Olinda Falls, Dandenong Ranges National Park, Melbourne – Victoria, Australia

It was a Saturday morning.

My schedule? Assignments, assignments, and OH YEAH – more assignments. It was not in the plan to even leave the house. 

I peered longingly out of my bedroom window. It was sunny outside, a rare occurrence at this time of the year in Melbourne. Extremely rare. In fact, it almost never happened…

So, I made a split-second decision.

“Stuff it,” I thought, “It’s such a beautiful day, I’m not going to waste it.”

So, I put on my hiking gear and I packed a bag, locked the door behind me, and off I went on my adventure.

And an adventure it was. You see, I don’t own a car. That’s because I live in Melbourne and the public transport here is pretty good. That is, if you’re just travelling within the city. Where I was headed – the Dandenong Ranges – was practically the country-side.

SPOILER ALERT: I made it. Lol.

It took me (from Brunswick):

  1. The 19 tram from Brunswick Road/Sydney Road to Melbourne Central Station.
  2. The Lilydale Train line to Croydon (21 stops).
  3. The 688 Bus to ‘Upper Fern Tree Valley’ from Stop 6 outside Croydon station (which was actually super easy to find), then getting off after 37 stops. Thirty Seven! At Dandenong Tourist Road/Falls Road. Make sure to look up the latest routes on Public Transport Victoria, or download the PTV app.
  4. A 1.1km walk down a tremendous hill that is Falls Road (which I forgot I was going to have to walk back up. Ha. Ha. Ha….)
  5. I arrived! With total travel time at 2hrs 11minutes. The above photograph is outside the carpark – the track to the falls is off to the left.

There’s a lovely little picnic area here, as well as plenty of signage to help you on your way. I forgot to get a photograph of the map because a group of tourists were milling around it when I arrived, so I figured I’d get the shot on the way back. Of course, I forgot. Sorry everyone.

There’s also toilet facilities, which aren’t drop toilets but are still pretty dismal, and which only had freezing cold tap water.

The track to the falls is quick (roughly 300m), and all downhill.

Off I went, through an array of gorgeous Karri trees.

There are also a number of other walking tracks in this area for those that are keen hikers. Me? I’ll only hike if it will find me a waterfall. But if you want more information on the hikes in area, you can click here.

Then I reached the fork in the road with the track to the Lower Falls one way and the Upper Falls the other. You’d think my heart would’ve sunk at the sight of the fence blocking off the Lower Falls track, wouldn’t you?

In actual fact, I didn’t even bat an eyelid. I knew full well I’d be going down there regardless. I didn’t come all this way for nothing. But I decided to check out the Upper Falls first.

On the short walk to the Upper Falls, a little path had formed itself down the river bank. I knew I’d be scooting on down there, too. However, a little further along there’s a viewing platform, from which you can get some pretty gorgeous shots, too.

Still, typical me found my way as close to the water as humanely possible. I can imagine that in the crux of winter, it would be impossible to walk across the rocks like I did. At this time (May on the cusp of June) it was relatively tame.

I spent quite a bit of time meandering across the rocks to get some shots at different angles. It was a very peaceful day, with not too many people around, so I wasn’t disrupting anyones photographs.

I then decided it was time to venture further into the ‘exclusion zone’. I had planned to walk back up the path and squeeze past the fence, but a fallen log near the platform lookout of the Upper Olinda Falls allowed access to the blocked-off path. I wobbled across it and appeared with a view of the fence behind me. I know – #DareDevil #Rebel

There was a steep descent ahead of me, and I felt my heart clanging around in my chest. What challenge awaited me? Why had the path been blocked off? I was about to find out.

It was a bit anti-climatic, really. I thought I was going to have to scramble over huge fallen trees and debris and stuff. Turns out it was just the side railing that had been destroyed. The path itself was fine. I know, boring right?

Tis’ pretty hectic damage, though. But I continued on just fine without the aid of the railing. I guess if it had been a wet, rainy day it would’ve been more dangerous. Travel at your own risk, I guess.

Before long I came to a fork in the road – which was actually three seperate paths, marked with a wooden stool, a big tree and more hand-railing.

Path number 1 veers off to the right:

Path number two veers off to the left, down some steps which are just planks of wood and then mud:

And path number three, which isn’t really a path, so much as it is a slope made clean by rainwater, is straight ahead:

I decided to veer right first, in an attempt to get closer to the Upper Falls. I had peered down at them from the top viewing platform, aching to go further down and get better angles for photos. I hoped this path would lead me there.

