Walks in Melbourne – Yarra Bend Park Ramble

View of city from Wills St picnic area

This circular walk starts at Studley Park boathouse in Melbourne’s inner east suburbs, and provides a pleasant 9km ramble through Yarra Bend and nearby parks, passing two boathouses and a former asylum, with many great views of the city.

Start at the parking area at Studley Park Boathouse (Melway 2D, F8) and walk up the hill back to Yarra Boulevard. At this point turn left and follow Yarra Boulevard until a turn-off to a picnic area downhill to the left. At this point cross over and follow a path uphill to the Wills St Picnic area where there are fine views of the city. From the picnic area continue towards a gate that provides entry into the Willsmere apartments complex. Go through the gate which crosses a small basketball court, and have a quick look at the main, heritage listed, Willsmere building.

Converted into private residential apartments in the early 90’s the main building was formerly the Willsmere Hospital and before that the Kew Lunatic Asylum. It features an impressive facade, two large towers and mansard roofs. The front section with a view of the city was for paying customers – there are wings behind which were used for the rest of the patients. A section of one wing, behind the door in the library, was left as-is as part of the re-development agreement. This section houses a small museum and is occasionally opened up to the public along with the grounds (check with the National Trust for any opening dates).

Return to the entrance gate, and then turn north-west along a dirt path that runs through a lovely wooded area in front of the Willsmere complex.

Follow this path until it emerges on to a grassed area and a sealed path that curves to the right, uphill, towards an old oak and the remains of the former Willsmere dairy. Leave the formed track at this point and pass to the left of the old dairy along a dirt track that turns left downhill and soon reaches Yarra Boulevard. Cross the road, taking particular care to check right for cars or bikes racing down the hill and then turn right along the footpath up the hill. The roads turns to the left and soon heads downhill to a roundabout and a bridge over the Eastern Freeway.

Keep following the path over the freeway and up to the crest of the hill. At this point the “Main Yarra Trail” is reached; turn left and follow the spur downhill to the Fairfield pipe bridge. Cross the bridge, noting the Fairfield Boat House to the right, and follow the path up to the right before reaching a turnoff to the left, just before the car park. Turn here as the track double-backs on itself before turning to the right and then crossing Yarra Bend road. Follow the track as it curves left, above the Merri Creek to the right. Keep following the track as it passes a lookout to the right and then eventually drops downhill to pass underneath the Eastern Freeway.

The track reaches a pedestrian bridge over Merri Creek. Cross here to have a look at Dights Falls and remains of an old mill and weir. Return across the bridge and follow the path as it follows the bank of the Yarra, initially at river level and then climbing high above to eventually meet Yarra Bend road. Here, turn immediately to the right down a dirt track through an avenue of European trees. Follow this track, again by the banks of the Yarra until it climbs to meet Kanes Bridge. Cross here back to the starting point.

Refreshments are available at both the Fairfield and Studley Park Boathouses. Row boats can also be hired at Studley Park Boathouse, which has very pleasant surroundings for a picnic.

View map (in Google Maps)

Yarra Bend Park ramble (kmz file) for use in Google Earth.

Walks in Melbourne – Petty’s Orchard

This walk, which also makes a good run, starts at Westerfolds Park in the northern suburbs. Westerfolds is part of an impressive series of urban parks all based around the Yarra River. The walk takes in part of the “Main Yarra Trail” a bike riding/walking track that travels about 35km from Eltham to the City centre, all off-road.

Start at the parking area next to the main road bridge over the Yarra. If approaching from the south, the turn-off is just before the bridge (the side road curves underneath the bridge to the parking area on the other side – google maps doesn’t show this turn-off but it is there), from the north it is immediately after crossing the bridge. The walk commences east uphill to Candlebark park, continues to Petty’s Orchard, an ‘antique’ apple orchard (i.e. growing varieties that are no longer produced commercially), before turning back at Tikalara park.

