Chasing Waterfalls in 2017 and Beyond: This Year in Review

I suppose it’s time I looked back over the year that was 2017. It was only after various people started posting Instagram photos with the places they had been and the things they’d accomplished that I started to think about my own achievements. To be honest, my first reaction was “Oh well I haven’t really done heaps, or anything like that.” But the more I thought, the more I realised just how much I actually have done, and just how much can happen in a year.

I kicked off 2017 by picking up my things and moving across the Nullarbor to Melbourne, Victoria. That might not sound like such a big deal, but it was my first time living out of home, away from family and the friends I’d known my entire life. While scary at first, nothing could have been more perfect for me. It ignited my sense of independence, the allure of adventure and getting outside to experience things (as opposed to sitting inside binge-watching Netflix, but we’ve all been there).

I also began my masters in Marketing Communications at the University of Melbourne, scored a job as a Social Media and Content Executive at a digital marketing agency – and things didn’t slow down from there.  Chasing waterfalls was truly born this year, as my Instagram grew and I met more and more like-minded people through this wonderful platform. I got out and about around Melbourne, visiting the Dandenong Ranges and regional suburbs to add to my collection.   

June brought my first ‘Chasing Waterfalls’ trip to Tasmania, where I scouted out over ten different waterfalls in under a week, making new friends along the way and rediscovering my passion for photography. I then managed to make it back down the Great Ocean Road in Lorne in September and hiked my ass off to fifteen waterfalls in a mere four days (blog posts STILL in the works, sorry guys). Shove in three short trips to Perth, my first time seeing snow up at Mt Buller, a week-long waterfall chasing expedition in Bali and a fleeting visit to my favourite South-West region of Western Australia, and it’s been a whirlwind of a year. Not to mention revamping my blog to make it into what it is today.  

So what’s to come for Annabel Claire in 2018 and beyond? Well, I’m glad you asked.

New Year’s resolutions aren’t really for me – I love them in theory, but who really sticks to them? And besides, I can set goals at any point in time, and I have done all throughout 2017. Nonetheless, the end of a year and beginning of a new one is a good time to plan ahead, I suppose.

So in 2018, I’m completing the last year of my masters, which involves a marketing internship in Melbourne. I’m also hoping to make a trip up to Cairns in June/July (particularly to find Milla Milla Falls and the like, but also to experience the beautiful beaches up there in the tropics). A trip to Sydney is also on the cards, hopefully involving the Blue Mountains and a road trip to Wollongong. Pending funds, I’d love to venture out to Warnambool, Victoria to see a few falls around there also.  

My ultimate goal is to make it to Iceland in early 2019, which means that saving money throughout 2018 is a high priority (I will accept donations in the form of cash, cheques and bank transfers if you’re feeling generous! Har har). But seriously, Iceland is my absolute dream – so here’s hoping I can sell some photography prints in 2018 and hone my skills in that regard.

More than anything, I hope I continue to be happy, learn not to sweat the small stuff, get outside and have a blast and meet many more amazing travelers and people throughout the never-ending “chasing waterfalls” journey that is my life.

Lastly, I wish you all a safe and Happy New Year!

Here’s to what 2017 was and what 2018 may bring.

Xo xo,

Annabel  

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Chasing Waterfalls wearing Nike leggings and Hunter Boots at Swallow Cave Falls

Top 5 Things to Take on a Waterfall Adventure

Chasing Waterfalls wearing Nike leggings and Hunter Boots at Swallow Cave Falls

People are often asking me what gear I take on a waterfall trek with me, like I'm some kind of expert. I know it may seem that way, but believe me, it's not the case. 

I'm somewhat of an amateur hiker, by no means am I an extremely fit hiking guru with proper expensive gear. However, I do have some essentials that I never leave home without when going on a waterfall adventure. So, without further adieu, here's a list of my top 5 things to take on a waterfall adventure.  

1. My Kathmandu Backpack

Let's be real, it doesn't really matter what backpack you take along with you. Everyone has a preference. However, having said that, I honestly couldn't survive my waterfall treks without my Kathmandu backpack

The great thing about this backpack (aside from the great value for money: buy it here), is that it has plenty of pockets for organising and storing things. 

