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The Forests and the Falls of the Otway Ranges
As the Great Ocean Road winds its way past the treacherous yet beautiful Skeleton Coast most of it's travellers are too captivated by ocean views, sheer cliffs and impressive limestone formations to contemplate the treasures that lie inland from the coast. But the lush rainforests, the cool creeks and the crashing waterfalls of the Otway Ranges are luring more and more of them into the mountainous hinterland that lies behind Lorne and Apollo Bay, and none have left disappointed.

The rainforests of this region are part of a rich temperate ecosystem that supports a huge diversity of plant and animal life. The dense and colourful vegetation that covers the mountain slopes has a mystical quality to it, which, together with the magnificent views and the serpentine water system gives the whole area an enchanted feel that will delight you and your family. There are thirteen waterfalls in the region which provide a focal point for visitors to the ranges, who also enjoy the numerous bushtrails that cater to all level of bushwalker, from the fit and energetic to the plain lazy!

The most visited waterfall in the Otways is the Erskine Falls, which is just a short drive north of Lorne. There is also a bushwalking trail from the town to the falls, it is about 7.5 kilometres long and will take about three hours one way. On the way you are rewarded with a sighting of two other waterfalls, Straw Falls and Splitter Falls, and the path goes through a large natural amphitheatre that in centuries gone was used to hold church services. The Erskine Falls themselves consist of a sheet (more of a ribbon in the drier months!) of water pitching over a vertical thirty metre high drop into a leafy, fern lined valley below. An array of birdlife inhabits the surrounding trees, and all the vegetation close to the falls is covered in a fine mist from the falling water.

Another popular waterfall often seen as a flagship of the Otways is Triplet Falls, situated on the Colac-Lavers Hill road. A broad rock face has the effect of splitting the stream into three distinct flows that cascade downwards parallel to each other. Tall mountain ash and beech trees tower high above this quaint and charming falls, which has only recently been reopened to the public after undergoing a two million dollar redevelopment scheme. A two kilometre loop walk has been built around it, complete with raised boardwalks, viewing platforms and a picnic area. Its a perfect days outing for fans of nature and tranquility.

To complete the days outing pay a visit to the infamous Otway Fly, which is located adjacent to Triplet Falls. The fly is a 600 metre long treetop walk that rises twenty five metres above the ground, taking the walker on a journey through the upper reaches of the rainforest vegetation strata. A forty five metre high viewing platform is reached via a spiral staircase, placing the viewer at the very top of the rainforest and providing chilling yet spectacular views in all directions. This is definitely recommended for anyone wishing to come into intimate and unique contact with the plants and animals of the Otway Ranges.

Heading out to the town of Beech Forest will bring you close to two of the more spectacular waterfalls in the Otway Ranges, the Beauchamp and the Hopetoun Falls, which are both just a short drive off the Aire Valley Road. You will hear the crash of the Hopetoun Falls from the carpark before you see them, as the water plunges into the deep crevice it has carved. There is a viewing platform here from which you can look at them, or if you are feeling energetic take the steep walk down to the base of the falls. This one kilometre walk will take about forty five minutes, and requires a bit of caution. If you fancy a longer walk then go to the Beauchamp Falls, which has a three kilometre return track to the picnic area at the base of the falls. Thick forest surround the fern fringed pool down here, which is perfect for swimming.

Dotted throughout the Otways are a range of accommodation options and styles, all with unique characteristics and all taking advantage of the astounding scenery. If it seems a bit overwhelming choosing somewhere to stay, it shouldn't be. Just head to www.otwaysaccommodation.com.au, which is a simple and easy to navigate website that lists the details and information of all the accommodation options in the Otways, as well as providing vital information on local tourism operators and sites to see in the region.

Browsing through the site you will no doubt be captivated by The Boomerangs, which are an award winning series of cottages situated near Johanna. Architecturally designed in the shape of boomerangs, the interior decor is also themed around local indigenous artwork and culture. These quintessentially Australian cottages have glorious ocean views and are set against a backdrop of native forest. Its impossible not to relax there!

If you are planning a trip to this part of the world, try and include the date of October 13th in your travel plans. On that day an inaugural festival celebrating food, wine and opera is happening in Melba Gully. 'Gumboots and Pearls - Opera in the Otways' is showcasing a sensational opera group from Melbourne, as well as many local musicians, all in the mystical and enchanting confines of the lush fern gully. The dramatic beauty of the surroundings is sure to complement the drama of the opera, so if you are in the area be sure not to miss this exciting event.
About the Author
Gavin Wyatt is a journalist with a passion for travel. originally from Zambia he has traveled around the world to end up on the sunny shores of Australia. For more of his articles visit Melbourne Car Hire.
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