With more than 400 volcanos these are the third largest volcanic plains in the world.
Located just over 2hrs from Melbourne, the Volcanic Lakes and Plains region is a slightly hidden gem, a little off the Great Ocean Road. Follow the meandering roads north from the coast to find the home of the biggest volcano in Victoria. And also an endless carpet of rolling farmland punctuated by deep crater lakes and conical peaks. Put on your favourite road trip anthem, the window down and set out to explore this dramatic landscape and charming inland towns.
FRIDAY PM: WELCOMED WITH THE WARMEST OF REGIONAL HOSPITALITY
We arrived to open arms and bar of the Elephant Bridge Hotel – one of Victoria’s oldest and longest serving pubs, circa 1842. Owner Karen spoils her guests with delicious homecooked, local origin meals. After our drive her prosciutto wrapped slow cooked chicken served with locally sourced freshly made gnocchi was the warmest of welcomes.
Everything about this boutique bed and breakfast makes you luxuriously looked after while feeling very much at home. The communal lounges, dining room and Karen’s exuberant personality brings guests effortlessly together and the stylish sophistication of the rooms make for a tranquil retreat.
SATURDAY: THIS AREA IS ANYTHING BUT PLAIN
After the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever had my partner Sam headed off for a cycle to explore the endless volcanic plains. Karen and I set off to do some exploring of our own. Karen goes above and beyond for her guests and puts so much time and effort into thinking of activities in the local area that they would love but might not find on their own. We’ll find Sam on the way!
First stop was to visit the historic stone walls at Noorat, the heights of the Mt Elephant volcano looms behind them. Two sites in one, tick! You’d be forgiven for not realising the importance of these dramatic dry-stone walls as you drive past 3,000km of them. Constructed in 1851 they are historically and culturally significant and to this day are tended to by the descendants of the families that built them. The stones are made from past volcanic eruptions and whilst seemingly precariously placed on top of each other these walls were deliberately designed this way. The tottering top row of rocks deters sheep from jumping over them.
We drove on to discover more hidden gems at Pombo Mart, in Pomborneit North (30mins). If you’re into collectables here you’ll find two large sheds full of antique furniture, memorabilia, vintage clothing, records and various Bric a Brac. Who knows what you’ll find!
Reward your treasure hunting skills with a visit to a crater lake, with cake!
A historic schoolhouse in a previous life, Lake Edge Café today serves up delicious wholesome food right on the water’s edge of Lake Purrumbete. Lake Purrumbete is also famous for its fishing - Rainbow, Brown and Brook Trout and Chinook Salmon. The upside, even if you don’t get that big catch there’s always cake!
Stroll off your morning tea at The Camperdown Botanical Gardens, planted in 1870. Perched above two volcanic crater lakes - Lake Bullen Merri and Lake Gnotuk it provides a tranquil shady place to take in the views. And for Sam to have a little rest after his ride.
We’d heard Camperdown had a famous bakery and café so we beelined to Loaf and Lounge there before they closed. Generously, they stocked our picnic basket with an assortment of hand-moulded bread, pies and pastries.
Our plan was to have an early picnic dinner at a nearby swimming hole - a favourite of local families for over six generations. We sipped champagne and lounged as we watched the sunset. Before strolling back to our accommodation at the Elephant Bridge Hotel, conveniently located right across the road.
SUNDAY: VOLCANIC PEAKS TO CRATER LAKE DEPTHS
Fueled by Karen’s Continential Breakfast Sam and I set off for the summit Victoria’s largest volcano Mt Elephant (360m). Entirely ran by passionate volunteers this hike is open only on Sunday Afternoons from 1-4pm. They kindly let us in a little early (by appointment).
Mt Elephant last erupted (maybe) 180,000 years ago and is aged between 30,000 – several million years old. The moderate rated summit walk is a 3.4km loop (hiking poles are available from the visitor centre) and rewards with the stunning views of the endless plains and lakes of Western Victoria. You can see forever!
There was another great lake we couldn’t leave the region without seeing – Lake Toolirook. Mostly used for camping, boating and fishing what we loved was its T- shaped jetty overlooking Mt Elephant. This view alone sums up the area in one snap. And a quick swim didn’t go astray either!
With promises of returning again, we said farewell to Karen. But we couldn’t resist turning around for one last look at the area, stopping at Mt Leura lookout. 360 degree views offers up the local landmarks - Mt Elephant, Camperdown clocktower, Lake Purrumbete and on a clear day even the Grampians, over 100km away.
WATCH THE EPISODE:
Take the M1 and Hamilton Highway/B140 for the fastest route.
TOP 5 THINGS THAT MADE THE WEEKEND GREAT:
- The warm hospitality of the many locals we met
- Discovering a district unlike any we had visited before
- Understanding our unique volcanic history, we had no idea!
- Hiking Victoria’s largest volcano
- Indulging in the local produce
The Volcanic Lakes and Plains proves that sometimes great things are just a little off the main road.
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT GREAT WEEKEND: