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.
· 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 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.