feathertop. The trailhead is around a 4-hour drive from Melbourne, whilst the hike itself is 22 kilometres return, which can be completed over one or two days using available camping sites.

Photo: Evatt Chirgwin

Photo: Evatt Chirgwin

The majority of the Razorback rises to an altitude above the tree line, with only the most resilient snowgums able to endure the harsh winter conditions that occur at such a height. These exposed conditions not only provide unobstructed views of the surrounding Alps, but also allow endemic communities of alpine shrub and wildflowers to flourish.

The final ascent up Mount Feathertop can seem a little daunting; though not technically difficult, the path up is constantly steep. Fortunately, the spectacular views from the summit, including those of the Bogong High plains, Mount Hotham, and Kiewa Valley, quickly sooth the aches and pains accumulated from the assent.

Photo: Evatt Chirgwin

Photo: Evatt Chirgwin

While the altitude and exposed terrain are largely what make the trail so spectacular, these factors can also make it somewhat treacherous. Checking the weather forecast before embarking is essential, as a combination of rapid changes in weather and the lack of tree cover can leave hikers exposed to harsh wind, rain, and snow. Although it is possible to access the trail all year round, in the winter months it should only be attempted by those with a high level of experience with heavy snowfall; low visibility and below-zero temperatures make the trail extremely dangerous. However, with a little thought and planning the trail can offer an amazing day or weekend of adventure!

Photo: Evatt Chirgwin

Photo: Evatt Chirgwin

Summary

  •  Spectacular views over the Victorian alps
  • Endemic alpine flora
  • Second highest peak in Victoria
  • 4-hour drive from Melbourne
  • Be wary of weather conditions

 

 

 

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Lysterfield Lake

A family-friendly, accessible walk just an hour outside the city.

Considering that it’s tucked away in a valley just a 10-minute drive off the Eastern Freeway, you’ll be surprised just how big Lysterfield Lake is. On a Saturday afternoon the park is bursting with families enjoying a barbecue in the picnic area, sailing lessons and swimmers in the water, and mountain bikers making the most of the range of tracks. Although it’s a lovely atmosphere on a sunny afternoon, if you’re looking for some more solitude, the lake circuit is surprisingly peaceful.

At 5.5 kilometres long, the circuit track taking only about an hour and a half to walk at a gentle pace. The gravel path is wide and relatively flat, making it a fairly easy way to get a pram or a wheelchair out into nature. The amount of signage makes it very difficult to get lost, so this is a great one for a family outing; if in doubt, just follow the lake! Roughly a third of the walk is along the lake shore and the dam wall and the rest is forested, though you’re never too far from the water.

There are plenty of opportunities to extend your walk along the network of trails branching off from the lake if you’re after more than a couple of hours’ walking. The main track is so spacious and well-maintained that you may feel more immersed when following the offshoots into the trees. If you don’t feel like going on foot and have access to a mountain bike or a horse, there are a number of horse-friendly trails and more than 20 kilometres of mountain bike tracks in the forest surrounding the lake.

Lysterfield Park has several mobs of kangaroos and wallabies that can be spotted from time to time, but are most active in the early morning and at dusk – though bear in mind that the park closes later in the evening. There are a number of fenced conservation areas, some of which have walking tracks to allow you to stroll right in amongst the trees. When you return to the picnic area, take a moment to admire the colours and patterns of the beautiful spotted gum stands.

SUMMARY

  1. PARK AT LYSTERFIELD PICNIC AREA AND FOLLOW THE PATH IN EITHER DIRECTION

  2. WIDE, FLAT TRACK FOR PRAMS OR WHEELCHAIRS

  3. MOUNTAIN BIKING AND HORSE RIDING OPPORTUNITIES

  4. ON A BEAUTIFUL DAY, DON'T FORGET YOUR BATHERS! 


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All images courtesy of Alex Mullarky. 

Werribee Gorge

A challenging track hidden in a gorge just an hour from the centre of Melbourne.

On first arriving, Werribee Gorge doesn’t seem like it will be all that peaceful – just off the Western Freeway, only an hour out of the city – but sound evaporates in the gorge. By the time you’ve parked in the Quarry Picnic Area the traffic noise has been muffled, but the voices of hikers up on the ridge can be heard clearly.

The Circuit Track is roughly 10km long, first tracing the edge of the gorge, then winding down through it. The route is clearly signposted with red triangles (mostly faded to burnt orange) and a map in the Quarry Picnic Area. The initial climb is steep but fairly short. Despite it being 11 o’clock on a Saturday morning, we crossed paths with a bold swamp wallaby within two minutes of setting off.

Photo: Alex Mullarky

Photo: Alex Mullarky

Walkers are quickly rewarded for their climb with two viewpoints overlooking the interior of the gorge and a valley beyond. From the second viewpoint, the path winds steeply down until it reaches the river. This flat section of the walk is fairly easy-going, aside from the need to bash through some overgrown bushes and navigate some ledges, though the drop is very small.

Beyond this section is a rocky stretch that rounds a bend, with a slight overhang above the water. Parks Victoria have attached a cable along the rocks so that walkers can have a mini climbing adventure, but again, there isn’t much of a drop so there’s no real risk. It’s a fun and unexpected part of the track but it can get a bit congested on weekend afternoons, as families and hikers attempt to traverse it in different directions!

Photo: Alex Mullarky

Photo: Alex Mullarky

A gradual incline follows, at the end of which is a fork. At this point, we took a wrong turn, following the sign for the Short Circuit Track (another option from the Quarry) instead of continuing down towards Meikles Point. This doesn’t seem to cut any distance off the walk but it does add a steep incline as the track goes sharply back up to the initial ridgeline and viewpoint, before we retraced our steps down to the Quarry Picnic Area.

