Home to a cornucopia of incredible wonders, beyond the tourist traps and well-worn paths, the state of Victoria truly is ‘the place to be’. With a wide variety of terrain from forest covered mountains, to arid deserts, to coastal plains, you’re sure to find the perfect spot to relax and escape the pressures of daily life.
And what better way to get away from it all, to see what lies around the next corner, than exploring one of the many off-road trails Victoria has to offer. Dust off your camping gear… it’s time head out to the country for a 4WD adventure in The Garden State!
Out on the trails, it’s the sense of freedom and discovery that will quickly carve its way into your soul. Leaving the pavement behind and boldly going where most vehicles simply cannot go, affords a true pioneering experience. Enjoy a place without traffic lights or stop signs, and the speed limits are enforced not by cameras but by your own driving skills and how much of a beating your rig can handle. Of course, it’s not all about driving… Take some time to call ‘home’ that never-before-seen campsite you’ve just stumbled upon. Crack a coldie with your friends and howl at the moon, or tell ghost stories with the family around a campfire.
In Victoria you will find trails for all skill levels from novice to expert, in an assortment of different landscapes, each with its own specific challenges. Bunyip and Wombat National parks are great for sliding around and getting muddy… And I do mean MUDDY! The Alpine Region to the northeast of Melbourne is wonderful for longer trips with many river crossings and steep inclines and declines as you traipse across the mountain ranges. This area has stunning views that would almost make you believe that the whole world has turned into a forest! In the northwestern part of the state, you will find sandy trails at Little Desert National Park and gorgeous rock formations surrounded by red dirt in the Grampians National park. Going off-road allows you to travel to remote parts of the state that most people never see. Relish at a unique chance to see wildlife in its natural habitat.
Don’t own a 4WD vehicle? Just visiting Victoria? Not to worry! There are a handful of 4WD tour operators in Victoria that will assist with everything it takes to get you started. Among them I recommend booking a trip with: Mountain Top Experience (03) 5134 6876. www.mountaintopexperience.com . They have their own fleet of Land Rover Defenders for hire, to give you a taste of driving on your own. You can book day-trips or weekends, they will cater to your needs. They offer tag-along tours for folks who have the vehicle, but might not know where to go, and they also offer driver’s training courses for people seeking guidance. They will surely teach you how to read the road, providing an excellent introduction to the sport.
Travelling in the bush, one of the most important things is to be as self-sufficient as possible. Try to anticipate any potential problems and have a solution ready. Things which are vital to bring with you on your journey include:
– Regional Maps: Don’t risk getting lost! You can get maps of ALL off road trails from: Melbourne Map Centre: http://www.melbmap.com.au
– Jerry Cans (20Liter): There are no petrol stations in the outback, so make sure to bring your own!
– Tow straps: Always a good thing to have; they will not take the place of a winch, but can prove extremely helpful in recovering stuck vehicles.
– Hand-held CB radios: Stay in touch with the rest of your group, they can alert you to upcoming dangers or help if you should need assistance.
– Rope: When you’re bouncing around on the trails, so are all of your belongings. Secure everything you can with rope for a safer and quieter ride.
– NO Glass!: Should you decide to bring beverages of any kind, do not bring glass as you might soon find broken glass shards littering the back of your vehicle after an unexpected bump in the road.
– Air Pressure Gauge: A simple and very inexpensive piece of equipment, but will be very helpful when you deflate your tyres to enjoy more gripping ability. Make sure that all 4 tyres have relatively the same air pressure. (Usually between 12-20PSI, depending on the vehicle and terrain)
– Things to remember: Check the weather before you head out. Rivers can rise faster than you think and a sudden change in the weather could become an issue you’d rather not have. When in doubt, do NOT attempt; only drive trails and obstacles that you feel confident with. No one wants to have their vehicle delivered home on the back of a tow truck! When it comes to river crossings, take time to check the depth in several places. Remember that there may be obstacles submerged that you cannot see. A snorkel is very much preferred if you are frequently crossing water.
