Eight Unexpected Natural Wonders to Visit Around Victoria
Start plotting adventures around this lineup of must-see Victorian landmarks.
When it comes to travelling, we've got more reasons than ever to embrace the adventures located right here in our own backyard. And lucky for us, Victoria has no shortage of those stand-out destinations — natural, beautiful and sometimes downright surprising. The state is one of Australia's smallest, yet boasts a diverse array of stunning landscapes, from tumbling waterfalls in the middle of dense forest, to ancient volcanic craters now teeming with wildlife. Here, we've rounded up eight unexpected natural sights just waiting to be explored. Start plotting adventures around this lineup of must-see Victorian landmarks.
BUCHAN CAVES, BUCHAN
After the lockdown-filled year Melbourne has had, you might find it hard to get excited about a cave. But this huge subterranean network filled with majestic limestone formations really is some exceptional stuff. Carved out by underground rivers almost 400 million years ago, Gippsland's Buchan Caves are the largest of their kind in Victoria, also holding huge Aboriginal cultural significance. Normally, you can take guided tours of the two main lit sections, known as Royal Cave and Fairy Cave, winding your way amongst the stalactites, stalagmites and calcite-rimmed pools. What's more, the adjoining Buchan Caves Reserve boasts loads of native wildlife, bushland walks and idyllic picnic spots. You can even make a mini-getaway of it and spend the night at one of the campsites.
TOWER HILL WILDLIFE RESERVE, TOWER HILL
If you ever want to see what life's like within a dormant volcano, simply venture a few hours west to the site of Tower Hill, near Port Fairy. Here, a 30,000-year-old volcanic crater houses the Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, featuring a striking backdrop of cone-shaped hills, wetlands and lake. And as well as boasting gorgeous scenery and bushwalks aplenty this one's steeped in history. A significant Indigenous Australian landmark and Victoria's first national park, the site was driven to ruin by early settlers, before volunteers restored it to the natural beauty it is today. The crater is also home to scores of native wildlife species — keep an eye out for the likes of koalas, kangaroos and spoonbills kicking around in this unique habitat.
CALIFORNIAN REDWOOD FOREST, BEECH FOREST
Take a trip out to The Otways' famed Californian Redwood Forest and you'll find yourself quickly enveloped in some otherworldly haven of peace and tranquility. Created over 85 years ago, this plantation of towering Californian Redwoods (sequoia sempervirens) makes for quite the nature spectacular, what with its uniform rows of tree trunks, hushed forest floor and shards of sunlight filtering through the upper branches. Nothing offers a bit of perspective quite like a stroll through the 1400-strong forest, taking in the full stature of these arboreal giants. Some of them reach a whopping 55-metres tall. Enjoy a picnic lunch, hug a few trees and revel in a much-needed dose of Mother Nature.
TRENTHAM FALLS, TRENTHAM
As one of the state's longest single-drop waterfalls, Trentham Falls are always a majestic sight to feast your eyes on. And, at a soaring height of 32 metres, we reckon they'd certainly be TLC-approved. Located within the lush forest of Coliban River Scenic Reserve — about 90 minutes northwest of Melbourne — this impressive natural water feature looms large against ancient basalt rock, the whole scene framed by leafy native vegetation. Unfortunately, you're not allowed to get too close, but you'll find the best vantage point from atop the dedicated viewing area, just a short trek from the car park. Take a moment admiring the dancing water, surrounded by shady manna gum and messmate trees, and we promise you'll feel worlds away from the big smoke.
PINK LAKES, MURRAY-SUNSET NATIONAL PARK
As far as bodies of water go, these ones are what you'd call true show-stoppers. Up in the wilds of northwestern Victoria, the Murray-Sunset National Park is best known for its four eye-catching Pink Lakes, which feature solid salt beds and a vibrant blush tinge thanks to the red algae growing in their waters. With the lakes shifting in colour throughout the day, the vast, flat territory makes for some pretty magical photo ops, especially during sunset and dusk. You can soak up the untouched surrounds while trekking one of the area's many walking trails and even spend a night onsite at the campgrounds, taking advantage of the open starry skies and lake views.
SKULL ROCK, TIDAL RIVER
Victoria lays claim to plenty of famous rock formations, but this skull-shaped number emerging from the waters off Wilsons Prom might just be the coolest. Cleft Island — also known as Skull Rock for obvious reasons — is a giant granite formation hanging out by the very southern tip of the state. It's been gradually shaped and smoothed by waves over the centuries, and boasts a huge grassy cave hollowing out one side. For a close-up view, you can (normally) jump on a 2.5-hour cruise run by Pennicott Wilderness Journeys, departing daily from Tidal River. And if you're visiting during migration season, you could even spy a few of the area's less eerie residents, including sea birds, dolphins and fur seals.
THE PINNACLE LOOKOUT, HALLS GAP
Rising up above Halls Gap like the bow of a Titanic made of rocks, The Pinnacle lookout is The Grampians' crowning glory, in more ways than one. It clocks in at an impressive 720 metres above sea level and boasts some unimaginably good panoramic views to match. The spectacular summit is accessed by a bunch of different hiking trails (starting from a medium-grade 45-minute trek), which'll take you winding through a rugged region of leafy bushland and rocky outcrops. Make your way up to the top, take in those dramatic vistas over the National Park's peaks and valleys, and you'll feel like you're standing atop Victoria's own version of the Grand Canyon.
THE ORGAN PIPES, KEILOR NORTH
It's not too hard to see where this unique rock formation gets its name from, featuring a row of towering cylindrical columns that look like they could just about start pumping out tunes. Gracing the side of a big basalt cliff, the distinctive design was naturally created back in ancient times by cooling lava, now working as a constant reminder that this region is on the edge of one of the world's largest ancient volcanic lava flows. You'll find the geological gem located within the Organ Pipes National Park, just 30 minutes out of the CBD. While you're there, be sure to catch some of the park's other quirky resident rock formations, including the mosaic-like Tessellated Pavement and another that looks like the spokes of a giant wheel.
Published on December 23, 2020 by Libby Curran