Lower Glenelg National Park

Lower Glenelg National Park, S & Ciantar C Wilby / Auscape International
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Introduction

The tranquil waters of the Glenelg River provide fantastic canoeing conditions, and there are bushwalking trails and many peaceful picnic spots in this park in the state’s far south-west. The Glenelg River has carved an awesome gorge up to 50 metres deep and time and the elements have created galleries of crystalline caves, with one of the most fascinating open to the public.

Fact file

Access

From Melbourne via Princes Hwy to Winnap or Dartmoor; from south via Portland–Nelson Rd

Best season

Spring and autumn

Location

450 km south-west of Melbourne; 15 km south of Dartmoor and Winnap; 2 km north of Nelson

Park information

  • PV 13 1963
  • PV Portland (08) 8738 4051
  • Princess Margaret Rose Cave Visitor Centre (08) 8738 4171

Permits

Permit required for overnight camping; contact Nelson Visitor Centre (08) 8738 4051

Size

27 300 ha

Visitor information

Nelson (08) 8738 4051

Featured Activities in the National Park

  • Canoe along the placid waters of the Glenelg River

    Toss in a line – this is one of the state’s favourite fishing spots

    Explore the bizarre yet amazing limestone formations of Princess Margaret Rose Cave

A look at the past

Although there was some pastoral settlement in this region and pine plantations started here in the 1940s, the area has remained sparsely populated.

Aboriginal culture

These are the traditional lands of the Gunditjmara and Buandig people, who inhabited this region for thousands of years. They were the first groups in the state to suffer the effects of white settlement when the Hentys arrived in 1834. Today, their descendants are involved in park management.

Wildlife

Eastern grey kangaroos and red-necked wallabies graze here and there are koalas in the bushland, while the elusive platypus burrows into the riverbanks but is rarely sighted. At night brushtail possums, wombats and yellow-bellied gliders come out to forage for food. The riverine environment ensures good birdwatching – look for the blue flash of azure kingfishers, gangly herons stalking in the shallows and ducks splashing at the water’s edge.

Natural features and native plants

Cliffs, dunes, heaths and woodlands spread across the area, but the park’s defining features are the Glenelg River Gorge and its limestone caves. Most of the land is eucalypt bushland, but there is a wide range of native plants (700 or so species), and the Lower Glenelg is notable for its east-meets-west varieties. The area around Moleside Creek is the most westerly location in Australia for tree ferns and at the same time the park is the most easterly habitat for some Western Australian plants. Over 50 species of native orchids flower in the heath and fringing forest.

Introduction

Canoeing, fishing, walking, boating and exploring the unique cave are popular pursuits. There are some enjoyable scenic drives, ample opportunities for wildlife-watching and, if you feel like swimming, the estuary is a good location, but beware of snags. Check with Parks Victoria about tours.

Bushwalking

A network of walking trails crosses the park, and part of the Great South West Walk (250 km), a circular track from Portland, passes through then returns back along the coast to Portland. It is possible to do sections of the walk as there are a number of access points (register with PV office if undertaking long sections of the walk).

Canoeing

The Glenelg River has its headwaters in the Grampians and weaves its way for more than 400 kilometres to the Southern Ocean. In this park it offers a safe course for canoe trips with 60 kilometres of river winding through the park, no fast currents or rapids, and ten special canoe camps to cater for extended trips. Canoes can be hired from local operators or you can bring your own.

Cave tours

Cruise to the Princess Margaret Rose Cave from Nelson then descend 82 steps for a guided tour of this remarkable cave with its dripping stalactites and stalagmites. There is a pleasant picnic area and short walks around this part of the park.

Fishing

The saltwater Glenelg River estuary offers some terrific fishing, with estuary perch, salmon, trout, bream, mullet and mulloway all typical hauls.

Watersports and boating

There are two boat-launching ramps and designated areas and times for powerboating and for waterskiing. Contact Nelson Visitor Centre to check current regulations.