This is another great afternoon walk, taking only about three hours but giving your forgotten hiking muscles a good workout. The varying terrain keeps the walk interesting and the park’s proximity to the highway isn’t a problem – from the highest point you can see cars passing in the distance, but the gorge is peaceful and almost silent. A great afternoon escape.

Summary:

  • An hour’s drive from the city
  • Slightly challenging terrain
  • Can be walked in an afternoon
  • Varying landscapes of ridgeline and gorge basin

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Alex Mullarky

Alex Mullarky is a freelance journalist and works part-time in threatened species conservation. Her other passion is ex-racehorse rehabilitation and she is currently completing her Masters.

Endeavour Fern Gully

This 27-hectare National Trust property is unique. Located in Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula, the land is 17.5 hectares of remnant rainforest, with the remaining 9.5 hectares gradually being revegetated by volunteers. 

The two-kilometre walking loop descends from this revegetated area and winds around old gum trees and through a lush fern gully. You then find yourself meandering alongside and over the headwaters of Stony Creek. 

A variety of fungi are abundant along this walk. 

A variety of fungi are abundant along this walk. 

You are bound to see abundant vegetation and birdlife throughout this walk. This land is a haven for flora and fauna to thrive, as it has remained unspoiled. The bushland consists of one of the last remaining untouched areas of a rich, red basaltic soil, which is rare along the Mornington Peninsula. For this reason amongst others, Endeavour Fern Gully has several rare plant species and is a vital source of habitat and food for a wide variety of animals.

In this rich habitat there is, unsurprisingly, a significant variety of birdlife. Endeavour is filled with birds humming and whistling everywhere you go. There are crimson rosellas, eastern yellow robins, yellow-tailed black cockatoos, wedge-tailed eagles, and even grey fantails, just to name a few.    

As you delve deeper into the Gully, you are immersed amongst tall messmate stringybark and the smooth-barked subspecies of manna gum. Along the trail, you will come across a large and remarkable burnt-out hollow of a messmate stringybark. This is believed to have been a place where indigenous people smoked animals for food, such as eels. 

The Gully boasts some impressive native trees as well as more low-lying flora. 

The Gully boasts some impressive native trees as well as more low-lying flora. 

For plant enthusiasts, there are at least two indigenous vegetation species that are extremely rare in the area: the Hedycarya angustifolia, a rainforest plant also known as the austral mulberry, and Parsonsia brownii, the silk pod. The latter species is also not apparent anywhere else on the Mornington Peninsula!

On our walk, we had the opportunity to explore the Gully with botanist and one of Endeavour’s most dedicated volunteers, Gillian Tolley. She has been looking after Endeavour since 2004 and hopes to gain more insight into the area’s flora and fauna in the near future. Gillian led the way as our team set up cameras, the footage from which will help us to learn more about animal life in the Gully. Endeavour also welcomes more volunteers – so come and get involved in the conservation of one of the Peninsula’s most incredible hidden gems.

Camera traps will help us to identify some of the more illusive animals of Endeavour Fern Gully.  

Camera traps will help us to identify some of the more illusive animals of Endeavour Fern Gully.  

If you’re looking to be immersed in nature, this tranquil experience is definitely worth a visit!

 

SUMMARY

  1. Located at 195 Arthurs seat Rd, red hill, vic 3937

  2. parking access

  3. 2km walk, approximately 30-45 minutes

  4. for volunteering information, please contact gillian tolley: gilliantolley@gmail.com

 

please note

  1. check for fire danger 

  2. be aware that snakes and leeches are found here


LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY

EASE OF ACCESSIBILITY

WILDLIFE

SCENERY

OVERALL RATING


Juliet Israel

Juliet is the Community Outreach Manager of Wild Melbourne and pursues her interests in natural and social sciences through the mediums of photography, nature expeditions and communication. She also works in conservation and land management, where she takes delight in working with like-minded people who are passionate about our environment.


 All images courtesy of James Evans. 

Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve

Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve consists of an impressive 50 hectares of wetlands, open grasslands, a saltmarsh and a mangrove conservation area, providing an ideal haven for up to 120 bird species that frequent the area. Equipped with beautifully laid out boardwalks and bird hides, this reserve is a must for any budding naturalist or bird enthusiast.  

Situated in Williamstown alongside Jawbone Marine Sanctuary (the closest marine protected area to Melbourne's CBD) lies Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve. Just minutes west of Williamstown beach, and eight kilometres from the heart of Melbourne, this reserve is often overlooked due to the lack of signage as well as its seclusion from the main attractions of the area. The reserve has various access points via the Bay Trail; however, I recommend walking alongside the Esplanade, westwards from Williamstown Beach until you stumble across the reserve itself.

Upon entering, you will find yourself walking along the shore that lines the 30 hectares of Jawbone marine sanctuary. The sanctuary has been fenced off for 80 years and is an oasis for native marine and bird life. It boasts the largest occurrence of mangroves in Victoria as well as the only ones that grow on a basalt coast in Victoria. Due to the unique collection of habitats here, the distinctive biodiversity of the area becomes increasingly apparent as you meander across the sand toward the reserve. 

As we walked toward the boardwalk along the foreshore, we spotted Australian pelicans diving for fish and black swans feeding on aquatic plants in the shallows of the bay.

Scores of rock pools lead the way, showcasing gorgeous micro-ecosystems within each one. The sand is littered with tell-tale signs of animals that occur in the sanctuary but cannot be seen unless you are submerged in the bay. Sea urchin endoskeletons, shells of various molluscs, and sea jellies are amongst the many items we spotted scattered across the sand.