It's quite large, and I can fit a three-legged tripod, a water bottle, hat, portable charger and other electronic accessories, snacks, keys, a kimono, a raincoat (or two) and sometimes even another pair of shoes in this bag. The straps are well-padded and easily adjustable, so it's super comfy and the weight is evenly distributed on my back. Really, I would never go past one of these bags. 

2. Cygnett Portable Charger

I bought my Cygnett portable charger from JBHifi for around $40AUD and I've never looked back. Honestly, this thing is the best. It's 4,000 mAh lithium polymer battery, and it charges my phone (iPhone 6s, though the USB port on the charger means it's compatible with anything) from 0 battery to full battery about three to four times. It's also got a digital display which tells you how much charge is left (a scale of 0 to 100). It's been my saviour when I've been out and about with limited phone service draining my battery (*cough* uploading everything to my Instagram story *cough*). I can tell you now, it's worth investing in one of these bad boys. Cygnett even do a 10,000 mAh version for double the price if you want one with a bit more juice. 

3. My Hunter Gumboots or Kathmandu Trekking Boots

As you can see in the cover photo of this post, I almost never embark on a waterfall trek without my trusty Hunter gumboots. These were slightly on the expensive side, sure, but they're a solid investment. Trekking through mud and crossing streams and rivers in these sturdy rubber boots is a piece of cake. I've even had people pass me on muddy tracks and comment on how appropriate my shoes are, with a hint of jealousy in their voice. Don't sleep on the rubber boots, they give you so much freedom. 

And if I'm not wearing my Hunter boots (or Nikes coz I was super unprepared, or knee high Wittner boots to impress Instagram - more on that here), then I'm in my Kathmandu hiking boots. I've had these babies since 2011, and they've done their fair share of hiking. They were worn-in during a World Challenge trip to Borneo, hiking through humid rainforest and up Mt Kinabalu, so I know they're reliable. Their fairly waterproof exterior paired with the strong lace-up design means that my ankles are always secured. The grooves on the soles make them great for gripping surfaces and they survive through mud, gravel and rock face. Highly recommend. Since they're about six years old, I'm sure Kathmandu don't still sell the same ones (I'd be extremely surprised), but I'm sure you can find something similar. Try your luck here. 

4. A Quality Raincoat (or Two)

If you've seen my Instagram feed, you'll know that I have a flair for vibrant rain coats. But not only that, my raincoats are also super effective. The first choice is my Kathmandu raincoat (I'm sensing a theme here, anyone? Let's just say I love Kathmandu, it was where I lost my hiking-gear virginity, so I have a soft spot for the brand). This raincoat is bright pink, which I actually used to be quite embarrassed about (my family all had matching ones except Dad's was black, Mum's was a dark purple and my sister's was a nice aqua colour, so I'd gotten the shitty end of the stick in my opinion), however now I kind of love it. The great thing about this raincoat is that it folds into one of the pockets and becomes a rather compact, square carrier case of it's own! Amazing. 

The second raincoat I take with me is actually from Bunnings. You know, Bunnings Warehouse? Lowest prices are just the beginning? Bunnings Sausages? Let me know if I've lost you - any Aussie would be feeling me 100%. Anyway. I went searching and searching for this yellow raincoat from Bunnings, which isn't so much a raincoat as it is a rain blanket. It's one size fits all, but it's super thick and sturdy, and the large fit has actually ended up saving me many times, because it means I can fit my backpack and camera underneath it when walking and keep everything dry. It also has a detachable hood, so I mean you can do what you want with that. Also, it was $15 bucks (Australian), so if that's not a bargain, I don't know what is. 

5. Swimwear (in Summer)

Anyone who knows me would know that I'm absolutely obsessed with bikinis. No, I'm talking like totally obsessed. I own that many pairs of bathers, it's not even funny. One pieces, bikinis, mix and matches, you name it - I own it. If I'm trekking to a waterfall in the hotter months, I'll likely be sporting more than one pair (no - I wear one pair, and stash another in my bag, silly!) Anyway, here's some of my favourite brands. Eat your heart out- they're fab! 