Success! I managed to find the endless cascades of the Upper Falls, and a thin path along the right of the river bank made it easy to walk along and get closer.

As you can imagine, with heavy rainfall in the midst of winter this may not be accessible. It kind of reminded me of The Lion King 2, when the river suddenly gushes and fills with water, covering everything in its path. But luckily for me, my fate was less drastic than Zira’s. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you need to go and watch The Lion King 2 right now. Like seriously, quit reading this and go watch it.

Anyway, then I ventured back to the fork in the road (where the wooden seat was) and tackled the path that wasn’t really a path, slipping and sliding my way down (literally, this was dangerous so be very careful if you plan on doing this).

The difficulty was rewarding, however, when I reached some mini-falls. These were probably my favourite along the entire bank.

Now, because I still haven’t invested in a tripod (give me a break – I’m a broke uni student!), I had to rest my camera precariously on slippery rocks. It actually almost slid off once, but I caught it. Thankfully. The mini heart-attack I had when that happened was enough for me to give up on the photographs.

However, before that little incident, I managed to capture some shots on self-timer.

I look pretty relaxed, hey? Haha don’t be fooled – my camera’s self-timer only allows up to 10 seconds of delayed photography, so I had to sprint (on slippery mud) and leap over the rock on the right-hand side – yeah, the one covered in the green moss – in order to get to that spot.

Green mossy rock^^

And there I am wearing my Lu Lu Lemon Top which makes me look like I have horrendous back-fat. But IT’S FINE. I GOT THE PHOTO. Anyway this was the last shot I took before I almost lost my camera down the stream of freezing water, so I made my way back up to the main path.

P.S. If anyone wants to be my hiking/waterfall buddy and take aesthetic photos of me, don’t be shy! Enquire within.

I then started the short journey to the Lower Falls along a thin, muddy path. All in all, the difficulty rating of this track is relatively easy.

I continued on, down a windy section of the path that veered around to the right and opened up into the Lower Falls platform.

It was peaceful, seeing as the path was blocked off, and I had the place to myself.

As you can see, the falls keep going further downstream. I wondered what they look like from here on. But the access ends here, so I will never know. Luckily, the Lower Falls were beautiful and distracted me.

I rested my camera on the ledge of the platform to achieve these shots (don’t worry, this time I kept the strap around my neck and didn’t abandon the camera, so there was no chance of it falling to a cold, wet death).

Again, further up there were some more mini-falls. I simply loved experimenting with photos, and taking in all the beautiful surroundings and the different nooks and crannies of this waterfall. I really am surprised they don’t refer to them as cascades.

Overloading you with photographs just to try and spark some inspiration in you. I highly recommend going to visit!

Plus the Dandenong Ranges itself is a beautiful area of Victoria. I felt the air turn chilly and crisp the moment I arrived. But it was amazing – clean, fresh air free from all the city’s pollution. I was relieved to be free of cigarette smoke, if even for a little bit.

Quick Facts

Last visit May 2017
Best Time June-October
Start / FinishDandenong Ranges National Park Carpark
Unsealed Roads No
Walking distanceUpper 350meters Lower 500meters
Time 1hr return
Difficulty Moderate
Facilities Picnic tables, Toilets
Lat & Long 37.8341° S, 145.3700° E
NearbyDandenong Ranges Botanic Gardens
Watercourse Olinda Creek

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Sheoak Falls, Great Ocean Road, Lorne – Victoria, Australia

My muscles were aching.

I stretched back in the driver's seat and pushed my foot on the accelerator. I was determined to get to Sheoak falls - the second falls of the day - before sunset.

My friend Morgan and I had exhausted ourselves visiting Erskine Falls earlier in the day, but I wasn't about to let that get the better of me. Our shoes were muddy and wet, laid out on my rain jacket in the boot, leaving us in soaked-through socks. Our hair was mangled onto our foreheads, my jeans were filthy, and I was starving, but we ventured on.

The view from a stopping bay on Great Ocean Road, Lorne.

The sun was already beginning to set, which made me anxious. But it made for a very pretty drive along Great Ocean Road, and Sheoak falls are only 5km from Lorne (we were staying at Lorne Foreshore Caravan Park), so in reality we had plenty of time. Or so I thought.