Whether you have your own vehicle, or are thinking about getting one, a great way to get started in the sport is to network. One thing you will definitely notice is the sense of community with 4WD enthusiasts. I find this aspect of the sport to be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable things about it; a subculture unto itself. These are some of the most helpful sites I have found and regularly use:
– Aussie 4WD: Database of enthusiast groups as well as information regarding tracks and vehicle specific groups.
– AusJeepOffRoad: Networking tool for Jeep and other 4WD enthusiasts. Plan trips, get advice, find parts and deals on all things ‘off road’. This site has EVERYTHING you need to get started.
– Melbourne 4×4 Owners: www.facebook.com/groups/360205937357314/
The owner of this site, Alicia Newman, is very active in the 4WD scene in Victoria, and gives us a few hints for our future trips:
“Make sure before you hit the trails that you go prepared. A good recovery kit and some basic tools are a must to carry. Never hit the trails alone as you may get yourself into a situation that you can’t easily get out of, especially if you don’t have a winch. Neerim/Gembrook areas have a range of trails, from beginner all the way to advanced levels, for you to test out your vehicle’s capabilities and your own driving skills. Get out as often as possible, it’s the best way to learn how your truck drives and also gains you more experience and confidence in all sorts of terrain.”
When you own your own vehicle, it pays to find a shop that specialises in 4WD modification, so you can rest easy with the peace of mind knowing that you and your rig are in capable hands. For Jeep modifications, I highly recommend Double Black Offroad: The ultimate one-stop-shop for Jeep Wrangler JK owners. (17/150 Chesterville Rd, Moorabbin, Victoria, (03) 9553 0744). One of the owners, Bill Barbas, took a minute to discuss some of his own 4WD endeavours with us here at TravelGoss.com
What was your first off-road vehicle?
Bill: I’m embarrassed to say it was a Holden Frontera. It was a disgraceful vehicle… I modified it and modified it, to try to keep up but then it just gave up. Then after that I got a Suzuki Samurai, went crazy with that, became president of the Suzuki club, ended up with one on 34” tyres which was a bit of a weapon! That was good fun!
What are your favourite things about 4WD in VIC?
Bill: Going to places where my mobile phone doesn’t work. Being able to relax, sit around a campfire, and do some good tracks, especially in winter with the mud that we have down here, it can be quite interesting. Labertouche, Warburton, Neerim, Bunyip, Toolangi, the Otway Ranges, the High Country; we don’t need to drive far to have a bit of fun. We’ve got a lot of places within an hour, hour and a half [of Melbourne] which are quite challenging.
Do you have any tips for first-timers?
Bill: Research, research, research… It really pays to start with a solid platform. A lot of people will buy a vehicle with the idea to get into the sport, like I did with the Holden Frontera, thinking I could keep up with Land Cruisers and Patrols and clearly I couldn’t unless I sold my house to modify the thing. That’s why the Jeep JK is such a good vehicle to start with. It’s the perfect foundation to build your rig on. The JK is so easy to modify, and easy to put big tyres on without a lot of work to make them capable. Even the short wheelbase, a 2” lift and 33” tyres in the right hands, is an absolute weapon. We have some customers’ vehicles that are modified to the hills, but if the driver doesn’t know what they’re doing, it won’t make a bit of difference. We’ve been on some trips with some stock Jeeps and it just amazes me how far they go. www.doubleblackoffroad.com/main.php www.facebook.com/doubleblackoffroad
Exploring the wild lands of Victoria requires no more than a healthy sense of curiosity and adventure! Fun for all ages, 4WD opens the world up and allows us to travel beyond our modern civilization and society to a place where nature is still the dominant force. It helps strengthen our problem solving and navigational skills, makes us more aware of our surroundings, while providing a new social platform for us to network with other like-minded individuals. Now you have a great excuse to go somewhere new, to see what’s hidden in your own backyard in this amazing and diverse state. Take the drivers wheel and become the master of your own expedition!
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