Melbourne is one of the most visited locations in Australia, and with great reason too, it has art, history, culture and so much more. Nevertheless, making it all the way to Victoria provides you the perfect opportunity to explore outside Melbourne’s metropolitan confines, and discover the unparalleled splendour of the wildlife and wilderness beyond.
This journey begins with a visit to The Great Otway National Park, located to south-west of our Melbourne jumping off point. The drive here takes in a section of the renowned “Great Ocean Road” scenic drive, so don’t be surprised if you make lots of unplanned stops along the way. In fact, the best part of a campervan rental in Australia, is that impromptu stopovers are no problem.
The Otways temperate rainforest is a perfect spot to go hiking, both for the natural wonders, including picturesque waterfalls and centuries old trees, and for the abundant wildlife. Be sure to stop now and again to look up into the treetops, you won’t need to search too hard, Koala’s here are numerous, spending most of their hours asleep in the canopy above.
You may need a little more luck to spot a platypus, but these quirky marsupials live amongst the National Park’s muddy waterbanks. There are plenty of other animals here too, keep a lookout for echidnas, kangaroos, wallabies and an extensive range of bird species, which if you don’t see, you will most surely hear!
For a chance to have guaranteed encounter with native Otway fauna, the nearby Wildlife Wonders sanctuary accommodates a variety of elusive Australian animals.
On the journey from Otways, take the scenic route and pass by the Twelve Apostles Marine National Park, famous for the incredible rock formations that sit off the coastline.
The Lerderderg State Park is a 3-hour drive away, and is recognisable by its’ striking gorge, that has been deeply carved into the slate and sandstone, by the Lerderderg River. The Park is a textbook example of the “Australian Bush”, with its gumtree laden forest scattered with a variety of grevilleas and wattles, in spring it bursts into colour with wildflower season.
There are many bush-walking trails, ranging from easy strolls suitable for most, to moderately demanding and more difficult hiking trails for the venturesome. Of course, for the harder uphill treks, you will be rewarded with an amazing view for your effort. Whilst on your foray through the, some of the residents you may encounter include the Spiny Anteater, Swamp Wallabies and the endangered Gang-gang Cockatoo species. If you happen to be traveling in summer, enjoy dip in one the park’s waterholes, which are suitable for swimming.
As you depart to head inland on the next leg of the journey, it’s worth stopping in at the not-for-profit Healesville Sanctuary, leaders in animal conservation and home of the Australian Wildlife Health Centre. This Sanctuary is on your route, and you won’t regret stopping when you see the amazing work they do. The animals here are ones you may not get the opportunity to see on your own Victorian adventure, such as the Dingo, Platypus and Emu.
Arriving at the Yarra Ranges National Park, be wowed by the magnificent Mountain Ash trees, which are the tallest of any flowering tree in the world. Mount Donna Buang, located inside the national park, boasts a rainforest gallery walk where you are encompassed on all sides by masses of ferns and moss-covered trees. The observation platform located at the top of the summit is 21 metres tall, offering the most spectacular panoramic views of the Yarra Valley below.
Mount Samaria State Park is three and a half hours north and the shortest route passes through the serenity of Bonnie Doon, famed for being the Kerrigan family holiday destination in the Australian cult film “The Castle”.
The plateau of the Mount Samaria region was created by volcanic activity millions of years ago, the result has created a lavish environment for wildlife to thrive. Sugar gliders, possums, lyrebirds and lizards, there is an abundance of native inhabitants here. There are several picnic areas and walking trails with a range of scenery, from rushing waterfalls to mountain tops, or even ruins from the early 20th century – remnants of the logging industry’s kilns and sawmills. There is certainly no shortage of picture-perfect opportunities, for either the experienced or amateur photographer.
Falls Creek is located inside The Alpine National Park, which is the largest of Victoria’s parks and extends over the border into New South Wales. If you are visiting in winter, Falls Creek is a popular ski resort, but to experience the backcountry at this harsh time of year, snowmobile tours are available. This allows you to explore the spectacular winter alpine setting, guided through native snow gums via numerous summits and valleys.
In the warmer months outside of snow season, the hiking trails open for discovery and Australia’s highest Lake, “Rocky Valley”, becomes the perfect spot for a picnic.
Breathe in the fresh mountain air and delight in the alpine wildflowers, forming a tapestry of colour upon the high-country plains. The elevation of the vicinity makes the landscapes flora distinctively different from the other bushlands visited so far on this journey.
Amongst the wildlife, you will find wombats, echidnas and the scarce mountain pygmy possum, which has come back from the edge of extinction after finding a haven in the provided nature reserves. The birdlife is abundant, including the Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Rosellas and Currawong. Brumbies in the area are abundant, and although damaging to the local eco-system, are still a delight to see running wild and free in the green foothills.
The ancient temperate forests of Errinundra National Park seem a world away from the heights of the Victorian Alps. This precious habitat provides refuge to rare and endangered species, of both plants and animals. Some of the eucalyptus trees have been growing here for more than 600 years and can be seen via the “Old Growth Forest Walk” – a 2.5km walking trail. The hollows on these humbling trees create homes for Greater Gliders, Powerful Owls, Ringtail Possums, as well as a diversity of other marsupials, mammals, birds and reptiles. The utter wonder of walking through this magnificent remnant of Gondwana, makes an impact on even the hardest to impress traveller.
Wilsons Promontory is not just confined to the land, much of its wildlife is found underwater in the Marine National Park. With an ecosystem to contend with that of the Great Barrier Reef, divers here will observe Seadragons, Gropers, a variety of colourful coral and sponges, sea-tulips and schools of Wrasse. For those not avid water fans, the surrounding islands are inhabited by fur seal colonies and little penguins. There are day cruises available, giving you the chance to experience this unadulterated look at nature, endowed with rocky isles and untamed wildlife.
Back on land and in Wilsons jagged granite mountains, the area is abundant with kangaroos, wombats and emus, so you need to drive carefully. Enjoy the changing panoramic as you visit colourful beaches, numerous bushwalking tracks and a trip to the local Lightstation.
Although Phillip Island has some similarities to Wilsons Promontory, it is still worth a visit in the same road-trip, especially given its nearby proximity. Phillip Island is also home to colonies of Little Penguins, and if you didn’t get the opportunity to take a cruise at your last stop, Fur Seal tours are available here.
The Wetlands of the island are world-renowned, the saltmarshes and mudflats provide the perfect habitat for herons, egrets, spoonbills, pelicans and more. For a close-up of the wilderness here, take one of the many Rhyll Inlet boardwalks as you wind through the mangroves at Conservation Hill.
In the Winter, Spring and Autumn, the longer darker nights make for perfect stargazing, find a spot to park the campervan away from city lights and you may even be lucky enough to see the Southern Aurora or Aurora Australis. Winter is whale migrating season, so bring your binoculars and some patience, and spot them from lookout areas at Cape Woolamai, Pyramid Rock or The Nobbies.
The 2-hour drive back to Melbourne concludes the itinerary, but only if you don’t get side-tracked on the way there…
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