To the south of Colac lie the Otway Ranges, which include a pocket of temperate rainforest rich in flora and wildlife. The forests include the tallest flowering plants in the world, the mighty mountain ashes (Eucalyptus regnans), which can reach as much as 100 m in height. Prolific understorey plants include the blackwoods (Acacia melanoxylon), revered as a craft wood, and the superb soft tree ferns (Dicksonia antarctica) which line many damp, shaded gullies. After the construction of the narrow-gauge railway line from Colac to Crowes at the turn of the twentieth century, much of this timber was exploited for construction purposes in the rest of the State, and even today some logging persists and the tree ferns continue to be harvested.
The recently established Great Otway National Park incorporates the former Otway National Park and Angahook-Lorne, Carlisle and Melba Gully State Parks, as well as areas of State forest and other Crown land. The new park covers 103,000 hectares, an increase in park area of more than 60,000 hectares. The park not only includes the tall wet rainforests but the drier forests of inland slopes and the diverse heathlands and woodlands, fringed by a spectacularly rugged coastline.
An early, somewhat romaticised vision of the Otway Ranges painted by Eugene Von Guérard.
Gully, Cape Otway Ranges, c. 1879.
The Otway forests include a number of superb, if not huge, waterfalls, each of which are reached by well managed walking tracks. Shown here are the Triplet Falls (left) and the Beachamp Falls, both of which are near the small township of Beech Forest.