Directions to Sheoak Falls:
If you type "Sheoak Falls" into Google, it will tell you they're right next to the carpark, as per the below.

Sheoak Falls Carpark. Google Maps (2017).

However, they're actually more like where I've put the location tag in the image below. The carpark comes straight off Great Ocean Road, though, so it's not hard to find your starting point.

Road Map. Google Maps (2017).

We soon came across the small car park off to the right (which is well sign-posted). However, once we were there, it wasn't obvious which direction would actually lead us to the falls. Then we found the sign below, next to a mulch track off to the left.

I'd also heard Sheoak falls were fairly easy to access, so we decided to hedge our bets. We jammed our feet back into our muddy shoes, waved goodbye to little Suzie and headed uphill on the mulch track.

The view of the carpark from the track (behind us).

Turns out I had heard correctly, and it was a pretty easy and basic track along a wooden boardwalk through shrubs and bush. My feet made the wood creak as I plodded along in the chilly air, taking in my surroundings.

The great, unique thing about these falls is having a view of the ocean as you walk. With green cliff scenery on one side, and the windy road with turquoise sea on the other, we were quite content.

It doesn't last forever, though, and soon we had to deviate down some stairs and inland towards the falls.

We began the descent, taking each step slowly and one-at-a-time. And just as well - my heart nearly leapt out of my throat when I placed my foot on the 12th step from the bottom, which ricocheted forwards. I stumbled down the next few steps, but regained my balance without face-planting. Luckily.

It was minuscule in the scheme of things, but it made me giggle. This is one of the reasons I write my blog - to give people the tips and tricks they would never get from a National Park website. So, yeah, beware of the 12th step from the bottom! *Update* As at September 2017, this has been fixed.

Once I had tackled 'death by wobbly step', we reached a long, skinny concrete path that leads into the valley.

I'm quite surprised at how quickly we walked, considering how tired we were from all the day's adventures (which you can read more about here). But time was of the essence and we wanted to make it to the falls before the sun disappeared behind the cliffs and left us in darkness.

Not to mention without the ability to take photos - I know! Disaster, right? If we couldn't take pics - how would anyone know that we went!? It's sad, but true. Ah, but really we just like to capture the beauty. Check out my Instagram for more!

So anyway, when we were faced with more stairs, we only moaned a little before charging upwards. What's that saying? When the going gets tough, the tough gets going?

Still, the track to these falls is relatively simple and the stairs do exist for your aid. I just have a thing about stairs. My glutes twinged with each step, tightening almost to the point of cramping. I have a love/hate relationship with the feeling. I mean, on one hand you know it's helping tone those butt-muscles we all want so badly. But on the other, well, it bloody hurts!

We made it, though. If even through clenched teeth. As you can see, these falls are not as commercialised as some of the others in the area, which makes them pretty special.

The uncommercialisegd, basic-as track I'm talking about.

Suddenly, we could see a glimpse of the falls peaking through the trees, and I got excited, clapping and carrying on.
"I can spy the falls, I see the falls, I'm going to some falls," I chanted to Morgan. She just laughed at me in response.

It's kind of childish how giddy I get when I see how close we are to flowing water, but I'm not ashamed. It's part of what makes me who I am.

The view of the river from above.

Not long after seeing a glimpse of the falls, we reached a fork in the road. You can choose to head to the top of the falls or the bottom – though it’s not sign posted (bit obvious though, right?)

Seeing as we were quickly running out of daylight - I swear the sun is running a race when it begins to set - we decided to head downhill. It was a good choice.

The bottom of these falls is an intimate area surrounded by gorge, which creates a stunning little hub to admire and take the photographs we so desperately wanted.

The air was completely still. It was crisp. There was nothing but the sound of the water running down the rock face. Green ferns bloomed at the water's edge, which was murky and deep. I let out a sigh at its beauty.

Turns out the loss of sunlight was actually a great thing, because it allowed for some stunning photos tinged with hues of blue, and without the glare of the sun behind the rocks.

Now here's where my craziness creeps in. I brought my favourite Wittner knee-high boots with me in order to get the perfect 'Instagram' shot. It's absurd, really, how we all struggle to do something different for social media. I mean, what are we trying to prove? Well, ultimately that we are trendy and can take cool pictures. But to be honest with you, I just really like my boots.

