By Andrew Rasch
Published: Tuesday, October 31, 2023
The mere mention of some places is enough to flood your brain with memories and endorphins. For me, it’s Western Victoria’s Grampians/Gariwerd National Park.
Maybe it’s my childhood recollections of sleeping on air beds in the family tent and eating meals cooked on the camp stove. Or it might be because it was my first road trip destination as an adult, driving with my friends in my very own car.
What’s not up for debate is the natural beauty of the Grampians – a place that feels familiar yet offers something new each time I visit.
Grampians National Park
Located about 475km south-east of Adelaide in Victoria, the heritage-listed Grampians is nearly 1700sqkm of sandstone mountain ranges. The region is packed with hiking trails, soaring lookouts, superb waterfalls, babbling creeks, and lush forests. It’s also home to ancient Aboriginal rock art paintings and shelters, and wildlife galore, including wallabies, koalas and emus.
The Grampians’ four regions – Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Western – are chock full of things to see and do.
In the north, there’s the challenging walk to Mount Stapylton and the deep rock pools and flourishing ferns of Beehive Falls. There’s also Halls Gap Zoo – the largest in regional Victoria.
The gold-rush town of Ararat is in the east and has plenty of waterways for fishing enthusiasts. The region is also home to some of Australia’s dark history, including the J-Ward Gaol and Aradale Asylum.
While in the Western Grampians, base yourself in Horsham and plan day trips. Hike up Hollow Mountain or Mount Zero (get some olive oil or pink lake salt from Mount Zero Olives while you’re there), or travel along the Silo Art Trail – Australia’s largest outdoor gallery.
Places to stay
There’s accommodation aplenty in the Grampians, from five-star luxury and glamping to budget-friendly hostels or camping beneath the stars. You can stay at a hotel, cottage, or even book the Shearers’ Quarters at Mount William Station for a slice of Australia’s rich farming heritage.
I’m a creature of habit so I usually stay in a self-contained cabin at the Breeze Holiday Park at delightful Halls Gap. It’s good value and close to shops, cafes and natural attractions like Venus Baths and Splitters Falls. Stay here and relax with a cuppa and piece of toast while you watch the rising sun turn the nearby cliffs a deep orange. You may also see kangaroos lazing on the grass and perhaps a cheeky magpie hopping around your cabin looking for a morsel. Note: Don’t feed wild birds or other animals – here’s why.
A few days in paradise
If you’re heading to the Grampians, you have umpteen ways to fill your days. MacKenzie Falls, one of Victoria’s largest waterfalls, is a must-visit location. The falls flow year-round, and its towering, roaring presence makes the steep, but manageable, 2km return walk from the nearby car park well worthwhile.
At 1167m, Mount William is the highest point in the Grampians, and in winter, you might see some snow at the summit. A picnic near Lake Bellfield, which supplies water to the area, is another relaxing way to spend some time.
A Grampians highlight is the hike to the Pinnacle Lookout. Start your trek from Halls Gap, or from either Sundial (best for younger walkers) or Wonderland car parks. On the way up, you’ll hop across rocks and creeks, feel the eeriness of Silent Street, and even traverse our version of the Grand Canyon, as you inch closer to the Pinnacle’s endpoint. From the top, you’ll have panoramic views of Halls Gap, Lake Bellfield and the gnarled rock formations that make up the Grampians. It’s oh-so-worth the two-hour return hike.
You won’t go hungry in the Grampians, either. Halls Gap has the Brambuk Café and Eatery, where you can refuel with a hearty, delicious breakfast and frothy flat white before you tackle the surrounding mountains. If a spicy Rogan Josh paired with local craft beer is your thing, there’s the Spirit of Punjab. For something sweet, try one or two (or all 33) flavours at Coolas Ice Creamery. Banana and rock salt caramel is my favourite combo.
Experience it for yourself
When I’m in the Grampians, I love to jump in the car – my hiking shoes in the boot – and see where the road takes me. One day I’ll be ambling along a track in a cool forest, ducking the occasional springy tree fern frond, and the next, scrambling over rocks and dirt paths on a majestic mountainside, ready to soak up some stunning 360-degree views.
The Grampians will always be my special place. If you haven’t been, maybe that’s something you need to remedy. I guarantee I’ll be back, so maybe I’ll bump into you.