52 Great Weekends

No 49: Greatest Waterfalls

The entire Great Ocean Road region is a mecca for waterfalls.

Rumour has it there are over 400 waterfalls in the Otways alone, many unmapped. We gave our local guide Jimmy from Lorne Tours the challenge to take us to see as many great waterfalls as we could see in a weekend. With his amazing local knowledge Jimmy knows how to deliver an extraordinary experience and will tailor a trip to your needs.

Erskine Falls

Start with the most famous falls on the Great Ocean Road. It’s no wonder, Erskine Falls drops an impressive 30m into a cascading gully surrounded by dense forest, thick tree canopies and far reaching tree ferns. A short 10 minute drive into the Otways and you’ll arrive at the Erskine Falls Car Park. From here, it’s your choice if you want to visit lookout one, two or both. It’s a short 300 metre return walk to the first lookout from the car park. This paved track with steps takes you to a lookout with a spectacular view over the falls and tree canopy below.

From lookout one continue along the path in search of Erskine Falls Lookout Two. This 700 metre return walk is more strenuous as the path descends down 300 plus steps to the bottom of the falls. You’ll soon forget all those steps when you see the stunning falls from below. Watch the powerful water fall over the ridges carved into the rock face. Take in the stunning surroundings of mossy stones, thick ferns and the magnificent towering canopies above.

How to get there:

Erskine Falls is a nine-kilometre drive from Lorne. For enthusiastic walkers, the 7.5-kilometre Erskine River Track leads from the falls to Lorne along the river, passing Straw Falls and Splitter Falls.

Tips

  • The Otway National Park’s high rainfall makes for an incredible show as water plunges over Erskine Falls into the pond below.
  • The secret of Erskine Falls has been let out long ago so get here early to avoid the crowds.

Walk the Otways Waterfall Circuit (28.2km)

The Lorne Waterfalls Circuit is a 28.2km hike that starts at the Sheoak Falls Carpark. This circuit can be taken in any direction and will take you through rainforest and Aussie bushland to eight waterfalls within the Great Otway National Park – Sheoak Falls, Swallow Cave Falls, Phantom Falls, Henderson Falls, Won Wondah Falls, Lower Kalimna Falls, Upper Kalimna Falls and Cumberland Falls before returning to the trail-head via Castle Rock (an optional 1.5km side trip).

Sheoak Falls & The Swallow Caves, Otways

The horseshoe-shaped rocky ridge of Sheoak Falls is your first stop on the waterfall circuit. You’ll be rewarded with a 15m sheer rock face that plummet’s into a tranquil pool surrounded by trees. It creates the perfect, natural amphitheatre.

Sheoak Falls is one of the few waterfalls which can be reached almost directly from the Great Ocean Road. The short walk (although there are plenty of steps) weaves its way from the coastal woodland at the mouth of the Sheoak Creek and through wet forest to the hidden cascades of Sheoak Falls.

Continue up the trail to see Swallow Cave. The climb is worth it when you see the alternative views of the falls along the way. This trail also requires a river crossing, so it might be impassable in the winter. At Swallow Cave, look out for Tree Martins, which live in the grotto during spring, summer and autumn. These birds use mud from the creek to build their nests.

How to get there:

From Lorne, head south along the Great Ocean Road until you reach the signs for the Sheoak Falls car park.

Phantom Falls, Otways

Upper and lower Phantom Falls will delight with its 15 metre rock façade, waterfall and beautiful natural setting. It is one of the most unsung waterfalls in the region! From the upper tiers, take in the views of the powerful water cascading over uneven jagged rocks and plunging into the serene pool and alcoves below. Descend down the stairs to explore them for yourself!

How to get there:

An easy distance from Lorne, simply follow signs to the Allenvale Mill car park along the Allenvale Rd.

Henderson Falls, Otways

Continue the circuit through the fascinating geological feature of The Canyon with sheer walls rising to 10 metres on either side on your way to Won Wondah Falls and Henderson Falls. Henderson Falls is Jimmy’s favourite waterfall and little hidden gem. Much quieter and lesser known than many of the other falls. What this 8-10m high fall lacks in size it sure makes up in the serenity of having the place to yourselves. Sheltered in a beautiful fern gully you can get up close and personal to Henderson Falls with access from the path right up to the base of the falls. You’ll see all the crags of its rugged structure, impressive width and flat upper ridge.

