Materialising in the haze beyond Melbourne’s Westgate Bridge and steadily growing more prominent on the approach to Geelong, the You Yangs are a bush playground for everyone.
Although the granite peaks only rise to 352m, the You Yangs are the most noticeable feature in the area. The name ‘You Yang’ comes from the Aboriginal words ‘Wurdi Youang’ or ‘Ude Youang’ meaning ‘big mountain in the middle of a plain’. The Wathaurong people had made their home in the area for thousands of years before navigator Matthew Flinders chose the highest peak (which was later named in his honour) to survey the surrounding portion of Victoria’s western volcanic plains in 1802.
The You Yangs Regional Park offers many activities in a versatile environment.
Picnickers can choose from a number of dedicated spots, most with gas barbeques, some with toilets. Kids will love exploring the surrounding bush or clambering over rocks. The grown ups could do the same or might prefer to enjoy their sausages while taking in fantastic views.
After a leisurely lunch there are five walking trails to choose from. Depending on fitness and enthusiasm levels, options include a 5 minute stroll from the carpark to Big Rock. Don’t let the name put you off. Although it’s big, it’s not high and there’s no climbing involved. Or there’s the more challenging hike to Flinders Peak (one hour return). Both efforts are rewarded with spectacular views. On clear days visitors will be able to see from Mt Macedon, to Melbourne, Geelong, the Bellarine Peninsula and the Brisbane Ranges.
Flinders Peak is also a great vantage point for the geoglyph of Bundjil, the wedge tailed eagle. According to Aboriginal dreaming, Bunjil was the creator of the land. This enormous sculpture has a wingspan of 100 metres and is made from local granite boulders.
Wildlife watchers will be kept busy with over 200 species of birds known in the park, as well as populations of koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, lizards and even echidnas making their homes there.
More intrepid visitors might be tempted by a range of mountain bike trails, the orienteering course or a series of rock climbing and abseiling sites. A section of the park has also been set aside for horse riding.
The drought has taken it’s toll here, like many other areas of the state. The undergrowth is dry and grey, and the bush is dotted with silhouettes of dead trees. There’s still plenty of green about though, and if you don’t mind a bit of dust with your great outdoors, the You Yangs has plenty on offer.
The You Yangs Regional Park is 55 kilometres west of Melbourne along the Princes Freeway or 22 kilometres north of Geelong and is clearly signposted. It’s open year round from 8:00am until 4:30pm (until 6:00pm on weekends and public holidays in daylight savings).