Hepburn Regional Park
Directions - From the centre of Daylesford take Ballan-Daylesford Rd south until you see the signs for Sailors Falls. There is a gravel car park on the side of the road and the stairs down to the valley are easily spotted.
The Hike - With our short trip to Daylesford coming to an end and a lovely trip to Mount Franklin already, the last place I wanted to visit was Sailors Falls. Being summer I wasn't sure if it would be worth viewing but I checked the hashtags on Instagram (a great method to get recent conditions of a place) and it showed a little trickle of water still at the falls. After a lovely breakfast at Cliffy's, we took the short drive south of Daylesford and were soon at the car park for Sailors Falls. Admittedly I wasn't expecting much from this hike because I'd driven past and seen the signs for it several times and from the road it doesn't look like anything special. The area around it is dry grasses and farmland so I expected a dry valley full of grass and tall eucalyptus trees.
Spoilers ahead but oh how I was wrong. Before getting going we checked out the information gazebo and filled up a water bottle from the pump that is fed by the natural springs in the area. Not having natural springs like this in WA, we were a little taken back when we discovered that the water was carbonated and not at all what we were expecting. Apparently this is normal and it now makes sense that the various flavoured drinks you can buy from local suppliers are fizzy drinks. Lesson learned, we moved on to start the trail and this means taking the zig-zagging staircase from the top of the valley to the bottom. Immediately you can appreciate how lush the valley is by the vastness of the greenery and the giant ferns that call this place home. Very excited that I would have something green to photograph, we headed on down, enjoying the views of Sailors Falls in the distance. I could see a trickle cascading down so was happy that the area wasn't going to be completely dry. After taking many photos on just the walk down to the valley floor, we reached the bottom and made plans to visit the falls first.
It made sense to do this given the signs point you to the falls and being the feature of the walk, you want to see it first. Crossing a lovely bridge over Sailors Creek, you get to see the lovely lush ferns that dominate the edges of the waterway here. I love seeing the Gondwanan style of temperate rainforest and even though it was summer, I could imagine being in the cooler months enjoying a gentle stroll along a wet valley floor. Just up a few steps was the namesake of the track, Sailor Falls. A small information board depicts the same scene you look out over but from a much earlier time, a cool feature to the walk that connects you back with the history of the area. Being no more than a trickle, it was easy to scramble over the rocks to get a closer view of the falls. Caris stayed put while I reverted back to 10yo Mark and had some fun clambering from rock to rock. I managed to get right near the falls and from this view it was an interesting structure that the water cascaded over. It kind of looked like the dolerite columns you find on the Three Capes Track but sawn off from below.
With a story filled for the gram, I returned to where Caris was waiting, stopping a few times to photograph some lovely moss or a wildflower. Keen to check out what the rest of the walk was like we headed off along the track and passed a few other walkers enjoying their morning. The track leaving the falls heads uphill slightly as it follows the contours of the landscape. Winding through the greenery, another bridge is a cool feature as the track crosses over a little gully. Remnants of an old fence designed to keep the livestock out of the valley is still there, rusting away over time. It's amazing that this little slice of forest has survived given how much land had been cleared in the area for agriculture. My guess is it was too steep for the animals to head up and down all the time so this was left as is. Reaching the border of the regional park and the agricultural land, you walk along a fence for a time but thankfully the land owners have left some trees on their property that almost make it feel like the whole area is forested. Admiring the wildflowers along the fence line and also extending down the valley on the slopes, I started to slow down here, which was a theme that continued for the rest of the hike.
A little further ahead you leave the fence and continue along the single track through some lovely eucalyptus forest. A strange smell greeted us and I remembered my friend Lou telling me about her time on the Great Ocean Walk where you could smell the koalas before you saw them. Excited that I might get to see my first koala in the wild, Caris and I began scanning the trees for little grey floofs. The pace slowed right down but ultimately we were unsuccessful in our search. What we did find was a Gang Gang Cockatoo making some noise off in the distance. With cloudy skies it was a hard task trying to spot the grey bird with pinkish/red crest. Eventually Caris spotted him and I tried my best to get a photo with my lens zoomed in as much as possible (photos turned out very grainy and dark as you can see). Buoyed by our sighting, we continued on, still scanning the trees for potential koala sightings. From the highest point of the walk it was cool to look down into the valley and see the grey trunks of the trees contrasted against the sea of greenery that hugged the waterways. We joined the Goldfields Track for the briefest of moments as it headed from Ballarat on it's way past the edge of Daylesford, through Hepburn Springs and then on towards Castlemaine and Bendigo. This was now the fourth day walk I had done on the Goldfields Track and each time I see the sign I think harder about coming over to do the whole 211km.