Located 43 km south of Colac on the northern edge of the Otway Ranges, Beech Forest is a tiny township, which achieved its moment of national fame in 1983 when a 61-year-old local potato farmer, Cliff Young, won the Sydney to Melbourne Ultra Marathon. Now Beech Forest is the home to many wonderful food and primary producers as well as the centre of the Otway Harvest Trail.
The town was named after the Beech (myrtle) trees,which abound in the local area. It was first settled by Europeans in the 1880s as a result of pressure to open the Otway Ranges to settlement. The first land selection occurred in 1884 and the first pub was built four years later. It is claimed that the pub was completed using timber from a single giant mountain ash.
With the abundance of this kind of timber, Beech Forest quickly became a major centre for the local timber industry. There were 29 timber mills in district at one point.
This was compounded when, in 1902, the railway from Colac arrived. It was a narrow gauge railway and when it was extended to Crowes it became the longest narrow gauge railway in Victoria. The railway provided transport for local timber and huge stands of beech, blackwood and ash were cut down. This historic route is now home to the popular Old Beechy Rail Trail, where walkers or cyclists can experience picturesque forests, farmland and abundant wildlife.
During the period from the end of World War I the town became a major centre for potato production because of its acclaimed fertile soil. In 1919 a bushfire destroyed the town and was rebuilt to the east of the original site.
Beech Forest is a central point to access some of the Otways beautiful waterfalls and scenic drives:
• Triplet Falls & Little Aire Falls – 4 km west of Beech Forest.
• Beauchamp Falls & Hopetoun Falls – approximately 7km south east of Beech Forest
• Old Beech Rail Trail
• California Redwoods – a spectacular forest of giant Californian Redwoods (Sequoia trees) planted in 1939.
• Turtons Track – east of Beech Forest this is a beautiful 17km tourist route through thick rainforest vegetation.
• Otway Fly Treetop Adventures – a spectacular 600 metre long, 25 metre high elevated treetop walk.