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Name: Darren Hill
Position: Ranger team leader, Parks Victoria, RACV member
Why he loves it: Access to a large range of coastal, bush and snow-country activities.
Absolute favourite? Walking tracks at Mount Worth State Park, because you can feel like you’re 100 miles from anywhere.
Land of the giants
There’s a beautiful little spot at Mount Worth State Park that’s tucked away among dense forest. It’s called the Giant’s Circuit Walk. It’s accessed by track from the Moonlight Creek picnic ground, which is popular on weekends and public holidays. The walk takes you through gullies filled with tall mountain ash trees. Even the locals don’t really know about it, and on weekends when the picnic spot is busy and when other trails in the valley are bound to have some walkers, this hideaway is almost always yours alone. It’s a good place for solitude.
Just add water
Toorongo Falls Reserve is a pleasant 45-minute drive from Warragul through a valley and small farms to the foot of Mount Baw Baw. There are plenty of easy walks for visitors, including one that will take you to a spectacular year-round waterfall. I’ve never seen the waterfall dry. It’s great to just be able to sit and watch the water come down.
Bridging the past
The historic Trestle Bridge in Noojee is good for a stopover on the way to Toorongo Falls. The bridge is one of the largest remaining trestle bridges in Victoria. It’s really high and was built for the logging industry back in the 1920s. I was 14 years old when I first saw the bridge and wasn’t interested in it then but now I find the construction and engineering from the era interesting. Around the bridge are some quick and easy walking tracks.
Drink in the view
It’s the views and the atmosphere at the Wild Dog Winery that are hard to beat. If you’re going to be eating and drinking you may as well have good views too. Here it’s vineyards and green hills. The winery is very popular for functions.
Taste of spain
The Brandy Creek Estate Winery is known for its paella feasts. Giant pans of different paellas line the restaurant’s counters. Just seeing them can make you hungry. The bushland setting is great and relaxing. As well as the cellar door and restaurant there’s a spa there too if you want to completely unwind.
Get your goat
I’ve watched the Gippy Goat Cafe transform from a 1940s farmhouse into a cafe. It’s become popular pretty quickly. The cafe is a 20-minute drive from Warragul at Yarragon. It’s a good spot for families as kids can watch the goats get milked and fed. Obviously the key is being able to keep kids occupied and they’ve done that by creating sports facilities, including a footy oval, for the kids. The ploughmans platters are the best!
Warragul is a great gateway for exploring the Strzelecki Ranges. Trails link it to the Tarra-Bulga National Park. There are short walking tracks and lots of winding roads for a Sunday drive. But one of the best things about the ranges are the views. On a clear day you can see across the Latrobe Valley, the ranges and to Wilsons Promontory. Autumn is best to catch those clear days.
Go to the art
Warragul is a nice older town. Culturally, the West Gippsland Arts Centre has some fantastic shows year round from local performers and out of town. There’s always something interesting going on there. The centre is in a nice parkland setting where there’s a farmers’ market on the third Saturday of every month where you can hear live music and eat great local produce.
Mount Baw Baw is close by. It used to be that you’d just go there for snow play – skiing and snowboarding. But now there are warmer-weather activities – mountain biking, hiking and walking tracks, and a lot of people visit it in summer. The views are amazing on a clear day. The best thing about being up at Mount Baw Baw is the feeling of just being able to get away from it all.
The Outpost Retreat is a 25-minute drive from Warragul. It’s a great little rustic pub that’s almost like a bush cabin. It’s great for a casual drink and pub food. I think it’s a quintessentially Australian experience.