I'm thinking Wittner should hire me as their model though, right? Just kidding.

Really this was the ultimate test to see how well I could balance and hop on squelchy mud without ruining suede. Risky, but fun.

I enjoyed the fact that different angles gave different lighting and mood to the pictures of these falls. I could've admired them forever.It was so quiet and peaceful in the gorge, especially since we had ventured out so late. This was at about 5.30pm, so we had the place all to ourselves.

After taking the time to simply admire the falls, I decided to explore further.

I love to get as close to waterfalls as humanely possible. This usually consists of diving right into freezing pools, or sitting directly under the falls themselves. However, it was literally way too cold for any such business during this time in April/May. So I had to settle for scaling the rock face instead. As you do.

I also re-visted these falls in September 2017 on a day when they were tranquil and beautiful, and then two days later after heavy rainfall and storms. It will never cease to amaze me just how powerful nature is, and how a place is never the same when you return. 

The falls on a day in September 2017
The falls two days later in September 2017

I've probably overloaded you with photos, but I couldn't help it. This place was just too beautiful not to share every single one.

If you're looking for a quick and easy trip to a gorgeous sight-to-see, these are the falls for you. They certainly kept a grin on my face.

On my recent trip in September 2017, I decided to venture further up the stairs, and captured the view of Sheoak from above. I also made my way up to Swallow Cave to the Upper Falls - check them out!

Quick Facts

Last visit September 2017
Best Time July-September
Start / Finish Sheoak Falls Carpark
Unsealed Roads No
Walking distance1km return 
Time 30min return
Difficulty Easy
Facilities None
Lat & Long 38.5653° S, 143.9628° E
NearbyLorne town centre, Phantom Falls, Henderson Falls, Won Wondah Falls, Cora Lynn Cascades, Erskine Falls, Straw Falls, Splitter Falls
Watercourse Sheoak Creek

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Image of Erskine Falls during a chasing waterfalls trip to Lorne in Victoria Australia

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

Image of Erskine Falls during a chasing waterfalls trip to Lorne in Victoria Australia

I don't know how it happened.

To give you some context, I just looked at my bank account balance. Touch ID wouldn't let me into the Commbank app the first two tries, so that should've been the first sign. I knew I didn't want to know the balance, not really. But I persisted, cringing while I hovered my thumb over the home button. Success. Or, not so success. Depends which way you want to look at it. Either way, here I am, trying to work out how I've managed to end up with a mere $10.34 staring back at me. Yeah, it happens to the best of us.

Okay...I lied...I know how it happened. It all started when I went searching for a cheap car rental deal. My best friend Morgan has been visiting from Perth, so we decided to spend one of her weekends here road tripping to Lorne to find waterfalls. Well, I decided. And dragged her along with me.

It was actually easy booking a Suzuki Swift from Advance Car Rentalonline, and then accomodation in a bungalow at Lorne Foreshore Caravan Park2, both of which were cheap and problem-free (see footnotes for more information). And off we went. To hell with being able to afford rent and food, and having time to do uni work, right?

The drive from Melbourne to Lorne is just under 2 hours, and relatively easy. The majority is along main freeway roads which eventually turn into the infamous Great Ocean Road.

Great Ocean Road is a windy, 240 odd km scenic drive along the south-east coast of Australia. It stretches between Torquay to as far as Allansford and is Australian National heritage listed. With sharp edged cliff-faces on one side and bright turquoise ocean on the other, it's a unique journey. Though it's fairly easy to get distracted from the road if you're the designated driver - so pull over in the little stopping bays if you want to admire the view.

Once we reached the sea-side town of Lorne (which is also beautiful, by the way) we set off to find Erskine Falls. The falls are part of the Great Otway National Park, and approximately 15 or so minutes inland from Lorne (I mean, Google maps says 14, but they forget to add in the time spent driving with uncertainty wondering if you're in the right place). Refer to the map below as an indication of the simplicity of this drive if you're lost. As far as falls go, they are well signposted.

Road Map to Erskine Falls. Google Maps  (2017).

You'll eventually reach a very obvious turn off - where you have one of three choices. 1. Continue straight on Erskine Falls road 2. Veer right onto a gravel road, and 3. Turn right into Erskine Falls Access road. If it's not obvious, you want number 3. You'll be pleased to know there are no unsealed roads to get to these falls.

