Sometimes, having low expectations makes for the best surprises. The Cumberland River Trail certainly didn’t disappoint Isobel. With three waterfalls (one that you can walk behind), a swimming hole and a natural water slide, it’s 20km of amphibious fun.
- Three stunning and unique waterfalls in a day
- A refreshing dip in Jebbs Pools, complete with a natural water slide
- Lots of rock-hopping and river crossings
- Close to a free campsite and Lorne Beach for an ocean swim
The Cumberland River Trail
With bundles of hiking enthusiasm and 24 hours to spare, we hit the Great Ocean Road heading to Lorne. We selected the Cumberland River Trail solely for the fact that 20km seemed like a ‘pretty decent distance’, so we had fairly low expectations. We were about to be seriously impressed.
The trail starts at Cumberland River Holiday Park but if you’re like us and not keen on the $40 a night price tag I’d recommend spending the night at the wonderfully free Allenvale Mill Bush Campground. It’s a handy 15-minute drive away from the trail.
Beginning at the back of the campsite, the route follows the peacefully bubbling river between striking rock faces and zig-zags across the river with a bunch of river crossings. The rocks are pretty slippery and wobbly, so for people with short legs and low rock-hopping range like myself, you’re safer committing to wet feet and walking through the water. Squelchingly refreshing!
Upper Kalimna Falls
The first waterfall of the day was the secluded Upper Kalimna Falls. Although there is nowhere to swim, creeping through the overgrown blackberries will get you up nice and close. And a quick disclaimer (from someone who has been disappointed by many average waterfalls), this one doesn’t have loads of water, so you might find it’s only a trickle in the late summer.
Lower Kalimna Falls
The second waterfall of the day, Lower Kalimna Falls, is something a bit special. You can walk into a cavern behind the waterfall (without even having to get wet!), and look out through the sparkling, falling water into the bush.
After a falafel pitstop at Sheoake Picnic Ground, we completed the upper loop and headed back down towards Cumberland Falls. Trying to get there really highlighted our poor navigation skills. Our inability to find the trail left us assuming the only option was to walk up the river in thigh-high water. Even though the water wasn’t flowing fast, it was enough to slow us down and give us a much greater appreciation for the waterfall when we finally arrived!
Turns out there is actually an easy to find trail (follow the orange arrows) that will take you five minutes, not the half an hour it took us. However, if you want completely soaked boots and a challenge, this could be the route for you! Plus, you might get lucky like us and have a friendly lizard drink the droplets of water squelching out of your boots!
On the walk back we finished up with a swim at Jebbs Pools. It’s full of huge smooth rocks, mini pools, and a little waterfall waterslide that shoots you out into a big pool. This is a spot where you could easily spend hours!
The Cumberland River Trail well and truly exceeded our minimal expectations. Full of waterfalls, river crossings, waterslides, wildlife, and swimming pools. It’s a beautiful area so you’ll just have to head out and judge it for yourself.
- Shoes with good grip
- Swimming togs (sorry I’m from NZ, maybe bathers or swimmers?)
- Food and water for the day
- Basic first aid kit
- Photo of map at entrance
- Trekking poles (optional – but useful for river crossings)
How To Get There
Head to Cumberland River Holiday Park, which is just over a two hour drive from Melbourne and ten minutes from Lorne. You can park your car in the visitor carpark at the front for free. Walk through to the back of the campsite to find the start of the trail. The start of the trail is well-marked with a sign and taking a photo of the map here is definitely not a bad idea.
If you want to spend the night nearby, Allenvale Mill Bush Campground is a good option. It’s free and a 15 minute drive from the start of the Cumberland River Trail. The camping area is about a 200m walk from the carpark.
Intermediate. Most trails are well defined, apart from a steep bit in the middle which is a bit overgrown. There are several slippery and wobbly river crossings, so you need to take care. Waterproof boots are a real bonus here!
Distance Covered / Elevation Gain
The route to see all three waterfalls is around 20km, with a total elevation gain of 270m. Most of the walk is fairly flat with only one steep section which you walk both up and down. In total it takes about 6 – 7 hours with a decent amount of time for admiring the waterfalls and having a dip in Jebbs Pools.