"The past is never fully gone. It is absorbed into the present and the future. It stays to shape what we are and what we do."
Sir William Deane, Governor-General of Australia, Inaugural Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture, August 1996.

The Otway Forests

The forests of the Otway Ranges have a story that is at least as complex as any in Victoria - from the early days of sleeper cutting in blue gum forests around Apollo Bay, to the inroads and uses, and misuses, by encroaching settlers, to a sawlog harvesting history of more than 150 years, to inappropriate and disastrous settlements inside the forest boundaries, to plantations developed on failed settlements and, in common with all of Victoria's forests, repeated and damaging wildfires.

This article is an attempt to provide the tools to let you begin to explore that story. It is based on the early records of visitors and government agencies, but the greatest input comes from publications by Norman Houghton and Roger Smith, and videos produced by Jim Speirs.

A map of sawmill sites, tramlines and other features is also available via the link below. It brings together the maps in Norman Houghton's books - Sawdust and Steam (2011) and Choppers and Chippers (2018). There is also a timeline map of sawmills present by 5 year periods. Neither map would be available in this form without Norman's initial work, but also his significant work to attribute dates to the occupation of the sawmill sites.


1 The Black Forest of Victoria. Extract from Vol 1 No 3 of "The Australasian Magazine, published on 28 April 1851 by John Pullar of Melbourne.
2 Cape Otway State Forest. Extract from Papers relating to Forest Conservancy Published by Dept Crown Lands, 17th Dec 1874.
3 The Otway Forest - Its Resources, Management and Control.Fifth Progress Report of the Royal Commission on State Forests and Timber Reserves. 1899
4 West Otway Plantations. N Houghton (2014). Newsletter No. 62, Australian Forest History Society Inc.
Choppers & Chippers A History of the Timber Industry in the West Otway Ranges. N Houghton. 2018
6 The Redwoods of The Otway Ranges. Roger Smith. 2015
7 Sawdust and Steam. A History of Sawmilling in the East Otway Ranges. 1850-2010. Norman Houghton. 2011


See Also

Old Beechy (Extracts) - N Houghton 1992
Timber Production in the Otway Forests. LB Williams. Abt 1976
Otway Timber Mills & Pioneering Days. GA Facey. 1977
Getting Logs to the Mill. N Houghton. 1995
Sawmilling in the Otways & at Tanjil Bren. J Mackie. 1980
Otway State Forest abt 1879.
East Otway Memories. Reg Wilson. 1994
Extract - Forrest Reminiscences. C Hutchinson
Beech Forest FCV Staff. N Houghton
Sawmilling in the Otways
Vacation in the Otways - 1968 
The Otway Forests - NRE 1998