Werribee Gorge: The ultimate escape
Gorge, you ask? There’s a gorge in Victoria? Indeed there is and it is within easy striking distance of Melbourne, at around one hour’s drive. Once you are there, however, all thoughts of the city will be left behind. Standing in the rugged Werribee Gorge State Park, you could believe that you are alone in an undiscovered wilderness and that civilisation is thousands of miles away. Yet Aboriginal people actually lived here for many thousands of years and it is an archaeological as well as a natural treasure trove.
This terrific park has something for everyone with a sense of adventure. The most outstanding feature of this park is, of course, the spectacular Werribee Gorge, a 300 metre-deep ravine with the Werribee River meandering through it.
Werribee Gorge is particularly suited to those visitors who prefer active pursuits. A bushwalker’s paradise, this park offers a variety of challenging walks that require some fitness and confidence. You will be rewarded with outstanding sights of the gorge and panoramic views of the rest of the park.
There are two parking areas available from which to access the gorge, the Quarry picnic area and the Meikles Point picnic area. Both are well-serviced with toilets, picnic tables, fireplaces and information boards and provide an ideal starting point for a walk.
The 10km Circuit Walk provides great views of the gorge and is best tackled by experienced walkers as there are sections that are steep and require some scrambling over rocks. The shorter Falcons Lookout walk provides spectacular views. The name is apt, as this park is a breeding site for both Wedge-tailed Eagles and Peregrine Falcons, so if you are lucky you may even spot one.
Falcons Lookout is also the designated rock climbing site in the park with an adrenaline rush guaranteed! As one of the most accessible outdoor climbing spots near Melbourne, it is very popular. There are various routes ranging in difficulty, including high sheer cliffs suitable only for experienced climbers. Some posts, steps and hand rails have been installed to assist climbers. Safety equipment, including protective helmets, is a must.
The River Walk begins from the Meikles Point picnic area and follows the old aqueduct system down into the gorge while the Centenary Walk, which commences from the Quarry picnic area, extends through woodland and across the Myrniong Creek before a steep climb to enjoy some great views.
Inside the gorge along the river there are lovely swimming holes to take a dip on a hot day. Blackwood Pool is the largest and it is also home to platypus. Although their numbers have declined, efforts are being made to ensure water flows and suitable habitat boosts platypus numbers. If you happen to spot one, please let the park ranger know as records are kept of all sightings. Take a photograph if you can!
This incredible park of 575 hectares is an amazing expanse of rocky outcrops, plummeting cliffs, rich vegetation and abundant wildlife. It is therefore no surprise to discover that its scenery has inspired many painters, the most famous being Australian Fred Williams, recognised as one of the major landscape artists of the 20th century. In the 1970s he created a series of paintings based on this park, some of which hold pride of place in galleries in Australia and abroad.
Even if you are not a painter, there is plenty to inspire you here. As thousands of people in cars hurtle down the Western Highway every day, you wonder how many of them know that just a short distance away, near the town of Bacchus Marsh, lies a respite from the stresses of modern life, the wonderful Werribee Gorge State Park.