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The New Great Otway National Park
  • Children looking at marine life,Photo: Jon Barter
  • Port Phillip Heads, Photo: Jon Barter

Parks Victoria invites you to visit Victoria's newest National Park – the Great Otway National Park. Just two hours to the southwest of Melbourne and stretching all the way from Anglesea to Princetown, it is a park of textured beauty. Proclaimed in November of 2005, this park is more than 100,000 hectares in size and has more than doubled the area previously protected through national and state parks in the Otways region. It is the sixth largest in the state and the largest National Park to border the coast.

"It is," says Dale Antonysen, a Ranger-In-Charge of the Great Otway National Park, "a park of diverse landscapes, from cool temperate rainforest to low coastal heathlands, a fantastic rugged coastline and hinterland with many beautiful waterfalls and special places just waiting to be discovered".

Bordered by two of Victoria's greatest natural attractions - the stunning vistas of the Great Ocean Road and the world-famous limestone stacks of Port Campbell's Twelve Apostles, the new park encompasses over 100 kilometres of coastline, and stretches far inland over the rugged hills and valleys of the Otway Ranges.

From the basalt plains to the north, the park stretches down through lush tall rainforests toward the protected Marine National Parks of the Southern Ocean. Here visitors can experience the truly neck-craning majesty of the Mountain Ash - the world's tallest flowering hardwood tree. Some of the specimens to be found here are said to be 400 years old.

"That makes it one of the best places in Victoria in which to see big stands of ash," says Dale. He particularly cites the Mait's Rest Rainforest Walk near Cape Otway as a sensational example of tall trees.

Another new tourist stop - a treetop walk known as The Otway Fly - gives visitors an alternative means of experiencing the majesty of the natural forest of Mountain Ash, Tree Fern and ancient Myrtle Beech from the platform of a 47 metre high tower and cantilevered walkway.

Ever-present as an Otways drawcard are the numerous waterfalls that cascade off the many rocky escarpments into deep ferny gullies. Given that the area receives the state's highest levels of rainfall - with averages of up to two metres a year – the high concentration of waterfalls is hardly surprising. The Hopetoun, Beauchamp, Stevenson and Triplet Falls constitute some of the prettiest postcard destinations that Victoria has to offer, yet amongst Dale's personal favourites are the coastal cascades of Kalimna falls, Sheoak Falls and Erskine Falls around Lorne.

The region supports an abundance of native wildlife, from Eastern Grey Kangaroos, Black Wallabies and Koalas, right through to Short Beaked Echidnas, Swamp Antechinus and Spot-tailed Quolls. Platypus are present in most of the park's rivers, but there are more to be found in the beautiful Lake Elizabeth than anywhere else.

But not all of the natural attractions of the region come in big packages – it is the subtle phenomena such as “glow worms” that add to the parks appeal as well, looking not unlike galaxies of tiny stars somehow caught beneath the trees. Some of the best places to see these light shows are at Melba Gully, in the ferny glades near Lavers Hill, up in the hills behind Apollo Bay and on the walk into Lake Elizabeth near Forrest.

That's the thing about the Otway Ranges, he says "as you sweep up into them, be it from the ocean to the south or the volcanic plains to the north, and then wind down into the valleys, you really are in the Australian bush. In places, it is spectacular."

"The new Great Otway National Park will permanently conserve that incredible natural heritage and allow us to manage the whole landscape in a way that better ensures its protection."

Because there is an increased focus on tourism, the conservation efforts will be balanced with many recreational outlets and opportunities. In the forest park area for instance, there will be sites for four-wheel driving, dog walking, kayaking, horseriding and camping.

"Across such a large area," says Dale, "the full suite of tourism and recreational pursuits can be represented."

The Otways is a fascinating place, "a place that ranges across landscapes of incredible variety and interest. It is also a great place to visit because there is a lot to see and do."

For further information on the new Great Otway National Park please contact Parks Victoria info@parks.vic.gov.au or visit our website: www.parkweb.vic.gov.au.

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Parks Victoria wrote this article

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  i found this article very interesting especially because i am studying for a project on the great otway np.
Posted on Feb 28 2010 at 18:03

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