The Otways Redwoods
The Redwoods is one of those mystical places in the Otways that is very hard to find, but very special when you get there. It is a quiet grove of huge Californian Redwoods, planted way back in 1936, deep in the Otways.
It is suddenly dark after the sunlight of the picnic area and you step into a very private place. Huge trees tower above and you walk in muffled silence on the fallen needles. A clear Otway creek runs quietly on its border.
It is very Zen, and an appropriate place to visit from Sea Zen, a forest counterpoint to the sound of the sea. Awe inspiring. A perfect place to come and contemplate. A place to think about nature.
The vertical lines of these 60 m high giants draw your eyes upwards
Why are they here?
It was a difficult start in more ways than one. In the 1930s, forresters experimented with different species in the Otways to see which trees would grow best. The Redwoods were one of a dozen types planted, much of it planted in the remnants of abandoned Otways farms. Much of the plantings were done as ‘sustenance’ work for unemployed men in the depression years.
Many of the early redwoods did not do well, victims to hot winds on the ridges or just too slowly growing early on to be commercially viable. The winner as the most commercial tree was Pinus Radiata, now grown all over SE Australia.
Yet somehow, this small stand of just 220 trees in a hectare survived into what you will learn to be of national and international significance.
The trees are fed from the adjacent Aire River, and valley fogs keep their upper branches moist all year round. They are growing at an astonishing rate compared to other trees.
Trees nurtured by Aire River
Local Author Roger Smith* noticed the rapid growth of the Otways Redwoods of around 0.9 metres per year and found that they are growing much faster than the same species in their native north America, or other vigorous plantations in New Zealand.
They have the potential to be one day the tallest trees in the world.
How tall do Redwoods grow?
The current tallest tree in the world is a Redwood in California, called ‘Hyperion’ at 115.5 metres, and about 600 years old.
Roger Smith surmises that if the Aire Valley redwoods survive fires and vandalism, they could be higher in around 2084!
Around then there would be a lot of people wanting to come and look at the highest tree. Will they get that big? It will be a long wait to find out!
What are the tallest trees ever?
We had them but we cut them down! Mountain Ash (E. Regnans) in Victoria.
The ‘Thorpdale’ tree in Victoria was 114 m before it was cut down in 1881 for fence palings. A monster 132m long ‘Ferguson’ tree was found fallen in 1872 near Healesville. Currently there is a 100m high Mountain Ash ‘Centurion’ tree in Tasmania.
Enjoy the Redwoods now
There is a small carpark, some picnic tables and a grassy spot for a picnic, and a basic toilet nearby. A path leads from the carpark to th forest grove.
On the day we were there in March, a mob of yellow Tail Cockatoos were flying up the valley calling to each other. In a few minutes they were gone and it was silent under the huge trees.
It is amazing to just look up into the branches
Some enterprising folks recently climbed all the way to the top and took some pics
There are no road signs and just a few faint traces on the usual maps. It is probably best left that way, so you are not mobbed by tourist buses and masses of people.
However for our readers and guests, this how you get there:
Take the Great Ocean Road from Apollo Bay towards the 12 Apostles, at 13.5 km from the Apollo Bay Visitors Centre, there is a large green sign to Beech Forest on the right,this is Binns Road, but unlabelled.
Take this gravel road about 15 km towards Beech forest and you will come to the Aire Valley crossing and The Redwoods.
The road was in good condition when we visited in 2018, winding though rainforest with Mountain Ash.
*The Redwoods book
Roger Smith, The Redwoods of the Otway Ranges. 2015.
We bought the book! A fabulous history of the Aire Valley Redwoods and fascinating insights into the trees and the foresters who planted them, well done Roger. Purchase here.
You too can enjoy the Redwoods!
This post is brought to you by Sea Zen.