How to get there:

Just south-west of the town of Lorne, Henderson Falls can be found along the Allenvale Road, where you’ll find signs to the Sheoak picnic area car park. It is classified as an easy grade, 1.8km one way with a duration of 1 to 2 hours.

Upper and Lower Kalimna Falls, Otways

Let a historic timber tramway route lead you through a creek valley filled with ferns and huge blue gums all the way to these two magnificent falls.

Upper Kalimna Falls stands at around 25m tall and can be accessed from a nearby viewing deck.

Lower Kalimna Falls is much smaller but oh so pretty with a serene plunge pool surrounded by tree ferns. Take a natural shower in the water trickling over the rocky ledge or rest a minute in the large cavern behind the falls – an idyllic spot to explore or take in the view of the large pool, mossy rocks and surrounding ferns.

How to get there:

Take the Allenvale Rd from Lorne, where you’ll find signs for the Falls and Sheoak picnic area.

Tips

  • Trail can be muddy and slippery
  • Expect fallen trees to scramble over
  • Leeches may be present on this hike

Hopetoun Falls, Otways

Nature lovers won’t want to the leave the Otways without visiting the roaring Hopetoun Falls, it plummets 30m over a jagged rockface of mossy rocks into the Aire River. Soak up the view from the upper platform (20m from the carpark) or descend the 200 steps and feel the spray for yourselves. The lower platform is roughly a 1km, 30m minute trip but don’t worry, there’s a romantic rest stop at the bottom to take a moment and ‘admire the view’.

How to get there:

Not far from Skenes Creek and Wongarra, follow signs to the C159, turn off at Binns Rd. Turn off at Hopetoun Falls Rd where you will find signs for the car park.

Stay: Dlux + Escape at Lorne

Stay right in the heart of Lorne in this three level, two bedroom, two bathroom, light and airy north facing apartment. So close to the beach, pool, Erskine River, restaurants, cafes and shops and only a short drive to rainforests, waterfalls, oceans and rivers. Other features that made this accommodation great were the romantic loft style main bedroom with ensuite and the wraparound balcony.

Hopkins Falls, Warrnambool

Make sure to visit the largest waterfall on the Hopkins River. Located 15km from Warrnambool, the 90m wide , 12m tall Hopkins Falls is well worth a stop. Winter is the best time to view these curtain-like falls and the two viewing platforms even have their own camera stands to help you snap an Insta-worthy shot. Take the easy path to the pools below making sure to keep an eye out for the baby eels jumping out of the rocky ledges… they are making their winter migration too.

How to get there:

Hopkins Falls is located on Hopkins Falls Road, just a 15-kilometre drive from Warrnambool.

Stay: Deep Blue Hotel and Hot Springs, Warrnambool

The sound of the Southern Ocean sends you into the deepest sleep when you stay in one of the 81 spacious deluxe or premium suites at the Deep Blue Hotel, Warrnambool.

If that’s not enough, the geothermal rock pools and sensory caves of Deep Blue Hot Springs will. A twilight bathing session in the steamy open-air sanctuary will rejuvenate all of those sore muscles from the waterfall walks. Immerse yourself in the rainforest pool inspired by the previously visited Otway’s, relax in the aromatic lavender mists, indulge the senses in the illuminated colour therapy caves and gaze at the stars in the shallow pools of Reflection Bay.

Watch the episode

Top 5 things that made the weekend great

  • The guided, personalized tour with Lorne Tours took us to places we’d never find on our own.

  • Walking the waterfall circuit of the Great Otway National Park

  • Exploring Sheoak Falls and the Swallow Caves

  • Sitting in a rainforest soaking up the spray of Hopetoun Falls

  • Marvelling at the 90m wide, Hopkins Falls

Looking for more? Download your Lorne Walks and Waterfalls map here. 


 

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Cafe 153

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Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the Great Ocean Road region the Wadawurrung, Eastern Maar & Gunditjmara. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging. We recognise and respect their unique cultural heritage and the connection to their traditional lands. We commit to building genuine and lasting partnerships that recognise, embrace and support the spirit of reconciliation, working towards self-determination, equity of outcomes and an equal voice for Australia’s first people.