Tarra Bulga National Park is one of the only places you will find a cool temperature rainforest in Victoria. A popular tourist destination for hikers and nature enthusiasts, there’s a number of walks and waterfalls (of the very small Australian variety) to explore. For yours truly however, the draw card was undoubtedly Corrigan’s Suspension Bridge.
Pre-dawn and second guessing my decision to agree to such an early wake up call, I layer up in everything from thermals to maroon striped leg warmers with just one thought on my mind. Suspension Bridge. Well, that, and coffee. But caffeine will have to wait. This city girl has more important fish to fry at 5am on a 3 degree morning.
I’ve been promised a suspension bridge this morning, and these childhood goals don't come along all too often. It might seem like a silly thing to put on a pedestal, but just like country kids would go bananas for escalators in shopping centres when their folks would bring them to the ‘big smoke’ for the weekend, us city kids would go equally bananas for those moments that made us feel like we were Indiana Jones about to bust some hero movesin the Temple of Doom. And suspension bridges are about as good as it gets. Never mind I'm now mid 20s. I’m excited and ready to wander into the great unknown, aka, Tarra Bulga National Park.
Location and Accomodation
Situated in the South Gippsland area of Victoria, this hidden forest - that houses my glorious suspension bridge - is just a 25 minute drive from the town of Traralgon. For those of us that aren't locals, Traralgon is a rather large Coal mining town that’s been growing consistently over the past couple decades, and the Gippsland area is about a 2 hour freeway drive east of Melbourne.
Turning off the highway at Traralgonand heading south into the Strzelecki Ranges, this landscape changes quickly. Industrial farms and long stretching fields give way to winding roads through rainforest one moment and panoramic views of the mountains that surround the next.
In terms of accommodation, Traralgon isn't your most picturesque location to find a sweet little bed and breakfast, nor are any of its neighbourhood towns along that freeway stretch. If you're happy with roughing it and reliable hot water and successful soundproofing aren't your priority, then there’s plenty of motels along the way. The plus side of these small-town $100 a night accommodations - bottle shops and cheap wine will be in close proximity. However this won’tbe helpful the next day at 5am. But hey, we’re all adults here. I leave the choice up to you.
A more luxurious accommodation option lies 40 minutes to the North, at Tom Cat Winery. Here, they boast “tranquillity and comfort of country life in absolute luxury”. And from their list of amenities, that sounds spot on. Wood fires, air-conditioning, indoor spa, king size beds and a Vineyard outlook. That, plus beautiful wood floors, custom designed interior living areas and bed linen I'm sure you'd struggle to top even at Sheridan, I reckon you’ll be well satisfied. I’ll comfortably state that this would be my pick had I had $240+ to spare per night.
Now, back to the Rainforest.
When To Go
Exploring this area on a chilly winter morning was simply magical - rainy, misty and lush with green, Tarra Bulga did not disappoint.
While summer may make for lovely hiking weather, I found that my sunless morning had me gloriously lost in the misty trails, so much that I almost forgot I was indeed still in Australia. Visit in winter for gloriously soft light below the tree canopy and a trail that is quiet and contemplative. If hiking is your jam, then pick a warm summer’s day and enjoy an experience that I imagine will be an entirely different world from the pictures you see here.
The ‘hike’ around the suspension bridge (loop from the car park and over the bridge) is really more a short stroll. You can park right next to the Bulga Picnic Shelters which place you less than 1km from the valley lookout and the bridge below, both of which offer amazing views of the lush fern gully and forest floor. If you have no problems walking around your local park and can successfully climb up a welcome step three times over, then you’re ready for this section of Tarra Bulga. The ground can get wet and muddy so don’t be wearing your fresh white trainers, but no need to go purchase a hiking boot for this one. Mosquitos can also be an issue in these damp conditions so be prepared for all those usual outdoor pesky realities.
All that said, there are actual hikes for those so inclined! Heading for the suspension bridge, you can alternatively park and trek from the Visitors Centre, and enjoy 2.4 kilometre return hike through the rainforest. Also worth a look is the Lyrebird Ridge Track (2.4 kilometres) that will lead you through beautiful forests with century old trees, or the Forest Track (4.4 kilometres) for the more serious hikers.