Once you approach the boardwalk, you will see it has adjoining pathways that lead you through the entire reserve. The boardwalk helps in the preservation of the reserve, allowing visitors to approach the unique habitats up close without having a negative impact on them. Informative signs are dotted along the walk, touching on the reserve history, geological makeup and complex ecosystems within the area.

Here, you have the opportunity to get up close to the reserve saltmarsh (one of the very few remaining in Port Phillip Bay). A sea of salt-tolerant beaded glasswort spreads across the saltmarsh where it evidently thrives. Now recognised as significant ecosystems, saltmarshes act as nurseries for marine life, and in turn are vital feeding grounds for bird species that frequent the area. There are conveniently placed bird hides with identification signs joined to the boardwalk that allow you to view the amazing diversity of bird life without disturbing them.

Lastly, there is a trail that leads you to the Jawbone Arboretum where Friends of Williamstown Wetlands have planted an impressive collection of native plants, each labelled with informative biological facts. The arboretum is a fantastic place to school yourself on indigenous plant diversity, as well as experience alternate views of the lakes and Port Phillip Bay.

SUMMARY

  1. ONLY 8KM FROM MELBOURNE'S CBD

  2. BOASTS A VARIETY OF HABITATS

  3. 120 DIFFERENT BIRD SPECIES HAVE BEEN SIGHTED HERE

  4. LARGEST OCCURRENCE OF MANGROVES IN VICTORIA


LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY

EASE OF ACCESSIBILITY

WILDLIFE

SCENERY

OVERALL RATING


Tanya Rajapakse

Tanya holds a strong passion for the conservation and preservation of local ecosystems. She recently completed her Masters of Science, focusing on the biodiversity of fauna in Port Phillip Bay and its relationship with seagrass meadows.

 

 

 


All images courtesy of Tanya Rajapakse. 


Lake Tali Karng

This is a guest post by Fam Charko.

In the southern region of the Great Alpine National Park lies Lake Tali Karng, Victoria’s only deep mountain lake reaching depths of 51 metres. It’s a fairly young lake, having formed a mere 1500 years ago by a landslide that dammed the Wellington River. The lake is sacred to the traditional owners of the area; the Gunai Kurnai people and Aboriginal peoples are not allowed to visit according to lore. However, the Gunai Kurnai do allow non-indigenous Australians to enjoy one of Victoria’s most acclaimed bush walks.

It’s quite a drive to get there from the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne, so we decided to take the extended Australia Day four-day weekend to hike to both the lake and the Sentinels: the nearly 1500-metre high peak overlooking the lake. From Licola, which is about three hours, it’s another 60 kilometres uphill to the start of the track. A through-walk is also possible but requires a car shuffle from the carpark on the Wellington River outside of Licola.

As the Gunai Kurnai elders ask that visitors respect the lake by not camping on its banks, Parks Victoria maintain a basic campground on the Wellington Plain. From the carpark at McFarlane’s Saddle to Nyimba campground it is a good two-hour pack hike. Once there, it is easiest to use Nyimba as a base and do several day hikes from there.

Nyimba Campground. Photo: Fam Charko

Nyimba Campground. Photo: Fam Charko

The Wellington Plain track leading to Nyimba is fantastic in a Lord of the Rings kind of way: softly rolling hills form a wide plain interspersed with pockets of snow gums. In summer, white, yellow and purple alpine wildflowers like everlastings (from the genus Xerochrysum), snow gentians (Gentianella diemensis) and grass trigger plants (Stylidium graminifolium) form a stark contrast with the deep, earthy tones of the tough heathland shrubs. I would not be surprised to see a group of Riders of Rohan gallop their horses over the hill at any moment. Good thing they only live in Middle Earth, because about 1.5 kilometres in we pass an information sign by Parks Victoria, describing the small pocket of endangered peat land we are traversing. Feral deer are the largest threat to this alpine sphagnum bog, with bushfires and humans close on their heels. We make sure we stick to the well-worn narrow track after this.

At this subalpine altitude, giant clouds of mist roll in as fast as they make way for blue skies. I can’t decide which version of the plains I like best. It is all so wide and spacious here, the elements unforgiving in their extremes. I wonder to myself what the place looks like in winter, covered in snow.

Nyimba campground has many scattered camping spots, sheltered between stands of snow gums and low bush. There is one pit toilet (bring paper) that catches rainwater from its roof into a 600-litre water tank with a tap. The water tastes beautiful. I swirl it around in my mouth before I swallow, enjoying the softness of it and the lack of added chlorine. When we get back to our spot, two ravens have already been in our food. Several bags lay scattered around the meadow, blatantly ripped from our packs. When the birds see us, they quickly fly up into a dead tree, looking down on us with their dark, beady eyes and calling a disinterested ‘waa’. I realise that they are only babies. Tsk, so young and already thieving.  

A leek orchid. Photo: Fam Charko

A leek orchid. Photo: Fam Charko

After setting up camp, we relax and I go exploring. Right next to one of the tracks I find a small stand of mauve leek orchids (Prasophyllum suttonii). They are only one of many species of colourful flowering plants. I love how plants of the High Country bloom so late in the year. While Melbourne is sweltering, we are experiencing a second spring up here, flowers and all. For about an hour, I share a sit spot with a fat water skink. Gang-gang cockatoos and rosellas fly around, calling loudly to each other and finding roosting trees for the night.

After a spectacular sunset, all goes quiet - dead quiet. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere not subterranean where it was this quiet. In the night, I briefly hear the heavy footfall of two wombats gallivanting through the campground, but that’s it. No crickets, no bats, no wind, no humans. I sleep better than I have in a long time.

