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Beech Forest, VIC

Delightful alternative lifestyle town in the Otway Ranges

Beech Forest is a tiny township which achieved its moment of national fame in 1983 when a 61-year-old local potato farmer, Cliff Young, became an iconic figure of endurance when he won a non-stop race from Sydney to Melbourne known as the Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon.
The town has become part of an excellent, circular day trip from Apollo Bay which takes in Cape Otway, the tiny settlement of Lavers, the Otway Ranges and Otway Fly Treetop Adventures, before reaching Beech Forest and then returning through the Otways to Skene Creek north of Apollo Bay. There is also an excellent and challenging bicycle track - the Old Beechy Rail Track - from Beech Forest to Colac.
Today Beech Forest has become a popular retreat for people wanting an alternative lifestyle. It is popular with artists, organic farmers and those who want to live in the bush away from tourists and crowds.

Location

Beech Forest, a small town on the edge of the Otway Ranges, is located 197 km south-west of Melbourne via Colac and 37 km north of Apollo Bay on a very windy road.

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Origin of Name

The town was named after the beech myrtle trees which are common in the area.

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Things to See and Do

Otway Fly Treetop Adventure
Located 7.4 km from Beech Forest via the Beech Forest-Lavers Road and Phillips Track, the Otway Fly Treetop Adventure combines elevated treetop walks with a unique Zipline Tour which allows visitors to take flying fox adventures through the trees. The Treetop Walk is 600 metres long and 25 metres above the forest floor. The experience involves walking in a cool temperate rainforest comprising mainly Myrtle Beech, Blackwood and Mountain Ash. The total walk is 1.9 km and it takes approximately one hour. It is open every day from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm, tel: 1800 300 477 or check out http://www.otwayfly.com/ for prices and the range of activities available.

Triplet Falls
Located 3 km beyond the Otway Fly, Triplet Falls are named because they fall in three stages. Set in beautiful rainforest they can be accessed by turning left into Aire Valley Road and following the signs. There is a one hour, 1.8 km, walking track to the falls through Mountain Ash and Myrtle Beech which has good and detailed signage. There are a number of viewing platforms over the falls. For more detailed information check out http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/great-otway-national-park/things-to-do/triplet-falls.

Beauchamp Falls
Located 2 km east of Beech Forest, along Turtons Track, is a turnoff into Aire Valley Plantation Road which heads south off the main road. The Beauchamp Falls, which are 20 m high and 3 km from the car park, will take around an hour to reach. The gradient is rated: difficult. There is a signpost to Beauchamp Falls Scenic Reserve. At the falls there are good metal steps and lookouts. Particularly impressive is the temperate rainforest with its huge tree ferns and stands of Mountain Ash, Myrtle Beech and Blackwoods. Check out http://www.world-of-waterfalls.com/australia-beauchamp-falls.html for more details.

Hopetoun Falls
Off the Beech Forest-Apollo Road is a turnoff to Hopetoun Falls. The road continues south down the valley to the Aire River crossing. The falls are about 40 minutes return from the car park. There is an alternative walk to the base of the falls which takes around 30 minutes and is graded: difficult. It passes through glades of tree ferns. Check out http://www.world-of-waterfalls.com/australia-hopetoun-falls.html for more details.

The Old Beechy Rail Trail
Another excellent example of an old railway line being turned into a bicycle track, the Old Beechy Rail Trail is 45.2 km long and runs from Colac to Beech Forest on the disused Crowes narrow gauge railway line. It is a gravel track which is suitable for both cyclists and bushwalkers. There is a downloadable brochure at http://www.otwayestate.com.au/OBRT%20Brochure.pdf. The brochure explains that "Along the trail you pass through pockets of rainforest with magnificent eucalypts and blackwoods shading the lush understorey. See and hear busy woodland and forest birds while listening for the echoes of the Old Beechy's whistle!" The journey from Beech Forest to Gellibrand (18.4 km) drops approximately 425 metres.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the Beech Forest area was inhabited by Ganubadud Aborigines.

* The Otway Ranges and the area around Beech Forest wasn't settled by Europeans until the 1880s.

* The first land in the district was selected in 1884.

* The first pub was built in 1888. There is a local myth that J.W. Gardner, who built the Ditchley Park Hotel, reputedly constructed the 14-room building using the timber from a single giant mountain ash.

* Through the 1890s Beech Forest became a major timber centre. At one time there were reputedly 29 timber mills in the district.

* In 1902 a narrow gauge railway from Colac reached the town.

* In 1911 the Beech Forest railway was extended to Crowes. At the time it was the longest narrow gauge railway in Victoria. The railway provided transport for local timber and huge stands of beech myrtle, blackwood and Mountain ash were cut down.

* After World War I the town became a major centre for potato production.

* In 1919 a bushfire destroyed the town. It was rebuilt to the east of the original site.

* The railway through Beech Forest closed in 1962.

* Today it is surrounded by pine plantations which sustain the local timber industry.

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Visitor Information

There is an information bay in the town on the main road. The nearest Visitor Information Centres are at Apollo Bay - Great Ocean Road Visitor Information Centre, 100 Great Ocean Road, tel: 1300 689 297 and Colac - corner of Murray and Queen Streets, tel: 1300 689 297.

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Useful Websites

The Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism have good information on Beech Forest. Check out http://www.visitgreatoceanroad.org.au/beech-forest.

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