Campsites

Battersbys camping area

Located in the central section of the national park, this is a cosy camping area with only a couple of sites. Just to the south of here are the Bulley Ranges, which afford nice views of the surrounding countryside. The... Find out more


Bowds camping area (canoe-based camping)

Bowds is one of a number of camping areas in the park that are primarily for canoeists making their way down the Glenelg River, although these sites can be made available to powerboat operators at the ranger’s... Find out more


Forest Camp North camping area

The simple name belies the attractive riverside location. This large campground is accessed via a steep vehicle track, for which a 4WD is recommended. From the signposted turning off River Fire Line Track, it’s 200... Find out more


Forest Camp South camping area

This encampment is a good deal smaller than its neighbour directly across the river. The access road leads 200 m off Glenelg Dr – the turn-off is 13 km east of North Nelson Track. Note: bring your own drinking... Find out more


Georges Rest camping area (canoe-based camping)

Georges Rest is only accessible by boat. Located plum in the middle of the national park, it’s used as an overnight camp by canoeists who are working their way along the lower reaches of the Glenelg River.... Find out more


Hutchessons camping area

There’s not much to see at Hutchessons beyond the reed-lined riverbank and the surrounding trees – which is just the way that visitors like it. The turn-off for the 250 m track to the campground is on River... Find out more


Lasletts camping area (canoe-based camping)

Canoeists beach themselves at Lasletts to stage impromptu picnics, or to rest for the night before setting out for Princess Margaret Rose Cave. It’s one of the handful of campsites in Lower Glenelg National Park... Find out more


McLennans Punt camping area

Nestled on the northern shore of the Glenelg River, McLennans Punt has only a couple of sites on offer and is a peaceful spot to erect a tent. The fishing is often very good due to the large numbers of finned creatures... Find out more


Moleside Camp (walk-in camping)

Moleside Camp is 22 km west of Fitzroy Camp and 17 km east of Battersbys Camp. The trail to Moleside crosses into Lower Glenelg National Park, where it passes the Inkpot, a mysteriously black waterhole whose colouring is... Find out more


Pattersons Camp (walk-in camping)

From Battersbys, it’s a hike of 13 km to Pattersons Camp and a further 17 km to Simsons Camp. Along the way the trail passes Sapling Creek, where you can detour onto a nice short nature walk. You can also paddle a... Find out more


Pines Landing camping area

Pines Landing is usually the first overnight stop for the adventurous canoeists who drift down the Glenelg River from Dartmoor on the first leg of their trip through the national park. There’s also vehicle access... Find out more


Princess Margaret Rose Caves camping area

Underground pools, cave coral, shawls and delicate, unpredictable helictites are just some of the memorable sights within Princess Margaret Rose Cave, one of the star attractions of the national park. A number of walking... Find out more


Pritchards camping area

This is one of the few campgrounds in Lower Glenelg National Park that can receive caravans and camper trailers – the best options are the sites numbered 11 to 20. To reach Pritchards, turn north off... Find out more


Red Gum camping area

Drive south for 15 km along Wanwin Rd from Dartmoor and turn onto the road signposted ‘Red Gum’. After 3 km, turn west onto River Fire Line Track and follow it for 2 km to reach the campground’s... Find out more


Skipworth Springs camping area (canoe-based camping)

Trees crowd the shoreline of the Glenelg River at Skipworth Springs. As there’s no vehicle access, the only traffic noise out here comes from the occasional passing motorboat and canoeists taking a break from their... Find out more


Wild Dog Bend camping area

Wild Dog Bend is in the eastern reaches of the national park, where the Glenelg River almost doubles back on itself to head southwards. This is one of the few overnight options in the national park for those towing... Find out more


Wilson Hall camping area

If you’re towing a boat and coming into the national park from Dartmoor, you may want to take advantage of the boat ramp here – there are a limited number of launching places on this side of the river. The... Find out more


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