The morning is stunning with bright sunshine, blue skies and the temperature rising quickly. We can see the mists swirling in the valley beyond Nyimba, but they don’t ever reach the camp. We pack a lunch, bathers and water and start the hike down to Lake Tali Karng.

We choose Gillios Walking Track to go down to the lake, with the intention of looping back up via Echo Point Track. Gillios Track is very steep, but with hiking poles and only daypacks, we manage to get to the lake in about two hours. The track runs through beautiful forests with tall eucalypts and bushy undergrowth, under fallen logs and through thick, prickly shrubs at times. The calls of eastern whipbirds accompany us on the way down. At one stage I climb over a dead tree, trip and nearly land face-first in a patch of Dianella. At least I think it is. This plant resembles a flax lily, with its long green leaves sprouting from the ground. It has long since flowered and is now sporting huge purple berries, whose weight bends the stalks downward. They are bigger than I’ve ever seen on any flax lily and their purple colour is so intense that it almost appears fake. I wonder if they are usable as a fabric dye and squash one between my fingers. A jet of sap squirts onto my shirt, staining it purple. I guess that means yes.

Native rasberries. Photo: Fam Charko.

Native rasberries. Photo: Fam Charko.

We can see the effects of recent bushfires clearly as we descend, particularly by the new stands of young wattles that surround the lake. As the water of Tali Karng emerges between the trees, we walk a little faster. It looks so good; we can’t wait to cool off with a swim. Down at the lake the area is quiet. I see a few cormorants chase each other over the water on the other side as I strip down and plunge into the cool water. As the waters are slightly acidic, there are no plants or even algae growing in the lake. It looks clear as glass, just as you would expect a mountain lake to look. One of the other hikers we encounter says that he came here 20 years ago and pulled a few big trout out of the water. We keep half an eye out while we circumvent the lake, but no sign of any fish. What we do find however, as we hike to the waterfalls, are many stands of native raspberries (Rubus parvifolius). I can’t believe my luck! Within minutes I have fallen behind, as I’m too busy stuffing my face with shiny red berries to keep up. They taste so refreshingly tart and sweet at the same time that I pity the hikers who have gone before us today, passing the thickets obliviously. Feeling slightly disappointed that I can’t eat them all, I catch up with my partner at the start of Nigothoruk Creek.

Litoria nudidifgita. Photo: Fam Charko

Litoria nudidifgita. Photo: Fam Charko

In summer, with the water levels fallen to a minimum, it’s an easy hike to the first set of falls through the creek without getting wet feet. The waterfalls are larger than I expected and surprisingly pretty. We climb up to the first platform and I find my highlight of the trip: a leaf green river tree frog (Litoria nudidigita), trying to camouflage its bright green body by sitting on a brown gum leaf. One can only hope it won’t make that mistake when predators are around. On the bright side, had it not been colourblind, I would probably never have seen it.

After lunch we hike back up the mountain via Echo Point Track. The track climbs so steeply that in the hot weather I have to stop frequently to drink and catch my breath so I can complain about my lack of fitness. I check my GPS and we are moving at the staggering rate of 0.5 kilometres per hour, climbing all of 600 metres. It seems to take forever.

Fortunately, our animal friends are never far away and we see lots of wildlife on this stretch. Tiny, dark brown skinks scatter the leaves in front of our feet as they run to safety and we see several mountain dragons (Rankinia diemensis) camouflaged on the brown leaf litter. My favorite by a mile has to be the mountain bush-cricket (Acripeza reticulata), or, as my friend so eloquently puts it: ‘camo on the outside, disco on the inside’. The females are a mottled brown, but when disturbed they lift their wing covers and flash you with incredibly colourful black, red and blue bands.

A camouflaged mountain dragon. Photo: Fam Charko 

A camouflaged mountain dragon. Photo: Fam Charko 

As we are nearing the top, the mists roll up the hill behind us, enveloping the campground throughout the night. That night we sleep like we are comatose.

The next morning, we wake up in a cloud. Everything is grey and damp as we eat our breakfast, but the scenery remains beautiful. All is perfectly still when we hoist our daypacks on and set off to the Sentinels. My calves are screaming from yesterday’s exploits as I walk down the hill on Miller’s Hut Track. It sure takes a while to warm up the legs. The Suffering of aches and pains is made up for by the beauty of the trail: massive eucalyptus trees loom up out of the mists, gnarled branches outstretched like those of angry Ents. Some have hollows that look like eyes, following us as we make our way through the forest.

Past Miller’s Hut the track starts to climb slightly. We follow Mount Wellington Track, which is also meant for 4WDs, south to the Sentinels. The whole walk is about six kilometres over a gentle gradient - at no point as taxing as Echo Point Track. Gradually, the tall trees make way for stunted snow gums and the sun breaks through the clouds, dissolving the last of the mists and drying our packs and jackets. Bird life here is abundant, with rosellas, gang-gang cockatoos, grey fantails and pairs of flame robins all around.

The Sentinals. Photo: Fam Charko

The Sentinals. Photo: Fam Charko

Then it is time for a rock scrambling session up to the top of the Sentinels at 1500 metres. The effort is rewarded with a stunning view of the mountains, looking down on the clouds as if we were flying in an airplane. The winds blow the cloud cover in and out of the valleys below at great speed. The only thing we have to do is sit on a rock overhang, relax and eat our lunch while we watch the scenery change every two minutes. We can see Tali Karng far beneath us, and notice a faraway waterfall cascading down the mountains, feeding the Nigothoruk Creek. It is a beautiful place to rest for a while. We spot many different species of butterfly and even an unidentified, small bird of prey flying below us.

