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Hiking through The Canyon to Phantom Falls in the Otways

Guy looking up from inside the Otways Canyon

Itching to get out of town and into the bush, we headed for a hike just off the Great Ocean Road and into the Otways behind Lorne.

Starting at the Sheoak Picnic Area, we hiked a fern covered trail through the rain forest for about 4km to Phantom Falls via the Canyon, passing Won Wandha & Henderson Falls.

We came to the area earlier in the year and tried hiking to Lower & Upper Kalimna Falls on a waterfall circuit walk from Allenvale Mill Campground, but the track was closed due to some fresh storm damage, so we followed a hiking trail to Teddy’s Lookout instead.

This time didn’t bring us much better luck. We drove a few minutes past Allenvale to the Sheoak Picnic Area and started our hike from there, but no more than 350 metres into the trail, the track to the falls was closed as a bridge that was further ahead had been crunched in a recent storm. Fortunately, there was a different trail heading off in another direction that went to several other waterfalls and the ‘Canyon’ that we were able to take a wander down.

Being near the end of winter in one of the wettest places in the state, the forest was bursting with greenery. The track was surrounded by vibrant green ferns, from the Bracken covered ground, to monstrous Soft Tree Ferns that were covered in more ferns and fluorescent coloured moss, all beneath a canopy of giant Eucalyptus and Beech trees.

Won Wondah Falls

Not too far into the new track (Henderson Trail), we begun walking beside the Henderson Creek and reached Won Wondah Falls. Although the Won Wondah waterfall is over eight metres tall and quite a pleasant sight, a few trees made it hard to get a decent view from the lookout/platform and seeing as we hadn’t walked too far yet, we had too much energy to stay put, so we kicked on and kept hiking.

Henderson Falls

The path coming up to Henderson Falls is incredible. A small timber bridge crosses the creek, where you then weave around some huge Fern Trees to reach the waterfall that cascades down what seems to be just a large rock.

Many waterfalls throughout the Otways look quite similar to each other, but Henderson Falls is unlike the dozen nearby waterfalls that we’ve visited. It’s not big and mighty like the famous Erskine Falls, although it has a really special feeling about it. We ended up spending a while there, playing around and trying to get some photos of flora in front of the plunge pool. We were really glad that we got to visit Henderson Falls and hope to return, maybe next time on a hotter day where we could sit in the shade a rest our feet in the water.

From Henderson Falls, we crossed over Henderson Creek in the direction of Phantom Falls. After some mild elevation on a breath taking path through the dense forest, we entered the Canyon, the highlight of the hike.

The Canyon

The Canyon crept up on us and gave us a welcome surprise with its beauty. It feels like, all of a sudden you’re walking at the base of some large moss covered stone cliffs and you’re not sure when they started. For about 100-200 metres, the trail follows the gorge, then finishes by going under a rock and you have to climb about 3 metres to get out of it.

Shortly after popping our heads out of the Canyon, we were on a 4wd track (not a public one) that took us all of the way to Phantom Falls.

Phantom Falls

Once we were about 50 metres from the top of Phantom Falls, the roar of water crashing down below got our hearts pumping. Won Wondah and Henderson Falls are relatively small and quiet, making the wide and 15 metre tall Phantom Falls seem that bit more impressive.

We took our time, had a break and enjoyed our lunch at Phantom Falls, then followed the same trail back to the Sheoak Picnic Area, where we had started from.

Although we had no intention to hike this trail, it ended up being such a fun day out and felt so calming to have spent some time hiking in the Great Otway National Park. We’re already counting down the days to our next rain forest walk!

Henderson Creek, Otway National Park

If you’ve been here before or have a different hike in the Otways that you think we should visit, be sure to let us know in the comments below!

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