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Be prepared when visiting state forests

There are many exciting activities and attractions just waiting for you in Victoria's state forests.

Make sure you're prepared for your next trip by being aware of some important safety information before heading out.

DELWP staff member with civilian looking at map

Bushfire and extreme weather awareness

Check the weather before you venture out. Be fire aware as changed conditions can impact your safety and ability to travel. Consider rescheduling your visit during stormy weather or at times of high bushfire danger.

Campfires and BBQs on public land

Bushfires are a very real threat in Victoria and can result in loss of life and property. Flames can escape from a campfire or BBQ and cause devastating damage.

Educate yourself on the safe use of campfires and BBQs on public land by visiting our Fire restrictions and reading our Can I Can't I Campfire Safety brochure. Never leave a campfire unattended. The rules applying to the use of campfires and BBQs in Victoria are actively enforced and significant penalties apply for non-compliance.

Planned burn activities - What you need to know

Managing bushfire risk is an ongoing responsibility all year round. When weather and forest conditions are suitable, Forest Fire Management Victoria carry out planned burns to reduce the potential size, intensity and impact of future bushfires on the community and environment.

When burns are underway, you may see or smell smoke or come across heavy machinery and other operational equipment and staff in some areas. If you’re planning to visit our state forests, check when and where planned burns are happening before you go to ensure these don’t impact your visit.

Rules in state forests

Want to know how and when to collect firewood? What about the safest way to light a campfire?

Find out what rules apply and learn how you can help to protect our state forests on the Conservation Regulator website.

Mobile phone coverage

Many forest areas do not have mobile phone coverage. If travelling to remote locations with no mobile coverage, you may wish to travel with a satellite phone or a personal locator beacon (PLB) for use in emergencies.

Peak visiting periods

State forest campgrounds can't be booked in advance and are available on a first-come-first-served basis. If you are planning to camp during peak periods (summer and Easter holidays) and public holiday long weekends (Labour Day, Anzac Day and Melbourne Cup) arrive early and have a backup plan if there are no free spots at your preferred campground.

Typical facilities – know what to expect

  • State forest visitor sites provide beautiful settings but often only basic facilities.
  • Our campgrounds don't have showers or washbasins with running water.
  • There are no bins provided at state forest visitor sites. Please bring garbage bags with you and take your rubbish home.
  • Toilets in forests are typically non-flushing long-drop toilets. They are basic, may not have hand-washing facilities and can run out of toilet paper. Don’t get caught out – bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitiser.
  • Empty chemical toilets at approved dump points – It is an offence to dump your chemical waste (or any rubbish) into our toilets. Use the National public toilet map website to search for dump points.
  • Drinking water is not supplied at our visitor sites.
  • Bring drinking water, insect repellent, protection from the sun (hat, sunscreen, long sleeves) and a basic first aid kit.

Drinking water

  • Bring your own water.
  • Drinking water is not supplied at our visitor sites.
  • Always carry enough water to stay hydrated.
  • There may be no water in the area you plan on visiting or only water from natural sources like rivers and lakes.
  • Drinking untreated water from these sources can lead to illnesses such as gastroenteritis and diarrhoea.
  • You should use natural water sources with caution and where possible boil the water, then allow to cool before drinking. Other water treatment methods include the use of chlorine and iodine tablets, microfilters and purifiers.
  • Choose water from free-flowing rather than stagnant sources and avoid collecting water downstream from visitors and camping areas.
  • Think before you drink and treat the water before drinking if you’re unsure.

Tree hazards

  • When camping or having a picnic, be aware that trees and limbs may fall unpredictably.
  • Don’t camp under trees.
  • Stormy and windy weather increases the risk of tree and limb fall.
  • Being under or near trees may be dangerous and could cause injury.
  • Stay away from trees that appear to be dead or have dead limbs.

Keep safety front of mind, enjoy yourself and always remember to treat the environment and other visitors with respect.

Travelling in state forests safely

Know where you are going and the conditions to expect. If you are relying on mobile phone or tablet maps, always have a decent hard copy map backup in case your mobile device runs out of battery or is dropped and broken.

