Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve is home to one of the most interesting landscapes along the Southern Ocean. Home to an extinct volcano, today its lush landscapes have risen out of the volcanic ash that once laden the area. It is a haven for wildlife and made up of lush wetlands, crater lakes, native bush and other geological wonders.
If you like hiking or animal spotting, you’ll enjoy this national park. It is just a short detour from the Great Ocean Road and home to ample walking opportunities for visitors of various skill levels.
How to Get to Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve?
Tower Hill rests between Port Fairy and Warrnambool. It is just over 16 km East of Port Fairy and approximately 18 km West of Warrnambool. Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve is easily accessible by car from the Princes Highway.
If you are planning a visit, it is a good idea to visit during the weekdays and outside of peak visiting times. There tends to be much less park traffic outside of weekends and public holidays, so you can spot koalas and discover nature free of disturbances.
There is no entrance fee to access Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve. It is one of Australia’s national parks and is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register as a site of international significance. This way, visitors from across the world can explore the breathtaking natural habitat and freely learn about the local history of the land.
If you would like to visit the Tower Hill Visitor Centre, their opening hours are 10 am to 4 pm. This includes weekends and public holidays, except for Christmas Day.
Indigenous Communities and the History of Tower Hill Reserve
The Dhauwurd Wurrung, also commonly known as the Gunditjmara or Gunditjamara, are the traditional owners of the land encompassing Tower Hill and the surrounding area.
Archeological artifacts discovered in the volcanic ash layers by the Tower Hill area suggest that they were present to witness the last eruption of the now-dormant Tower Hill volcano. Their oral traditions also reflect this history.
Early settlers — European colonialists — arrived in the late 1830s. They began to clear and farm the land, clearing the volcanic slopes for timber and space for crops. Invasive species began to take hold. By the 1950s, the land that had once been a fertile oasis was now a desolate wasteland.
The local community began to act, and by 1961 Tower Hill was named a State Game Reserve and granted protected status. Thus began the long road towards restoring Tower Hill to its former glory. An 1855 painting by artist Eugene von Guerard, “Outlook,” which depicted the original natural habitat of Tower Hill, was used as a reference point for the restoration process.
Things to do in Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve
If you’re looking for glimpses of Australia’s native animals, significant geological formations, and ample walking opportunities, this is the place. With a rich history and a deep connection to nature, Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve has plenty to offer the traveller looking to get out and enjoy nature.
Tower Hill Visitor Centre
Celebrated Australian architect Robin Boyd designed the Tower Hill Visitor Centre. Boyd is best known for designing buildings tailored to culturally specific sites, and the Tower Hill Visitor Centre is no different. It offers 360-degree views of the park, and its structure calls to mind the magnificent dormant volcano the park rests on.
The Worn Gundidj Aboriginal Cooperative currently manages the Tower Hill Visitor Centre in partnership with Parks Victoria. The centre features educational displays about the natural park surroundings and the local aboriginal history.
Worn Gundidj Guided Tours
If you’re interested in learning more about the land through an indigenous lens, the Worn Gundidj Aboriginal Cooperative offers guided tours from experienced local guides.
Their two-hour Indigenous culture & nature tour run allows guests to learn about the habitats of local wildlife while also learning about the history and culture of Indigenous communities. These guided bush tours depart twice a day, from Tuesday to Saturday, at 10 am and 1 pm.
If you’re unable to snag a spot on the guided tour or are more interested in exploring at your own pace, there are also several self-guided walks. Each walk caters to a different hiking skill level so that you can pick between easy boardwalks or challenging scenic climbs.
Whichever walk you choose from, you’ll still have ample opportunities to spot native birds like blue wrens and generally explore all that the park offers.
Tower Hill Peak Climb
This steep, steady walk could present a challenge for novice hikers. However, for those up to the task, the Tower Hill Peak Climb is an exciting opportunity to trek through the heart of the dormant volcano that makes up the heart of Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve.
This hike lets visitors catch magnificent views of otherwise hidden crater lakes and wetlands where wild birds populate. Once hikers reach the summit, they are rewarded for their climb with breathtaking panoramic views of the entire national park.
The hike is approximately 1.5km and is a return circuit, so you’ll finish the walk in the same place that you began.
Wagon Bay Loop
This is the perfect walk for novice hikers who still want to discover the parkland. This walk is predominantly flat, although there are a few steps to climb at certain points. The loop circles Wagon Bay Pond, where curious visitors can watch native birds in their natural wetland habitat.
Avid birdwatchers will be excited to hear that the fertile volcanic land is home to bird species such as Banded Stilts, Superb Fairy Wrens, and Black Swans. Visitors might also glimpse iconic Australian wildlife such as emus and kangaroos.
This gentle walk is approximately 1.5km and is also a return circuit.
Lava Tongue Boardwalk
This is the perfect family-friendly walk. Visitors will have ample opportunities on this boardwalk trek to spot the diverse wildlife that Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve offers, including wallaby, possum, emu, kangaroo, and vibrant parrots.
This walk crosses over an ancient lava flow from the now-dormant volcano. This boardwalk trail crosses Fairy Island and is approximately 1.6km.
Journey to the Last Volcano
This is the longest and most demanding hike. The path weaves through the most recently active volcanic crater and includes steep climbs.
However, for those willing to make the trek, the Journey to the Last Volcano hike offers breathtaking views and the opportunity to see some fascinating local wildlife such as emu and kangaroos.
The walk takes approximately one hour to complete and spans a 1.9km closed circuit.
Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve is an absolute treat for any nature lover. It is home to stunning wildlife and fascinating geological formations, all within a short drive from the Great Ocean Road. Nothing can beat these natural wonders.