THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO CARDINIA RESERVOIR
Cardinia Creek Road, Narre Warren East
As a child I have memories of visiting Cardinia Reservoir to ride my bike, picnic and explore the wide open spaces. After moving to Menzies Creek in 2015, it became one of my favourite walking spots and I cut laps of the dam wall while in the early stages of labour with my daughter Piper.
HISTORY OF CARDINIA RESERVOIR
In the 1960s it was identified that Melbourne needed a greater water source. The hills and valleys south of Emerald were identified as an ideal site for a new reservoir. In 1966 the Government of Victoria accepted plans for the construction of what was to become Cardinia Reservoir. Construction began in 1970 and took until 1973 to be completed. It then, incredibly, took another four years for the reservoir to fill. Cardinia is the second largest reservoir in Melbourne and receives much of its water from Silvan and the desalination plant. In 1993, bottled water from Cardinia Reservoir began to be exported to Europe and the United States.
GETTING TO CARDINIA RESERVOIR
Cardinia Reservoir is approximately 50km east of Melbourne. It can be accessed by car from Wellington Road or Red Hill Road. There is no public transport to the reservoir. The road through the reservoir is mostly one way running in a clockwise loop.
With its wide open spaces Cardinia Reservoir is popular for picnics. On weekends it can be extremely busy with many extended family gatherings, birthdays and other celebrations taking place. There are picnic tables spread throughout the park and several undercover shelters. There are gas barbeques at the Crystal Brook Picnic Area.
By far the most popular walk is the one that runs along the dam wall. It is flat and well maintained and is 3.2km return. There is carparking at both ends so the choice is yours as to which point you start and finish at. As you walk there are views to across the water to one side and out to the surrounding hilltops on the others. I especially enjoy this walk on days when a storm is rolling in. Be sure to periodically check over the side of the rock wall to see if you can spot any kangaroos on the slope below. For those into geocaching I believe there are a number of caches hidden along the path.
The next most popular walk is the 700 metre kangaroo viewing trail which runs from the Spillway carpark. Families of roos can often be spotted here, most often in the early morning or at dusk.
Less visited is the 5km tea tree walk. It is a mixture of gravel paths and boardwalks and is ideal for exploring the flora of the park. Finally the messmate trail is a 2.3km loop with hills from Crystal Brook Picnic Area to Duffy’s Lookout.
There is a substantial sized playground at the Crystal Brook Picnic Area with equipment suitable for all ages. The asphalt paths are good for little ones to explore and my children love running to the rocks and hillocks that dot the open space.
Kangaroos are plentiful throughout the reservoir and can most often be seen in the early morning or dusk. They are often at the base of the rock wall or else at the opposite end of the wide open area from the playground, towards the exit gates. I have occasionally spotted echidnas and birds of prey often swoop overhead. There are a number of emus in the area, though they tend to stick to the northern end of the reservoir and are most likely to be spotted when driving along Red Hill Road towards Emerald. Finally, feral deer are sometimes spotted in the scrub.
In Spring tiny, delicate wildflowers pop up in the native bush area of the reservoir and in Autumn the introduced deciduous trees that dot the wide open spaces put on a stunning display of red, yellow and orange foliage.
BOATING AND FISHING
Boating and fishing is not permitted in the reservoir as it is a water source. They are allowed on nearby Aura Vale Lake.
OTHER NEARBY PARKS AND GARDENS
If you are keen for more beautiful walks be sure to explore the nearby Dandenong Ranges National Park. Other substantial playgrounds in the hills include Belgrave Lake Park and Olinda Playspace. If you enjoy being outdoors you will likely enjoy Pirianda Gardens at Olinda and Alfred Nicholas Gardens in Sherbrooke.
Address: Cardinia Creek Road, Narre Warren East
Opening hours: Sunrise to Sunset
Public toilets: Yes
Dogs allowed: Yes (except for the kangaroo viewing trail)
As a family photographer – and the only one currently licensed by Parks Victoria to operate at Cardinia Reservoir- I am excited to be able to guide visitors through the park and to use the beautiful surrounds as the backdrop for their images.