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We hadn’t heard of the Grampians before coming to Australia. We actually found out this national park about by talking to some people in our Sydney hostel. One person described it as being one of the happiest times in her trip to Australia. So, we decided we had to get there.
The Grampians are about three hours away from Melbourne making it an ideal weekend getaway. Being from Alberta, Canada, I have missed the sight of mountains looming on the horizon. The Grampians are heralded as the Australian Rocky Mountains but they remind me more of British Columbia than Alberta. All the more reason for me check them out! But, the Grampians have more to see than just mountains.
So, if you like breathtaking, panoramic views, the gentle misting of a powerful waterfall, and spotting wildlife then get yourself to the Grampians! But, if you need more reasons to check out the Grampians, then know that the Grampians have also recently been in the running for one of Australia’s National Wonders.
Fortunately, most of The Grampians activities are free or low-cost.
Getting to the Grampians:
Driving is the best way as you’ll need to be able to get around once you are there. Many of the lookouts, waterfalls, and hikes are a distance apart so it will definitely be easier if you have a vehicle.
However, you can take public transit. For the most up-to-date times, check out the Travel Victoria Website.
Alternatively, Experience Oz offers day tours. For more information on these, head to their website.
When to go:
The Grampians are popular year-round. However, the shoulder seasons will be less busy. So, Spring and Autumn. We went in the heat of summer and found that our days were often cut short because by midday it was too hot for more walks.
As with all of Australia, avoid the school holidays as everything is quite busy.
Waterfalls in the Grampians:
Do I ever love chasing waterfalls (Sorry, TLC). The Grampians are home to some picturesque falls. Waterfalls are the perfect place for a picnic lunch to break up the bushwalks.
- If you can only make it to one waterfall, make it the Mackenzie Falls. There is water year-round, meaning you won’t be disappointed by lackluster falls. The walk up the stairs will be tough but the falls are stunning.
- Also around Halls Gap are Silverband Falls and Beehive Falls.
- Finally, in the Southern Grampians, you can check out Wannon and Nigretta Falls.
Check with the Visitor Centre before venturing out as sometimes falls may be low if there hasn’t been rain.
- Reeds Lookout boasts breathtaking views of the park, with excellent panoramas.
- The Balconies have some of the most spectacular views. Some people opt to go out on that rock ledge.
- Boroka Lookout- Views of wonderland range, mt William range, Fyans Valley, Lake Bellfield.
- Bluff lookout, Mt. Arapiles, Mt rouse, Big Bill Lookout, and One Tree Hill are a few more lookouts that we didn’t make it to.
Bushwalks in the Grampians:
- Venus Baths Loop: Leaving from the Botanical Gardens, this short walk is suitable for all abilities.
- Balconies walk: Under 2 km long it is accessible for most.
- The Grand Canyon: Leaving from the Wonderland Carpark this short walk will take you through the “Grand Canyon” although it is much smaller than USA’s version.
- The Pinnacle: The easiest way is from the sundial carpark. So naturally, we did not do this. The other way is the from the Wonderland Carpark and it is quite a bit longer and harder. The Pinnacle is one of the most iconic walks in the Grampians. It is definitely worth checking out.
- Grampians Peak Trail: This is a multi-day hike that should only be undertaken by experienced walkers.
- Wear closed toe shoes. There are snakes and spiders that can kill you out there. However, they are not as commonly spotted as the world would have you believe.
- Avoid longer grass. Long grass serves as a bit of a snake haven.
- Stomp occasionally or walk a bit heavy footed. Snakes can feel the vibrations from your feet and will know to avoid you.
- Use a walking stick. At the very least, when used correctly they help conserve energy. We also heard from someone that snakes will occasionally attack the sticks rather than you if you inadvertently make them feel threatened. We do not typically use a walking stick though.
- While it is important to talk about how to protect yourself from a potential snake or spider bite, do not let this scare you off. In four months of being in Australia, we have only come across one snake on a bushwalk and he slithered off in the other direction. You would be remiss to skip out on bushwalks due to fear. Generally, we stomp if we see that the path is narrow and longer grass is beside it. Or jokingly, any time we feel slightly uncomfortable. For more information on snakes check this out.
- Bring lots of sunscreen, water, and snacks. Many of these walks do not provide places to stop along the way to replenish your supplies.
- For more information on how stay safe on bushwalks, check this out.
Where to Eat & Drink in the Grampians:
- Fallen Giants Vineyard is known for Riesling, Shiraz, and Cabernet. Stop by for a tasting but be weary if you plan to drive. It is never okay to drink and drive!
- We had a delightful lunch at the Kookaburra Hotel. It was our first time trying properly cooked kangaroo steak. The steaks are served rare or medium rare only as the mean is quite lean and thin. If you haven’t had a chance to try roo yet, swing by for lunch. Now, this meal is a little pricey, so I would recommend sharing it with someone else.
- Brambuk Cultural Centre has a small café serving bushfoods and meat pies.
- There is cold beer and pizza to be found at the Halls Gap Tavern. I know, I know, I eat a lot of pizza.
- Of course, the best thing for any budget is to cook your own meals. If you are camping bring a stove and your own groceries. Or if you are staying at the hostel, use the kitchen.
Where to Stay:
The Grampians are home to accommodations suiting every budget. Halls Gap is the main community with the most to offer visitors.
- There is a free campsite (At time of writing) called Plantation Campground. This site is quite large, has toilets, and a small bucket shower. We spent several nights here.
- Halls Gap Garden Caravan Park is your typical caravan park a little bit outside of the town. There were emus wandering our site.
- Halls Gap Caravan Park is again a typical caravan park; however, this one is right inside Halls Gap. We spent a night here and had kangaroos wandering our site freely.
- The Grampians also have a hostel, Grampians ECO YHA, where we did not stay but the other YHAs we have stayed at have always been great.
- Pinnacle Holiday Lodge offers a bit more upscale accommodation. Which, isn’t in my budget…
As Halls Gap is a smaller community, the groceries available are limited and expensive. While it is a bit of a drive away, Horsham has cheaper groceries and camping supplies should you need anything. Since we ended up staying in the Grampians for many more days than we intended we did make a pilgrimage out to Horsham to stock up at the Coles.
More Than Mountains
If you aren’t as into bushwalks as we are, then have no fear! There are other activities to be enjoyed. These activities aren’t necessarily low-cost as most of the free things to do in the Grampians involve the outdoors.
- Brambuk Cultural Centre will help you explore Aboriginal Culture in the Grampians. They can also provide you with information on the rock art sites found within the national park. But the main ones are: Billimina, Manja, Bunjil Shelter, Gulgurn Maja, and Ngamadjidj.
- While I don’t often recommend zoos (I prefer wildlife parks), the Halls Gap Zoo does offer animal experiences.
- Halls Gap Botanical Gardens are quite small compared to many of the other Botanical Gardens you might encounter around Australia. However, they are peaceful and a nice spot to rest awhile. The Botanical Gardens are also the entryway to the Venus Baths. These are serene natural pools, which you are at times able to swim in. We opted not to because the water looked a bit stagnated when we visited.
- Grampians Adventure Golf and MOCO Gallery offers 18-hole golf course themed around the area. The gallery has a variety of art ranging from traditional to contemporary.
- There are kangaroos everywhere! If you have been in Australia and haven’t had a chance to see any wild ones yet, then definitely visit the Grampians.
- We were also able to spot the odd wallaby.
- Finally, we spent the night at Halls Gap Garden Caravan Park and there were emus wandering the campsite everywhere.
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Have you ever been to the Grampians? What was your favourite part? Tell us all about it in the comments below.