Most of the roads through Victoria’s forests and parks are unsealed dirt roads. Many are 4WD only (particularly after rain) and are typically narrower than urban roads.

  • Slow down when approaching corners and always keep to the left.
  • Our unsealed road network does not have marked lanes and many forest roads are narrow.
  • You should drive expecting oncoming traffic and remember that large trucks and 4WDs also use these roads.
  • Be aware of your limitations as well as your vehicle’s.
  • If you see that you can't easily drive down a road, turn back.
  • Do your research to understand the likely road conditions before you travel.
  • Have up-to-date maps to guide you to your destination.
  • Check for road closures. Many roads and tracks are seasonally closed to protect the roads from damage during the wetter months (typically from the long weekend in June through to the end of October) or can be closed due to road and bridge repairs.
  • Forest road closures can be viewed on the department’s Public Access MapShare website or in the More To Explore app – On these maps current road closures show as red lines and upcoming/proposed road closures show as purple lines.

Bushwalking

Getting lost or injured are possibilities when undertaking bushwalks in Victoria's great outdoors. Following these safety tips will help you keep safe.

Take sufficient supplies

  • Take water (at least 2 litres per person in summer) and some muesli bars or other snacks.
  • Take a fully charged mobile phone but be aware some regional areas may not have mobile reception.
  • Download the More To Explore app, which also works when out of mobile range, and learn how to use it before you go. A backup topographical map and compass are also advisable.
  • Protect yourself from the elements – pack a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, and raincoat and wear sturdy, practical footwear. A first aid kit, torch and insect repellent are also recommended.

Let someone know before you go

If you are going on an unfamiliar walk or somewhere remote, it’s a good idea to let someone you trust know before you go so they can be your emergency contact. Useful information you should pass on to them includes:

  • Start time and date and expected return time and date
  • Walk location, route and any overnight stops
  • Names of people in your group and any medical conditions they may have and vehicles being taken, including their registration numbers
  • Details of equipment being carried on the walk

Considering a more challenging walk?

If considering a walk that will be more challenging for you, consider going with a club or with more experienced walkers.

Bushwalking Victoria is the peak group representing bushwalkers in Victoria and welcomes new members. Their Bushwalking manual provides comprehensive information guidelines and information for safe, enjoyable community-based bushwalking.

Water and flood safety

Every year, people drown in public waterways across Victoria with many others suffering spinal injuries from diving into shallow water or into submerged objects. For inland waterways, some of the key risks are strong currents, submerged branches and rocks and waterfalls.

When spending time near waterways, it's also important to plan ahead, check the weather forecast and be aware of the latest flood information.

  • Never dive into water without first checking for hidden dangers like strong currents, submerged branches and rocks
  • Know the conditions and know your limits
  • Always wear a lifejacket when boating
  • Do not swim alone
  • Do not swim near or under waterfalls – strong currents can trap you underwater and not let you go.
  • Some rivers are subject to environmental releases from dams further upstream which can result in ‘high flow’ events, which may mean an increase in the height, width and speed of water flowing downstream from dams. Check conditions and know your limits before entering waterways.

Check out Water Safety Victoria for further information on how to stay safe.

Waterway flooding can vary significantly in terms of cause, timing and depth between different locations.

Flash flooding can occur very quickly due to heavy rainfall and official warnings may not always come out immediately. For this reason, you should stay alert to weather conditions and river levels and continue to check weather updates and warnings when spending time near waterways.

  • Check the weather forecast from the Bureau of Meteorology
  • Check the Victoria SES local flood guide for the area you are heading to
  • Visit the VicEmergency website or download the app for any flood warnings and emergency information.
  • Never enter floodwaters and avoid areas impacted by storm and flood events while warnings are in place.
  • Take extra care when visiting areas after a flood event as they may be unsafe due to saturated soils, flood debris and blocked access tracks. Trees are also more likely to fall due to wet soil and high winds.

If a flood warning is issued by VicEmergency while you are camping, follow the advice and leave before the water starts to rise.

Learn more about flood warnings and how to stay safe if there's a flood.

Page last updated: 15/02/24