The track is very easy to follow and total distance is about 6.3km. The route could be extended by continuing on at Tikalara park, or taking the bridge over the Yarra and then doing a circuit of Eltham Lower park, or perhaps a ride on the miniature railway there.

View map (in Google Maps)

Click here for a kmz file for use in Google Earth.

Updates coming soon

Unfortunately, too busy to update for the moment, but this will hopefully change soon. Off to Mt Feathertop this Easter, this will be my “20th anniversary” climb of this peak – my first ascent was with the scouts (venturers) in Easter 1988. The route we followed then started at Pretty Valley Storage on the Bogong High Plains, walking down to Blairs Hut for the first night. The second day was Blair Hut/ Diamantina Spur/ Feathertop/ Razorback/ Swindlers Spur/ Dibbins Hut – anyone who knows this area will realise that second day was crazy, and certainly isn’t recommended! Last day was back to Pretty Valley. This time I’m going to follow the traditional route up Bungalow Spur.   

Photos from Easter 1988: Left – Blairs Hut (note – you can no longer drive all the way to Blairs hut – the road stops about a kilometre beforehand). Right -Dibbins Hut

Blairs Hut campground (Easter 1988) Dibbins Hut (Easter 1988)   

Bushwalking – Mt Feathertop via Diamantina Spur

Mt Feathertop from Diamantina Spur

Diamantina Spur is the main spur that approaches Mt Feathertop from the east. Because the spur starts in a more isolated valley, with access either by walking in or all-wheel drive vehicle, this approach is not nearly as well used as the Razorback or the western spurs (the Bungalow and North-West spurs). It does however provide an interesting alternative route for experienced walkers who have tried the other approaches, and could form part of an excellent two or three day walk. Despite having climbed Mt Feathertop on numerous occasions, it’s some 20 years since I last used this spur, so I decided to revisit on a recent trip.

If approaching the top of the spur via the razorback, the path commences eastwards from the Razorback about 1.5km south of the Bungalow spur junction, or about 8km or so from Mt Hotham. The track junction is just to the north of High Knob. Initially easy to follow, the track soon becomes very indistinct. The spur has also been ravaged by bushfires, completely eliminating any sign of the track in places as well as consuming many track markers. I walked down the spur, and despite my best efforts to follow the line of the main spur, including frequent stops to assess the lie of the land and check my compass, I realised about two-thirds of the way down that I had slipped down a side spur, which required about 20 minutes of bush bashing along the contour of the hill, back to the main spur line. This was very hard work as a result of the fires – there were lots of trip hazards from burned out tree trunks and branches as well as lots of new growth. The surviving tree trunks were also still covered in soot, and by the time I made it down into the valley, so was I.

As a result of this experience, I’d suggest that going up the spur will be easier from a navigation point of view. Note though that either way is going to be hard work – the spur is not well graded like the Bungalow Spur, and in some places is particularly steep. This makes getting into a steady walking rhythm impossible, reducing effective speed and increasing tiredness.

The spur joins the access road into the valley (the road leads to the Diamantina Horseyards and the Red Robin Mine – it is closed to vehicles immediately after the Diamantina Horseyards turn-off) at a curve in the road by the banks of the West Kiewa river – as far as I could see the start point is not signposted, although the spur is pretty obvious.

Once in the valley I continued along the jeep track south, past Blair hut on the left. Eventually a junction is reached where you can continue up to Mt Hotham either via Dibbins Hut and Swindlers Spur or via Machinery Spur (which passes Red Robin Battery and Mine). The path via Dibbins Hut is in my view more attractive being a walking path, rather than a vehicular fire track, and Swindlers Spur is a lovely route up through forest and then alpine meadow, however it is steep in places. Machinery Spur, as expected for a vehicle track, is much better graded, but somewhat more monotonous. Red Robin mine is interesting to see however, and the track also passes by Mt Loch which makes an excellent short side trip.

