Rugged lochs, panoramic peaks and sparkling bays: five underrated Victorian walks

The team behind Victorian regional travel project One Hour Out share some of their favorite walking finds from across the state.

Winton Wetlands

Located between Benalla and Wangaratta in Yorta Yorta Country, Winton Wetlands is a place that shares stories of the past, present and even the future.

One of the largest restoration projects in the southern hemisphere, wetlands collaborators are on a mission to renew the ecology of the reserve and increase its natural, scientific, cultural and environmental importance. There is a big emphasis on education here.

The sheer size of the area means it’s easy to spend a day here and your first stop should be the welcome trail with information about the wetlands, local flora and fauna and historical anecdotes.

The Lotjpatj Natjan Danak sculpture trail is not to be missed. The track features works created by 15 Yorta Yorta artists, representing their living culture. It really is quite profound to interact with their stories through art.

The abundant wildlife here also makes it really special, and you will be able to spot kangaroos, lizards and various birds in the wild.

You can choose to venture here for a day, but we recommend packing your camping gear and bikes and setting up base for a couple of nights or more. Gaze at the stars in the clear, unobstructed skies of the North East, wake up to the sound of birdsong, admire the natural Australian bushland, take a sunrise stroll along one of a number of walking trails or simply sit back and enjoy the tranquillity.

– Dellaram Vreeland

Diamond Bay

Diamond Bay is one of those places that locals would prefer to remain a secret, so we offer our sincerest apologies to the residents of Sorrento.

This sheltered bay is located three blocks from the main road from Sorrento to Blairgowrie and the view from the wooden platform is stunning, especially at sunset.

From there, a staircase descends to the caramel-colored sand, which in turn extends until it meets the crystal-clear turquoise water. The sandstone cliffs surrounding the bay are reminiscent of the small bays along the Great Ocean Road with layered sand compositions ranging from pale blonde to ochre.

Because the bay is sheltered by two rock outcrops, this is one of the quietest spots on the ocean side of the Mornington Peninsula and a relatively safe place to swim.

Diamond Bay is part of the coastal walk that traverses 30km of tea tree-covered cliffs and beaches facing Bass Strait, from Cape Schanck Lighthouse to Point Nepean National Park. If time is not on your side, head east along the coast from Diamond Bay to reach St Paul’s Lookout and view a collection of small rock outcrops known as the Bay of Islands. Taking the west path along the cliffs will connect you to the Coppins Track with great views of Sorrento as the sun sets.

Be sure to stick to the beach and designated trails, as the area is undergoing an extensive revegetation program and contains several fragile middens.

If you decide to take the coastal walk to Cape Schanck, the truly adventurous can join the Two Bays hiking trail to cross the peninsula to Dromana. This 26km trail will take you through lush green fern ravines, the eucalyptus forests of Greens Bush and climbs to a height of almost 300m above sea level as you cross Arthurs Seat.

The temptation then is to join the 28km Bay Trail to Sorrento to complete the ultimate 100km walking tour of the Mornington Peninsula.

-Jay Dillon

Yeddonba Aboriginal Cultural Site

Thylacines roamed Australia for 30 million years. About 4,000 years ago, their numbers on the continent began to decline as the number of dingoes grew. 2,000 years ago, the thylacine had become extinct on the continent; and when the Europeans arrived they called them Tasmanian tigers. The last Tasmanian tiger died alone in a Hobart zoo in the 1930s. But an ocher image of a thylacine can be seen on the wall of a rock outcropping at the base of Mount Pilot. It was painted by the ancestors of the local Dhudhuroa people when these striped marsupials hunted small prey in the boxwood forest on the granite hills around what is now Beechworth. You can see this remarkable image, though faint with age, along with what looks like a goanna climbing a tree at the Yeddonba Aboriginal cultural site.

Although the images are line drawings, the artist has captured some of the movement and character of the thylacine and goanna.

You can find the site on Yeddonba Road, off Toveys Road, off Beechworth-Chiltern Road in northeast Victoria. There is a short self-guided walk through the boxwood forest to the site where there is a boardwalk that brings you face to face with ancient art. It is a sacred site not only for the Dhudhuroa people but also for other local clans who gathered for ceremonies at what is now known as Mount Pilot.

– Richard Cornish

Australian Botanic Gardens

If you are a nature lover, environmentally conscious, recycler, reuser or lover of anything to do with sustainability, you will be intrigued by a botanical garden built entirely on a landfill.

You read it correctly. A botanical garden, located on a 25-hectare landfill and without a rose garden in sight.

Through community involvement, the masterplan for the site included themed gardens that rehabilitate the land and capitalize on the cultural, historical and environmental features of the Goulburn Valley. The infrastructure works included the redevelopment of the flood channel into life-giving wetlands which are flooded each year by the nearby Goulburn and Broken rivers.

Honeysuckle Rise offers a panoramic view of the Shepparton area and we recommend avoiding the heat of the day to visit and enjoy the view of the city at sunrise or sunset. There are a variety of walking and cycling trails to explore, from the river trails to the Honeysuckle Track. They are all accessible and vary in length.

A new section in development is dedicated to the land management practices of the Yorta Yorta people prior to European settlement and will be planted to represent the four bioregions of the Goulburn Valley.

The picture is still a work in progress, but how often do you see the beginning of something so significant?

-Jay Dillon

Budj Bim Cultural Landscape

Recognized by UNESCO in 2019, over 6,000 years old and just a 40-minute drive from Port Fairy and close to Heywood, the Budj Bim cultural landscape is what remains of a vast series of stone villages built on the edge of an intricate system of water channels. and dams of the Gunditjmara people from approximately 4000 BC. C. until colonization. The water system was built around a large expanse of water, called Lake Condah by settlers, to catch the kooyang or southern shortfin eel. The lake was drained in the mid-20th century.

In 2022, after decades of planning and work with the local community, the Gunditjmara people opened their sacred landscape to visitors.

This vast and powerfully rugged place has been carefully and quietly cared for by the Gunditjmara locals and the drained lake has returned to near-original levels.

In 2022, after decades of planning and work with the local community, the Gunditjmara people opened their sacred landscape to visitors. A $2 million visitor center complex features a cafe and interpretation area that will allow Gunditjmara locals to harvest, process and smoke eels again, but now in a state-of-the-art facility. Open from Wednesday to Sunday, it overlooks the lake and offers visitors the opportunity to try deliciously smoked authentic shortfin eel.

The two-hour tours are a real eye-opener, taking you from the visitor information center to the start of the lava flows that created Lake Condah and telling you some of the stories of the area. We discovered that Budj Bim erupted about 27,000 years ago, spewing red-hot lava for tens of kilometers and forming Lake Condah.

A stone ax found by archaeologists buried beneath the lava flow indicates that humans have been in this area since before the eruption. The fact that the Gunditjmara people are still telling the story of the eruption 37,000 years later is a likely candidate for being the oldest story still being told on the planet.

The half-day tour includes these stories and also allows time to delve deeper into this labyrinthine structure of ancient reservoirs, canals and towns. He took us to an ancient smoking tree, a hollowed manna gum under which scientists have detected quantities of eel fat, extracted from eels while they were smoked to preserve them for trade. The tour also includes old dams and a dam where the kooyang were trapped and held.

The full-day tour immerses you in the cultural perspective of Gunditjmara. You visit a volcano excavated by an explosion and now filled by a lake in a deep crater. As guides take you to visit their dams, stone huts and the site of the celestial calendar and you share a delicious morning tea and lunch (including eel), you begin to see the world through the eyes of the Gunditjmara people. The eel story is just the beginning.

– Richard Cornish

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