Seven of Victoria’s most breathtaking parks, forests, and mountain ranges

Seven of Victoria’s most breathtaking parks, forests, and mountain ranges

Mount Oberon. Photo via Unsplash
Words by Brandon Davis

Clear your mind at these stunning outdoor retreats.

When it comes time to unwind, we all love our spa days and cabin getaways, but sometimes the best way to ease the mind and body is to get out and explore the outdoors. Victoria is teeming with some of Australia’s most beautiful parks, forests and mountain ranges, all at perfect day-trip distance from Geelong.

Plus, they’re cheaper, too!

These locations are a cure-all for lockdown fatigue, so lace up your hiking shoes and explore Victoria’s lush natural landscapes!

Jump in the car and explore these epic lookouts and trails along the Great Ocean Road.

Hopetoun Falls

Located in the Great Otway National Park (a treasure trove for spots like this), many are quick to call this the most beautiful waterfall in not just Victoria, but the whole of Australia.

Take one look at it and it’s easy to see why!

A fine mist fills the air as the Hopetoun Falls plummet 30 metres into the Aire River, cascading over rock pools and fallen moss-covered trees below. Decorated in a plethora of native trees and ferns, it’s a photographer’s dream come true – just be careful of the sprays!

There are two main platforms; the upper platform is a short 20-metre walk from the car park. Or you can descend some 200 stairs leading through glades of tree ferns to the base of the falls. This will be a one-kilometre return trip, so make sure to bring a water bottle!


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Californian Redwoods, Otway Ranges

Deeper into the Great Otway National Park, and just down the road from the amazing Hopetoun Falls, rests a truly enchanting Californian Redwood forest. With nearly century-old trees stretching as far as the eye can see, and the Aire river trickling by to one side, it’s easy to spend hours admiring this expanse’s pristine serenity.

The scenery here is truly mystifying. It feels as though the forest is completely untouched by the outside world. And things really come to life at sunrise and sunset, with golden beams of light stretching across the pleasantly smooth forest floor. It’s yet another great spot for the photographers out there.

The Sequoia Sempervirens Trees were originally planted in 1936 by Victorian foresters for experimental purposes. Despite already reaching such soaring heights, they’re still technically in their youth phase, and may even grow to be some of the tallest trees in the world!

While they’re not native, the Redwood forest here is utterly mesmerising, with the dense, thick plantation coexisting with local species to create a mystical, natural wonderland. Plus, they’re steadily approaching the size of their native counterparts over in the US.

Cement Creek Redwood Forest, Warburton

Victoria is home to more than just one redwood forest; the Yarra Valley holds another unexpected gem with its own unique beauty and ethereal charm.

Also established in the 1930s, this plantation was an experiment by the Board of Works after the clearing of the original eucalyptus forest. There are currently over 1,470 trees planted in orderly rows, ranging between 20-55 meters high.

The forest’s layout dampens the sound of the outside world, preserving a silence just faintly interrupted by the ever-present whisper of the nearby Yarra River – and of course, the occasional calls of local wildlife.

Warburton is choc-full of stunning natural scenery, with places like La La Falls and the Warburton Rainforest Gallery just a stone’s throw away. It’s a neat roundup of everything that makes Australia’s rainforests such a sight to behold, and perfect if you’re keen to cover a lot of ground in one hike.

Phantom Falls, Great Ocean Road

This lovely waterfall lies just outside of Lorne and is also a part of the Great Otway National Park (like we said, it’s quite the treasure trove). The journey there is a little challenging – but the destination is well worth it.

The falls flow more than 15 metres into the St George river below, making for a truly exceptional viewing experience. This area also has a particularly strong wildlife presence, with many of Australia’s iconic bird species inhabiting both sky and land.

The walk to Phantom Falls from Allenvale Mill Carpark is about 3.5km return in total, with an optional loop that continues through Henderson and Won Wondah Falls to Cora Lynn Cascades. This extended route is roughly 8.6km in total and passes by other attractions including The Canyon (a rock structure with 10-meter sheer faces). Definitely not one for the faint of heart!


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Mount Oberon, Wilson’s Promontory

While it’s a bit out of the way from the likes of Geelong, the scenic views of Wilson’s Promontory and specifically Mount Oberon are a must-see. For the early birds out there, this is where you’ll find one of the most stunning sunrises in Victoria!

Trek to the summit and enjoy a full 360-degree panorama of Wilsons Promontory, where you’ll spot the beautiful bays of Wilson’s Prom’s east coast, including many offshore islands and views of Tidal River Campground. Looking south, you’ll see the southern-most tip of Australia’s mainland, which is home to an abundance of native wildlife including wombats, emus, kangaroos, and echidnas.

The hike to Mt Oberon makes a steady incline as it weaves up the mountain. As you near the peak, a steep climb will lead you to the rocky summit, where the native bush recedes and huge boulders takeover the landscape, allowing the views to immediately captivate you.

The 6.8km return hike to Mt Oberon takes around two hours – this is another tough one, so always remember to come prepared!

You Yangs Regional Park

The iconic granite peaks of the You Yangs Regional Park dominate Geelong’s northern skyline. While not exactly a hidden gem, this area is a great place to soak up heaps of native Australian flora and fauna. It’s also great for picnics!

Just 55km from Melbourne and 22km from Geelong, it’s an excellent spot to enjoy nature close to the city. The distinctive granite peaks of this park rise abruptly from the flat volcanic plains below, giving a gorgeous, picturesque view of the surrounding landscape. The highest point, Flinders Peak, stands at 319 metres, and offers uninterrupted views of both Melbourne and Geelong.

And if you need to blow off some steam, the You Yangs have you covered. There’s truly has something for everyone: hikers, horse riders, mountain bikers – you name it! There’s over 50 kilometres of purpose-built mountain bike trails to explore, whether you’re a beginner or an expert!

Mount Buffalo National Park

Forget lush greenery and towering pines; Mount Buffalo National Park trades them in for sheer cliffs, imposing granite tors, tumbling waterfalls and snow gums. It’s the crown jewel of Victoria’s High Country, and just a short distance from Bright.

This 31,000-hectare park contains vegetation and fauna adapted to extremes of weather, as a result of its sub-alpine location. What it lacks in greenery, this park makes up for in rigid stone surfaces, snow-capped peaks and unbeatable views of the horizon. And as you approach its peak, an omnipresent fog sweeps every corner of the mountain ranges below. It’s really quite incredible!

The park features over 90 kilometres of walking tracks, panoramic scenery, waterfalls, and scope for adventurous pursuits such as rock climbing and hang-gliding. It’s an all-seasons playground! In summer, wildflowers are plentiful, and the park is a cool retreat from the heat of the lowlands. Enjoy picnics, canoeing and camping at Lake Catani in the summer months, too!

Discover more great local hiking trails here.