Victoria's top five landscape locations

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Since relocating to Victoria a little over two years ago, I’ve had the privilege of exploring and photographing its diverse range of landscapes. From world-famous coastal landmarks to snow-capped peaks (not to mention the enchanted forests in between) Victoria has it covered for landscape photographers.

Here are my top five Victorian landscapes locations to photograph, along with my tips to capture them in their best light. Enjoy.

View of the 12 Apostles from the main lookout
View of the 12 Apostles from the main lookout

The 12 apostles

This stretch of coast is a world-class destination for a reason. It’s simply stunning.

While the number of Apostles has fallen to seven, that does little to diminish the coast’s natural beauty. The walk from the main Visitor Facility offers the best vantage points to see and capture the sea stacks—it’s almost impossible to walk away without a postcard-perfect image or two. If you’re looking to set up a tripod on sunrise/sunset, be sure to arrive early as the main vantage points on the headland fill up fast.

Experiment shooting both into and with the light of sunrise/sunset. And don’t leave your ND filter at home, as the motion in the ocean makes for dreamy long exposures.

A sea cave looking out towards Gibsons Steps
A sea cave looking out towards Gibson Steps

Should you have the time to explore a little further, you’ll be able to experience the stacks up close and personal from Gibson’s Steps. Take the 86 stairs straight down the cliff face to emerge on the beach where you’ll be able to walk amongst two of the Apostles.

The best light here falls in the evening as the sun sets behind the stacks. Try positioning the sun partly obscured by the stacks to create a sunstar flooding in to the image.

Great Otway National Park

While you’re out exploring the 12 Apostles and the Great Ocean Road, take a short detour inland to the majestic Great Otway National Park (The Otways). Here you’ll find ancient beech trees, lush ferns and an abundance of waterfalls.

Hopetoun Falls frozen in time
Hopetoun Falls frozen in time

While the 12 Apostles are at their most dramatic on sunny to partly-cloudy days, the forest is best photographed under cloudy skies. The soft light helps to even out high contrast areas between direct sun and shadow.

The forest is also a great location to bring a polarizing filter to reduce glare and increase saturation in the flora.

My two favourite waterfalls in The Otways are Hopetoun Falls and Beauchamp Falls. They both require moderate fitness to access and are handily located within a 10 minute drive of each other.

After reaching the falls, take time to explore the surrounds and try framing the falls with ferns or use running water to act as a leading line up to the centre attraction. Keep an eye on the weather as the waterfalls are at their peak after recent rain.

Even if the falls aren’t fully flowing, consider looking for intimate forest scenes instead. Capture details in the ferns or visit The Californian Redwoods (near Hopetoun Falls)—a stunning location to bring a picnic and explore through. 

Grampians National Park

In the west of the state you'll find Grampians National Park. These jagged sandstone peaks, forged millions of years ago, form an inverted U shape, with the eastern peaks steep and craggy.

The key to photographing the Grampians is to gain elevation. 

A stunning sunset towards Reeds Lookout
A stunning sunset towards Reeds Lookout

My favourite walk in Grampians National Park is the Mt Abrupt summit. It’s not for the faint of heart, with steep uneven stretches. But what a view from the top. And for those feeling particularly adventurous, make the hike before sunrise. I can share from personal experience that it’s a view that’ll stay with you for life.

Sunrise atop Mt Abrupt
Sunrise atop Mt Abrupt

The classic Instagram shot of the Grampians is of the Balconies—two stone ledges reaching out over the valley below. While it makes for a striking view, be sure to respect the fence line—both for your safety and for other photographers.

Just west of the Balconies is Reed’ Lookout which offers one of the few easily accessible sunset views (most of the dramatic views face east for sunrise). Take time to explore the area to include compelling foreground elements. 

Phillip Island

More known for its penguins and its Grand Prix Circuit, Cape Woolamai in the island’s south east hosts a coastline that is world-class for landscape photographers. 

Long exposure from a less photographed view of The Pinnacles
Long exposure from a less photographed view of The Pinnacles

A 40 minute walk from the car park at Woolamai Surf Beach, the sea stacks known as The Pinnacles are quite simply, out of this world.

Best viewed at sunset from spring to autumn (in winter the sun sets north of the main rock formation), experiment with a mix of long exposures and (shorter) long exposures—about 1/10 seconds to retain some motion in the water.

Also try getting close to the boulders and crashing waves as possible, but pay attention to the incoming swell to avoid a soaking. Trust me, it’s a long walk back to the car park with drenched boots and jeans.

Yarra ranges

Be sure to complete the walk around Cape Woolamai and explore the rugged coast line. Just be mindful where you step as thousands of native birds nest amongst the vegetation, as well as echidnas and wallabies who call the headland home.

Black Spur Drive on a foggy morning
Black Spur Drive on a foggy morning

Just an hour’s drive east of Melbourne, the Yarra Ranges is home to a majestic stretch of native forest. Full of towering ash trees and giant tree ferns, the area makes for a scenic Sunday drive and a picturesque location to photograph too.

East of Healesville lies the Black Spur Drive. I’d recommend visiting early in the morning as the road can become quite busy later in the day. And be careful where you stop to take photos.

There are only a limited number of parking bays and all are located on the side heading west back towards Healesville.

If you haven’t been before, I’d advise to first complete the drive west to east, then turn around and take your time on the return leg to photograph. Safety first, photo second.

If you’re looking to make a full day of the trip, after driving east along Black Spur Drive towards Narbethong, take the rougher C507 road south towards Warburton.It’s just as scenic in places as the main Black Spur—but offers more opportunities to pull over with much less traffic.

Before arriving at Warburton, make a pit stop at the Rainforest Gallery and walk amongst the lush forest and burbling stream.

After stopping for a bite to eat in Warburton, make time to detour via the giant Californian Redwoods in East Warburton and walk amongst the towering trees planted in the 1930s.

Warburton Californian Redwood Plantation from above
Warburton Californian Redwood Plantation from above

That’s but just a selection of Victoria’s impressive landscapes. With snow-capped peaks in the north west, to even more stunning coastlines at Wilsons Promontory, the state offers a bounty of additional locations for photographers to explore and capture. Go on, get out there!

About the author: Mitch Green is an Australian landscape photographer. He can be found via his website, through Instagram, or down by the beach at 5am waiting for sunrise.

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