Mackenzie Falls, Grampians National Park, Victoria © Visit Victoria
6-day Grampians National Park family itinerary
From hiking to horse riding and hand-feeding kangaroos, the Grampians National Park in Victoria offers up adventure, scenery and wildlife in abundance. It all makes for a jam-packed – but fun – six-day road trip perfect for the family.
By Dilvin Yasa
The Grampians, a series of spectacular sandstone ridges working together to create a dazzling landscape of peaks and valleys three hours west of Melbourne in Victoria, are an adventure lover’s dream come true, but are also a fantastic destination for all of the family. Here you will find a sprinkle of historic towns interspersed with jaw-dropping waterfalls, panoramic lookouts and a bounty of wildlife and adrenaline activities.
Crisp autumn days in the Grampians go hand-in-hand with active daytime adventures, but it’s hard to beat the beauty of spring, when the region’s famous wildflowers bloom in force. This six-day road trip, departing from and returning to Melbourne (there are daily flights here from most capital cities, and hire cars can be collected at the airport or in the city), is packed with the best the region has to offer.
Day 1: Melbourne to Halls Gap
- Drive time: 3 hours
Leave Melbourne early and make a point of stopping in Ballarat, roughly halfway to Halls Gap, and a veritable wonderland for kids of all ages. Stretch your legs at the Adventure Playground and Indigenous Playground of Lake Wendouree, or the Art Gallery of Ballarat, the largest regional art gallery in Australia.
Back on the road, time your drive so you arrive at the award-winning The Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld around lunchtime. Situated right at the foothills of the Grampians, the hotel is home to both the country’s largest working restaurant kitchen garden and an extensive wine list (more than 2,800 options). The kids will enjoy dining at Parker Street Project, where little ones have their own menus and highchairs, while adults will enjoy that aforementioned wine list. Be sure to sign the kids up for the Native Wildlife Feeding Tour to learn about the Royal Mail's environmental initiatives and meet an endangered Australian animal.
Day 2: Immerse yourself in Aboriginal culture
There’s no better way to start your family’s Grampians adventure than at Brambuk, a combination of the Aboriginal Cultural Centre and National Park Information Centre. Though the Cultural Centre is currently closed for development, the information centre, gift shop and natural surrounds are open for you to learn about the rich Aboriginal cultural history of Brambuk. The friendly staff at the information centre can point you in the right direction for cultural sites throughout the park.
Now it's time to get out and about in the region's celebrated landscape on the 2.5-kilometre (1.5-mile) Venus Baths Loop Walk, which starts in the centre of Halls Gap and crosses over Stony Creek. Grab takeaway sandwiches in town before you head off. In the warmer months, the rockpools fill with fresh water, making it the perfect place for a swim and picnic lunch. The iconic Pinnacle walk and lookout is a highlight; the two-kilometre (1.3-mile) walk from Wonderland Car Park is steeper and rockier, but offers the best Grampians hiking experience.
Pop by the local supermarket for some barbecue supplies, head back to the holiday park and make full use of the facilities before resting your tired feet for the night.
Day 3: Take in some waterplay
Start your day in an oarsome manner: by booking a half-day canoeing tour with Absolute Outdoors. This adventure will have you paddling through beautiful Lake Bellfield, where gilled friends are chomping at the bit to meet you. No experience necessary; the guides will teach you everything you need to know.
Head back into town for lunch (those with adventurous palates may wish to try the Bushfoods Café in Brambuk Cultural Centre, where the menu is heavy on kangaroo, emu and crocodile) before taking the scenic 30-minute drive along Mount Victory Road to MacKenzie Falls car park, the starting point to one of the largest waterfalls in Victoria. The price of watching water cascading down huge cliffs into a deep gorge? A steep 30-minute trail each way.
Day 4: Animal instincts
Check out of your accommodation and take the five-minute drive over to Halls Gap Zoo, where more than 160 native and exotic species of animals from around the world are waiting to make your acquaintance. This isn’t just a case of waving at them from afar; here you can hand-feed kangaroos and deer, play with wombats and dingoes, and enjoy a picnic or barbecue lunch while the kids play in the playground.
Give yourself the afternoon off, check into your accommodation and familiarise yourself with the facilities. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day.
Day 5: Rock climbing in the Grampians
Unleash your inner-adventurer, because today you’ll take on the mountains themselves with Hangin' Out. Depending on your collective skillset, you can opt for a half-day, three-quarter or full-day session. Learn safe belay techniques, knots, and basic climbing communication as you climb and abseil the sandstone rockfaces of the Grampians.
Day 6: Explore Lake Wartook
There’s no better way to enjoy your final morning in the Grampians than to spend some time watching the local wildlife from the comfort of your bed or deck. For lunch, drive 15 minutes to Wartook Valley for a meal at The Wander Inn and one last picturesque walk – this time around the shores of Lake Wartook.
After lunch, consider taking the 50-minute drive to Brimpaen for a 2.5-hour riding session at Grampians Horse Riding; they cater to everyone from nervous beginners to experienced riders. Then it's time for the 3.5-hour drive back to Melbourne.