There’s no need to travel all the way to Europe or the US to see the rich reds and gleaming golds of seasonally changing leaves. In our cooler reaches, the autumnal scene can be just as beautiful.
Victoria’s High Country
In the preserved gold-rush towns sitting on a plateau below the Australian Alps – villages like Bright, Beechworth and Yackandandah – the legacy of the European settlers is still strong. As well as historical buildings lining their streets, these towns also boast spectacular promenades of exotic trees that change the skyline all shades of red, orange and gold before falling softly to the footpaths. Bright even hosts its Autumn Festival for 10 days each season, where visitors can stroll private gardens, take guided tours of Bright and Wandiligong, pick their own chestnuts and enjoy the food, music and parade of the Gala Weekend.
Blackwood River Valley in Western Australia
You might not imagine the west would be a symphony of colour in autumn. But in this part of the country, three hours’ drive south of Perth, you’ll discover an undulating, lush landscape and historic towns. Take the scenic route to Nannup, following the valley and you’ll see the deciduous trees along the way turning flame red, yellow and orange. Alternatively, take a picnic basket to the Golden Valley Tree Park near Balingup where there are stands of exotics – oaks, redwood, giant sequoia and elms – from across the world. At this time of year, there’s another interesting change in the flora. Towering native karri trees drop their grey bark to reveal orange and pink hues beneath.
Bowral in the NSW Southern Highlands
The European history of this town, the largest in the Southern Highlands and about 90 minutes from Sydney, stretches back about two centuries, but it was in the late 1800s that its landscape was altered. Sydney’s elite began travelling to Bowral and treating it as a rural retreat. With them they brought deciduous trees to the region to make the area appear more English. One of visitors’ favourite gardens is Moidart, which has acres of mature trees including red oaks, golden elms, plane trees, copper beech and tulip trees, all of which change dramatically during autumn.
Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges
Just an hour from the centre of Melbourne, the villages atop the ranges are surrounded by gardens, each with its own peak time each year. For autumn colours, head to the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens, named after a Victorian merchant and philanthropist and which was once part of the expansive Burnham Beeches estate, built using the profits from Alfred’s brother George’s invention, Aspro. Alfred visited the Chelsea Flower Show in 1929 bringing back many plants and ideas you can still see in the gardens. In autumn, the foliage of the maples and beeches changes, but the most spectacular sight is down by the lake where the golden ginkgos create a postcard view.
Tasmania’s Mount Field National Park
There are a number of species mentioned regularly in discussions of autumn foliage: beeches, elms and oaks among them. Not quite so well known is the fagus or tanglefoot. This is, in fact, the only native deciduous tree in Australia and it grows in only two places: Mount Field National Park, about 70 kilometres from Hobart, and Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. Viewing the Nothofagus gunnii is one for dedicated “leafies”. The low-growing, extremely hardy shrub is found on the Tarn Shelf, high above the mountain ash and highland gums, accessible only by foot. Its tiny ribbed leaves turn yellow in April.