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The Forests And The Falls Of The Otway Ranges
 
waterfall otwaysAs the Great Ocean Road meanders its way past the treacherous yet beautiful Skeleton Coast in Victoria, most of its visitors are too captivated by ocean views, spectacular cliffs and impressive limestone formations to contemplate the hidden treasures that lie inland from the coastline. But the lusiously green rainforests, the cool, crystal clear creeks and the crashing, flowing waterfalls of the Otway Ranges are luring more and more of them into the mountainous hinterland that lies behind Lorne and Apollo Bay, and none have left here disappointed.

The rainforests of this area of the country are part of a rich temperate ecosystem that supports a large diversity of plant and animal life. The dense and colourful vegetation that covers the mountain slopes convey a mystical feel, which, together with the magnificent views and the serpentine water system, gives the whole area an enchanted feel that will delight you and your family. There are thirteen waterfalls in the region which provide a focal point for visitors to the ranges. You also have the opportunity to enjoy the numerous bush trails that cater for all fitness levels.

The most visited waterfall in the Otways would have to be the Erskine Falls, which is just a short drive north of Lorne. These majestic falls can also be reached via a bushwalking trail from the town to the falls. This trail stretched for about 7.5 kilometres and will take about three hours one way. On the way you will be rewarded with a sighting of two other beautiful waterfalls, Straw Falls and Splitter Falls.

The journey will also take you through a large natural amphitheatre that in centuries gone was used to hold church services. The Erskine Falls themselves consist of a sheet (more of a ribbon in the drier months!) of water pitching over a vertical thirty metre high drop into a leafy, fern lined valley below. A wild variety of birdlife inhabits the surrounding trees, and all the vegetation close to the falls is usually covered in a fine mist from the falling water.

Another popular waterfall often regarded as a flagship of the Otways is Triplet Falls, which is situated on the Colac-Lavers Hill road. A broad rock face permits the stream to flow in three distinct directions that cascade downwards parallel to each other. Tall mountain ash and beech trees tower high above this quaint and charming waterfall, which has only recently been reopened to the public after undergoing a two million dollar redevelopment scheme. A two kilometre loop walk has been built around it, complete with raised boardwalks, viewing platforms and a picnic area. Its a perfect day's outing for fans of nature and tranquility or just a relaxing break from reality.

No visit to these ranges can be complete without a visit to the infamous Otway Fly, which is located adjacent to Triplet Falls. The fly is a 600 metre long treetop walk that rises twenty five metres above the ground. This walk will take you almost sky high, among the tree tops, allowing your to embark on a journey through the upper reaches of the rainforest vegetation strata. A forty five metre high viewing platform is reached via a spiral staircase, placing the viewer at the very top of the rainforest and providing chilling yet spectacular views in all directions. This is definitely recommended for anyone wishing to come into intimate and unique contact with the very idyllic diversity of the Otway Ranges.

Although I have already paid so much attention to themagnificent waterfalls of the ranges, there is still so many more of them simply waiting to be explored. If you take a drive out to the town of Beech Forest, you will come across two of the more spectacular waterfalls in the Otway Ranges, the Beauchamp and the Hopetoun Falls, which are both just a short drive off the Aire Valley Road. You will hear the crash of the Hopetoun Falls from the minute you step out of your vehicle because the water is pounding loudly into the deep crevice it has carved. There is a viewing platform here from which you can view them, or if you are feeling energetic take the steep walk down to the base of the falls for an entirely different perspective. This one kilometre walk will take about forty five minutes, and requires a bit of caution.

If you fancy a longer walk then go to the Beauchamp Falls, which has a three kilometre return track to the picnic area at the base of the falls. Thick forest surrounds the fern fringed pool down here, which is ideal for taking a refreshing dip.

Speckled throughout the Otways are a range of accommodation options and styles, all with unique characteristics and all taking advantage of the astobnishingly beautiful scenery. If it seems a bit overwhelming choosing somewhere to stay, it shouldn't be. Just head to www.otwaysaccommodation.com.au, which offers a quick and easy way to find details and information of all the accommodation options in the Otways, as well as providing vital information on local tourism operators and sites to see in the region.

Browsing through the site, The Boomerangs, which are an award winning series of cottages situated near Johanna, will immediately captivate you. Architecturally designed in the shape of boomerangs, the interior decor is also themed around local indigenous artwork and culture. These quintessentially Australian cottages have glorious ocean views and are set against a backdrop of native forest. Its impossible not to relax there!

The best time to holiday here would have to be around mid-October. The area comes to life in the form of an inaugural festival celebrating the local food, wine and opera of the Melba Gully. 'Gumboots and Pearls - Opera in the Otway' is showcasing a sensational opera group from Melbourne, as well as many local musicians, all in the mystical and enchanting confines of the lush fern gully. The dramatic beauty of the surroundings is sure to complement the drama of the opera, so if you are in the area be sure not to miss this exciting event. However, if you can't make it at this time of the year any time is great and a definite must!

Christine Barton




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