2019/02/20

Nature experiences in style in the Grampians/Australia

Location

Hiking & viewing the landscape plus luxury lodging

My husband and I made on our one-month-long Australia/New Zealand trip (see here outline) also a two-day stop in the central Grampians, a series of rugged sandstone mountain ranges and forests rich in wildlife. As one of Victoria’s most popular vacation destinations it offers a great choice of walking tracks to enjoy the beautiful nature here and many lookouts for panoramic views of the area. While sights here are numerous, the same
cannot be said when it comes to hotels for demanding travelers. Fortunately, I found a solution to this “problem”, which I will go into later on. But first I will tell you a few facts about the Grampians in general and what activities you can expect to do here.

General

The Grampians can be reached by car from Adelaide in about five and a half hours and from Melbourne in a drive of approx. three hours. This National Park, known for its outstanding natural beauty, is huge. It is divided in several parts. While we chose the central Grampians for our two days here – also known as the Wonderland Range –, you could also head to the northern or the southern Grampians. The Wonderland, the heart of this National Park, overlooks the township of Halls Gap – where we stayed – and Fyans Valley.
I cannot judge how it is to travel from Melbourne as we came from Adelaide and headed afterwards to the coast to do the Great Ocean Road, but that much can be said, the drive from Adelaide to Halls Gap was one the longest and by no doubt the most boring of our trip! There is not much to see but grazing and farming land and the only break on the horizon being intermittent wheat silos. But suddenly, rising abruptly from the surrounding Western Plains, the Grampians appear, and you are in a completely different, breathtakingly beautiful world!

What to do (the perfect one-day itinerary)

As mentioned at the beginning, here it is all about walking/hiking and visiting various lookouts to marvel at the stunning scenery. What follows, is – as I think – the ideal one-day itinerary to make the most of your stay here when taking the one or the other (short) hike is your thing. You need a car to do these activities as short drives are necessary to reach somes places of interest. I also give indications on times needed to do the hikes, please note here that my husband and I are quite fit hikers meaning we walk at a rather fast pace. Allow more time if you are more into leisurely strolls.

Pinnacle walk (from Wonderland Carpark)

The Pinnacle is the most known peak in the area and allows you – when you reached it – magnificent views of Hall Gap and the surrounding peaks.
And the best is that already the walk itself gives you the chance to enjoy the marvelous nature – if you are not too busy being out of breath of course because the walk from the Wonderland Carpark is quite a strenuous one (distance 5.5 km/3.4 miles return, elevation change 280 meters/917 feet). You pass the “Grand Canyon”, rocky woodland, Bridal Veil Falls and Silent Street
until you reach the awe-inspiring Pinnacle Lookout. It took my husband and me about one and a half hour to do this walk.

It is also possible to make the walk to the Pinnacle easier by driving up to the Sundial Carpark (distance 4.2 km/2.6 miles return, elevation change 110 meters/361 feet).

The Balconies Lookout (from Reed Lookout Carpark)

Back at the Wonderland Carpark drive via Mount Victoria Road to the Reed Lookout Carpark and do the easy walk to The Balconies Lookout to enjoy panoramic views over the Victoria Valley.
The trail climbs gently through rock outcrops and a stringybark forest and requires a walk of about 35 minutes (distance 2 km/1.2 miles return, elevation chance 50 meters/164 feet).

Boroka Lookout

Another short drive brings you via Mount Difficult Road to Boroka Lookout. The walk from the carpark is short and suitable for people with limited mobility. You have spectucalar views of the Wonderland and Mount William Ranges as well as of Fyans Valley and Lake Bellfied.

Lakeview Loop (from Sundial Carpark)

Drive via Silverband Road to the already mentioned Sundial Carpark (easier climb up to the Pinnacle) and do another easy walk (distance 1.8 km/1.1 miles, elevation change 20 meters/66 feet) to a point overlooking Lake Bellfield and the Mount William Range. When you have reached the descent, look left and you can also see the Pinnacle, the lookout which you climbed before.
Return to the carpark and view the beautiful wildflower when doing the walk in spring as we did (time needed about 25 minutes).

Lake Bellfield

Drive further along Silverband Road (one-way minor sealed road). If you have time left and would enjoy another short walk, stop at Silverband Falls Carpark. There is another easy walk to a waterfall that disappears here. We did not do this and drove on to the lake where we had some leisure time at the water.

Where to stay in style in Halls Gap

As mentioned at the beginning, there are neither luxury hotels nor B&B’s for discerning clients in Halls Gap, the gateway to the Grampians, so I had to try hard to find lodging suitable to our needs. Finally, I was lucky enough to come upon Aspect Villas, two self-contained apartments. We picked “Bushland”,
in my view the nicer located one, and loved our stay here! The position is great, just a short walk into the village, and the villas have a lovely secluded feel. It is a modern open plan living area,
equipped with a large spa tub, a fireplace, a comfy bed,
a large bathroom with washer/dryer
and an outdoor patio with a grill. The kitchen is stocked with toast bread, yogurt, granola, juice, local fudge and tea/coffee, but we did not make use of it as we headed to town to have breakfast there (see my tip where to go later on). But the best part of the stay is the wildlife you can view from the villa,
it is like being in an animal sanctuary with numerous close-up sights of kangaroo, wallabies, deer and flocks of white birds on the villa property!

Where to eat in Halls Gap

There is not only a shortage of upscale accommodation opportunities in Halls Gap but also – no surprise – of restaurants with seriously good food! I can only think of one establishment I can recommend without reservation, and this is “only” a cafe meaning it closes at 4:00 PM on weekdays and 5:00 PM on weekends! Thus, not the spot to have dinner, so we had only breakfast as well as tea/coffee and cake here …  But we enjoyed our meals very much although it was quite busy in the morning and there was quite a long wait to get served. The place is called Livefast Lifestyle Cafe
and is located in some kind of a small mall in the town center. We had a fabulous teatime here and one of the best breakfasts of our whole trip, smashed avocado (seeded sourdough, goat’s cheese, lemon, dukkah, beetroot trio-pate, greens and crisps)

and sticky date pancakes (butterscotch sauce, warm poached apple, toasted walnuts, natural yoghurt).
And the fresh juice and the coffee were divine!

When it comes to dinner, I suggest that you cook in your villa or throw a steak on the grill. We did not to do this because we were too comfortable, but I wish we had done it! I might have a tip for you when staying in Halls Gap on a Friday, Deirdre’s, tucked away at the foot of the Grampians in Laharum Grove, offering innovative, creative food, but it is quite a stretch to drive (about ¾ hour). I have not been there dreading the long journey on partly unsealed roads. Have you been there by any chance? Let me know how it was, please.

Overall

The Grampians, not a long drive from Melbourne and a bit a longer one from Adelaide, feature a series of stunning sandstone mountain ranges and is a great place to spend some days in nature.
The most popular activity here is walking, there is a wide choice of trails for all abilities. I especially recommend walking to The Pinnacle Lookout, but there is also a lot to do for non-walkers such as numerous spectacular lookouts reachable by car.

When looking for luxury accommodation and quality food in this nature reserve, there is unfortunately not much on offer. But there is some hope, stay at the Aspect Villas,
have breakfast and lunch at Livefast Lifestyle Cafe
and give maybe Restaurant Deirdre’s a try!

Date of stay: November 2018

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