When the We Are Explorers crew get the opportunity to check out a new corner of Aus, not even the rain paired with a deadly hangover can stop us.
I was nursing a subtle hangover from the Port Fairy Adventure Film Festival, when our enthusiastic crew mentioned a killer microadventure at an extinct volcano crater, my tummy and I began to feel slightly concerned.
Nevertheless, we bundled into the car and headed north towards Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve. I was thankful to be in the front seat with a keen eye on the horizon, and that the drive was a short 15 minutes from Port Fairy, on a relatively straight road.
- Abundance of koala and emu locals
- Extinct volcano crater
- Home to 160 iconic bird species
- Several self-guided short walks available
- Ocean views from the top of the crater
Emu and Koala Locals Galore!
Before we’d even parked the car, we met one of the resident emus. Like a parking inspector on patrol, it surveyed our car before checking out who was next in the lineup. Gobsmacked, the sighting amped our crew for what other magnificent creatures we might see!
We parked at the entrance of our chosen track, the Lava Tongue Boardwalk and made our way along the 600m loop through the wetlands. We could not have anticipated the amount of wildlife sightings we were about to experience!
Like kids at a carnival, it became a spotting frenzy – koala here, extra fluffy koala there, Australian Shelduck on the lake, Grey Kangaroos hopping up ahead, Red and Brown Finches in the reeds!
And then, came the fauna finale… as the loop rounded back towards the car park, we were stopped in our tracks. Headed straight for us was a big Papa emu with her baby in tow. There’s nothing like a David Attenborough moment on the track, and this was one of them! Breathtaking and beyond adorable, we squashed together like sardines to let the locals take priority of the path…
Journey to the Last Volcano
Home to one of the largest Maar volcanoes in the world, Towerhill Reserve is a major geo-attraction. After our wetlands waddle, we were eager to find out what all the Maar fuss was about and made our way to the ‘Journey To The Last Volcano’ track. A slightly windy 1.9km scramble to the top of the crater with promised 360 views.
We moved through lush fern undergrowth and cute patches of tiny lilac flowers. Seizing the moment, I had a peaceful flower bath in an attempt to frolic away any lasting hints of my hangover.
We then began a steep ascent on a clear path to the crest of the crater. Reaching the top we were rewarded with panoramic views, stretching from the crater lake, to fertile farmland and onto the point where the unruly Southern Ocean meets the horizon. A ripper spot to enjoy a few multigrain-vegemite sambos, we made a quick pit stop before heading back towards the car.
Not that we minded, but the way back was slightly harder to navigate and we managed to take a few wrong turns that pleasantly extended our return-amble. As there are a few tracks that cross over, we’d suggest taking a picture of or carrying a map if you’re under a time pressure to explore the reserve.
A Lasting Impression
Heading back to the quaint blue-stone village of Port Fairy, I began to daydream, curious about the reserve’s history and the peaceful, calm feeling that had washed over me from our visit (one much deeper than the hangover relief I was experiencing).
I start to render the initial explosions, rewinding back some 32,000 years. I imagine the multiple meetings of hot magma and water-bearing rock. A series of chaotic eruptions, forced to break through the earth’s surface. Quickly, lava tongues start to flow and large craters take shape. The landscape is alive and evolving. Time passes, the rain arrives, it continues the transformation filling craters and nourishing the life of those who call these new formations home.
This place is special and has been for a long time. Located on Worn Gundidj Country, the reserve was once a rich source of food and shelter for different clans of the Gunditjmara Nations including the Koroit-gunditj and Peek Whurrong people.
Traditional owners help to manage the Reserve and the Worn Gundidj Cultural Centre where there are tours daily to educate visitors on the area’s immense cultural significance. If you’re coasting along the Great Ocean Road, a tour and a self-guided walk at this reserve are ones to add to your list!
- Water bottle
- Walking shoes
- Lunch or a snack
- Windbreaker/ Rain jacket (it’s always bloody windy and unpredictable on the Great Ocean Road)
How To Get There?
Located 275km southwest of the capital, Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve is roughly a 3.5 hour drive along the Princes Highway. At the Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve sign, turn right at Entrance Rd and follow signage until you reach one of the reserve’s car parks. Park up and pick one of the many walking trails on offer.
From Port Fairy
Head North 14.6km on Albert St/Princes Highway toward the Entrance Rd, turn left onto the Entrance Rd and follow signage until you reach one of the reserve’s carparks.
- Bird and wildlife watching
Beginner – several self-guided walks are available in the region all range from half an hour to an hour.
Approx 2.5km. Allow 2.5 hours if you’re having lunch and keen to spot some wildlife!
- Picnic tables
- Electric BBQs
- Worn Gundidj Cultural Centre, open 7 days 10am – 4pm
Photography by Jonathan Tan