By Mertie, on flickr
A wet track winds its way through stands of eucalypts, Myrtle Beech, Blackwood and Treeferns, with a dense understorey of bracken fern and mosses.
So many mosses. Nearly every accepting surface is covered in moss. The forest floor, the giant exposed tree roots, the oldest of the sign posts.
A bridge on Madsen’s Track
Aside from the occasional low drone of a car passing on the Great Ocean Road, it would be easy to forget you’re so close to civilisation. This place feels ancient. The only other sounds are the shrieks and chirps of the resident Fairy wrens, Yellow robins, Grey Shrike-thrushes, and rufous fantails.
Melba Gully is home to Madsen’s Track Nature Walk. At 1.5 kilometres, it’s obviously not one for the hardcore hikers, but it offers an incredible introduction to Victoria’s cool temperate rainforests.
If you’re lucky and patient enough, you might even spot a platypus near the bridge over the Johanna River. During my walk, there were quite a few other visitors, so I didn’t like my chances. Instead, I stopped for a while to admire the stunning “Anne’s Cascade”.
Melba Gully was once most famous for the “Big Tree”, an Otways Messmate measuring 27 metres around its base and thought to be around 300 years old. This was the largest remaining tree of its kind but, despite surviving several bushfires, she fell in around 2010 and is now recycling back into the forest floor, helping sustain new life and growth. There’s still a bench seat and information sign at the site of this stunning old tree. Fortunately for me, I was lucky enough to stare in awe at this giant back in 2009, while she was still standing.
Melba Gully History
We have the Madsen family to thank for the survival of this remnant of the area’s ancient forest. The clearing of the area began in the 1880’s, and before long Melba Gully was home to two sawmills and a tramway that was built to carry timber from the area.
By the 1920’s, Mrs Jessie Fry was running “Mrs Fry’s Tearooms” at the site of what is now Melba Gully’s picnic area. She was responsible for naming the area after the famous Australian singer, Dame Nellie Melba. The tearooms were closed in 1948 when a bus limit was imposed on Otways roads.
Madsen’s Track is named after the Madsen Family, who bought the property in 1958 and later donated it to the Victorian Conservation Trust. In 2003 it was transferred to the crown to be managed by Parks Victoria.
Big Tree (as it was in 2009)
Need to Know
Last Visited: 2009
Length: 1.5 km
Time: 40 min
Region: South-Western Victoria
Park: Great Otway National Park
Closest Town: Lavers Hill (5 km)
Car Access: The turn-off to Melba Gully is 3 km west of Lavers Hill on the Great Ocean Road and is well signed. Follow this road for 1.5 km to the Melba Gully Carpark
Map: No map is required but there is a map in Parks Victoria’s Melba Gully Park Note.
Ever visited Melba Gully? Were you lucky enough to spot a platypus there? If you have any stories, updates or corrections, please let us know by commenting below.
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