Information supplied by Visit Victoria.
Those who know Victoria well may be surprised to hear that the southern-most state of mainland Australia is home to many volcanoes. More than 400, in fact, making the state home to the third-largest volcanic plain in the world.
Though they’re not extinct, it has been more than 7000 years since the last eruption. While the wind and time have helped form the land, it is the hundreds of volcanoes that were active thousands of years ago that we have to thank for both the state’s diverse scenery and also in part for its fertile soil. Here are some of the best places in the state to see these dormant volcanoes in their current form.
The southern region of the Grampians is rich in volcano history and the Volcanoes Discovery Centre is an ideal destination for those keen to learn about it. Located in Penshurst, at the foot of the dormant Mount Rouse volcano, the centre details how the area’s volcanoes formed and shaped the surrounding landscape.
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The 120-metre high Mount Rouse is within walking distance from there, and from its peak panoramic views can be enjoyed in all directions. At sunset, wallabies and kangaroos can be seen bounding across the far side of the crater.
From Mount Napier, the most recently active volcano in Victoria, views can be enjoyed from the Grampians to the sea. There is a walking track to the summit that winds through manna gum and blackwood forest and past impressive volcanic features including a lava canal.
Mount Napier State Park also includes the Byaduk Caves, one of the most extensive and accessible sets of lava caves in Australia. They are part of a lava flow stretching 24km from Mount Napier to Mount Eccles and contain stalactites and stalagmites, columns and ropy lava.
Perhaps the state’s most renowned volcanic crater, Tower Hill, is located just west of Warrnambool on the Great Ocean Road. The large, nested maar volcano erupted about 25,000 years ago.
Today it is a wetland reserve and home to emus, koalas, kangaroos, echidnas and wedge-tailed eagles. Personalised bush and nature walking tours conducted by experienced guides provide an opportunity to discover native wildlife and learn about traditional Aboriginal culture.
The centre of the state’s volcanic plain, Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges, is home to some stunning volcanic formations. Most famously, Hanging Rock, a 10-minute drive from Woodend, is the best example of a mamelon (the last stump of an eruption) in the world.
It has been a popular choice for picnickers since the early days of European settlement and was made famous by Peter Weir’s 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock – another drawcard for visitors.
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Hanging Rock is home to many local animals including 40 species of birds, koalas, kangaroos, sugar gliders, echidnas and wallabies as well as nearly 100 indigenous plants. At the nearby Hanging Rock Winery, the fruits of what was once volcanic soil can be tasted. Racegoers can plan their trip for January to make the most of the Hanging Rock Races on New Year’s Day and Australia Day.
In the centre of Daylesford, perched high on the summit of an extinct volcano, Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens have been a must-visit since the 1860s. With panoramic views of the town and its surrounds, it is the perfect place for a picnic or a wander through the well-maintained gardens.
Atop the hill is Wombat Hill House, a cafe and garden run by the renowned chef of Daylesford’s Lake House, Alla Wolf-Tasker. The cafe serves simple, seasonal food, sourced locally where possible, as well as high tea, from Thursday to Monday.
What is now an ideal place for a picnic and site for basic camping, was once the source of lava that filled valleys and streams that held much gold – as discovered by the miners during the gold rush era.
At Mount Franklin, just outside Daylesford, visitors can walk 2km around the crater and enjoy stunning views across the region. The rocks remain a remnant of the volcanic blasts, and although large in size are actually very light, making the perfect prop for an impressive selfie.
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Open by appointment, Mount Franklin Estate boasts a vineyard planted on rich dark fertile soil peppered with mineral-rich volcanic rock.
Have you visited any of these volcanoes in Victoria? Share your memories in the comments section below.
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