Leah’s taking us on a tour of all of Victoria’s Adventure Towns, but not the one’s you know – Bright won’t be appearing here. We’re looking for the uncovered, off-the-radar, hidden masterpieces that are waiting for you to find them. First up, Forrest.
We acknowledge that this adventure is located on Gulidjan and Gadubanud Nations, the traditional Countries of the Gulidjan and Gadubanud people who have occupied and cared for these lands and waters for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.
- World class mountain bike tracks
- Nature walks amongst rainforest, lakes, and waterfalls
- Camping and fishing
- A good feed and a local beer at the end of the day
Welcome to Forrest
The small town of Forrest in Victoria’s Otway Ranges is stomping it’s way on to the map as a hub for outdoor adventurers. Visit mid-week and you’ll have the town to yourself. Visit on a weekend and you’ll find it heaving with mountain bikers, families enjoying the outdoors, and day trippers sipping on lattes and tasty local brews.
So who are all these visitors who’ve tuned into Forrest’s awesome outdoor vibes?
‘Anyone who likes camping, mountain biking, walking, fishing or 4WDing – that’s kind of our space,’ says local, Sharon Bradshaw. Sharon started the Forrest Brewing Company with her brother Matt in 2010 – and they’ve seen extraordinary changes in the town since then.
‘I come up to the main street sometimes and think this is kind of nuts,’ says Sharon of the weekend crowds.
Forrest has gone from being solely a destination for mountain biking fanatics, to a playground for anyone who loves the outdoors. With nature walks, lakes, waterfalls, forest campsites, and a welcoming community vibe, it’s not hard to see why.
‘There’s also, what I call, the apres-mountain biker’, says Sharon, ‘they think they come for the mountain biking, but I’m not sure they take the mountain bike off the roof.’
Even with the boom in popularity, there’s a cool community of locals who want to preserve the quirky, inclusive, and welcoming vibes of the town.
Here’s why you should be putting Forrest on your adventure hit-list.
Over 60km of Mountain Bike Trails
Just a short ride from Forrest’s town centre is an epic playground of forest bike tracks. Over 60km of singletrack mountain bike trails thread their way through the rainforest and eucalyptus trees.
Starting from two main trailheads, each track is marked according to difficulty and you’ll find they cater to beginners through to the gnarliest of riders. Expect to see everyone from geared up pros, to kids and families traversing amongst the trees. Download the trail map before you go to make the most of your time there.
The local community’s worked hard to advocate for funding of a $4.5 million trail upgrade. It’s currently 50% funded and works are underway, so these world-class trails are only going to get better!
Explore Lake Elizabeth
Lake Elizabeth is a popular area for hiking, camping, and trying to spot the elusive platypus! You can drive or ride out to the Lake Elizabeth trail from Forrest’s town centre. It’s an easy 1km return walk through the rainforest to get to the lake, which was formed in 1952 when a landslide created a dam in the Barwon River.
You might be lucky to see a platypus from the viewing platforms, or you can book a canoeing tour for a better chance to see one up close. If you want to extend your walk, there’s a 2.5km loop trail around the lake, but be prepared for a rougher (and muddier) trail than the walk in!
Hit the Rainforest Trails on Foot
Use Forrest as your base for exploring the Great Otway National Park. In addition to the Lake Elizabeth trails, there’s no shortage of rainforest walks. Just 20 minutes drive from Forrest you can take a short walk to reach Stevensons Falls. Visit after heavy rains to see it at its most impressive.
If it’s more waterfalls you’re chasing, check out our list of the best waterfalls in the Otways. You can also venture out on the rainforest trails after sunset to see glow worms illuminating the trees.
Read more: Remember to leave no trace!
Camping and Fishing
Camping is popular in the area, especially in the summer months. You’ll find a number of campsites (most of them free!) including one at Lake Elizabeth where you can pitch a tent with enviable rainforest views.
In winter be prepared for rain, cold nights, and plenty of mud. In summer the shady campsites, cold streams, and surrounding rainforest provide relief from the heat. If you like to pack a rod for your adventures, the West Barwon Reservoir is the best place to throw a line. It’s the place to catch wild trout and is also regularly stocked with a variety of other species.
Read more: The Best Dog Friendly Camping In Victoria
The tiny town of Forrest is the best basecamp for your adventures. If you book accommodation in town – like these sweet cabins or a room at the brewery – you can ride straight out and onto the trails. There’s plenty of options for cabins and cottages, some big enough to fit the whole adventure crew. There’s also a caravan park in town and the rainforest campsites which you have to book via Parks Victoria.
If you’ve missed out on Forrest accommodation, you’ll find more country-style BnBs in neighbouring towns like Barwon Downs. Plus, the Great Ocean Road is just 30 minutes drive away with plenty of accommodation options in Skenes Creek and Apollo Bay.
How To Get There
Forrest is a two hour drive south west from Melbourne. Take the M1 past Geelong and through Winchelsea before turning off and following the signs through the Otway Ranges. Forrest is also a 30 minute drive from the Great Ocean Road if you want to take an adventurous detour from your coastal road trip (it’s worth it!)