What’s special

The Glenelg River flows through the Lower Glenelg National Park, filling a spectacular drowned canyon between limestone cliffs that are 50m high.

Massive and mobile sand dunes and freshwater swamps are found along the Discovery Bay shoreline. Princess Margaret Rose Cave is an extensive limestone cave beside the Glenelg River. At Cape Bridgewater there is an Australian fur seal colony and blowholes.

Best time to visit

Late winter and spring are the best times for wildflowers in the heathlands. Summer is great for camping and canoeing on the Glenelg River and in the lakes, but stay out of the forest during times of total fire ban. Winter and early spring are good for whale watching from the cliff tops at Cape Bridgewater, where you can also see the fur seal colony and blowholes.

What to do

Visit Princess Margaret Rose Cave from a tour boat trip out of Nelson or drive there via Donovans in South Australia.

Car touring throughout the area provides access to many pleasant camping and picnicking sites. Canoeing is popular along the Glenelg River, with options for single and multi-day trips between bush campsites.

There are many short walks in both parks that include both river and coastal scenery. The heathlands are great places for wildflowers during spring. Walk the cliff tops from Bridgewater Bay to Cape Bridgewater to view the fur seals and take in views of the highest coastal cliffs in Victoria. The multi-day Great South West Walk passes through both parks and also the nearby Cobboboonee National Park and Cape Nelson State Park.

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Where

Access is via Portland, 360km southwest of Melbourne and Nelson, 430km southwest of Melbourne or from Mt Gambier in South Australia.

Accommodation

Bush camping is available at designated sites in both Discovery Bay Coastal Park and the Lower Glenelg National Park. There are hotels, motels and camping grounds at the nearby towns of Portland, Nelson, Bridgewater Bay and Mt Gambier (in South Australia).

About the park

Prior to European colonisation, this area was occupied by the Gunditjmara people, providing ample food sources from the sea, forests and heathlands.

The first European to visit the area was Major Thomas Mitchell in 1836. His hopes of a deepwater port were dashed when he reached the mouth of the river he named the Glenelg and found the entrance closed by a sand bar.

Farming attempts were concentrated closer to the coast and on more fertile soils. Most of the native vegetation along Discovery Bay was removed and later replaced by pines, leaving the narrow strip of dunes and wetlands that is now Discovery Bay Coastal Park.

Efforts to protect the Glenelg area began in 1947, spearheaded by the Portland Field Naturalists Club at a time when much of the area was being converted to pine plantations. After its formation in 1952, the Victorian National Parks Association also campaigned for protection of this area. A small park was finally established in 1968 and later expanded to its current extent in 1975.

Natural history

The diversity of habitat and the harsh environment on exposed rocky and sandy areas has contributed to floral diversity – there are 700 plant species recorded in these parks.
Threatened species include the red-tailed black cockatoo, long-nosed potoroo, the southern brown bandicoot and rufous bristlebird, and native orchids that are restricted to small areas in the region.
The Glenelg Ark project started in 2005 to help the recovery of small mammals that may be affected by predation from foxes. While the fox control has been successful in helping the survival of animals such as potoroos and bandicoots, it would probably be more successful if integrated with control programs for cats and other feral animals.

Friends groups

Friends of the Great South West Walk
Phone: Parks Victoria office (03) 5522 5008