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.
- 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
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.
Things to do and top attractions 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 – 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.
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, Montara, 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. Halls Gap comes to life every autumn with the Grampians Grape Escape. This food and wine festival showcases the best of the region in an inviting and friendly atmosphere that will have you feeling like a local.
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.
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.
Trek one of the many hiking trails in the Grampians
There are many hiking trails and lookouts to explore in the Grampians National Park. Whether you have an appetite for a few hours - or a few days - you can find a track that satisfies. One of the most scenic spots from which to get your bearings is the stunning Boroka Lookout. You can walk or drive here to take in the sweeping scenery of Halls Gap and the valley below, making it a great choice for less mobile visitors. Other notable trails include the Pinnacle walk and lookout, Venus Baths Loop Walk, an the multi-day Grampians Peaks Trail.
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.
Explore the area's Silo Art Trail
Head out along the 200-kilometre (124-mile) Silo Art Trail to see towering works created by internationally recognised street artists. The trail starts in the Grampians and takes you through six of the region’s smallest towns which now make up one of the country’s biggest outdoor art galleries. Visit the quaint towns, boutique shops and cafes of Australia’s wheatbelt on this relaxing road trip. If you don’t feel up to driving, tours of the impressive silos can be organised with a guide.
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