An easy overnight hike, the Lorne Waterfall Circuit showcases some of the best waterfalls and ocean views that the Great Otway National Park has to offer.
We acknowledge that this adventure is located on Gadubanud Nation, the traditional Country of the Gadubanud people who have occupied and cared for this land and water for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.
Lorne Waterfall Circuit trail is a 28km, grade 4 located in the Great Otway National Park in Victoria. The hike should take around 7-9 hours to complete but can be done in an overnight hike.
- Aesthetic mix of waterfalls, ocean views from a height, and a dam
- Fern gully and seemingly pre-historic fern trees
- Boulder canyon and other rock features
Taking on this over-nighter by myself, I planned to stay at the Sharps Camping Area but found the campsite closed due to controlled burnoffs – best to check this before you head off! I chose Allenvale Mill Campsite instead and prepared for a big first day of 23km (estimated 6-8 hours) with a light 5km finish the next morning.
Read more: Discovering the Stunning Otways (VIC)
Ocean Views & Fern Gullies
On a sunny day on the Lorne Waterfall Circuit, you may encounter crowds of day-hikers so it’s best to start early. The first 500m greets you with a gentle stair climb as you ascend above ocean and into the gum trees, only to come upon your first waterfall – Sheoak Falls – where you’re welcomed with the sound of rushing water. From this spot, set out towards Castle Rock lookout.
A few hundred metres of steep, dirt maintenance road may start to really burn your glutes, but will repay with dappled sunlight through the gums, fresh air, silence, and finally, a hidden view across the big blue. Allow yourself time to take it all in before heading back into the forest.
During my hike, an unexpected track closure forced me to find an alternative trail, which led me down to the Sheoak Picnic Grounds – a central clearing in the valley with toilets, picnic tables, a paved car park, and a slew of chatty day-hikers.
Read more: 5 Best Overnight Hikes Near Melbourne
Not far from here, you’ll find Lower Kalimna Falls. These lush falls paint a magical portrait of overhanging rock with a veil of water spilling into a natural pool. Sneak behind the falls and listen as the sound of falling water echoes off the rocky cave.
Weave your way through the rainforest and pay a visit to Won Wondah and Henderson Falls. You’re in leech country now as the trail takes you further into a fern gully. The path narrows and dark green ferns of all sizes will start to loom around you. Their fronds glimmering in the sun as it pokes its rays through the canopy high overhead.
Not far beyond, a dark boulder canyon will engulf you. For a moment all becomes quiet. Squeeze on through and the passage spits you out onto another dirt service road.
Finally, as you wind down to the last waterfall, Phantom Falls, curiosity might just make for an unexpected detour to Allen Dam. Here, you’ll be graced with pure solitude.
During my hike, the tangerine afternoon sun pushed me to my final stop. I set up my humble shelter, fed myself a hearty meal of mac and cheese, and rested up for the night.
The morning aero-press coffee left me with energy and a hopeful spirit as I headed through the forest of burned stumps and fresh new growth for the last 5km back to my car.
- First aid kit
- 70L hiking backpack
- Light-weight hiking tent
- Cooking equipment
- Portable stove and gas
- Water bladder, water filter and water cleansing tablets
- Head torch
- Sleeping bag and mat
- Lightweight food and lots of snacks!
- A map – the routes are well marked but it gives me a comprehensive overview of the area and flexibility to change course under track closures
Read more: Remember to leave no trace
How To Get There
The hike is located just past Lorne in the Otways and the beginning of this route comes directly off of the Great Ocean Road at the Sheoak Falls car park (not to be confused with the Sheoak Picnic Area) – easy to get to with a car! Access via public transport may be challenging.
The Lorne Waterfall Circuit is a great introductory walk, and due to the nature of its tracks can be done as an overnight hike, a long day-hike, or a series of mini hikes. The full loop is an intermediate hike due to the distance covered on the first day.
The hike is 28km long with minor elevation gain and clear tracks the whole way.
Day 1: 23km walk/250m/6-8hr
Day 2: 5km walk/150m/1.5hr