Road Map Erskine Falls Access Road. Google Maps (2017).

There is, however, a ridiculously steep slope. When you drive down (at which point I was praying that lil' Suzuki wouldn't conk out on me) and find a carpark with this sign, you know you're in the right place.

Like I said, these falls are well signposted as they are a well-known tourist attraction. The walking distance is also very minimal - but don't be fooled. The descent is quite hectic (and as always, you have to come back up - huffing and puffing. It's a killer).

We went to the Upper Falls lookout first - it's on the way to the Lower Falls - about 80m down the track. Trudging past ginormous, Australian trees. Trust me, you have to see these for yourself because photographs don't even do them justice. They're huge.

We reached a small platform, where there's a sneak peak of the falls through thick greenery. I was very excited at this point. You can't tell from the photograph, but we are quite high up. Erskine falls drop about 30 meters into a rocky gully surrounded by ferns and lush greenery.

I had a great time playing with my camera settings. I use a Nikon D5100 with an 18-55mm lens, and I captured my shots by changing the shutter-speed. I'm still learning - Year 12 photography was a long time ago - but it's all part of the fun for me.

Considering it was overcast and the lighting was dark at times, I think I did a relatively good job. I was happy with my shots taken with 1/60 shutter speed and below, though I had to rest the camera on logs and rocks to keep it steady to avoid blurring. I should really invest in a tripod to be honest, but don't forget, I'm a broke uni student.

After copious photos (I mean, you've got to get the perfect one) we began the descent. The stairs were slimy, steep and slippery, but aided by a metal railing. It didn't take long to reach the bottom, and when you're surrounded by such luscious trees, it's okay if you take a little longer to soak it all in.

Once at the bottom, a small bridge platform is situated with a clear view of the falls. Like I said, it's a well-known tourist attraction in the area, so it was no surprise that there were a few people around. Sometimes you just have to share the beauty of nature with other people, even if you wish you could have it all to yourself.

The view from the platform is great, but I'm always one for exploring that little bit further. Back towards the stairs and away from the bridge platform, there's a small section off to the left which leads onto the riverbank.

This is where there are Australian signs that make you want to turn around. Don't - you'll be fine if you take care and use your common sense.

The river flows through mossy rocks and makes for great photographs. We were visiting in May when there hadn't been much rainfall, so it wasn't too hard to manoeuvre over the rocks to the other side.

If you happen to visit when there's a heavier rush of water, or during winter months (June-August), then it may be harder, more dangerous or even impossible to cross.

I struggled to step on the rocks with my heavy backpack, and my camera bag slipping off my left shoulder. But we made it across and continued along a muddy, slippery terrain. Which we soon realised we weren't actually meant to be on. Oops.

I can't stress enough how beautiful this place is. As you can see, it's very green and mossy, much like a Balinese rainforest, only less dirty.

Finally after ducking under logs and almost slipping over multiple times, we made it closer to the falls. The slower shutter speed settings I was talking about before achieved the below shots, with the water frosted and smooth in contrast to the ferns and moss.

Patience is key when you're visiting popular tourist attractions. You have to wait your turn to get a shot free of other people, and make sure you allow other's the same in return.

I don't mind the wait though, because just staring at the falls is peaceful enough. We hid underneath fern trees during patches of rain, trying desperately to protect our electronics (maybe bring some waterproof gear, because we struggled in that department). But, hey, our phones and cameras survived and we got some amazing shots in the process.

So, yeah. I have $10.34 in my bank account after the car hire, accomodation, food, fuel and coffees. But it's payday next week, I have a roof over my head and there's frozen meals in the fridge. And I wouldn't change the experience for all the money in the world.

I also managed to revisit Erskine Falls in September 2017, and it was flowing much heavier after the winter months. See pics below!

Quick Facts

Last visit September 2017
Best Time April-November
Start / Finish Erskine Falls Rd Carpark
Unsealed Roads No
Walking distance Upper lookout 80m one way Lower Falls 220m one way
Time 1hr return
Difficulty Moderate, steep stairs
Facilities None (closest toilets are at Blanket Leaf Picnic area
Lat & Long 38.5070° S, 143.9135° E
Nearby Straw Falls, Splitter Falls, Cora Lynn Cascades (Blanket Leaf Picnic area)
Watercourse Erskine River

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