An overnight walk suggestion for experienced bushwalkers is to start at the Mt Loch carpark on the Mt Hotham road and then descend either Machinery Spur or Swindlers Spur to camp at either Dibbins or Blairs Hut. The next day would be an ascent via Diamantina Spur, then a short walk along the Razorback to the Bungalow Spur junction and then camp at Federation Hut, 500m down the Bungalow Spur. The final day, after an ascent of Mt Feathertop, would be back along the Razorback to the Mt Hotham road, and then a short road bash back up the road to the Mt Loch carpark (alternatively, you could park by the side of the Mt Hotham road below Diamantina Hut – the launching pad for walks along the Razorback – and then do the road walk on the first day).

You could do this as a two-day walk, combining either the Diamantina Spur and Razorback or the descent into the valley and then climb back up again along the Diamantina Spur into one day, but this makes for an “unbalanced” walk with one easy day and one very tough day – definitely for the experienced and fit only. Less experienced walkers should start with the Razorback or Bungalow Spur routes.

Diamantina Spur path Blairs Hut from the logging track

Walk of the Month: Mt Loch (North-East Victoria)

Summit of Mt Loch (560px)

An attractive short walk across the high country around the ski-resort of Mt Hotham in north-east Victoria, with great views.

The walk commences at the Mt Loch car park on the Great Alpine Road (B500) about 1km before Mt Hotham village. The walks follows a fire track that starts at the left hand side of the water recycling dam that has recently been excavated, immediately north of the car park. Follow the jeep track (which is also the Alpine Walking track) as it undulates and then starts to steadily climb northwards, passing numerous ski runs and lifts on the right hand (east) side. There are fine views of the Razorback and Mt Feathertop to the left. The poles that can be seen every 40m are snow poles designed to assist navigation in poor weather and continue all the way to Mt Bogong.

After about 1.5km, at Derrick Col, the track turns eastwards briefly before reaching a track junction. The walk continues on the jeep track that heads north to Mt Loch, now about 1km away (the other foot track continues along Swindlers Spur to Derrick Hut). The original access footpath to the summit of Mt Loch, which leaves the jeep track shortly after the junction, is now closed to allow revegetation and Parks Victoria encourages walkers to use a new access track which leaves the jeep track immediately to the west of Mt Loch (about 350m further on). Follow the access track for a 100m or so to the summit, marked with a large summit cairn. There are great views in all directions from the summit. If it is a clear day you will see Mt Hotham to the south, the Razorback and Mt Buffalo plateau to the west, Feathertop to the north-west and Mt Bogong and the Bogong High Plains to the north-east and east. To the immediate north the jeep track follows Machinery Spur before dropping down to the West Kiewa River.

Return to the car park via the same route. For a post walk drink head up the Great Alpine Road to the attractive Dinner Plain village.

SIDE TRIPS: There are a couple of additional side trips that could be taken on this walk:

  1. Red Robin Mine – Continue along the jeep track north as it follows Machinery Spur until it drops via a series of zig-zags to the east and reaches Red Robin mine, classified by Heritage Victoria due to its status as the sole surviving alpine gold mine.
  2. Derrick Hut – At the track junction mentioned above continue along the foot track (the alpine walking track) as it follows the snow pole line south east descending to Derrick Hut. Derrick Hut is a refuge hut, built by the Wangaratta Ski Club for Ski tourers. It is situated in a lovely alpine meadow.

Mt Loch fire trail Mt Loch summit with view of Mt Feathertop Red Robin mine Derrick hut

Walk date: Dec 28, 2007
Time/level: 1 day easy (around 2.5 hours)
Maps: Rooftop’s Mt Feathertop – Hotham Forest Activities Map (1:30,000), VICMAP Bogong Alpine Area Outdoor Leisure Map (1:50,000)
My rating: A

Walk of the Month: Wilsons Promontory (Victoria) – South/East circuit

Sealers Cove (Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit)

“In wild splendour the high granite peninsula of Wilsons Promontory pushes into the cold waters of Bass Strait to form the most southerly point of the Australian mainland, 225 kilometres south-east of Melbourne. In a relatively small area this national park protects an extraordinarily diverse range of environments: wild heathlands and swamps, moist pockets of rainforest, granite mountain tops, and dunes and seashores.”

