The Brisbane Ranges National Park is an island of biodiversity in a sea of agricultural land. Just over an hour's drive west of Melbourne (~ 80 km), the rocky ranges supports over a fifth of Victoria's native plant species. The park is a great place to explore without travelling too far from the city.
The magnificent wildflower display in spring at the Brisbane Ranges National Park (Photo: L. Vivian)
The national park has a variety of walking tracks ranging from the family-friendly – and relatively flat – Anakie Gorge walk, to the more epic three-day Burchell Trail that traverses the entire park. Walking in later winter and spring is the best time of year to see the glorious display of wildflowers in the park, including orchids, a huge variety of native peas and the rare Steiglitz Grevillea – found only in the Brisbane Ranges.
The rare Steiglitz or Brisbane Ranges Grevillea (Photo: L. Vivian)
Other activities include camping, picnicking at the various lovely picnic areas and rock climbing at the Staughtonvale Climbing Face in the park's east.
There are several access points to the park. Many of the short walks leave from the Stony Creek Picnic Area, accessed from the south by a narrow unsealed road off the Geelong-Bacchus Marsh Road. The Anakie Gorge walk can be accessed from the east by a short drive off Staughton Vale Road along the aptly-named Gorge Road – this walk can also be linked up to the walks described below. Check the Parks Victoria website for further access options, including from the historic Steiglitz area to the south – once a gold rush town.
Cinnamon Fungus Before embarking on any walk, it's worth becoming aware of Cinnamon Fungus, or Phytophthora cinnamomi. This pathogen causes the dieback of native plants and it's important for everyone to help prevent its spread, so the beautiful Australian bush that we love to spend time in is not further decimated by this disease.
Make sure you clean your boots to reduce the risk of spreading Cinnamon Fungus (Photo: L. Vivian)
Cinnamon Fungus is a mould that lives in the soil and can be transported via soil attached to walker's boots. So use the hygiene stations in the park to clean your boots, and stick to the existing tracks – walking off-track into the bush runs the risk of spreading the pathogen further.
Ted Errey Nature Circuit My favourite walk is the Ted Errey Nature Circuit. It's an 8 km loop walk with an advisory time of three hours, but this walk can easily take longer depending on how often one stops to take photos of flowers and to take in the spectacular views. The walk passes through different vegetation types and the heathy woodland section is a particularly spectacular area to see spring wildflowers.
A well-placed chair with a great view along the Ted Errey Nature Circuit (Photo: L. Vivian)
The walk has interpretive signs along the way with information about the area's flora, fauna and landscapes. There's even a Parks Victoria "Fluker Post" where you can take a photo from a fixed photo point with your digital camera to help with the monitoring program.
Help out Parks Victoria with photo point monitoring (Photo: L. Vivian)
There's a few steep sections, particularly leaving the Stony Creek Picnic Area and then when the track heads back down to join the Anakie Gorge walk. The downhill steep section is particularly rocky so take care to avoid slipping and spraining an ankle.
The trail is marked by blue triangles and is easy to follow. Along the way are plenty of well-placed seats to stop and enjoy the views.
The walk can be accessed from the Stony Creek Picnic Area, or can be joined up to the Anakie Gorge walk, departing from the Anakie Gorge carpark.
Picnic tables at Stony Creek picnic area (Photo: L. Vivian)
Anakie Gorge Walk
This walk is relatively flat and is an out-and-back walk from the Anakie Gorge carpark. It follows the gorge to the Stony Creek Picnic area – a good spot for lunch before returning to the car. Alternatively, from the picnic area, you can join the Ted Errey Nature Circuit for a longer walk.
There's some rock hopping sections along the way, and interpretive signs about the geology and the area. On the day I was there, plenty of families with young children were out enjoying this walk.
The Burchell Trail is a three-day walk that starts from further south in the park, finishing at the Boar Gully campground in the north, a lovely campground with camping spots tucked away among the eucalypts. The two camping spots along the way (Old Mill and Little River) are designated for overnight walkers only. Boar Gully is available for car campers as well as walkers.
A day walk on the Burchell Trail
Starting from the Boar Gully campground, it is possible to do a day walk in the form of a loop that incorporates the final section of the Burchell Trail.
I have followed the walking track described in the excellent Day Walks in Victoria by John and Monica Chapman and John Siseman. This is a 14.3 km loop that is fairly flat except for a steep descent in and out of a gully on Slate Track. It's also easy to plan your own loop walk using Park Victoria's maps. For example, follow the Burchell Trail in reverse from Boar Gully campground until Thompsons Road, then loop back to the start along Kangaroo Track.
Walking along the Burchell Trail (Photo: L. Vivian)