Cenote Swimwear
MinkPink
Tiger Mist 
Moana Bikini
Onepiecekini
Seafolly 
Eau Paix Vie
The Helpful Vegan
Wavz Wear - use code ANNABELC15 for 15% off !

The list goes on... 

And there you have it! My top 5 waterfall essentials. Happy waterfall chasing!

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Henderson Falls taken during Chasing Waterfalls trip to Lorne, Victoria

Henderson Falls, Great Otway National Park, Lorne – Victoria, Australia

Henderson Falls taken during Chasing Waterfalls trip to Lorne, Victoria

If you've read my post on Won Wondah Falls, you'll pretty much know how to get to Henderson Falls. You might want to skip down to the part that continues on from Won Wondah, because there's some essential pre-knowledge required. If not, your journey begins right here. At Sheoak Falls Picnic Area.

The carpark is accessed via an unsealed road which is in average condition, though my Suzuki Swift hire car managed just fine. 

From the carpark, continue straight towards the picnic area.

You'll know you're in the right direction because you'll see the below signs.

Head along the flat, earthy path towards the thick trees.

Be sure to stop along the way and view the nature signs along the way. You'll be admist a fern paradise - take it all in. 

Crossing a small wooden bridge, this track is pretty easy.

Though it becomes dark at times in the thick, green ferns. I had to duck my head under them, carefully holding fronds out away from my body.

Thankfully, the path is well signed and easy to follow.

The nature walk is a loop which can be exercised here, though my friend Brad and I continued toward the road.

Once we hit the road, the track continued up to the left for Lower and Upper Kalimna Falls, and to the right for Won Wondah Falls and Henderson Falls.

Obviously we continued to the right, with Won Wondah Falls a mere 1km away, and Henderson a further 500 meters from there.

Walking with ease past bright yellow Australian wattle, it was a pleasant trail.

Soon we reached another intersection, at which point the signs indicate to continue straight.

Another sign told us we were headed the right way.

Arriving at the slight deviation to Won Wondah Falls was a sign indicating that the track continues to Henderson Falls and the Canyon. 

After a brief pitstop at Won Wondah Falls, we continued this way.

While it looks like a flat, easy track, it was actually extremely muddy.

Follow the signs for Henderson Falls.

Soon the mud became thicker. It was very wet, squelchy and deep. I was thankful I had chosen to hike in my Hunter gumboots, and would highly recommend a similar choice. Lorne often experiences high rainfall, especially in the winter time, but even in September the trails were muddy.

Shortly after the muddiest part of the trek, a bridge appeared in the distance.

We crossed it carefully, as the wood was damp and slippery.

The stream trickled by us, which was a good sign.

Finally, one last bridge led the way to the base of the falls.

And they were magnificent. I enjoyed Henderson Falls so much because you could walk right up to their base, shown in the below photo.

I would say September was a perfect time to visit, as the falls were still in full flow, yet not so heavy that you couldn't walk right up to them. 

I remember the cold spray whisking into the air and landing on my face as I peered up at them.

It was a stunning secluded little spot, and while other tourists did come and go, it was by no means crowded. If I'm being honest, it was probably one of my favourites. But shh, don't tell the other waterfalls!

After sitting and admiring their beauty, Brad and I headed back towards the Sheoak Falls Picnic area to munch on some food before beginning the long journey to Lower and Upper Kalimna Falls. More on that soon!

Quick Facts

Last visitSeptember 2017
Best TimeJune-September
Start / FinishSheoak Falls Picnic Area (lower carpark)
Unsealed RoadsYes, average condition but manageable in 2WD
Walking distance1.8km one way, very muddy after rain
Time1.5hrs one way
DifficultyRelatively Easy
FacilitiesToilets, Picnic Tables and Shelter at Sheoak Picnic Area
Lat & Long38.5485° S, 143.9337° E
NearbyWon Wondah Falls, Phantom Falls, Lower Kalimna Falls, Upper Kalimna Falls, Sheoak Falls & Swallow Cave
WatercourseHenderson Creek

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Won Wondah falls visited on Chasing Waterfalls trip to Lorne, Victoria

Won Wondah Falls, Great Otway National Park, Lorne – Victoria, Australia

Won Wondah falls visited on Chasing Waterfalls trip to Lorne, Victoria

I'm going to preface this blog post with a revelation I had once I found Won Wondah Falls. You might think it's fairly obvious - but hear me out. You ready? Here goes.

