Start - Off Ballan-Daylesford Rd
Length - 1.8km (Loop)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Single Track
Vertical Climb - 42m
Time - 1 Hour
Signed - Look for Wooden Boards
Date Hiked - 28th December 2019
Best Time - Autumn to Early Summer
Traditional Custodians - Wathaurong People
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.
It didn't last long and soon we had turn off from the Goldfields Track and were heading along the edge of Sailors Creek towards the starting point. This lovely little section was full of reasonably mature eucalyptus trees and what looked like a sea of non-native species extending out over where Sailor Creek was meant to be. Continuing our search for more wildlife, Caris pointed out the holes in the forest floor that were covered in spider webs. Perhaps a trap door spider or some other variety, nonetheless it was cool to see. Another cool sighting by Caris was a small marsupial sitting on a log up ahead. I managed to get one photo of it before it scurried away. As we approached the log it was sitting on we saw flashes as it moved through the undergrowth. I got a few blurry photos but nothing of good quality to identify it. Continuing along the bottom of the valley, it was nice to look up every now and then and admire the tree trunks rising up into the air from this perspective. The photo I had seen in the #sailorsfalls hashtag search was from a trail run in the area a few days prior and they had unfortunately left a sign on the track that was to let the runners know there was a photographer ahead. Of course I made a bad joke about me being right here and the sign being in the wrong position to which Caris just rolled her eyes and wondered what she was doing with such an idiot.
The final highlight of the little loop was up ahead with another dalliance with Sailors Creek. The Sailors Creek Mineral Spring appeared and we had some fun checking out the old hand pump (not working unfortunately) and the bridge over the creek. It's a cool little spot with a few rapids flowing, even with the minimal amount of water flowing in the creek and lots of ferns around. The Daylesford-Hepburn Springs area is renowned for the mineral springs and this is just one of many places in the area where they exist. I love the hippie-dippy (quoting Caris here) feel to the area and the idea of the rejuvenating waters has been a powerful magnet for tourists over the centuries. The lush vibe continued as you walked the final section of the track towards the stairs. The sun was now shining so we took this section at normal speed to avoid getting burnt in the mid-morning sun but that was a challenge given how lovely it was. We scaled the stairs for the final time and looked off towards Sailors Falls, now bathed in a brighter light but still trickling away. This was the final walk for the trip and what a great way to round off what had been a warm and pleasant visit to the Daylesford area.
Final Thoughts - Hikes around water based features, especially waterfalls and rapids can be a bit hit and miss in the summer months so I wasn't really expecting too much from Sailors Falls.
Having said that, I was extremely impressed with how lush the valley had stayed over some very dry months leading up to my visit. As I said, driving by you wouldn't know this was here so it's nice to know that there are remnants of the forest that are completely different to the surrounding landscape.
At only 1.8km, this is a lovely walk that the whole family can enjoy and won't take up your whole day. Exert some energy in the morning and spend the rest of the day exploring the markets, cafes, shops and tourist delights that Daylesford has to offer.
Get out there and experience it!
Be sure to tag any Sailors Falls photos on Instagram with #thelifeofpy and if you enjoyed this hike then feel free to share this page on Facebook with your friends.