Plenty Gorge Park offers a wide diversity of natural and cultural experiences only 20 km from the Melbourne CBD. The spectacular gorge sets a back drop for stunning landscape views and the abundant native wildlife are always on show. With a wide range of cultural, historic, recreational and natural features, there is something for everyone.
Things to Do
Explore the scenic surrounds of the Plenty River and the spectacular gorge whilst enjoying camping, walking, bird and wildlife watching and much more.
Take a look back in time at the historic Hawkstowe Picnic Area. Be impressed by the brick and bluestone Le Page homestead, barn and stables. Take a walk around the picturesque lakes. Sit on the jetty and discover the abundant wildlife. Maybe the friendly kangaroos will come and visit you.
The Red Gum Picnic Area playground is the perfect place for children to play safely.
The wide open spaces of Yarrambat and Middle Gorge picnic areas are perfect for kicking a football, having a game of cricket or flying a kite.
At Middle Gorge Picnic Area the viewing platform in the carpark has spectacular views of the gorge and river. Paint a picture, take a photograph or simply enjoy watching the world go by in this peaceful setting. There is a walking track around the peninsula where you can enjoy the natural bush surroundings of the gorge and the flow of the river.
Yellow Gum Recreation Area offers spectacular views of the Plenty River and the surrounding park. Enjoy bird and wildlife watching, bushwalking, picnicking and barbecuing in natural surrounds. Try your luck at fishing in Blue Lake. Ensure you bring your own bait and have a current Victorian Amateur Fishing Licence. Enjoy the panoramic views of Plenty Gorge Park from the lookout situated 50m above Blue Lake.
Yarrambat, Hawkstowe and Yellow Gum picnic areas all have toilets, electric barbecues and picnic shelters.
Middle Gorge Picnic Area visitor facilities include: carparking, viewing platforms and walking tracks, toilets and other picnic facilities are located on adjacent council parkland along the Plenty River.
Red Gum Picnic Area has a modern childrens playground, and toilet facilities with parenting amenities and access for people with limited mobility.
Nioka Bush Camp
Nioka Bush Camp offers groups many opportunities for nature based recreation in a natural setting. The site offers a feeling of remoteness just 20km to the north of Melbourne. Facilities provided include toilets, hot showers, non-powered campsites, bunkhouse accommodation, water, campfire ring (byo firewood), barbecues, hall with wood heater and kitchen. Access to the camp is off Gordons Road via Plenty Road in South Morang. (Melways map 183 J8)
Camping at Nioka Bush camp is by prior booking only. You can book online or call on 13 1963.
The basalt plains and Plenty Gorge were formed in geologically recent times - between about 10,000 and 2 million years ago. Volcanic activity to the north and north-west of the Plenty River reshaped the river's course. Aboriginal people were attracted to this area because of the thinly timbered landscapes and permanent water source. These qualities also attracted European pastoral settlers in the 1830s.
Sheep and cattle grazing were the main agricultural practices in the region. In the 1850s and 1860s 'gold fever' struck the Plenty region. However, it was not the discovery of gold itself which was important to the region but the increased demand for meat and agriculture products throughout Victoria. During the 1980's the Victorian state government decided there was a need to protect the natural and heritage features of Plenty Gorge for future generations, whilst also providing important public open space areas with varied recreational opportunities.
Plenty Gorge Park has become an oasis for many native fauna species. Kangaroos, Echidnas, and a variety of Skinks and Snakes are frequently seen in the Park. Many frog species frequent the low lying areas of the park including the endangered Growling Grass Frog. At night, Possums, Bats and Owls are a common sight. The lakes and wetlands provide habitat for a number of different bird species. Wood ducks, Grebes, Swans, Black Fronted Plovers and even Japanese Snipe can be sighted from time to time. Perhaps one of the most spectacular species to be seen soaring over the Park are the huge Wedge-tailed Eagles.
Within the park the Plenty River is the dividing line between two distinct geological types, the western side is basalt and the eastern side is sedimentary rock. This provides Plenty Gorge Park with a wonderful diversity of vegetation communities and habitats, and it is recognised as being one of Greater Melbourne's most important refuges for both threatened and regionally significant species.
Looking After the Park
Leave the park as you find it
All areas have a 'carry in, carry out' rubbish policy. Please take all rubbish with you.
Do not light fires in the park at any time.
Where dogs are permitted in the park they must be restrained on a leash at all times. In the interests of public health you are required to clean up after your dog.
All native plants and animals are protected. Dead trees and branches provide homes for wildlife, please do not remove them.
Camping is only permitted at Nioka Bush Camp, Booking and Fees apply.
During warmer weather snakes can be seen in the park. This is their natural environment and they should be left alone.
Parks Victoria does not recommend swimming, jumping or diving into Blue Lake as the water is cold and deep and may have submerged objects.
In the interests of public safety, on days of Total Fire Ban, Yellow Gum Recreation Area is closed to visitors.
How to Get There
Plenty Gorge Park is approximately 20km north of Melbourne in South Morang . To get to the park office and Hawkstowe and Red Gum picnic areas, turn off Plenty Road into Gordons Road. The park entrance is 100 metres on the left.
Free except for camping.
Access for Dogs:
No dogs or cats are allowed in the park.
There are two picnic areas in the park. Red Gum picnic area is currently closed due to the construction of the Mernda Railway. The other picnic area, Hawkestone Picnic Area, is accessible from Gordon's Road.
Near the car park there is an open grassy area with two shelters with tables, unshaded tables, BBQs and some shaded tables under trees. There are three nice walks from this point.
Escarpment Walk on a well formed track (1.4 km / 30 mins)
Morang Wetlands on a well formed track (one way 1.3 km / 30 min)
Wonga Circuit Walk on a formed track with some obstacles (2.4 km / 1 hr)
There are a few water taps scattered about and neither wood nor BYO BBQs are allowed.
Some interesting areas include the restored LePage orchard with an old water tank wagon, a Potager garden, a pond surrounded by reeds where swimming is not allowed and the LePage Homestead.
The term "Potager" is used to describe a vegetable garden that has been planted to be pretty as well as productive. Potager gardens combine flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables in a quaint continental style garden bed, therefore, being decorative as well as providing an important source of food for the home kitchen.
A potager garden can be very simple or very complex - a plain square or a complex tapestry of geometric shapes. The origins of such gardens go back to the Middle Ages. Illuminated manuscripts of the period show the abbey monks using the vegetables and flowers at hand to create patterned gardens. At the corner of each plot was planted a standard rose to symbolise the monks who tended the gardens.
The Mill Park Garden Club have created this French style of garden design around the original Le Page Homestead Orchard Garden. The Le Page family planted the mature quince trees within this garden after settling here at Hawkstowe, from the Island of Guernsey, in the 1850's.
There are displays of art by the Plenty Valley Art Society for sale in the homestead. There are toilets at the homestead and care needs to be taken in summer with snakes.
Peter Le Page came to Australia from Guernsey (one of the channel Islands between Britain and France) in 1852. After three years on the Victorian goldfields at Bendigo and Castlemaine, he arrived here in South Morang, establishing a farm and building this homestead. Although its not a mansion, the homestead's attention to detail reflects good architectural practice of the era. The northern front with its repeating French doors is one example of this. The brick and bluestone homestead has been restored since 1986 when the former MMBW bought the property. The Welsh slate roof was reinstated, and concrete rendering removed from the exterior walls, returning the homestead to its former glory.
The homestead's development illustrates the growing prosperity of the farm through the 1850s, 60s and 70s. Important features are the beaded weatherboards. the cellar, the fireplace in the 1850s style kitchen, and the early joinery in the stone cottage.