The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s most visited tourist destinations. Over the year’s I’ve visited it many times and it’s possible to drive it in only one day but I found many interesting spots along the way which can turn the trip in an interesting all-weeker. Or everything in between.
Here I will describe how to tackle the Great Ocean Road in only one day and still see the highlights without the feeling of a car race.
19km + 4km, 790m +140m ascend & decent, 7.5 hours + 3 hours, grade: hard (easy to Mushroom Rocks)
The summer of 2011 was an unusually wet one after many years of drought. That made a weekend trip to Baw Baw National Park with La Trobe’s mountaineering club even more tempting, once the sky had cleared. We spent two days and one night in the national park 180km east from Melbourne. We camped at Mushroom Rocks from where I went solo to Mt. St. Gwinear and back.
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17km, 680m ascend & decent, 7 hours, grade: medium
70km from Melbourne, close to Woodend
The Macedon Range is part of the hilly ranges and gorges surrounding Melbourne like a half circle from the Brisbane Ranges in the south west via Werribee Gorge and Lederderg to Kinglake in the north. This “ring” is followed up by the foothills and mountains of the Yarra Ranges in the east.
Mt. Macedon itself rises 1000m above MSL and is covered in a diverse mixture of forests. Almost the whole area is accessible by road which gives a number of entry and exit points. We decided to walk the whole circle though.
7-8km, 400m ascend, 4 hours, grade: hard
80 km from Melbourne close to Warburton
I felt the need to hike something different, more challenging. I decided to hike up Mt. Donna Buang, but this time all the way from Warburton. This would have been about 1100m ascend. Main reason to take the more eastern route was that I finally wanted to tackle the part Rainforest Gallery to summit. Long story short, that didn’t happen because this part was closed due to fallen trees. You will read why this is ironic a bit further down.
The Yuonga Track proofed interesting and challenging due to its thick forest and non-development.
It has been more than 2.5 years since I’ve been “out there”, the Never Never, the great interior of this magnificent continent: the Outback.
Since I saw those harsh plaines first with their humbling vastness I couldn’t resist but feel a constant force pulling me back. I think explorer Ernest Favenc put it in much better words than I ever could: “Repellent as this country is, there is a wonderous fascination in it, in its strange loneliness, and the hidden mysteries it might contain, that call to the man who knows it, as surely as the sea calls to the sailor.”
12-15km, ~600m ascent and descent, 6 hours, grade: medium (hard in summer)
120 km from Melbourne close to Marysville
The Cathedral Range is one of the few places around Melbourne with bigger rock formations. This makes bushwalking more challenging but also more interesting since many boulders have to be negotiated. The highest point in the range is Sugarloaf Peak (910m) at the southern end of the range which we skipped with this track. The north of the range offers the option to hike a bigger loop starting from Neds Gully (320m) leading up to Cathedral Peak (870m) and then over a rocky ridge with great views to Jawbone, back down to Cook Mill and finally along the creek to Neds Carpark.
9-12 km, 4 hours, grade: medium
80km from Melbourne in the Yarra Ranges
The Morley track between Dom Dom Saddle and the Fernshaw Picnic Area traverses through an area affected by the massive wild fires of 2009. Most gum trees survive and start sprouting new leaves along their trunks after a fire, fern trees and grass trees protect their inner core and turn green quickly again. If an old or damaged gum tree falls its place is often taken by beech trees. Decades or centuries later the next fire eats away the unprotected beech trees and gives more space for the taller gum trees.
The track leads over a ridge in the direction of Mt. Donna Buang before it turns south into a swampy valley. It follows Watts river to the Fernshaw picnic area at the Maroondah Hwy.
13-15km, 4.5 hours, grade: medium
90km from Melbourne in the Yarra Ranges
A beautiful Sunday in May - perfect hiking weather in Australia’s autumn. This time I went to Mt. Donna Buang (1250m) which included Mt. Victoria (1150m) and Mt. Boobyalla (1220m). Parts of the track feature beautiful bushwalking through cold tempered rain forest and the views from the top are stunning. There are also Lyrebirds to be spotted (we saw two - from the car!), look and listen.
Wilsons Promontory is a national park located at the most southern tip of Australia’s main land only 3 hours from Melbourne. It offers and abundance of hiking tracks, long and short.
And that’s why we returned after our short visit in 2007:
hiking or bush walking how they call it here. We decided on the southern circuit because the north had burned down just last summer. All in all we covered 64.4km in 5 days and 4 nights with 15kg on our backs.
Gotta love Australia
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