Start: Allen Vale Mill Car Park, Lorne
End: Track loops back to the car park
Time taken: 3-4 hours
USP: Amazing wildlife and impressive falls
Distance: 9km circuit
After a few recommendations from friends and much desk research, a suitable long weekend came up to get out of New South Wales and head south to Victoria to explore somewhere new.
Our base for the weekend was the lovely town of Lorne, positioned near the start of the Great Ocean Road and on the edge of the Great Otway National Park. We stayed in a great Air B’n’B on the edge of a Eucalyptus Forest, which was teeming with birds. While days were spent exploring the area, most evenings we retired to the decking, drank red wine and watched the large variety of parrot species chase each other through the woods. King Parrot, Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, Rainbow Lorikeet and Gang Gang to name a few.
Shortly after our arrival, our Air B’n’B host dropped round and recommended some local walks close to the apartment. One in particular got our attention. A 9km circuit that took in three waterfalls and a canyon. It sounded perfect so we hit the shops to stock up on supplies, double checked the maps and got an early night.
The trail head was only a short drive from where we were staying. Arriving in the deserted car park we made a scientific assessment of the weather (a.k.a. looked at the sky), picked our layers, pulled on boots and filled canteens. Though it was dry the sky threatened rain, so waterproofs were stuffed in rucksacks, along with cameras, binoculars and the all important trail mix.
Water would be a big feature on this walk and the trail immediately followed a murmerring creek running alongside a beautiful apple orchard. Cutting through the orchard we walked passed an old wooden cabin and disturbed a family of Pacific Black Duck rummaging through the fallen leaves.
As we moved deeper into the forest we joined the creek again and started heading up hill, as the creek sunk below us into a deep ravine. A field to our left gave glimpses of horses lazily swatting away flies with their tails and just before we’d passed the field completely, Kat spotted a Kangaroo carrying a Joey at the back in the shadows.
Only another few hundred meters on, a small movement in the trees caught our eye. A
Drop Koala Bear!! It was half way up a tree and thanks to the steep path, at our eye level. As the Koala spotted us it let out a series of deep, guttural grunts, which bounced off the gully sides, before settling back into it’s day dream stupor.
After the excitement of the wildlife, we reached our first waterfall of the day, Phantom Falls. Thanks to heavy rain in the days before, the falls were in top form. Water plunged over the drop and exploded into spray and thunder below. It’s possible to take a side track down to the base of the falls and get as close as you like, hopping from boulder to boulder. A few snaps and a bit of exploring done, we re-joined the trail and continued on our way.
After walking through a mix of rainforest and Eucalyptus the next highlight came a few kilometres on. We were now heading into a canyon full of huge fern trees and shrubs. At one point it seemed as though we were descending into the soft, mulchy earth itself; actually going underground at one point and through a short natural tunnel to emerge into a dark, damp forest of huge ferns. The earthy smell mixing with the echoing grunts of distant Koalas created a sensory overload in the murk.
Just as the dense fern forest started to thin we reached our second waterfall, set slightly back from the main track, Henderson Falls. Although shorter than Phantom Falls it was no less impressive. As we stood there the sky broke and the rain started to fall. Macs were yanked from backpacks and electronics stuffed out of harms way.
A few more hundred meters and we arrived at the third and final waterfall, Won Wondah Falls. Of the three this one is maybe the less impressive as the creek runs through a steep sided gully and over a ledge, partly obscured by the thick vegetation. There is a great viewing platform here though, complete with bench, making it a great place to stop for a snack and appreciate the sound of rushing water and bird life.
At this point the rain really kicked in so we were forced to pull hoods and zip collars as we marched our way back to civilisation, passing water logged Crimson Rosella and bedraggled Kookaburra watching us glumly from low branches. Thankfully as the rain started to soak into our boots the trail changed from single track to wide open fire road, making the going easier. A few kilometres hunched against the deluge and we were back at the car park and ready to head to the apartment (and more wine on the decking).
We haven’t been on many walks that have such a variety of habitat and so many of Australia’s iconic creatures all in one place. We’ve read during the summer months, the waterfalls can dry up completely, removing one of the main attractions of this walk. But if you manage to time it with some heavy rainfall you’re in for a treat, just don’t forget to pack a mac!