Just beyond Warrnambool, at the western end of the Great Ocean Road, lies an under-visited nature lover’s paradise – Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve.

One of the largest dormant volcano maars in the world, it was the source of one of Victoria’s largest ever eruptions. Around this time, several scoria cones were also formed inside Tower Hill’s crater, making it a spectacular landscape to visit – a magical hidden forest

You’re pretty much guaranteed to get up close and personal with some wildlife at Tower Hill, but that’s not the only attraction. The park is well laid out with walking tracks to suit all abilities, and if you don’t want to walk there are beautiful picnic areas to enjoy. The Worn Gundidj Visitor Centre has food and (most importantly) coffee, and there are tours you can take from there to learn about the geological, European and indigenous history of this special place.

Indigenous people lived here even before the volcano’s most recent eruption, around 32 thousand years ago. Not only have they watched the landscape completely change with the eruption but many generations later they watched the area logged and farmed, used as a quarry, and parts of it even turned into a rubbish dump.

Fortunately, Tower Hill was declared a state reserve in 1961 and hundreds of thousands of trees were replanted. The wildlife was so badly depleted that some species had to be reintroduced. It’s amazing to see what happens when you leave nature alone to do her thing for 60 years.

Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve Walks

Peak Climb

Tower Hill - Peak Climb
Start your visit to Tower Hill with the steep ascent to the highest summit in the park (103 metres above sea level). On the way up you’ll be treated to views into the Yatt Mirng Crater, and from the top you can see almost the entire park, giving you a good reference point for the lay of the land.

Need to know

Length: 1.5 km
Time: 30 min
Grade: Moderate / Grade 4 (according to the Australian Walking Track Grading System).
Style: Return
Access: All tracks start from Worn Gundidj Visitor Centre.
Path Taken: See the map below, where this walk is highlighted in pale green.

Wagon Bay Loop

Wagon Bay Loop - Tower Hill
For a nice easy half hour walk on mostly flat terrain, take a stroll on the Wagon Bay Loop walk. You might spot some emus and wallabies, but as you circle the Wagon Bay pond you’re guaranteed to see a wide array of birdlife.

Need to know

Length: 1.5 km
Time: 30 mins
Grade: Easy / Grade 3 (according to the Australian Walking Track Grading System).
Style Circuit.
Access: All tracks start from Worn Gundidj Visitor Centre.
Path Taken: See the map below, where this walk is highlighted in orange.

Lava Tongue Boardwalk

Lava Tongue Boardwalk - Tower Hill
A nice easy trail, the Lava Tongue Boardwalk takes in a wetland boardwalk and if you’re as lucky as we were, all the wildlife you could hope to see. We spotted koalas, wallabies, emus, countless birds and a copperhead snake, all on this 1.6-kilometre circuit walk. Apparently, echidnas are pretty common here, too, and although we didn’t see any frogs they made up much of our soundtrack.

Need to know

Length: 1.6 km
Time: 30 min
Grade: Easy / Grade 2 (according to the Australian Walking Track Grading System).
Style: Circuit
Access: All tracks start from Worn Gundidj Visitor Centre.
Path Taken: See the map below, where this walk is highlighted in purple.

Journey to the Last Volcano

Journey to the Last Volcano - Tower Hill

This moderately strenuous 2.2-kilometre walk has a few good ups and downs, allowing for some magnificent views. You’ll even see straight into one of the volcano’s cones and at one point, there are views across the crater lake and out to the Southern Ocean.

As with most of the walks at Tower Hill, there are opportunities to spot kangaroos, emus and abundant birdlife.

You might notice on the signs and brochures available at the park that there’s a suggested shortcut that cuts off about 300 metres and skips the trail around the cone. I don’t suggest this unless you’re short on time, as you would miss the best part of the trail.

Need to know

Length: 2.2 km
Time: 1 hr 30 min
Grade: Moderate / Grade 3 (according to the Australian Walking Track Grading System).
Style: Circuit
Access: All tracks start from Worn Gundidj Visitor Centre.
Path Taken: See the map below, where this walk is highlighted in red.