If you can't find any great images of a waterfall, chances are it's because there's no access to their base, or the viewing platform is obstructed. In the case of Won Wondah Falls, both of these applied.

However, since Won Wondah Falls are a mere pitstop on the way to the more impressive Henderson Falls (which are accessible), there's no reason not to visit them. 

While Phantom Falls, Won Wondah Falls and Henderson Falls can be completed in an 8.6km loop trail including the Canyon, there is an option to begin at Sheoak Falls Picnic Area which makes the walk much shorter - not to mention easier. This is where my friend Brad and I began the walk. 

From the carpark, walk straight ahead towards the picnic area, where you will find the below sign.

The next sign indicates the various walking trails to choose from. Yes, you can also get to Sheoak Falls from here too, though it's a much longer walk than if you begin from Great Ocean Road. More on that here. 

We were keen on Won Wondah and Henderson Falls. You'll notice Won Wondah aren't signed here, but that's okay. Continue along the path to the 'Canyon/Henderson Falls'. 

This is a flat, easy path that disappears into the trees.

There are plenty of signs about the trails around you, with information about the track and the beautiful wildlife. 

Soon we reached a small bridge, and continued into the thick greenery. 

Needless to say, this place really is a paradise for ferns.

Amongst the ferns, the path becomes dark and magical.

It's also well signed, so continue towards Henderson Falls.

The nature walk is a loop, so here there's the option to return to the picnic ground.

Across the road, there are two tracks. 

The first track heads toward the left, continuing to Lower Kalimna Falls and Upper Kalimna Falls, though this was blocked off when we went. (Don't worry, there is another way, blog posts soon). 

To the right - Won Wondah Falls first appear on a sign, and Henderson aren't far behind. As mentioned, you can also continue to the Canyon and Phantom Falls along this trail, however there's an easier way to Phantom Falls which can be found here. 

Heading to the right, the trail is thin and flat, with tall trees surrounding.

It's also riddled with native Australian wattle, which brightens the track with its yellow flower.

We reached another intersection, where more signs are conveniently located. Continue straight as advised.

Here, you're not far from Won Wondah Falls.

Also a good time to mention that unfortunately, bikes and motorbikes are prohibited on these trails. So, slap on your hiking gear and continue forward.

Just a smidgen further, and you'll reach Won Wondah Falls. The path to Henderson Falls continues straight, while a short path to the right leads to a viewing platform for Won Wondah Falls.

The falls plunge downwards into a valley which is covered by lush vegetation, making it impossible to view or access their base. While still beautiful, the limited viewing makes it difficult to fully appreciate their beauty. 

So we didn't stay long, soon continuing back up towards the main path and heading to Henderson Falls. Head there with us!

Quick Facts

Last visitSeptember 2017
Best TimeJune-September
Start / FinishSheoak Picnic Area
Unsealed RoadsYes, average condition can be managed in 2WD.
Walking distance1km one way to viewing platform only NO ACCESS TO BASE (further 800meters to Henderson Falls - base access) 
Time30mins one way
DifficultyRelatively Easy
FacilitiesToilets, Picnic Tables and Shelter at Sheoak Picnic Area
Lat & Long38.5500° S, 143.9382° E
NearbyHenderson Falls, Lower Kalimna Falls, Upper Kalimna Falls, Phantom Falls 
WatercourseHenderson Creek 

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Phantom Falls taken during Chasing Waterfalls trip to Lorne, Victoria

Phantom Falls, Great Otway National Park, Lorne – Victoria, Australia

Phantom Falls taken during Chasing Waterfalls trip to Lorne, Victoria

Phantom Falls are a lesser known gem found in Lorne, Victoria. Beginning from Allenvale Mill Carpark (which is awfully difficult to find on Google maps) the walk meanders through a private orchard before heading up a steep gravel track - but the destination is well worth it.  

