Mount Eccles National Park

Mount Eccles National Park, 6120 ha in size, stands at the western edge of the volcanic plains that stretch from Melbourne to Port Fairy, extending northwards to Hamilton and Ararat. Beginning about 20,000 years ago, volcanic eruptions opened the earth's crust and poured out thousands of tonnes of molten lava, forming Mount Eccles and the surrounding landscape. Today, the three main craters hold a 700 metre long lake known as Lake Surprise, which is fed by underground springs. The once red-hot lava has been covered with the lush green of heathland and Manna Gum forest. Geological features to be seen are extensive lava flows, lava caves, scoria cones and crater lakes.

 

Things to Do

 

Walk around the rim then descend into the crater and follow the shoreline of the lake. Take the rough track along the lava canal and see the broken basalt of the old lava flows.

 

Explore the inside of a lava cave.

 

Swim in the crater of a volcano.

 

Listen to the wildlife; try to spot a koala.

 

Visit the Byaduk Caves, one of the most extensive and accessible sets of lava caves in Australia. Only one cave is open to the public - contact the ranger to arrange access.

 

Climb Mount Napier (a true volcanic cone) in nearby Mount Napier State Park. Here you can stand on the edge of the most recently active volcano in Victoria and enjoy magnificent views from the Grampians to the sea.

 

Facilities

 

The picnic ground at Mount Eccles National Park has fireplaces, tables, toilets, a picnic shelter and an Information Centre.

 

Camping grounds have basic facilities including fireplaces, tables, hot showers and toilets.

 

Camping sites for larger groups and one for people with disabilities are also provided. Booking is required during holiday periods; camping fees apply.

 

Heritage

 

Volcanic eruptions in the area began about 20,000 years ago and continued for the next 12,000 years, the last eruption occurring 8,000 years ago.

 

Aboriginal tribes resided in two areas around Mount Eccles - one area south of the park at Lake Gorrie, the second at Lake Condah, west of the Park. They constructed stone huts in both areas and stone fish traps at Lake Condah, and lived on fish, native plants and animals. They were permanent residents in these areas until European settlement slowly pushed them out.

 

Mount Eccles was declared a public purposes (picnic) reserve in 1926. The 35 ha were managed by a committee of local people who built the existing picnic shelter and the track down to and around the edge of Lake Surprise. After World War 2, management was taken over by the Shire of Minhamite until 1960 when the park was declared a National Park. In 1968, 400 ha were added by incorporating part of the Stones Flora and Faunal Reserve west of the mount. When the remainder of the Reserve was added in 1985, Mount Eccles National Park increased to 6120 ha, its present size, which covers the majority of the lava flow from Mount Eccles.

 

Fauna

 

Koalas, Sugar and Yellow-bellied Gliders, Possums, Eastern Grey Kangaroos, Quolls, Brush-tailed Phascogales, Dusky and Swamp Antechinus can be seen in the park. The 68 species of birds recorded include Grey Thrush, Peregrine Falcon, parrots, wrens, ducks, and coots.

 

Vegetation

 

Manna Gum, Blackwood and Austral Bracken are the most predominant species. There are also Cherry Balart Trees, Everlasting Poa Grass, Native Elderberry, Kangaroo Apple and Correas.

 

Looking After the Park

 

All plants, animals and geological features are protected.

 

No firearms, dogs and other pets.

 

Fires are only to be lit in fireplaces provided.

 

Take your rubbish with you.

 

Precautions

 

When walking in the area, strong footwear is recommended.

 

How to Get There

 

Mount Eccles National Park is 300 km south-west of Melbourne, 45 km south of Hamilton . At Hamilton, take the Hamilton-Port Fairy Road and turn off at Macarthur. It can also be reached via the Princes Highway, turning off at Port Fairy and Macarthur.

 

Facilities at Mount Eccles National Park were upgraded in the early-mid 1980s to provide access. However, many of the facilities and tracks now fail to meet access standards. The upper picnic area and camping area have relatively accessible facilities and offer views of the crater lake. Walking tracks down to the crater are very steep. The track to the lower crater has steps.

 

Nearby Parks

 

Grampians National Park

 

Lower Glenelg National Park

 

Mount Napier State Park

 

Mount Richmond National Park

 

Guided Activities

 

1. Abseiling
2. Bushwalking
3. Canoeing / Kayaking
4. Caving
5. Coach/Bus Tours
6. Four Wheel Drive Tours
7. Mountain Bike Riding
8. Rafting
9. Rock Climbing
10. Ski Touring

 

 

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