Once a popular area for gold mining, the Brisbane Ranges National Park is regularly visited by adventures wanting to escape the city for a bit of hiking and camping where you’ll feel as though you’re far away from the rest of the world, just a stones throw from the big smoke.
The Brisbane Ranges sit about an hour to the west of Melbourne, in between Geelong and Ballarat. It’s a dry place covered in Australian native flora with an abundance of Eucalyptus Trees, Grass Plants and wildlife, including plenty of Koalas, Kangaroos, Wallabies, Lizards and Snakes.
It’s a great place for a day hike or weekend camping trip with loads of hiking trails and two main campgrounds throughout the national park.
With the red soil and sharp rocky cliffs and gorges, the terrain and environment at the Brisbane Ranges National Park is a lot different to most other places with-in several hours of Melbourne. It’s super peaceful and much quieter than you’d expect for somewhere so beautiful that’s so close to such a large population.
Take a look at this big Koala that was very friendly and comfortable, just near the Lower Stoney Creek Reservoir on the Anakie Gorge Walk.
Camping in the Brisbane Ranges National Park
There are two drive-in campgrounds in the Brisbane Ranges National Park. Both are in great spots, well maintained and having multiple hiking trails that either pass through them or start there.
Boar Gully Campground is in the northern part of the national park. There are 7 individual campsites with sites 1-6 being for tents and the seventh is a designated camper trailer site. There’s a dam that you can fish in with well-maintained drop toilets next to a tank and rainwater for cleaning up, although it’s not suitable for drinking, so be sure to being plenty of your own drinking water as it can get pretty hot and dry here.
Each campsite has plenty of space and the sites are spread out among bush and shrubs, which adds a bit of privacy. Boar Gully is a great campground in the dry Eucalyptus forest that has a remote feeling to it. You almost forget that you’re camping so close to three large cities and can relax among the sounds of the Aussie bush.
Friday’s Campground is just north of the old mining town of Steiglitz and around a 20-25 minute drive south from Boar Gully. There are some large pine trees that provide a lot of shade. There are 10 campsites in total, with 1-2 being designed camper trailer sites, then the other 8 are grouped together in almost an oval shape with a dirt road circling around the perimeter. There are also facilities here and the whole place is quite central to the Brisbane Ranges.
Fridays is ideal for multiple groups camping together or families with young kids, due to the fact that all of the tent campsites are next to each other with cars having to drive around the entire campground, it makes it a bit safer for wandering children or gets you camping right next to each other for multiple parties.
You can check the availability and make a booking for both of the campgrounds here, on the Park Vic website. Just select between Boar Gully or Friday’s.
Boar Gully Campground
Hiking Trails in the Brisbane Ranges
Hiking trails weave and wind right through the Brisbane Ranges National Park. Although the Brisbane Ranges are quite small in terms of altitude, there are still trails with lots of elevation where you’ll be climbing and descending many small but steep hills and gorges, then other trails are almost completely flat.
There’s a lot of diversity in the trails for a relatively small national park. In some spots, there’s a lot of water with full dams and creeks beside lush, green bush, then other places are as dry as a bone with rich red soil and large cracks in the ground. The dry areas make up most of the Brisbane Ranges and this is mainly due to it already being a pretty hot and dry area (relative to south Victoria), then there are two large reservoirs that are made by building a dam in the creeks and stopping the flow. For areas that are a bit more green, you can try heading to the Stoney Creek Picnic Area, walking up to the Lower Stoney Creek Reservoir and hiking from there to the Upper Stoney Creek Reservoir, or just anywhere on the northern side of the Lower Reservoir, although it’s still going to be extremely dry if you’re comparing it to the nearby Otways Forest.
A lot of the hiking trails in the Brisbane Ranges will combine multiple tracks and some parts aren’t as popular as others, so the trail can often be hard to spot, when you’re out in the more remote areas. It’s best to download the All Trails mobile app and follow a trail on there, then even if you run out of phone reception, the offline mode will still guide you, otherwise bring a map and compass along and research the trail before you begin walking.
The South Steiglitz Loop offers a bit of variety where you’ll start in a shaded area, slightly elevate to some dry ground, then follow a creek which has lots of ponds but is mostly dried up due to the dam. There are also a bunch of other hikes in Steiglitz, such as the Burchell Trail which is much more defined and easier to navigate than the South Steiglitz Loop that has the potential to get you lost.
For a flat and easy bush walk that has plenty of facilities, consider the Anakie Gorge Walk. The trail starts about a 10 minute drive from Anakie at the Anakie Gorge Picnic Area and is then mostly flat to the Stoney Creek Picnic Area with the option of walking a bit further out to the Lower Stoney Creek Reservoir. It’s around 8 kms return, although for a much shorter hike, just start at the Stoney Creek Picnic Area and walk to the base of the reservoir dam.
To see some of the rich red soil that’s iconic of the Brisbane Ranges and makes you feel like you’re the outback, instead of returning straight back to the Anakie Gorge Picnic Area when completing the Anakie Gorge Walk, instead then go up hill and loop right back around via the Ted Errey Nature Circuit. This trail leads up to the top of the short steep hills where you’ll walk across the dry crumbling soil that’s packed with Grass Trees and has views of the rolling Eucalyptus Tree covered hills. It’s a great walk and a lot different to most other trails in Victoria.
Ted Errey Nature Circuit
Anakie Gorge Walk
South Steiglitz Loop
Hiking the Anakie Gorge Walk & Ted Errey Nature Circuit in the Brisbane Ranges National Park
Getting to the Brisbane Ranges from Melbourne, Geelong or Ballarat
The Brisbane Ranges National Park is about an hour west of Melbourne, 30-40 minutes north-west of Geelong and around 45 minutes to the south-east of Ballarat.
When heading to the Brisbane Ranges from Melbourne, depending where you’re leaving from and what part of the national park you’d like to head to, drive west on the Princess Freeway towards Geelong and take any exits between Werribee and Little River, then head to the north or north-west. Your other main option is to take the Wester Freeway towards Ballarat, then exit before Melton and come into the Brisbane Ranges National Park from the north.
If you’re coming from Geelong, in most cases (depending where you would like to go), head to Anakie and keep driving north. Once you go past the Fairy Park on your right, you can either head into Steiglitz and a bunch of other places by staying on the Geelong-Ballan Road, or turn right shortly after the Fairy Park at Staughton Vale Road to head to the Anakie Gorge Picnic Area and Stoney Creek Picnic Area where there are some day hiking trails.
Heading to the Brisbane Ranges from Ballarat, either drive towards Melbourne on the Western Freeway and then turn right and head to the south on the Geelong-Ballan Road (this is the best way to get to the two main campgrounds in the Brisbane Ranges National Park) to get right into the centre or head out the south of Ballarat on Geelong Road, get onto the Midland Highway to Meredith, then take the Meredith-Steiglitz Road to the east, which will bring you into Steigltiz.
The Brisbane Ranges National Park isn’t a huge place, so as long as you head towards Anakie or Steiglitz, you’ll then be able to easily and quickly get to where you want to go from there.