From the beautiful seaside town of Apollo Bay the Great Ocean Road actually goes away from the ocean for the first time and begins its landlocked traverse through the rolling hills of the Great Otway Ranges:
While driving on the Great Ocean Road drivers can only see these rolling ranges steeply crash into ocean until they reach this landlocked portion of the road. The land locked portion of the highway slowly climbs into the Otway Ranges and soon drivers are engulfed with beautiful green rolling hills and productive farmland:
The farming land ends though once the highway enters the Great Otway National Park:
The Great Otway National Park has recently expanded from 60,000 hectares to 103,000 hectares by absorbing a number of other national and state land into this one park. The park is home to some of the most thickly forested woodlands in all of Australia. Not only is this land thickly forested but the trees are also some of the largest in all of Australia, with some trees towering over 100 meters in height.
The best place to see these trees is by visiting Mait’s Rest which is a circular trail that allows visitors easy access into the heart of this ancient temperate rainforest:
The Mait’s Rest trail takes visitors through a beautiful collection of ferns, myrtle beech trees, and monstrous mountain ash trees that are over 300 years old. The trail is named after Maitland Bryan who was the area’s first forestry officer who used to rest his horse here at the creek that runs through this small valley.
The Mait’s Rest trail begins easy enough with the path surrounded by small trees and underbrush:
However, walkers are quickly rewarded on this trail with a view of one of the many gigantic mountain ash trees:
As the trail enters further into the valley the undergrowth becomes quite thick and moss is seen growing on just about every tree:
Some of these ancient trees have evolved to grow into some strange shapes. If you can believe it, the picture below is of one tree that grows from the same roots but some how split into two separate trunks over the decades:
Some of the trees have grown into other unusual shapes that even allow people to walk underneath them:
As the trail descends down and across the small creek that runs through this ancient valley, the undergrowth becomes especially thick with large fern trees:
Some of these fern trees grow to incredible heights:
These fern trees are not the only things growing to incredible heights in this park. The size of the mountain ash trees in the Great Otway National Park need to be seen to be believed, but hopefully this picture of me standing in front of one of these 100 meter giants will help readers visualize for themselves how big these trees are:
The circular walk concludes with views of more of the giant trees, but like I said before pictures just do not do these trees justice; you have to see them for yourself to really understand how big they are:
After Mait’s Rest the Great Ocean Road continues through thickly forested woodland where drivers can turn down a road to Cape Otway or continue on the highway further into the Otway Ranges. Past the Cape Otway turnoff the highway drops in elevation and the forest eventually opens up to a vast grassy wetland:
As the highway approaches the hamlet of Laver’s Hill it slowly gains altitude again providing views of the western end of the Otway Ranges:
There are many things to see in the western portion of the Otway Ranges such as Johanna Beach and the Fly Tree Top Walk, but visiting the Parks Victoria webpage for the Great Otway National Park is the best place to go to find out everything there is to do in this great park.