Driving along the road between Warrnambool and Terang, it's not immediately apparent that there is a charming waterfall just a few kilometres off the highway. Pretty and picturesque, the Hopkins Falls are a renowned feature of the region, attracting visitors and locals all year long.
At only around eleven metres in height, the Hopkins Falls are never going to rival the sheer magnitude of Niagra; nevertheless, the river never fails to impress with its rocky path to the wide drop into the pool below, surrounded by reeds and scenic pastures.
Quite a few species of fish can be found in the Hopkins River, including the pool at the base of the falls. River blackfish spawn in the rock crevices in spring and early summer, while brown trout lay their eggs among the reeds in autumn. Eels are also prolific, with many swimming upriver before migrating to the Coral Sea to spawn. The falls present a problem for some eels, which are luckily able to negotiate them by slithering overland.
Due to the fish population and the river red gums and she-oaks that line some of the banks, the Hopkins River is also host to a range of birdlife, including white-faced heron, egrets, spoonbills and cockatoos, both yellow-tailed and red-tailed.
The Hopkins Falls can be viewed from two lookouts at the parking area above, or from the banks of the pool at the base. The path leading to the bottom of the falls is short and not particularly steep, with a series of steps built in to prevent slipping.
The Hopkins River has been subject to a significant amount of environmental change over the last five years, first with drought and then with floods. During the drought, the water levels dropped considerably, causing the falls to reduce to a comparative trickle.
This all changed in 2010, and especially in January this year when the region experienced heavy flooding. For several weeks, the Hopkins Falls were virtually unrecognisable with a glut of water, leaving behind muddy slopes and drowned vegetation. At one point, the falls became a torrent of foam as the sudden rush churned its way through the river channels.
Currently, the Hopkins Falls are steady and scenic, but with the characteristic changeability of nature, sightseers stopping by this lovely landmark should never expect to witness exactly the same thing from one visit to the next.