Tower Hill Circuit Walk

Tower Hill koala
This isn’t one of Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve’s drawcard walks and you won’t find it on any of their signs or brochures. However, it’s probably the longest walk you can do in this relatively small park, so it will suit those visitors who are more interested in really getting the legs a workout.

The majority of the trail follows the banks of Tower Hill Lake, which will provide excellent wildlife spotting but may not be ideal if you like some hills on your hike. If this is you, there’ll be plenty of time left in the day to add the Peak Climb and/or Journey to the Last Volcano walks for a proper workout.

Need to know

Length: 8 km
Time: 3 hrs
Grade: Moderate / Grade 3 (according to the Australian Walking Track Grading System).
Style: Circuit
Access: All tracks start from Worn Gundidj Visitor Centre.
Path Taken: See the map below, where this walk is highlighted in yellow.

Guided Tours at Tower Hill

There are two options for guided tours at Tower Hill – a 90-minute personalised daytime Nature Walk tour or a 2 hour Twilight Nature Walk. The extra cost is $35 per adult, $11.50 per child, $25 per senior, or $85 for a family. Bookings can be made via the Tower Hill website and tours start from the Worn Gundidj Visitor Centre.

Tower Hill Opening Hours

Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve never closes. However, the Worn Gundidj Visitor Centre is open from 10am to 4pm every day except for Christmas Day.

Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve Map

There are no topographic maps available for Tower Hill but you won’t really need one. Click below for a rough map of each of the walking trails described in this article. It should be all you need.
Tower Hill map button

Tower Hill Accommodation

We picked the closest accommodation provider we could find to Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve – Harmony at Tower Hill. We weren’t at all dissuaded by the price and we didn’t regret our choice one bit. It’s pretty basic but it’s clean, self-contained (the kitchen has a microwave and stovetop), and ideally located, just 2.5 kilometres from the Worn Gundidj Visitor Centre. Not to mention it’s only about 15 minutes from both Warrnambool and Port Fairy.

If that’s not for you, check out what Booking.com has to offer in the vicinity.

Food near Tower Hill

The Worn Gundidj Visitor Centre does offer minimal food but we didn’t try them so I can’t comment. The nearby towns of Warrnambool and Port Fairy are your go-to place for all your meals (unless you’re staying somewhere self-contained). I’m not going to outline all your food options here but I can make two solid recommendations, both of them in Warrnambool. You absolutely must try breakfast at Bohemia Café and dinner at Bojangles Pizza.

Other things to do near Tower Hill Wilderness Reserve

  • Check out historic Port Fairy, just 15 minutes west of Tower Hill. While you’re there, take a walk around Griffiths Island.
  • Take in a sunset at Thunder Point Coastal Reserve in Warrnambool.
  • The spectacular Hopkins Falls is just outside Warrnambool.
  • Make a road trip of it and spend some time exploring the Great Ocean Road region.
  • If you’re keen on volcanoes, there are a bunch of others in Western Victoria, like Mount Leura in Camperdown.

Further Info

Getting there: The well-signed entry to Tower Hill Wilderness Reserve is on the Princes Highway, 14km west of Warrnambool.
Price: Entry to the park is free of charge. Guided tours are available at an extra cost.
Facilities: The park is equipped with electric BBQs, toilets and picnic tables, all near the Worn Gundidj Visitor Centre.
Tips: The park does get quite busy and although you’re almost guaranteed some good wildlife sightings, you’ll increase your chances significantly by setting off on your walks before everyone else does. Having said that, we started walking at about 9:30am and were the only ones on the trail, so you don’t have to be a seriously early riser.
Contact:
p: 03 5569 9202
m: 0448 509 522
e: [email protected]

Disclaimer: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning I earn a small percentage of any sales made when visitors click through.

 

Have you been to Tower Hill? Got any questions, comments, updates or corrections? Let us know by commenting below.

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