Have you ever seen something so pristine, so untouched by the hand of humankind that it shines perfection from every perceivable angle? Well this is how we feel when visiting Hopetoun Falls on the Great Ocean Road, tucked away in the Great Otway National Park.
Hidden amongst the backdrop of south western Victoria’s Great Otway national park lies one of Victoria’s greatest waterfalls and our personal favourite to shoot anywhere in Victoria.
With over 40 different waterfalls scattered around it can be hard to pick a few you would like to visit in such a short space of time, but if you only have time for one then we promise you that visiting Hopetoun Falls is all you need.
Related Article >> Plan your trip to Victoria using our locals only guide
Where is Hopetoun Falls?
Hopetoun falls lie within the Great Otway National Park region most easily accessed via Beech Forest Mount Sabine Rd heading south along Binns rd until you arrive at Hopetoun falls rd towards the falls.
(For the rest of the article, it’s a common phrase for Melburnians to refer to this side of town as simply ‘the great ocean road’, despite referring to places like the Otways or the redwoods, it’s the most easily recognisable place this side of Melbourne.)
-57 minutes from Apollo Bay
– One hour and a half from Lorne
– 51 minutes from Colac
– 30 minutes from Lavers Hill
Here’s a google maps link for the Hopetoun Falls carpark
Definitely go chasing this waterfall
Of all the great ocean road waterfalls, Hopetoun certainly lends itself to being the most photogenic and easily captured. A 30 m plunge into the shallow waters below with a stunning foliage cover all around of ferns subtypes, moss growing on rock, fallen tree branches and an impressive rock face make Hopetoun falls a delight to visit.
We spent the most time here photographing, exploring and seeing different angles from where to shoot.
What to bring for a visit
Things get wet any time you get close to waterfalls, and if you love exploring then that means you love getting your hands dirty and your feet soaking. So we would recommend getting your hands on a great pair of waterproof shoes or boots that can stand the constant spray of the falls and the Aire river below.
A waterproof wet weather jacket is a must have item, as are spray pants and some good lens cleaning cloths.
The Aire River
The Aire river is in actual fact the only heritage listed river within the Otways national park, granting it special natural protection from Parks Victoria.
It’s fed by one of the highest rainfall areas of the state, it travels for 35km dropping in altitude around 550m from the beginning of the river feed before making its way into the ocean at Horden Vale.
Visit the Parks Victoria website to check for latest updates and hike closures
Are there many steps to this waterfall?
Once you reach the car park it will take you around 5 minutes to descend the 150-200 steps to the bottom boardwalk viewing platform. Taking your time down the steps will make the journey down longer if you’re keen to admire the fern foliage covering the walk, in which case allow for 10-15 minutes in total. And watch your step – it gets very slippery at times if it’s been raining.
There is a small picnic area located at the car park just before the walk down the stairs.
What should I expect when I arrive at Hopetoun Falls?
At the end of the boardwalk you’ll come to the circular viewing platform that is railed off around it for your protection, and whilst you can achieve great views and amazing photographs from the platform, some really awesome views can be seen from the bottom of the fern gully; but it wont come without a bit of a walk through the mud & water.
The Aire river runs through the middle of the platform and Hopetoun falls straight into it; checking off two of the best stops on the great ocean road.
Other waterfalls on the Great Ocean Road
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention a few of our other favourites hidden in the otway national park and beyond.
Of all the waterfalls in Victoria, Erskine falls is super close to the city as you’re ever going to get!
Just outside of Lorne about 12 minutes from the city centre heading up the hills. Erskine shares its home with a few other epic waterfalls of Lorne if you can manage the 200 steps to get there.
Beauchamp Falls – About 4 km from beech forest only a stone’s throw from Hopetoun, this is one of the longer treks you’ll come across in the Great Otway to reach your waterfall.
The great thing about these waterfalls is dogs are permitted on leash on the track, but once again make sure you bring good wet weather shoes as we saw some people return from their hike covered in mud!
Best waterfalls in Victoria
Sheoak falls – Just 8 minutes from Lorne (map link)
Phantom Falls – 10 minute from Lorne (map link)
Henderson Falls – 12 minutes from Lorne (map link)
Upper Kalimna Falls – 38 minutes from Lorne, and trust me there is no other way than taking the long way via Erskine Falls rd. (map link)
Falls Festival is a great music and arts festival run in Lorne every New years Eve and earlier in Christmas, it also runs in Byron Bay, Fremantle and Marion Bay.
Photographing Hopetoun falls
There are many ways to photograph a waterfall scene, so deciding how you want to shoot should be the first step in the process.
Of all the waterfalls in Victoria, Hopetoun falls is so diverse you could be here for ages investigating the landscape for the perfect shot.
You can be creative and decide to shoot a long exposure image, capturing a silky smooth flowing waterfall, or you can decide to freeze your image with a short shutter speed; both will produce creatively different effects.
We created a whole guide on how to get better as a photographer and tricks to help you on your photography journey you might find interesting.
We happened to shoot both, based on a number of points:
- Motion is great in a waterfall, it can give the viewer a calming vibe when they see the flowing water, and visually its attractive as peoples naked eye can never see waterfalls this way so you invoke different emotions from people
- Freezing motion in a waterfall is another way to emphasise power and magnitude of objects, as you can see in the examples below..
If you decide to shoot long exposure you’re going to need a number of different pieces of equipment that are crucial to long exposure photography.
- Neutral Density filter
Neutral density filters act as sunglasses for your lens, stopping the amount of light hitting the lens and subsequently the sensor, meaning you can open your shutter speed for longer without blowing out your image (highlights ruin the image)
- Sturdy tripod
There’s a big difference between a cheap tripod and a quality tripod. You need your tripod to be able to hold both an adequate amount of weight and stay still and in place for your desired length of time.
Simply put, better quality materials like aluminum and carbon fibre mean a well balanced and sturdy tripod, whereas cheap, flexible and poor quality manufacturing materials mean you’ll probably curse it on the shoot and throw it in the bin when you get home.
- A waterproof, durable camera bag
Keeping your camera gear dry is imperative. There’s a lot of expensive gear in my bag and not all of it is waterproof. I personally use ThinkTank’s Mindshift line of camera bags and never strayed since. My 26L backlight series is my ultimate camera bag, as it has a waterproof rain cover on the front, perfect for setting down on the floor without worrying the contents will get wet.
Secondly, the access compartment is from the rear and the backlight series bags come with a rotational hip strap that allows you to swing the bag to the front without having to place it on the floor.
Wrap up your trip to Hopetoun Falls
The next time you visit the Great Ocean Road, get out to Hopetoun falls and beyond, maybe explore places you’ve not yet seen on this blog, or include them in the comments below if you think we missed a waterfall.
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