Wickens at Royal Mail Hotel external path, Dunkeld, Victoria
Explore the Southern portion of Victoria’s Grampians and discover the region’s exciting outdoor adventures, dining experiences and thriving cultural townships.
By Jessica Williams
What to expect
- Explore spectacular natural scenery
- Taste world-class food and wine
- Check out the region’s local designers, arts and retail
- Time: 5 days
- Distance: 254 kilometres (158 miles)
- Transport: car
- Nearest major city: Melbourne
- Price: $$$
On this inspiring Southern Grampians Itinerary you will embark on an adventure across the stunning landscapes of Grampians National Park. In between walking trails and hiking mountains, you’ll find boutique shopping and a delicious food and wine scene in the vibrant heritage towns dotted throughout the region.
Day 1: Melbourne to the Grampians
Embark on the 3.5 hour drive towards Hamilton from Melbourne, and make your first stop Pierrepoint Winery. Stretched between Hamilton and Tarrington with sprawling lawns and great food, the family owned and operated vineyard is the ideal resting place to stop and stretch the legs and settle in to holiday mode. Try some rosé whilst touring the sun-soaked grapevines or enjoy a platter of local produce. Be sure to check out what special events and music performances are on at the winery while you’re in town.
A 25 minute drive out of Hamilton is the nearby township of Dunkeld. Stay the night at The Royal Mail Hotel, offering deluxe mountain view rooms and one and two bedroom apartments located within landscaped gardens that boast panoramic views of the Southern Grampians. Wickens at Royal Mail Hotel is a celebrated restaurant in regional Victoria, known for Executive Chef Robin Wickens’ creative dishes made from produce grown on-site in the kitchen garden. The restaurant features unobstructed views of Mt Sturgeon and Mt Abrupt through floor to ceiling windows, and the wine list is one of the most extensive lists in Australia; the Royal Mail Hotel Cellar is home to the largest privately owned collection of Bordeaux and Burgundy in the Southern Hemisphere. The new restaurant has been built to create an even stronger connection between the land and the dining table. Its five and eight course tasting menus are a celebration of the garden and the micro-climate of Dunkeld.
Day 2: A day in the Grampians
After emerging from a decadent food and wine induced slumber, get the blood pumping with a walk on the Picaninny Trail. Walking distance from the Royal Mail Hotel, the Picanniny Trail makes up a section of the Grampians Peak Trail, which is currently being developed as a thirteen day hike through the Grampians.
This leg of the trail is just 2.4 kilometres (1.5 miles) return and the summit offers unbeatable views of Dunkeld and Mt Abrupt.
Parker Street Project is the Royal Mail Hotel’s casual eatery, serving breakfast lunch and dinner seven days a week. Make a reservation after a full day exploring the Southern Grampians and choose the AUD$50 “Feed Me” menu which includes a series of Executive Chef Robin Wickens’ favourite dishes of the moment that have been designed to share. Expect items like rabbit scotch egg, parsley salad cream, salt baked beetroots, sheep’s milk yoghurt, stout vinegar and Royal Mail Sirloin roasted over coals with black garlic butter.
Day 3: Explore the township of Hamilton
Caffeine lovers will be impressed with the extractions at Tosca Browns. Exposed brick contrasts upon lush greenery to provide the quaintest backdrop to your morning pit stop. Fluffy pancakes versus Nutella-laden French toast will be the most difficult decision on the agenda, but made easier by an excellent brew.
Get a dose of retail therapy in the Hamilton’s town centre exploring provedores, homewares stores and bookshops. Try on antique jewellery and vintage clothing or check out the Hamilton Art Gallery, right in the heart of town. Be sure to check out the kinetic outdoor sculpture ‘Nucleus’ which Hamilton has become famous for.
Day 4: Out and about in the Grampians
There are plenty of beautiful hikes surrounding the southern end of the Grampians, all with varying degrees of difficulty. For the more energetic hikers, Mt Abrupt is a hard 4-hour roundtrip (6.5 kilometres or 4 miles) where you will see spectacular views of the Serra Range to the north and look out over Dunkeld to the south. For people wanting to take it at a more moderate pace, Mt Sturgeon is a pleasant 3-hour walk (7 kilometres or 4.3 miles round trip).
For something different, journey thirty minutes south of Hamilton, to the peak of the extinct volcano Mount Rouse, located in the quaint town of Penshurst. Climb the steps up to the summit for views over volcanic landscape and the dry crater lake below. The crater is easily accessible by following the grassy trail leading down the summit. There are plenty of picnic tables, so pack food and water supplies and spend the morning exploring the beautiful district.
From Mount Rouse Reserve, take the Penshurst-Dunkeld road north for 45 minutes to the small town of Cavendish. Spend happy hour at The Bunyip Hotel, where you can enjoy beers and gins crafted on-site. All Bunyip beers are made using only Australian grains and Australian hops, and free from additives and preservatives. Book in to Chef’s Table Sundays for a grand feast of local produce.
Day 5: Grampians to Melbourne
Take a stroll down Parker Street in Dunkeld, and pick up some local produce to take home from the Dunkeld General Store. Stop by Only Ewe for snuggly woollen throws and clothing, beautiful children’s toys and bespoke jewellery before starting the journey back to Melbourne.
And finally, driving snacks. Whether you are in need of a fresh loaf of sourdough or a sweet treat, you can’t leave Dunkeld without stopping in at Dunkeld Old Bakery. Enjoy a cup of tea from the roadside or grab your goods to go – whichever you decide, add a sausage roll to your order, you won’t regret it.
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