I find there is a great sense of satisfaction in reaching the top of a mountain and seeing the world from above. Looking down on the tops of the clouds and the backs of flying raptors instead of gazing up at them from below shows us that everything is relative. We sit there for quite a while in the bright sun, a cool breeze coming up from the valley below, ruffling our shirts.

Everlasting flower. Photo: Fam Charko

Everlasting flower. Photo: Fam Charko

On the way back it’s mostly an easy downhill stroll. The mists have disappeared completely, giving us a better view of the stunning old eucalyptus forest surrounding Miller’s Hut. That part of today’s hike is definitely my favourite.

Back at camp, the sun is shining and we find everything has dried out. Still energised from the walk, we decide not to stay another night, but to pack up camp and hike the two hours back to the car. It proves to be a questionable move. You don’t realise how tired you are until you’re battling through the shrub in the heat with a full pack on and the beginnings of a blister on each sweaty little toe - thank goodness the Wellington Plains are flat.

Two and a half hours later we arrive at the car park, drenched in sweat and a little crispy from the sun, but feeling intensely satisfied. We realise that we walked about 24 kilometres that day. Not a bad effort, but in hindsight it would have been better to stay another night and go back the next day.

Summary:

- Camp at Nyimba and do day trips from there.
- Bring a daypack
- Some sections are very steep
- Take at least three, but better four days. 

Difficulty

Accessibility

Wildlife

Scenery

Overall

All images, including cover photo, taken by Fam Charko.

Tipperary Springs

In a forest oasis north of the city, this is a great hike to fill a summer’s afternoon.

Only an hour and a half from the centre of Melbourne, Daylesford feels a million miles from the city. The road north-west passes through increasingly dry country in which Daylesford, famous for its mineral springs, appears as something of an oasis.

A network of trails surrounds the town and the walk to Tipperary Springs is an easy afternoon’s hike at just under a 10 km round-trip. Park beside the lake, follow the trail past Central Springs and you’ll find yourself on the Goldfields Track, which at its full 210 km length reaches from Ballarat to Bendigo. Following the track for a short time will take you along to Twin Bridges and then on to Tipperary Springs, where it’s possible to cross to the other side of Sailor’s Creek and hike back along a different path.

You might spot some scaley friends on this forest walk. Image: Alex Mullarky

You might spot some scaley friends on this forest walk. Image: Alex Mullarky

Despite beginning so close to town, peace and quiet descends on you within minutes of starting out on this forested track. Swamp wallabies, echidnas, currawongs and crimson rosellas are among the wildlife you may be lucky enough to spot without stepping off the path.

All of Daylesford’s springs are equipped with pumps, so you can have a taste or fill your water bottle, depending on how you find the sulphurous taste and natural carbonation. Tipperary Springs is a great place to stop for lunch and refuel before heading back towards the town.

Winding through the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, this is a short, sweet summer hike with great opportunities for wildlife spotting.

A great area for wildlife-spotting, this walk may lead to a wallaby-sighting. Image: Alex Mullarky

A great area for wildlife-spotting, this walk may lead to a wallaby-sighting. Image: Alex Mullarky

SUMMARY

  1. AN EASY, AFTERNOON WALK 

  2. ABUNDANT WILDLIFE

  3. 90 MINUTES FROM THE CITY

  4. SPRING WATER TO DRINK! 


LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY

EASE OF ACCESSIBILITY

WILDLIFE

SCENERY

OVERALL RATING

Banner image by Alex Mullarky


Alex Mullarky

Alex Mullarky is a freelance journalist and works part-time in threatened species conservation. Her other passion is ex-racehorse rehabilitation and she is currently completing her Masters.

You can find her on Instagram at @alexmullarky

Triplet Falls Rainforest Walk

Hidden amongst the 103, 185 hectares that make up the Great Otway National Park lies an ancient forest walk that offers scenery reminiscent of enchanted places only described in fairy tales. The Triplet Falls Rainforest Walk is perfect for those seeking a much needed dose of fresh forest air, accompanied by views of the spectacular waterfalls and surrounding lush temperate rainforest.

Triplet Falls is just under a three-hour drive from the northern suburbs of Melbourne, and can be located by following signposts that lead you from Beech Forest to your destination. Upon arrival you will encounter a small clearing where you can leave your vehicle and commence the one-hour looped trail.

The head of the trail leads you on a compacted dirt track lined with towering myrtle beech and mountain ash trees (some known to be over 200 years old!). The track begins to descend on a slight incline as it takes you into the luscious depths of the rainforest. Well known as an IBA (Important Bird and Biodiversity Area), Triplet Falls Rainforest Walk is best done by tuning your senses into the sights, smells and sounds of your surroundings by taking your time to meander down the dirt pathway.

Above images courtesy of Sara Ellerton & Rhiannon Chapman respectively.

Approximately 60 metres into the walk, you will come to a viewing platform that was initially built to view the upper cascades of the falls. It has since been overgrown with vegetation due to the sheer resilience of the forest. Instead, this is an ideal spot to pause and listen out for not only the falls in the near distance, but also the diverse bird life that frequent this area. Those with limited mobility are able to come up to this point but not any further due to the presence of steps and reasonably steep inclines.

Soon, the pathway turns into one of approximately 150 metres of elevated metal grate, serving as protection for the dense vegetation underneath. Here, the path is completely shaded by a canopy of thick forest growth allowing vibrant mosses and a diverse range of vital fungi to thrive on the native flora. This is an ideal spot to slow down your pace and keep a look out for the impressive fungal diversity that lies amongst the native vegetation. The rainforest quite literally cannot survive without the presence of fungi. Rainforest fungi plays an important role in decomposing and recycling dead organic material so that plants can utilise nutrient bi-products and thrive. Often overlooked, fungal species are fascinating so make sure you pay close attention!

