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Strategically, we planned our 4 day Getaway to the Grampians at the start of our month-long holiday in Australia. Right after the first rush and excitement of being back in the bosom of our family, but just before the niggles of living in close quarters with your parents kicks in.
And it. Was. Glorious.
We hand fed wild Kangaroos and Cockatoos over breakfast. Spent lazy mornings reading books and breakfasting at the country bakery. Hiked in the cooler twilight hours to trickling waterfalls. We saw wild emu chicklets chase after their mother, learned about the Aboriginal ideas of seasons and how they connected to the local landscape. We slept, and did nothing, for the first time in what felt like forever.
It was the first actual ‘holiday’ we’d had together in a long time. Maybe ever. The town was too small to worry about ‘missing’ any major sights. The weather too hot to inspire any activity before 3pm. Enforced stillness.
Escaping to the countryside was easily one of the highlights of our trip to Melbourne. If you’ve never heard of the Grampians before, I’d recommend adding it to your ‘must-see in Victoria’ list. Particularly if your partner happens to be an outdoorsy, hike loving Austrian type!
There’s a great highway connection between the Grampians and the Great Ocean Rd, so you could easily do a road trip from central Melbourne, to the Grampians and round it out with a few days along the beach. I pulled together some of our tips for you, to make sure you get the most out of your time in this underrated region of Victoria.
Where to Stay
Halls Gap is the best small town location to reach the majority of sights in the Grampians National Park – though you will definitely need a car to get around between locations.
Kingfisher Lodge Deluxe Villa
We stayed at the really lovely Kingfisher Lodge, a perfect couples retreat with split levels, gigantic bed, balcony and a spa bath. The hosts are delightful – you get a gift box on arrival full of local treats and the kitchen is extraordinarily well stocked with crockery and cooking utensils.
As this was the real ‘holiday splurge’ part of the trip it was worth the extra $$ to enjoy the views and cosy atmosphere. Did I mention the wildlife out the window? There’s Kangaroos & Cockatoos on your doorstep each morning, Emu’s strutting in the fields out the window and Rosella’s and Galah’s flitting overhead to the sound of Kookaburra’s laughing. It was Aussie Wildlife 101 – nailed it! Finally getting Stefan up close and friendly with some Kangaroos …
If you’re not on the ‘splurge weekend’ budget, the YHA Halls Gap hostel come highly recommended for families and solo travellers. The always useful Y Travel Blog has a great write up of their stay with kids at YHA.
If you’re on a road trip, the local caravan parks had some great options. Had we gone with our original plan to camp, I’d have stayed at the gorgeous Grampians Paradise Camping & Caravan Parkland. They have plenty of shady plots, enough space for privacy and some on site vans if you don’t want to be towing your own accommodation.
What To Do
Because we visited in peak summer, hiking was a no-go during in 40 degree heat. We found enough small country town activities to keep ourselves occupied until the temperatures dropped and we could really explore.
Halls Gap Town
It doesn’t get more country town than this. Chat with the locals, buy an ice-cream or head to the local swimming pool to cool off. There’s 1 supermarket, 1 newsagent and 3 cafe’s to while away your time, and a nice open area for sitting and watching the world go by…verrryyy slowly.
Gorgeous for a sunset walk. The crowds clear out, the sun slowly edges toward the horizon but the rocks beneath your feet maintain the heat of the day when you skip across the river.
The Mackenzie Falls have been a tourist spot since the early 1900’s. Besides the falls themselves, there’s some great old photographs of the first motor car to visit the lookout point, right beside stories of the folk who used to work there in the early days of tourism. Take your time walking down, and wear sensible shoes/thongs as there’s some steep bits of path and stairs to get down into the actual Falls area. Once you are there, you can frolic and pose wistfully among the rocks and nature.
This cultural education centre offers a really comprehensive & modern look at how the local Aboriginal tribes of the Grampians region lived off the land for centuries. Aaaannd how European settlers ruined that in less than 50 years with cattle, sheep, imports, farming and slaughter. It was particularly interesting to visit here with someone who didn’t grow up in Australia, as I realised how much of our history I assumed the entire world knew. For Stefan it was a revelation to learn about the culture of aboriginals, their connection to the land and seasons, and the shame-filled history of European settlement in Australia. Definitely recommend as a lovely, air-conditioned daytime activity – with a side serving of brutal truth.
The best activity in the Grampians is to head high – to the major lookout points that stretch Western Victoria beneath you like a quilt. The land is unbelievably flat, far and wide. My initial plan had been to hike along the trails that led to the lookout points, but the weather made it near impossible. Spring is apparently the best time to return, when flowers are blooming and the temperatures drop to ‘manageable’ rather than ‘hellishly hot’.
Where to Eat
Look, I’m not going to lie to you guys – there’s not a huge amount of options in Halls Gap. 3 cafe’s, 1 restaurant, 1 pub. The cafe’s are good for breakfast in the morning, with some fantastic fresh healthy options, and both barista’s make a mean coffee. You will know them by name after 2 days – it’s just that kind of place. The pub is always busy, but to be honest, overpriced for the quality of food you get – the parma was especially a letdown. Best option is to buy your own meat and BBQ supplies at the supermarket and have a real Aussie barbecue dinner. Beware the supermarket shuts early, and you won’t find anything under $5 in there.
The Grampians were stunning. They made me fall back in love with the Australian bushland. The open friendliness of the locals, the relaxed pace and the options to get outdoors were endless. I was happily surprised at how much we enjoyed going out bush for a few days and exploring my own backyard of regional Victoria.
I’m really keen to get back in cooler weather and conquer some of the hiking trails, and possibly even try the local winery tours. It left me wanting more – which was the last thing I expected from country Victoria.
Have you heard about the Grampians before? We loved our time there, you can let me know in the comments if you’d like more info about the region.