Jocelyn Burt, “The World of Wilsons Promontory”

Wilsons Promontory (or just ‘the Prom’) is probably the most popular national park in Victoria and one of the most beautiful. A circuit around the southern part of the prom is one of Victoria’s classic bushwalks.

The walk begins at the Telegraph Saddle carpark below Mt Oberon. Generally you can park here, but on busy spring and summer weekends the road to the carpark may be closed in which case you will need to take the (free) courtesy bus from the Norman Bay carpark at Tidal River (leaves every 30 minutes). The circuit takes in Waterloo bay, Refuge Cove and Sealers Cove, and can be completed in 1, 2 (camping at Refuge Cove) or 3 (camping at Little Waterloo Bay and Sealers Cove) days, clockwise or anti-clockwise. I once did the walk in a day, but don’t recommend this unless you are in training for something else, as at 37km it is a long and tough day and you will have no time to rest and enjoy the many sights and locations along the way. My recommendation is to make it an overnight 2 day walk, camping at the lovely Refuge Cove, and travelling anti-clockwise to get the road bash (along Telegraph Track) over with at the start of the walk. Note that you need a permit if you intend to camp overnight – these can be obtained from the park office on the day you start, but to avoid disappointment if the campsites are already booked up, the permits can also be booked in advance by calling Parks Victoria (if you do this, you can also pick up the permits at the office at the park entrance).

From Telegraph Saddle carpark, take the 4wd Telegraph Track southwards. The track descends briefly and then stays relatively flat for the 6.5km to the junction with the Waterloo Bay walking track. Take this track almost due East to Waterloo Bay and its magnificent white sands. At Waterloo Bay the track turns north and continues just to the left of the beach before joining the beach just south of Freshwater creek. To continue along the track, cross the creek (this can usually done without getting your feet wet by hopping across the rocks) and then locate the track, fairly well hidden amongst the boulders at the northern tip of the beach. The track climbs steeply initially but soon descends into Little Waterloo Bay camping area. From here the track continues to hug the coast and proceeds east and then north-east to North Waterloo Bay.

From here, the track moves inland and climbs towards Kersop Peak (accessed from a track that branches south-east from the main track). The track continues northwards and descends into Refuge Cove, and the overnight camping area.

Telegraph Track Waterloo Bay On the trail from Waterloo Bay to Refuge Cove Cove Creek at Refuge Cove

From the overnight hikers camping area drop down to the beach and continue to the northernmost point where the track ascends inland and climbs northwards to a lookout near Horn Point. From here the track turns westwards providing a superb view of five mile beach to the north, before descending into Sealers Cove. Passing through the overnight camping area, the path descends to the beach where it is necessary to ford Sealers Creek. It is wise to try and avoid arriving here at high-tide as the creek will be very deep at this time (the park offices at the entrance and at Tidal River have a list of low and high-tide times) and potentially very difficult to cross. We arrived a couple of hours after low-tide at which time it was still only calf-deep (but very cold!).

After crossing the creek, the path is along the beach for a kilometre or so, before a signpost is reached (just before the remains of an old jetty) pointing to the track inland. The track continues west through Sealers Swamp (this whole section is now along boardwalks), an attractive area where occasional shafts of sunlight break through the dense foliage. Eventually, the boardwalks stop and the track then ascends moderately but relentlessly to Windy Saddle, a small grassy area and a great spot for a final break before that last section of the walk back to Telegraph Saddle.

Looking towards Five Mile Beach Track through Sealers Swamp Path between Sealers Cove and Windy Saddle Windy Saddle

Walk date: Nov 10/11, 2007
Time/level: 2 days moderate (around 5 hours each day)
Map: VICMAP Wilsons Promontory Special (1:50,000), Parks Victoria Parks Notes
My rating: A+, One of Victoria’s best