Australia Day is a perfect day to get away for a short trip; and what better way to relax and celebrate, than by camping by a river.
We left the eastern suburbs at 6:00am and headed down Maroondah Highway through Ringwood and Lilydale, before turning off onto the Warburton Highway toward Seville. It was an easy drive along relatively quiet highways until Yarra Junction, where the scenery changed as we made our way along Yarra Junction – Noojee Road. Google Maps guided us all the way through Noojee to the campsite, which was well signed and easily accessible by car or caravan.
We arrived at 7:45am to find that the main campsite – a large, open clearing set 20m – 30m back from the river and surrounded by mature Mountain Ash and Blackwood wattles – had already proved quite popular, with two dozen tents and caravans already set up from the night before. We were surprised to find that no one had chosen to set up camp next to the river, so we happily picked the best of four sites and set up our tent.
In keeping with our previous short camping trips, we decided against bringing food with us; opting instead to support the local community by exploring the local shops, cafes and pubs.
With the tent set up, we hopped back into the Hilux and headed to the Noojee General Store for breakfast. The owners were very welcoming and breakfast – bacon and eggs on toast – was lovely. Unfortunately all of the newspapers had sold out by 8:30am and phone reception was essentially non-existent, so we’d recommend dropping in early if you plan on keeping up to date on the news.
After breakfast, we made our way back to the campsite and prepared for a morning of bush walking. The forecast was for a warm day and we were expecting a few flies and bugs to be about, so we applied ‘some’ Bushman Heavy Duty Insect Repellent; which we later realised was completely unnecessary. The river and waterfalls are surrounded by a lush, wet sclerophyll forest, which is extremely well shaded, cool and almost completely free flies and bugs that might annoy you while bush walking.
We set off from our campsite, along the road that led us to a secondary campsite that was less shaded but better suited for caravans and large, multi-person tents. We found a formed track at the end of the campsite that ran along the river and took us to the start of the Toorongo Falls and Amphitheatre Falls loop. The track was well formed, with relatively few steep sections and plenty of great places to stop and take photos. There were quite a few tour groups and bush walkers on the track, but they were barely audible over the sounds of the river and local wildlife. While the walk and views of the Toorongo Falls were certainly nice, the walk to the Amphitheatre Falls – and views once we were there – were even better. We spent half an hour or so just sitting on a fallen tree trunk at the top of the water fall, enjoying the sound of the falling water and spectacular views to the river below. It was definitely a morning well spent and a track that is worth revisiting.
We relaxed in the tent for an hour until lunch, where we headed to the Outpost Restaurant and Toolshed Bar. We ordered a traditional parma and a homemade lamb and rosemary pie; both of which were excellent and well priced. The staff were lovely, the cider was cold and we couldn’t help but relax as we enjoyed our lunch surrounded by gorgeous gardens and forest. After lunch, we did the only thing we had energy left to do – relax! We spent some time reading before taking a dip in the river, which was quite nice after we got over the initial shock of the genuinely cold water. The rest of the afternoon was spent listening to the river and reading while relaxing in the tent.
As the sun started to fall, we headed back into Noojee for dinner at the Noojee Hotel. We sat outside on the balcony that overlooks the river and ordered another two parmas. Two parmas in a day might be considered too many for some people, but that’s how I tend to judge the quality of a pub or casual restaurant. If they can’t get a traditional parma right, what chance do they have with twice-cooked pork belly or pan-seared barramundi? We weren’t disappointed, as the food and service matched the picturesque view and capped off an amazing day. We made our way back to our tent in time to enjoy the sunset, after which we climbed into our sleeping bags and continued to read. While not overly useful for building fences, the Makita 18V cordless torch does come in handy for reading by torchlight. At 10:00pm we turned the torches off, made ourselves comfortable and fell asleep to the sound of the gently flowing river.
The next morning we woke to the sunrise and sounds of birds chirping. In no great rush, we packed up the tent and headed back home, deciding to stop at the Noojee Trestle Bridge on the way to walk part of the rail trail. The bridge itself is an impressive structure, with information boards at the base of the bridge providing an interesting overview of the bridges construction and history.
The Toorongo Falls Campsite is a great place to get away for a weekend. The campsite and surrounding forest is well worth the hour and a half drive, and the neighbouring towns offer quality restaurants and cafes to choose from if you decide not to bring any food. We’ll certainly be returning to camp by the river at some stage this year.
The Toorongo Falls Campsite: http://www.findacamp.com.au/camp-site.php?camp=112
The Noojee General Store: https://www.google.com.au/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=noojee+general+store
The Outpost Restaurant and Toolshed Bar: http://www.theoutpostretreat.com/index.html
The Noojee Hotel: http://www.noojeehotel.com.au/