Introducing The Mallee
Occupying the relatively vast northwestern corner of Victoria, the Mallee appears as a flat horizon and endless, undulating, twisted mallee scrub and desert. It’s dry here, but after years of drought and hardship, welcome rains in 2010 rejuvenated the Wimmera River to the south, in turn filling Lake Hindmarsh, Victoria’s largest body of fresh water, and Lake Albacutya. In the north, most of the fresh water is supplied by the Murray. The attractions – other than the sheer solitude – are the semi-arid wilderness areas, such as Wyperfeld National Park, Big Desert Wilderness Park and Murray-Sunset National Park. Collectively these parks cover over 750,000 hectares, and are particularly notable for their abundance of native plants, spring wildflowers and birds. This is ‘Sunset Country’, the one genuinely empty part of the state. Nature-lovers might delight in it, but much of it is inaccessible to all but experienced 4WD enthusiasts. Like most outback areas, visiting here is best avoided in the hot summer months.
The main route through the Mallee is the Sunraysia Hwy, via the towns of Birchip and Ouyen, but if you want to explore the region’s national parks, turn off to the historic farming towns of Jeparit (birthplace of Sir Robert Menzies and the jumping-off point for Lake Hindmarsh), Rainbow, Yaapeet and Hopetoun.