Above images courtesy of Tanya Rajapakse & Sara Ellerton respectively.

The slightly sloped pathway leads you deeper into the valley where the vegetation is incredibly dense and the sounds of the forest are more apparent. You will find yourself approaching the falls just over two thirds into the walk. Here, the three cascades of Triplet Falls are best observed from the impressively laid out and elevated viewing deck. Youngs Creek flows to the falls, which cascades down again into a rocky, clear creek surrounded by a gorgeous array of forest vegetation. It really is a magical scene to take in - one of the many that the Otways have to offer. Although this walk is stunning at all times of the year, the falls are most impressive after heavy rainfall. Once you've taken your fill of the views, the path leads you out of the depths of the valley and back up to the car park via many steep steps.

SUMMARY

  1. JUST UNDER A THREE-HOUR DRIVE FROM NORTHERN SUBURBS

  2. ANCIENT TEMPERATE FOREST

  3. FALLS ARE BEST VIEWED AFTER RAINFALL

  4. STUNNING FOREST SCENERY


LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY

EASE OF ACCESSIBILITY

WILDLIFE

SCENERY

OVERALL RATING

Banner image courtesy of Wikipedia.


Tanya Rajapakse

Tanya holds a strong passion for the conservation and preservation of local ecosystems. She recently completed her Masters of Science, focusing on the biodiversity of fauna in Port Phillip Bay and its relationship with seagrass meadows.

Big Rock Track, You Yangs

Just over an hour’s drive southwest of the northern suburbs, you can find yourself surrounded by the eerily beautiful granite peaks of the You Yangs. Feel like you’re worlds away as you meander through these geographical formations formed during the Devonian Period, and experience the wildlife that thrives here.

Reaching 360 metres above the Werribee Plain at its highest point lie a series of granite peaks that make up the You Yangs. As you enter the regional park, you will be presented with five different trail options. I recommend you decide upon which trail before leaving home, as they all lead in different directions, have different track difficulties and offer different experiences.

We chose the Big Rock Track, which can be accessed from the car park near the park office. The 3-kilometre walk takes you along a dirt path with a steady incline that eventually loops you around the Big Rock and back. Being the driest part of Victoria south of the Great Dividing Range, you are presented with the opportunity to witness some incredible and unique low woodland flora and fauna.

Looking along the Big Rock Track. Image: Tanya Rajapakse

Looking along the Big Rock Track. Image: Tanya Rajapakse

Lining the long dirt track are tall yellow and manna gum eucalypt trees, with thinly distributed undergrowth of native shrubs at their base. This pathway is best taken slowly, keeping a keen eye out for the rich diversity of bird life that flits among the tree branches, as well as the reptiles that frequent the ground below. I set out on this journey with the wish to see a shingleback skink, and with patience came my reward. Being a slow-moving lizard, they are not hard to observe, and are not particularly shy either. The park boasts over 200 bird species and is also home to 30 species of orchid. Although we did not see any orchids on this particular track, we did come across many Australian ravens, sulphur-crested cockatoos, noisy miners, common bronzewings and a scarlet robin!

A confident shingleback lizard peaks through the undergrowth. Image: Tanya Rajapakse

A confident shingleback lizard peaks through the undergrowth. Image: Tanya Rajapakse

To the left of the dirt track is a spectacular view of the Werribee Plain, presenting a typically Australian bushland backdrop. The silence is a welcome change from the daily grind and allows you to hear bird calls from near and far. At the end of the dirt track you will find a plateau of grassland with an area that has been sectioned off for picnics and barbecues. A steep and winding path will lead you to the Big Rock, offering staggering views of the woodlands that lie beneath. From here, you can sit and watch predatory birds circle the area as they scan the premises for a good feed, whilst taking in the astounding view. I suggest that you venture off the given path if you feel the need to! This is how I spotted the elusive and swift scarlet robin, which was such a welcome sighting. However, always be wary of snakes and do not move too far from the track if possible.

From here, you can continue on the looped track to the car park through some gorgeous landscapes laced with towering eucalypts, including some sulphur-crested cockatoos scattered amongst them. A highly recommended location and track for a much-needed dose of fresh air and a welcome change of scenery!

One of Australia's most iconic bird species: the sulphur-crested cockatoo. Image: Tanya Rajapakse

One of Australia's most iconic bird species: the sulphur-crested cockatoo. Image: Tanya Rajapakse

SUMMARY

  1. DIVERSE AND UNIQUE FAUNA

  2. SPECTACULAR VIEWS

  3. CLOSE PROXIMITY TO NORTHERN SUBURBS


LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY

EASY OF ACCESSIBILITY

WILDLIFE

SCENERY

OVERALL RATING

Banner image courtesy of Tanya Rajapakse


Tanya Rajapakse

Tanya holds a strong passion for the conservation and preservation of local ecosystems. She recently completed her Masters of Science, focusing on the biodiversity of fauna in Port Phillip Bay and its relationship with seagrass meadows.

Maroondah Reservoir

Known for its monumental landscapes, Maroondah Reservoir Park promises spectacular views overlooking a most impressive 22, 000 megalitre reservoir that flows over the dam spillway into the gorgeous Watts River. Teeming with native wildlife, the surrounding eucalypt forests sport ideal walking tracks for the keen wildlife enthusiast.

Located in the heart of Healesville, just over an hour’s drive from the northern suburbs of Victoria, lies a local favourite: Maroondah Reservoir Park. Heavily based on and around Watts River, the park boasts a diverse range of native flora and fauna, as well as spectacular views of the dam itself.

You will be given the choice of four walking tracks at the information shelter, located north of the main car park area. We chose to walk the Lookout Track and completed our stay with the Maroondah Forest Track. 

