When we went: Monday May 18
How we got there: we drove up from Melbourne, stopping in Warnnambool for great coffee on the way through. Warrnambool is about 3 hours by car from Melbourne, with Tower Hill another 10 minutes from there.
The Tower Hill walk is also doable via public transport if you’re prepared to stay overnight in Warnambool. Warrnambool is about 3.5 hours by train, and the regular Port Fairy bus stops outside Tower Hill exit. You can hike down to the visitor centre from the exit.
From Tower Hill we drove out to Lake Monibeong via Port Fairy (great lunch!) getting to the cmp site around 3:30pm.
Activity summary: Two hours of easy walking around unique landscape: a crater lake complex, lots of bird life including emus!
What we did (the details):
We arrived at the information centre car park at around 11am, eschewing the option of an icecream at the kiosk, we checked out the map on the sign board. The map depicts four colour-coded walks, and pretty colour-coded signs point off to each trail.
We had a slightly different walk in mind that we’d read about, which takes in parts of each named colour-coded walk. As it turns out, this confused matters a lot as the track junctions were often unsigned, so we kind of made it up as we went. It didn’t really matter, as we still saw lots of amazing things, but now that we’ve read the park map, we intend to return at a different time of year and walk even more of this amazing place.
So shouldering the camera, we set off towards the Tower Hill peak itself. Almost immediately, we were surround by birds in the trees. A cheeky golden whistler, crimson rosellas and lots of fairy wrens in the trees around the paths. Up to the peak and the only climbing in the walk, not too steep and pretty short, with paved paths and steps. Here we saw our first emu wandering around. The views on top were great to orient ourselves in the reserve.
We then headed down to the visitor centre again, past a family of emus grazing and out onto Wagon Bay track. We then followed this around Wagon Bay until the track intersects the Lake Edge track, whereupon we headed right and walked this trail all the way around until we met the Lava Tongue track. This loop includes a boardwalk section through tall grasses with wide vistas across to the walls of the crater. It was a short walk from here back to the picnic area.
It was lunchtime by then, and a family of emus wandered bewteen the tables as families of humans ate and played. A sign beneath a stand of trees told us to look up to see Keven the Koala… but we couldn’t spy any fuzzy friends snoozing above, so we made for our car. We left around 1pm, making for two hours of enjoyable walking.
We stopped for lunch in Port Fairy, then headed to Lake Monibeong, arriving around 3:30pm. The road in rollercoasters straight through pine plantations, and we surprised both a family of emus and a group of kangaroos on the way in.
The camp site was gorgeous, green and clean, stands of tea tree to shelter the sites – and right on the lake. The lake was beautiful, and there was even a little jetty with a ladder to go for a swim. (We skipped this on a cool afternoon in May.) There were two blocks of toilets (flushing!) that were spotlessly clean.
After checking the place out we walked out over the dunes to the coast, admired the beach and took note for the next day – we were to come back this way on our longer walk.
Walking back to our spot, past the grazing wallabies, all of the birdlife knew we’d arrived. A team of fairy wrens were already hopping around the picnic table hoping for scraps. A crazy bird (I later learned was a scrub wren) discovered the rear view side mirror on our car and was trying to kill its mirror-rival, tzzting an alarm the whole time. It eventually gave up and sat on the bonnet while we unpacked our gear and set up camp.
Tent up, we had a hot cuppa and then heard the distinctive cries of black cockatoos. A pair landed on the trees over the jetty. We hurried down to have a look, and then stared in wonder as flock after flock appeared on the northern horizon and flew low over the opposite bank of the lake, landing in the plantation. Our pair were drawn by the calls asd flew over to join their hundreds of friends. Amazed, we returned to our dinner preparations.
We boiled up some pasta, and then enjoyed strawberries and cream. As it grew dark, we soon discovered that the picnic table was a home for other things. Bullants, a huntsman and quite a few millipedes encroached on our cooking gear. We hastily packed up most of our dinner gear in the dark, and put our porridge on to precook ready for the morning. Porridge done and the weather turning, we hunkered down in the tent for the night, and listened to the rain till we fell asleep.
Birds we saw:
Tower Hill: fairy wrens, grey fantails, emus!, golden whistler!, yellow faced honeyeater, crimson rosellas
Lake Monibeong camp site: fairy wrens, scrub wrens, black cockatoos
Books: Most of the Tower Hill walk we did is described in Walks, Tracks and Trails of Victoria by Derrick Stone.
- Official park notes for Tower Hill: http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/315662/Park-note-Tower-Hill-Reserve.pdf
- History of Tower Hill: http://m.parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/315548/Heritage-story-Tower-Hills-peculiar-attractions.pdf
- Detailed map of Tower Hill Reserve: http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/630147/Tower-Hill-Reserve-map.pdf
- Lake Monibeong camp site: http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/discovery-bay-coastal-park/things-to-do/lake-mombeong-camp