Location: Grampians National Park, Victoria
Our first destination in Victoria was the Grampians National Park, and driving up to these big mountains was a bit daunting after cruising through the Western Australian outback and the South Australian coast. Siu On and I are avid rock climbers and hikers and were desperate to get ourselves to one of the most well known rock climbing destinations in Australia.
Siu On and I stayed in the Grampians for two weeks, with the first weekend spent camping at the Plantation campground (free and no need to book in advance), and the remainder of our stay at the Grampians Eco YHA in Halls Gap. Although two weeks in one place is a long time, it rained almost every day that we were in the Gramps and prevented us from doing any rock climbing. However, we were able to do a lot of hiking and on the few sunny days that we had, we made the most of it.
Our favorite hikes in the Grampians include:
- Mount Sturgeon hike (7km return): Located at the southern entrance to the Grampians it’s a mostly uphill hike that gives you beautiful view over Dunkeld and to Mount Abrupt.
- Mount Williams hike (3.6km return): This is a short hike from the car park to the summit and is along a bitumen service road, although it’s very steep this was my favorite sunset view point in the Grampians as you get a full 360 degree view over the area.
- Chimney Pots hike (2.8km loop): Another short but hard hike, and you’ll have it to yourself as this is one of the lesser trekked in the Gramps, but is one of the most beautiful (and was my favorite of the ones we did).
- Sundial car park to Pinnacle hike (4.2km return): As with all the hikes in the Grampians, this is another scenic hike and I did prefer this section to the Wonderland to Pinnacles section as it’s harder and rougher (the Wonderland to Pinnacles section has an elevated platform and stairs for most of it making it a very easy hike for all abilities). At the Pinnacle lookout you get a lovely view over Halls Gap and is great for sunset as well.
The many peaks and ranges in the Grampians all give you a different view of the area, and we did quite a few icy sunrises and chilly sunsets during our time here. Our favorite lookouts over the Grampians include the views at the Pinnacle lookout, Mount Williams and Mount Sturgeon, but also the easily accessible viewpoints at Reid’s Lookout and the Boronia Lookout. Reid’s Lookout in particular is great for sunset and you can drive right up to it.
The best thing about being in the Grampians during winter is the abundant rainfall means all the rivers, creeks and waterfalls were flowing at full steam! Silverband and MacKenzie’s waterfall were both beautiful and well worth a look, with Silverband only a short 1.4km return walk along the river. MacKenzie’s Falls is a lot more strenuous even though it’s only a 2km return walk to the car park, as you’ll have to navigate steps to get down to the base of the falls – it’s worth it though!
If you plan on visiting the Grampians in the wintertime, be prepared for very cold temperatures and a lot of rain, so make sure you have packed your wet weather camping gear and clothing. The waterproof pants I bought in Perth were worth the $80 I paid for them, as they not only protected my legs from a soaking, they also kept me warm by keeping the chilly wind out. And I was glad that I bought all my thermal base layers, polar fleece clothing and my down jacket because I’m pretty sure I wore them every day! That is unless, of course, you’re Victorian, in which case you’d just wear a pair of tights and a jumper judging by the many matching Melbournian couples we saw.
As for the towns in and around the Grampians National Park, the main one is Halls Gap and although it is very well catered for tourists, I would avoid the local supermarket at all costs as the prices were sky high (a tin of beans for $3!), as well as the cafes if you’re after a decent cup of coffee (every single one I had was burnt). However, Basecamp Eatery does serve great food and has free WIFI (which they are happy for you to use and abuse). I do recommend getting out of Halls Gap though and heading to Dunkeld for the day, we found the Dunkeld Old Bakery and Cafe served up some great coffee and had an assortment of baked on the premises bread, cakes and pies, amongst other food options. However, if you’re looking to save money (as we were), we found that grocery and fuel prices were the cheapest in Stawell, and at only 23kms away from Halls Gap, its not too far to go there and back to Halls Gap.
Despite spending two weeks in the Grampians and not taking the climbing gear out of the car at all, we still had an enjoyable time there. The hiking in the area is excellent, and with the first section of the Grampians Peaks Trail opening up, it has just gotten even better as once the entire trail is complete you’ll be able to hike and camp from Dunkeld in the south to Mount Zero in the north, along this 13 day/12 night one way walk. Siu On and I will definitely have to return and crush on some rock or even tackle the Peaks Trail, though definitely in much warmer weather!
Photography by Jelena Stipanicev.