Lookout Track ~ 30 minutes

From the information shelter, I suggest you first explore the exquisitely landscaped gardens lined with both native and exotic trees. Native birds thrive in these historical gardens, so keep a keen eye out and listen carefully. Before heading towards the top of the dam wall, visit the spillway viewing platform to appreciate the beauty of Watts River and the force of water exiting the dam. From here you can climb the famous Rose Stairway consisting of 84 steps, leading you to the very top of the dam wall. If you are unable to climb the stairs, there is a bitumen walking track at the eastern end of the car park, leading you to the same destination.

Once you reach the top of the 41-metre high dam wall, you are presented with breathtaking views of the 22, 000 megalitre Maroondah Reservoir with densely forested mountains in the background. Constructed in 1920 and completed in 1927, the reservoir has since been an important source of potable water for Greater Metropolitan Melbourne. The dam wall walk eventually ends at a clearing where there is a lookout that boasts stunning views of the entire dam, the dam wall and the surrounding forests

Maroonda Forest Track ~ 15-30 minutes

From the lookout clearing, the Maroondah Forest Track leads you through a pleasant native forest walk back down to Henderson's Picnic Area (located near the car park). Time spent on this track can really vary depending on an individual's interests. This densely forested walk is lined with native pines, wattles, eucalypts and tree ferns. Home to many Australian mammals and bird life, this walk is best taken slowly and quietly. Once you are tuned in to the distinct sounds of the forest, you will be delighted with what you hear. On our walk, we spotted a swamp wallaby who had lost its footing and gone tumbling into the scrub below. We saw sulphur-crested cockatoos, crimson rosellas, Australian white ibis and bronzewings. Plenty of kookaburra calls could be heard, although the birds themselves were not seen.

This moderate walk is a gem for those who are fond of native plants, which are heavily distributed the deeper you get into the walk and reminiscent of a tropical rainforest. Just before the end of the track is a small bridge that leads you over a quiet section of Watts River. This is an absolutely stunning spot to take in the sights and sounds of the river and surrounding forest - a perfect treat before you set off in your car to discover more of what Healesville has to offer! 

Summary:

  1. Spectacular views
  2. Dense native vegetation
  3. Array of native fauna
  4. Historical landmark 

Level of difficulty:

Ease of accessibility: 

Wildlife:

Scenery: 

Overall rating: 

All photos taken by Tanya Rajapaske.


Tanya Rajapakse

Tanya holds a strong passion for the conservation and preservation of local ecosystems. She recently completed her Masters of Science, focusing on the biodiversity of fauna in Port Phillip Bay and its relationship with seagrass meadows.

Birdsland Reserve

Perfectly suited for budding ornithologists and nature lovers alike, this aptly named reserve is a haven for over 130 endemic bird species and approximately 200 native plant species. With 75 hectares of bushland and walking tracks to explore, Birdsland Reserve has something on offer for everyone.

Less than an hour’s drive heading east from the northern suburbs of Victoria, you can soon find yourself surrounded by the densely vegetated, riparian bushlands of Birdsland Reserve in Belgrave. Within the 75 hectares of this reserve lie 28 hectares of the Monbulk Creek retarding basin. Two lakes forming the basin are at the heart of the reserve, providing a sanctuary to an array of native flora and fauna.

The entrance to the larger of the two lakes.

The entrance to the larger of the two lakes.

As you leave the carpark, you will find yourself walking along nearby Monbulk Creek, occasionally lined with signs that tell tales of the platypus that inhabit the area. As elusive as the platypus is, there have been sightings of these shy creatures within this very creek and I highly recommend you take some time out to pause here and wait patiently for an appearance! You can walk off-track alongside the creek to observe its inhabitants and climb over the fallen gum trees to admire the array of plant species that border the muddy banks of the creek.

If you look closely, you may be able to spot eastern grey kangaroos in the background.

If you look closely, you may be able to spot eastern grey kangaroos in the background.

Soon you will come to a clearing that reveals the larger lake, as well as the beginning of the looped walking track that leads you around both lakes. This is the simplest of the walking tracks on offer at the reserve and is approximately 3 kilometres long. The track is completely flat and therefore ideal for people of varying physical abilities. Halfway around the larger lake, you will see the continuation of Monbulk Creek to the right of the pathway. On the opposite side of the creek, I was treated to a beautiful sighting: three eastern grey kangaroos grazing on the luscious riparian vegetation and lounging in the sun.

This walking track is great for a leisurely stroll and is designed to allow you to take in every lush aspect of it. A large part of this is keeping a keen eye out for the native bird species that inhabit the reserve. Plenty of nesting purple swamphen, eastern rosellas, magpie larks, superb fairy-wrens, pied currawongs, cormorants, Australian white ibis and common starlings can be spotted, whilst the unmistakable call of the kookaburra may also be heard.

As you approach the second smaller lake, you will find a well-built boardwalk that takes you through the wetlands of the reserve. Here you can hear various frog calls, and I’ve been told that if you’re patient, you might even spot some!

A purple swamphen strutting its stuff beside the lake.

A purple swamphen strutting its stuff beside the lake.

Beyond the lakes, there are options to take a more challenging walk along the Dargon and Granite Tracks, eventually leading you to the Monbulk Creek Lookout. The scenery changes once you leave the lakes, opening up into what is seemingly dry and lifeless grassland. Mostly uphill, this track is tougher in contrast to the lakeside track and offers a lower diversity of wildlife to observe.

Overall, Birdsland Reserve provides relaxing views that promise to please and is perfect for the avid wildlife enthusiast with a keen eye for the diverse array of native flora and fauna on offer.

