Just 15 minutes from Werribee heading out West towards Geelong, lies the You Yangs, a National Park, small of size, but with a grand amount to offer.
If you are visiting in the Spring (around Sept), you will get to see the dazzling yellow of the Canola fields on your approach. It is indeed a dramatic sight, and there will likely be people stopping at the side of the freeway with cameras in hand.
It is indeed an Instagrammers place of worship.
And in the summer months, you will be greeted with the equally dramatic ochre and wheat tonings of the Australian landscape.
If you are travelling in the earlier morning, or in the late afternoon, you will also get to drive past mobs of kangaroos grazing. That does mean though, be aware of your driving.
I have yet to have a close encounter with a Kangaroo though, my closest was with a renegade sheep being chased down by the farmer!
Notice the low rock walls also, these were built by the convict road gangs to keep out rabbits (unsuccessful as any rabbit can attest!) and are dotted throughout the west.
Another important stop on your way in is the Servo at Little River. Be sure to step inside for an amazing array of lollies, just like you (or your forbears) would remember of years gone by at the local milk bar. You can also pick up amazing coffee, or a meal such as lasagne, and service with a smile.
We travel as slow as possible, always looking out for wildlife.
Our tradition is to always take the Grand Circle Road, which is an approx 30 minute slow drive circuiting up and around the You Yangs. Be sure to politely share the road with ambitious cyclists, some ploughing up the winding road with finesse, others struggling. There is one small uphill section which is always very potted, and that gives me a chance to use the road hill climb mode on our SUV. I do see sedans doing the road, but it would be a bit more challenging for them on that particular stretch. There are lots of flatter stretches though that suit everyone.
We now tend to regularly see Wallabys, and have been lucky to spot Echidnas and once an Eagle, which soared from resting position on the gravel road, over the car.
I feel like I shouldnt be sharing this drive, as I really want to keep it to myself!! Do look out also for features such as the billabongs, where I imagine, but have yet to see, Australian fauna would be congregating at dawn and dusk.
And if you drive with the windows down you will get to experience the calming sound of the tyres on the gravel, against the background of the noise of the Australian bush birdlife as you wind through the gums.
What I love with the Circle Drive is the changing landscapes you will see in such a short time. Depending on where you are on the Drive, there are differing stands of Eucalypts, and of course the rocky outcrops. It is a chance to see "real" Australia, so close to Melbourne.
There are also plenty of walks if you want to enjoy the outdoors, some very flat, others with a bit more challenge.
Take the turnoff for the Big Rock walk, you can take the quick walk to the Big Rock, or keep going on one of the more extended trails. The Big Rock is pretty special, look out for the pools of water on the rock that once served the indigenous Australians.
Whatever time of day, with a very easy 10 minute walk one can amble the rock, and look out to the western surrounds (note the yellow Canola in the distance in this photo below)
Throughout the park, there are picnic areas with benches, and opportunities to sit back with a thermos of tea/coffee, and at some sites bbqs so that you can get those snags cooking!At sunset, picnicers will get to see amidst the long shadows, the mobs of kangaroos coming in. (not photographed, sadly!)
The Flinders Peak walk takes you up to the summit, a short 30 minute walk, and is well worth it. Dogs can be taken on lead, but make sure they are on lead. On one occasion, we had to assist a walker take her dog to the vet in our car, as he had been off lead and had an unpleasant encounter with a wallaby.
In between the walks, there are roads looping throughout for different perspectives.
And without doubt you will not be able to resist meditating on a rock!
Bring your imagination, your art easel, your camera. It only costs the fuel to get here.
Update Nov 2019 Circle Drive
Due to heavy rainfall, the Circle Drive that I refer to in this piece was closed, and is still awaiting maintenance at the time of writing. The You Yangs themselves are still open for business, but my family are in deep mourning for the Circle Drive, which we would have undertaken on a Sunday morning by tradition, almost every second week over the last 10 years. I do hope that it one day opens again.