Just three-and-a-bit hours from Melbourne, the Grampians is an abrupt sandstone mountain range rising from the reasonably flat surrounding plains. It stretches between Dunkeld, to the south, Horsham, to the north and Ararat, to the east, although the base of operations for most visitors is Halls Gap.
For the adventurous, the Grampians is one of Australia’s premier rock-climbing destinations, and it’s that abruptness that’s attracted adrenalin junkies from all around. But for those of us who are just ‘active’ or even just ‘curious’, the Grampians is a wonder of nature, cosy cafes and spectacular scenery.
The best place to say is at the NRMA Halls Gap Holiday Park which is on the outskirts of town, and quieter for it. It’s only a two-minute drive in, or a 15-minute walk along the bike track that winds its way along Stony Creek. The park is sprawling, but given it’s under the shadow of a 300-million-year-old mountain, it’s remarkably flat. This is a reasonably full featured park, with two tennis courts, two pools and plenty of things for kids to do. Andrew, the Park Manager, knows all the best spots around the area for food and unmatched adventure. Ask him anything you’d like to know – he’d be happy to help.
Because there’s so much to do around the Grampians, but if you do it’s likely to be at dusk cooking dinner outside enjoying the quiet bliss, with only the occasional laugh from other campsites to break the quiet. Each day you might notice the park empties and fills itself, and I wonder at the people who think only a night is long enough to explore the area.
There is no shortage of excursions to fill your time, although one of the easiest is the a very pleasant walk to Venus Baths. Park your car at the Botanic Gardens then walk through, and from here the baths are less than a kilometre of easy strolling. The track follows Stony Creek until it emerges in a wide sandstone canyon – slick stone on one side, thick bush on the other. The pools themselves are a series of shallow waterholes linked by natural rockslides in between. It can be a quiet place to laze in the sun with the hundreds of little skinks who thought of it first. Cross the bridge to walk back along the other side of the creek and you may come across people bouldering (rock climbing on rocks not high enough to require the use of ropes).
Image Source: @irish_monkey
You’ll quickly discover is that everywhere you go in the Grampians, there’s something else to do once you’re there. MacKenzie Falls is a good example of that. Easily the most impressive waterfall in the area, it’s also the most popular. It plunges some 30-or-so meters over the cliff into a large pool at the bottom, which you can get to by walking down 260 stairs. The view from the bottom is amazing, and if you go later in the afternoon the sun, low in the sky, will make rainbows in the spray.
If you’ve already come this far and down that many stairs, the two-kilometre walk to Fish Falls will leave the bus crowds behind and may be the highlight of your trip – the narrow path hugs Mackenzie River, sometimes crossing it, to the tiered cascade further down-stream. In spring, wild-flowers and green fern carpet the forest floor and the waters are running fast after the winter rains. It’s perfect. From here you can continue to Zumsteins, a picnic area further down-stream, or turn and backtrack along the river.
Considering there’s more than a handful of waterfalls to visit in the Grampians, and that the range rises to over 1,100 metres above sea level, it’s no surprise there’s a couple of great lookouts, too. One of the most spectacular is right next to its carpark, too (or you can take the 6km, one-way, hike to the top from the centre of town). Boroka lookout is stunning. From an unobstructed platform high above town, you look south-east right over Halls Gap itself, and down the valley to Lake Bellfield. From here you can also look right down onto your accommodation at NRMA Halls Gap; It’s right above the holiday park!
That’s not the only sandstone balcony nearby, though. Even more death defying is the ‘Jaws of Death’ at the Balconies Lookout. These are a pair of jutting sandstone outcrops that hover above nothingness 700 metres above sea level. In the past (and I’m sure, in the present), people would pose for photographs out on the edge, although the view from behind the safety rail is pretty good, too. It’s a one kilometre walk out to the Balconies, over mostly hard-packed and flat gravel. The view from the carpark is also quite spectacular, reiterating my earlier point.
The Grampians isn’t all walking and waterfalls and giant scary drops, though. Halls Gap, although basically a one-street village, is a wonderful place to gain back all those burned calories. Overlooking Stony Creek, a quaint complex houses a great little café, bakery and ice-creamery and there’s also a few decent restaurants in town. The Kookaburra Bistro’s soup of the day is always a winner, while its meals were very generous and their beer suitably cold.
Image Source – The Kookaburra Hotel
So, if you’re prepared to strap on your walking legs, love looking down on things and don’t mind a decent feed and a nice drop, Halls Gap is a terrific place to spend a week or so. This barely even scratched the surface, but you certainly should.
Adventure to Halls Gap and experience the Grampians
Set at the base of the mountain ranges, NRMA Halls Gaps Holiday Park close to everything the Grampians National Park has to offer.Book now