You can't miss the Grampians, a majestic mountain range and forest rising out of flat farmland in Victoria's west. The region's national parks are home to a huge array of native plants and animals, adventure and a rich and continuing Aboriginal history.
By Stephanie Williams
Rising from the flat pastoral land of Victoria's west are the Grampians – a playground for adventurers and a haven for food and wine lovers, with a fascinating Aboriginal story to tell. The Grampians National Park is home to an incredible mountain landscape dotted with small towns such as Dunkeld, Stawell, Halls Gap, Wartook Valley and Beaufort. There are many boutique accommodation options here, making it a popular weekend escape among Melburnians. Try the DULC eco cabins that blend into their bush surrounds with rough sawn timbers and polished concrete, or the Grampians Chalets for private, self-contained chalets with epic views.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Grampians are a three hour drive west of Melbourne. Follow the Western Freeway out through Ballarat. The popular Great Southern Touring Route passes through the Grampians region. This self-drive tour follows the Great Ocean Road, passing by the Shipwreck Coast, then winding up into the Grampians before continuing to Ballarat. You can also travel by train or bus to the Grampians from Melbourne.
- See the sweeping views from Boroka, Reed and Mount William lookouts
- Discover the rich Aboriginal history and see rock art and red ochre handprints
- Enjoy fine food and wine at one of the many wineries or top restaurants
TOP THINGS TO DO IN THE GRAMPIANS
Visit Aboriginal art and cultural sites
Most of Victoria's Aboriginal sites are here in the Grampians, known as Gariwerd to the Aboriginal clans that have been connected to the place for more than 22,000 years. Evidence of this history – including ancient oven mounds and 60 rock art sites with more than 4000 different motifs – is scattered across the region. Visit the famous Bunjil's Shelter and see Bunjil, the traditional creator of the land, depicted with his two dingoes. Walk round the Ngamadjidj Shelter and see Ngamadjidj's spirit dancing with white figures on the walls. Gulgurn Manja translates to "hands of young people", and this shelter in the Northern Grampians is covered with small, red ochre handprints. You can take a guided tour from Halls Gap for a richer understanding of Victoria's five Aboriginal communities.
Discover the Grampians National Park
Interwoven with Aboriginal history are awe-inspiring landscapes forged millions of years ago. Trek the rugged cliffs and cascading waterfalls of Grampians National Park. Go fishing or canoeing on Lake Bellfield and Lake Wartook and get up close to native animals such as koalas, kangaroos, emus and wedge-tailed eagles. Travel to Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park, where you can scale dramatic rock formations. A little further afield is Little Desert National Park, where heathlands throw vibrant wildflower displays from August to October. Explore the Grampians' vast sandstone mountains in a 4WD or experience their grandeur from a light aircraft with A Kube Aviation.
Enjoy the Grampians' local food and wine
The Grampians is home to some of Australia's oldest vines and olive groves. There are more than 15 wineries in the area. You may have heard of the nearby Great Western and Henty wine regions, too. The area is famous for quality reds, vibrant whites and a few big names, such as Seppelt, Mount Langi Ghiran and Best's. You can jump aboard a Grampians winery tour and leave the car, and your worries, behind. Or hop on a Grampians Helicopters picnic tour and really take in the grand scale of the surrounds.
Relax at the Royal Mail Hotel
Dunkeld is home to the Royal Mail Hotel, regularly voted one of the best dining destinations in Australia. Taking the paddock to plate concept to the next level, the restaurant has a huge kitchen garden, which is almost a farm, with an orchard, olive grove, chickens, sheep and cows. Check in to the hotel, with options ranging from hotel suites, to deluxe rooms with views of Mount Sturgeon and self-contained apartments. Or stay at nearby Mount Sturgeon Station, a working sheep farm with a six bedroom homestead and stone outhouse cottages.
Visit Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural Centre
The Grampians National Park should be on your list, but also set aside time to explore Brambuk, a combination of the Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Visitor Information Centre. At the Cultural Centre you can paint a boomerang, and watch fascinating presentations in the Gariwerd Dreaming Theatre. The information centre will point you in the right direction for camping, hiking, driving and generally enjoying the park. Aboriginal people have lived for thousands of years sourcing kangaroo, birds, eggs, fish, yam daisies and wattle seeds in this area, many of which you’ll find in the Bush Foods Café.
Climb Mount Arapiles and see the Wimmera Plains
There are many ways to reach the summit of Mount Arapiles, the incredible quartz and sandstone mount near Horsham. You can drive, walk, cycle or climb to the top and take in sweeping views of the surrounding Wimmera Plains. It’s regarded as Australia’s best rock climbing area, so you might choose to learn the ropes or hire a guide to explore the 2000 climbs on offer. This is also a great place to see wildflowers and birdwatch, with more than a hundred species calling the area home.
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