Where is the best place to meet Australian native animals? In an extinct volcano crater, obviously! Enter, Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve.

Sitting just twenty minutes from the rural city of Warrnambool, the Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve is the perfect place to get to know some of Australia’s best critters. Established as a national park in 1892, the land remained pretty much untouched until 1961 when an extensive revegetation program began. The land is now filled with lush, mature native plants that have seen more and more native animals returning to the area.

The volcano the park sits in is believed to have last erupted 34,000 years ago. Archaeological findings around the area show that Aboriginal people were living here before the last eruption. Today, the Koroitgundidj people still hold strong connections to the land and the park is managed in partnership with the Worn Gundidj Aboriginal Cooperative.

Following the revitalisation project in the 1960s, native animal populations were successfully established in the 1980s. Some of the animal populations include koala, emu, wallaby, possums and over 160 species of birds. These animals can all still be seen today, grazing and flourishing in their re-established native environments.

Walk through the wetlands and listen out for native birds nesting around the water. Or take a trek across the dormant volcanic crater. Today the park is run by volunteers who will share with you the history of the land and how it was severely exploited by settlers for years.

You can guide yourself through the park looking out for wallaby napping in the sun or choose to join a guided tour hosted by local volunteers. In spring the park comes alive with brightly coloured wildflowers and seasonal reptiles.

A trip to the Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve is a rare opportunity to see native Australian wildlife living freely in their natural habitat. There are more than 200 kangaroos and koalas in a small area, and they can generally be found around the car park and entrance to the park.

The park has had a lot of upgrades since it first opened and there are plenty of boardwalks for you to follow around. Nesting boxes and bird hides have been placed around the park so twitchers are sure to see a great abundance of birdlife. Chestnut teals, musk ducks and spoonbills are common around this area, so bring your binoculars and get ready for a show!

There are four self-guided walks for you to choose from, each taking approximately a half-hour to complete. Choose to follow the flat Wagon Bay Loop to see the birdlife enjoying the Wagon Bay Pond or spot koala and echidna among ancient lava flows on the Lava Tongue Boardwalk. Whichever walk you choose you’re sure to fall in love with the stunning Victorian bush.

The Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve is a great pitstop for anyone travelling down the Great Ocean Road. Get up close and personal with Australia’s incredible native wildlife in their natural habitat while taking the opportunity to stretch your legs after a trip down the winding coastline.

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