First up on the agenda was finding Allenvale Mill Carpark - which is actually called Allenvale Road Carpark on Google maps. Nearby is the Allenvale Campsite and other walking tracks (see above and below photos). 

The road to reach this carpark is unsealed, but in relatively good condition. I winced and grimaced every time the hire car went over a bump, but the little Swift made it just fine. 

To begin the walk to Phantom Falls, head down hill, along the gravel road that continues to the right (past the carpark), until you reach the below sign. 

The walk to Phantom Falls is only 3.5km return in total (ignore the sign), however you can choose to continue on a loop that includes Henderson and Won Wondah Falls, though it would take 8.6km in total, including The Canyon (a rock structure with 10 meter sheer faces).

Cora Lynn Cascades can also be reached from this trail, however it is a strenuous hike involving difficult river crossings and should only be attempted by experienced hikers (see my post on Cora Lynn Cascades for an easier route). 

Anyway, my newfound friend Brad and I began along the thin, earthy path to Phantom Falls. 

It was a rather beautiful walk on the sunny September day we were experiencing, and the path follows along the luscious river bank. However, this trail runs through private property, so respect the signage and don't travel with pets.

Soon we had to cross the river over a small metal bridge.

The track then opens out into the orchid farm. 

Continue to the right and follow the wooden signs indicating a left turn to cut accross the field. 

Here you can see the sheds on the private property, and wooden signs that aid in keeping hikers on track.

The muddy path appears again through the thick grass, and we continued straight.

Wild kangaroos can also be spotted grazing through the trees along this walk.

And maybe a horse or two...

My gumboots squelched in the wet ground as we trudged further along the path - be sure to bring appropriate footwear for these conditions. 

Following the blue stream reassured us we were heading in the right direction. 

Though the track is well signed, so if you follow those you'll find the falls easily in no time.

I had read that the track was strenuous and uphill, but so far nothing about it rang true. That is, until we hit the gravel road that steadily increased in altitude. 

And suddenly not-so-steadily. My legs began to ache and burn with every step. Sweat dripped off my forehead and into my eyelashes. The photograph below doesn't even do justice of just how steep this track is. 

And yet the views are simply incredible. Gazing down to the valley below was a great distraction from the difficult ascent.

This photo is taken from the top of the steep slope, looking back down at our achievement. It only lasted for about 500 meters, but it felt much longer. In any case, we had made it. 

After the hill, the track levels out and continues on a relatively straight, flat surface.

Here, you've covered 1.6kms and are about to reach Phantom Falls. 

One final sign indicates the other tracks available. Click here for more information on the circuits and hiking trails in the area. 

We continued down to Phantom Falls.

To get to the base of the falls requires a descent down some fairly steep steps, all the while peering down at the gushing stream below. 

Halfway down the stairs, I got my first glimpse of the falls. 

And then we made it. The sunlight streamed in, casting the falls in a dappled light that made for a gorgeous setting. I had to trudge through the freezing, gushing water of the stream to get this shot, water filling my gumboots and soaking my socks. 

But it was worth it, as it always is when it comes to waterfalls. The blue-as-blue water of the river here was simply magnificent, and I would definitely recommend a visit. 

After a while of shooting and a disaster as Brad dropped his camera body and lens into the stream, we decided to head back. Despite the tragedy of the camera, it didn't take much convincing to get Brad on board to head to Won Wondah and Henderson Falls, however we chose to drive to Sheoak Picnic Area to begin those trails. Click here for Won Wondah Falls! And here for Henderson!

Quick Facts

Last visitSeptember 2017
Best TimeJuly-September
Start / FinishAllenvale Mill Carpark
Unsealed RoadsYes, average condition but manageable in 2WD.
Walking distance3.5km return
Time1.5hr return
DifficultyModerate
FacilitiesAllenvale Campsite, Lorne town closeby
Lat & Long38.5432° S, 143.9466° E
NearbyWon Wondah Falls, Henderson Falls, Cora Lynn Cascades
WatercourseSt George River

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