The Victorian Highlands area includes mountain ranges and associated foothills of the Great Dividing Range between Melbourne and the New South Wales border and of the Otway Ranges to the south-west of Geelong. It is divided into three bioregions: Highlands – Southern Fall, Highlands – Northern Fall and Otway Ranges.
Many of Victoria’s major river systems originate from within the Victorian Highlands which are composed of dissected uplands with moderate to steep slopes between 400 and 1200 metres in altitude.
The region has a temperate climate. Summers are generally warm; winters are cool to cold. Rainfall occurs throughout the year, but is greatest in the winter and spring. Snow falls are common above 900 metres in winter, with snow persisting for long periods during winter above 1200 metres. Annual rainfall varies between 1000 and 2000 mm. In some areas, a marked rainshadow effect is associated with higher ranges, such as in the Licola area, north-east of the Baw Baw Plateau.
The Victorian Highlands is predominantly forested public land, comprising State forest and numerous national parks, State parks and conservation reserves.
The extensive forests of the Victorian Highlands have supported timber harvesting industries since the late 1800s, and this remains the most important region for timber in Victoria. The Victorian Highlands also contains significant areas of coniferous and eucalypt plantations.
Water production is a major land use, with significant catchment areas in each bioregion supplying water for domestic, agricultural and industrial purposes. Major impoundments include Thomson Dam, Lake Glenmaggie, Lake Dartmouth, Blue Rock Lake, West Barwon Dam, and the Upper Yarra and Maroondah reservoirs near Melbourne. Some of the impoundments also provide water to produce hydroelectric power for the Victorian electricity grid.
Tourism and recreation are major land uses in the Victorian Highlands. Popular activities include camping, fishing, deer hunting, bushwalking, canoeing, sight seeing and nature study.
In settled areas, sheep and cattle grazing and dairying are the primary land uses. Some public land areas are also used for grazing and apiculture.
Most mining activity in the Victorian Highlands is associated with the extraction of rock and gravel for road construction and maintenance mainly on public land. Gold is still mined commercially in the Walhalla –Woods Point area.