Located about a 50 minute drive from Colac (or 1 hour from Apollo Bay), the Californian Redwood Forest and Picnic Area is one the highlights of the Great Otway National Park.
Home to some incredible trees, the Redwood Forest is one of those places where you can spend as little or as much time as you wish, either stopping by for a 10 minute walk to stretch your legs, or taking a longer, more leisurely stroll and enjoying a picnic lunch.
As you travel along Binns Road, the area is signposted, and there is a small, unsealed carpark area just off the road.
Upon entering the forest, it becomes dark very quickly, with rays of sunlight creeping in through the gaps between the trees. I visited on a sunny day, however the trees block out a lot of the sunlight, leaving the forest much darker and cooler.
The forest area is very quiet and has a completely different atmosphere to the rest of the Otways.
The trees are spaced apart and the forest floor is covered in leaf litter with very little undergrowth, providing a much different experience to walking through the regular, dense bush of the Otways.
It's difficult to accurately describe the size of the trees, except to say they are incredibly tall and I felt very small amongst them.
The trees were planted in the 1930s by the State Forests Commission as an experimental logging plantation, however they were never cut down, and are now protected as part of the Great Otway National Park.
The species are Sequoia sempervirens, commonly known as 'Coast Redwoods' or 'Californian Redwoods', and can reach up to 115 metres in height.
Roger Smith, a Forestry Expert
who has studied the trees believes that the conditions are so favourable in the Otways that the Redwoods may eventually grow to be some of the tallest of their kind in the world.
The forest is situated right next to Aire River, which provides a picturesque backdrop and makes the area a popular place for photographers. The 40km river begins at nearby Beech Forest, and travels over Hopetoun Falls and through the Otways, before emptying into Bass Strait.
As well as the trees, there's an amazing array of fungi, including mushrooms and clavarioid (coral) fungi, so it's well worth bringing along a camera or fungi identification book if you are interested in mycology.
Some of the fungi in the Californian Redwood Forest
Overall, it's a beautiful place and I will definitely visit again. I'd recommend it to anyone who is passing through the area, as well as photographers in particular, and anyone who likes to spend some quiet time in nature.
Track Conditions/Walk Difficulty: Apart from the short, unsealed pathway leading into the forest, there is no designated pathway inside the forest.
In terms of difficulty, the first part of the forest is fairly flat, however there is a section further along that is a bit steep and slippery, with muddy sections and fallen trees. The area near the river bank was also quite slippery. I visited the forest with children, and they all fell over at one point, so if you're travelling with kids and there's been recent rain, bring a change of clothes and some towels to lay down in the car footwells.
There are a couple of sections that can get quite muddy and slippery if it's been raining
From Colac: Head south along Colac-Lavers Hill Road. At the T junction, turn left into Beech Forest-Lavers Hill Road. After approximately 5.4km, turn right into Binns Road, and continue along it for approximately 5.6km.
From the Great Ocean Road: Near Apollo Bay, turn into Skenes Creek Road and follow it for 14.6km. Turn left onto Turtons Track and continue along it for 16.1km (it will change to Beech Forest-Mount Sabine Road). At Binns Road, turn left and continue for approximately 5.6km.
Picnic facilities: Yes, there are wooden picnic tables and an open grassy area that's suitable for laying down a picnic blanket.
Toilets: There is a single, unisex toilet located across the road from the carpark. It is a pit-style toilet, but was clean and well-maintained when I visited. There is a rainwater tank for hand washing located next to the toilet.
The toilet is located a short distance from the carpark