SUMMARY

  1. IDEAL FOR BIRD LOVERS

  2. BEAUTIFUL SCENERY

  3. INCREDIBLY EASY TRACK TO WALK

  4. IN CLOSE PROXIMITY TO NORTHERN SUBURBS


LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY

EASY OF ACCESSIBILITY

WILDLIFE

SCENERY

OVERALL RATING

All images courtesy of Tanya Rajapakse


Tanya Rajapakse

Tanya holds a strong passion for the conservation and preservation of local ecosystems. She recently completed her Masters of Science, focusing on the biodiversity of fauna in Port Phillip Bay and its relationship with seagrass meadows.

Main Ridge to Cape Schanck

This is for those looking for a long distance adventure through some of the most diverse vegetation and impressive scenery on the Peninsula! This approximately 17-kilometre walk is a significant portion of the Two Bays Walking Track, which covers Dromana via Arthur’s seat to Cape Schanck. Located in Greens Bush, only 90 kilometres from Melbourne, and amongst Mornington Peninsula National Park - one of the most highly rated National Parks - you are sure to enjoy this splendour!

Close to Melbourne, this walk and sections of this track are perfect for a day trip or to do on a weekend away from the hustle and bustle. The walk takes you through peaceful eucalypt, temperate tree fern and grass tree forests with areas of open grasslands, ending with coastal scrublands and remarkable cliffs for as far as the eye can see.

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This coastal expanse is home to the largest species of Banksia in Victoria, contributing to the area’s vast biodiversity. You will often spot eastern grey kangaroos near the coast in the morning and evening. If you have the energy or wish to come back, I highly suggest taking a stroll down to Bushranger’s Bay to have a picnic and/or explore the rock pools and shelves in low tide.   

Tucked away within Greens Bush, the largest remaining bushland expanse on the Peninsula, you will come across abundant wildlife, especially birds. Keep an eye out for honeyeaters, parrots, wrens, wedge-tailed eagles and black-shouldered kites. The native grass trees are also a particularly striking attraction of this area - some of the taller ones are over 200 years old.  

Specifics: The walk is moderate to difficult. It is best to carry a printed map, as there are a few options along the way and phone reception is not always available. Pack first aid, food and water supplies, and ensure your plan, park safety and weather conditions beforehand. Depending on your group’s pace, the walk could take anywhere from around 4.5 to 6.5 hours. You will need at least one car and a driver to pick you up or two cars (one at both ends of the track). This walk begins at the junction of Browns and Hyslops Roads, Rosebud.  From here, you walk towards Limestone Rd where you will find an entry point to the National Park. Keep following tracks southeast until you come across Baldry’s Crossing Walking Track. This is where you start walking into Greens Bush. From here, follow your map and the markers towards Bushranger’s Bay and/or Cape Schanck. Eventually you will meet Rosebud Flinders Road. If your plan is to continue to Cape Schanck, start the Bushranger’s Bay Track (south side of this Road), which extends around to Cape Schanck Lighthouse, the end point.  

This expedition can be explored all year round; however, it is best to avoid particularly hot or windy weather.  Regardless of whether or not you’re a nature enthusiast, anyone is bound to enjoy this hidden gem with family and friends!  

For more information, please contact Parks Victoria on 13 19 63. 

MAIN RIDGE TO CAPE SCHANCK WALK:

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY

EASE OF ACCESSIBILITY

WILDLIFE

SCENERY

OVERALL RATING

SUMMARY:

1. Diverse vegetation and spectacular scenery
2. Moderate to difficult (17 km, 4.5 – 6.5 hours)
3. Greens Bush is the largest remaining bushland expanse on the Mornington Peninsula
4. Abundant birdlife, grass trees, rock cliffs and kangaroos
5. Contact Parks Victoria for more information

Olinda Falls & Cascade Walk

Known as one of Melbourne’s closest waterfalls, Olinda Falls is an easily accessible and ideal spot to visit for those who would love to immerse themselves in the dense rainforest of Olinda’s wetter gullies. 

Just over an hour’s drive from the northern suburbs of Victoria, you can suddenly find yourself in the incredibly thick, temperate rainforest in the Olinda area of the Dandenong Ranges.

This walk is ideal for keen-eyed wildlife enthusiasts and accommodates people of varying fitness levels. From the car park, a 300-metre sloped path lined with giant Mountain Ash trees will guide you to a junction. Here you have the option of visiting the upper or lower falls, both of which have viewing platforms facing the waterfall. The Upper Falls Track is a lot easier than the Lower Falls Track; however, the latter is lengthier and much more beautiful. If exploring both tracks together, it will only take you a little over 30 minutes, providing you don't stop to look at the stunning flora and fauna (which I highly recommend you do!). Remember to look up at the variety of gum and ash trees that dwarf you as you walk by.

For a bit of a challenge, you also have the choice of attempting the more rugged Cascade Walk, located near the entrance to the Upper Falls Walk. Here, you will get a greater sense of the untouched rainforest in its natural state. Surrounded by ferns and trees that soar to heights of about 85 metres, this walk is serene and ideal for listening out for a wide variety of bird calls. If you're patient, I've been told you might even see a lyrebird, a wedge-tailed eagle, a swamp wallaby or a short-beaked echidna!

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY

EASE OF ACCESSIBILITY

WILDLIFE

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SUMMARY

  1. JUST OVER AN HOUR'S DRIVE FROM VICTORIA'S NORTHERN SUBURBS
  2. WALKING TRACKS FOR PEOPLE OF VARYING DEGREES OF FITNESS
  3. HOME TO SOME OF VICTORIA'S TALLEST TREES
  4. PERFECT FOR RAINFOREST ENTHUSIASTS

All images courtesy of Tanya Rajapakse