The Grampians Region
A three hour drive west of Melbourne brings you to the wide skies, towering mountains and fertile plains of the Grampians region. The centrepiece of this impressive part of the state is the Grampians National Park, which incorporates four sandstone mountain ranges. The mountains are high and imposing, draped in thick forest and divided up by an inland network of rivers and lakes. Over 200 bird species, 900 species of native plants and a plethora of local wildlife call them home, and any trip here is going to make you wish you could do the same.
The Grampians are renowned as having some of the finest marked bushwalking trails in the state, and many of these are just a short drive or a walk away from the town of Halls Gap. Particularly famous is the Pinnacle, which extends outwards from the mountainside, high above the country around it and providing amazing views of the ranges to the north and south. There is a relatively easy walk to the Balconies, another great lookout with exceptional views of the Victoria Range and valley to the south, and to Lake Wartook and the Mount Difficult Range to the north. The Grampians are also well known for their picturesque waterfalls. Especially impressive is the Mackenzie River Falls, a wide sheet of water plunging into a round rock pool.
The Grampians contains approximately 80% of the known Aboriginal rock art sites in Victoria, with a number of new discoveries after the bushfires of January 2006. This makes the Grampians National Park one of the richest Indigenous rock art sites in Australia, and the park is listed with the National Heritage for its past and continuing importance to aboriginal cultural associations. Motifs painted in numerous caves include depictions of humans, human hands, animal tracks and birds. Notable rock art sites include:
- Billimina (Glenisla shelter)
- Jananginj Njani (Camp of the Emu's Foot)
- Manja (Cave of Hands)
- Larngibunja (Cave of Fishes)
- Ngamadjidj (Cave of Ghosts)
- Gulgurn Manja (Flat Rock)
While any visit to the Grampians should first and foremost be about appreciating nature in all its splendour, there is something special about the towns in this region. Scenic, cosy and exceptionally friendly, they provide the perfect base for your Victorian campervan hire adventure. Halls Gap is the largest in the National Park, and the drive to it through the famous 'gap' is as pleasant as the destination itself. If you are not content with just taking in the scenery, then do it with a set of clubs in your hands on the aptly named Mt Difficult Golf Course. There is also a wildlife park to explore, and the tourist-oriented nature of this town means all the luxuries are also available if you feel like a bit of indulgence.
If you appreciate your food and drink, then the Grampians will be right up your alley. The first vineyards were planted here in 1863, and since then wine production in the region has established itself and gone from strength to strength. The Great Grape Road is a touring route you can follow with your campervan; it passes through many of the larger wineries in the region, such as Seppelts and Montara. Seppelts offers a tour of its labyrinthine cellar tunnels and through its immaculately kept grounds. The rich and fertile Grampian soils also produce superb quality olives, and livestock and cheese production are also well established in the region. This makes eating out in the local restaurants an exciting and rewarding experience!
The town of Ararat, just east of the Grampians National Park, is an interesting drive to take because of the great scenery through the Grampians foothills and because of the town itself. Ararat's National Trust-listed former town hall, built in 1899, is now home to the Ararat Regional Art Gallery and the Ararat Performing Arts Centre for the city. Ararat is also widely known as once being a gold rush town, after the Chinese discovered gold here and Chinese miners saturated the town seeking their fortune. The Gum San Museum pays tribute to the history of these miners, bringing to life the story of the immigrant miners on the Victorian Goldfields in the mid-1800's and recreates the social, environmental and political situation of the time. Gum San is an important base for the understanding of the influence of Chinese culture on the economic, cultural and social development of Australia. Other than taking in the town's museums, enjoy browsing it's beautifully kept botanical gardens or its unique old world architecture.
With so much to do in the Grampians it would be a good idea to give yourself plenty of time for your driving holiday. You will love your campervan as it gives you the freedom to take in as much of this expansive region as you like. Many visitors plan their trips here to coincide with the bloom of the wildflowers, so if you are able to visit in late winter, spring or early summer you will be greeted by the sea of colour.