Ten Things You Didn't Realise You Could Do in the Grampians
Do things a little differently on your next weekend escape.
June 06, 2020
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You may know the Grampians as home to sandstone mountains, abundant wildlife, spectacular waterfalls and plenty of walking tracks. But this rugged landscape has more than meets the eye. Dotted among the vineyards and wondrous vistas are some pretty out-there experiences that set it aside from other parts of regional Victoria — and make it a great place to escape to when you want to get out of the city. Read on for ten things you mightn't expect from a trip to the Grampians.
From pristine beaches and bountiful wine regions to alpine hideaways and bustling country towns, Australia has a wealth of places to explore at any time of year. We've partnered with Tourism Australia to help you plan your road trips, weekend detours and summer getaways so that when you're ready to hit the road you can Holiday Here This Year.
Some of the places mentioned below may be operating differently due to COVID-19 restrictions. Please check the relevant websites before making any plans.
GO ON A LANTERN GHOST TOUR AT A CRIMINAL ASYLUM
Located in the former gold-mining town of Ararat is a former gaol-turned-asylum for the criminally insane. J Ward once housed some of Victoria's most troubled and dangerous men — including Chopper Read, Garry David (Webb) and Bill Wallace — under the highest security and in fairly horrific conditions. It's a pretty bone-chilling place. Closed in 1991, the defunct building now contains a museum, with tours running most days.
But, if you want the full shake-in-your-boots experience, wander the halls at night on a lantern ghost tour. Kicking off at 9.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays, the two-hour tour lets you explore the hangman's gallows, governor's bathroom, the original kitchen, shower block, grave sites, west wing, exercise yards and, of course, the J Ward block. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, J Ward at night is sure to get you a little spooked.
SEE LARGE-SCALE MURALS AT AUSTRALIA'S LARGEST OUTDOOR GALLERY
Running through a stretch of western Victoria is Australia's largest outdoor gallery — the Silo Art Trail. The 200-kilometre gallery showcases portraits depicted on old grain silos, celebrating the region and its people — sort of like a rural (and much larger) version of the Archibald Prize. Running from Rupanyup to Patchewollock, the Silo Art Trail is a partnership between the local council, the Victorian Government, the Australian Government, international street art agency Juddy Roller and GrainCorp, plus a host of local and international street artists.
Rupanyup should be your first stop. The silo, located a 30-minute drive from Horsham (or 3.5 hours from Melbourne), boasts a double portrait of two young sport players, capturing the town's community spirit and an accurate depiction of rural youth culture. Venture a little further to Sheep Hills and you'll come across Melbourne-based artist Adnate's mural, which depicts the region's Indigenous peoples, their stories and their native lands. A little further along, you'll find Brim. This mural (pictured) was the first silo artwork in Victoria and depicts four farmers in tribute to the local community's strength.
WALK THROUGH A WINERY'S HISTORIC UNDERGROUND TUNNELS
Best's Great Western is one of the oldest and continuously family owned and operated wineries in the country, making it one of the best vineyards to stop by while you're in the Grampians. Kick off your visit to this old spot (it's over 150 years old) with a Concongella Cellar Walk, where you can see the 1860s-built, hand-dug tunnels and explore the cobwebbed passages. Although it was renovated in the 1940s for white wine maturation and bottling, the underground cellar sections are still a great insight into the winery's heritage.
After your brief history lesson, head back up into the cosy cellar door (if it's cool, the wood fire will be crackling away in the corner) and enjoy a relaxed tasting of what's on offer for the day.
SLEEP AMONG THE VINES
Another historic winery in the region is Seppelt. Established in 1863, Seppelt is the birthplace of Australian sparkling shiraz and is basically synonymous with Victorian viticulture. Boasting heritage-listed cellars, a cafe, a cellar door and 105 hectares of rolling vineyard, Seppelt produces some top-notch cool-climate wines.
And you can actually rest your noggin right here in the vineyard. Run by Wanderlust Glamping, the accommodation here is a great option for those wanting to experience the great outdoors with the comfort of an Airbnb — plus, have the bonus of wines galore right next door. There are three tents — one designed for couples, one designed for three people, and another to share between four mates. Optional extras include hampers, a bottle of bubbly on arrival and electric blankets if you're visiting in winter.
PICNIC AT A VINEYARD
At Mount Langi Ghiran, you can sip on the sweet nectar of the gods and look out across some stunning countryside as you snack. Its Picnic Idyll weekends are currently on pause, but when the weekend events are up and running again you can bring your own feast and set up a spread under the chestnut orchard, with sweeping views of Mount Cole. For those keen to sit inside, the cellar door is open for seated tastings daily (10am–5pm) and you can sample your way through five of Mount Langi Giran's vinos. When social restrictions are lifted, we're hoping the vineyard brings back its bocce and bikes for hire, too.
GET A HIGH-FLYING FEED AT A RESTAURANT WITH A 28,000-STRONG WINE CELLAR
Found in the foothills of the Grampians National Park, the Royal Mail Hotel, with its restaurant Wickens, is Dunkeld's headline dining destination. Home to Australia's largest working restaurant kitchen garden and a sprawling cellar that houses 28,000 high-quality bottles of wine, the Royal Mail Hotel is a countryside dream for gastronomes.
The menu shifts with the seasons and is a five-course ($190) degustation. If you can stretch the wallet as much as your stomachs, there are pairings of cellar or French wines available, too. Considering the restaurant's grand cellar, it'd be rude not to.
CATCH AMAZING SUNSETS AT THE BALCONIES
With its own namesake national park, the Grampians is a natural paradise with plenty of hikes and sites to keep you busy. Home to impressive sandstone mountains and Victoria's largest waterfall — MacKenzie Falls — the Grampians National Park boasts natural beauty by the bucketload. Even more so come sundown.
Just a quick, one-kilometre walk will get you to a unique rock formation called the Balconies. Here, you'll catch sweeping views across Victoria Valley with Mount Victory standing proudly in the distance. Start from Reed Lookout car park and walk along the relatively easy track through native shrub and rocky paths to get to the panoramic lookout point. If it's a clear evening, the sunset over the valley will be worth the trek. Just remember to pack your camera and a torch for the walk back.
TAKE A HIKE AND WALK ALONG THE NEW GRAMPIANS PEAKS TRAIL
One of the Walk Victoria's Icons' long-distance trails, the Grampians Peaks Trail, once completed, will be a 160-kilometre trail like no other. When it's open (planned for December 2020), it'll be a 13-day, 12-night walk. Right now you can trample 36 kilometres of it in a three-day, two-night trek departing from Halls Gap. First up, you'll pass the Venus Baths track, which you can take a short and easy detour to in order to see the deep, sandstone rock pools. Proceed to Splitters Falls, then through a rocky gully to the ancient rock formations of the Grand Canyon. From here, you'll approach Pinnacle Lookout, with spectacular views over Mount William, Halls Gap and Fyans Valley. Continue along Grampians Peaks Trail to your campsite for the night at Bugiga.
Day two brings an ascent to Mount Rosea summit and, at 991 metres elevation, you'll cop 360-degree views over the Serra and Mount William Ranges, before settling in at Borough Hut Campground for your second night's stay. Round off the trek with a six-hour amble back to Halls Gap.
LEARN HOW TO FLY A PLANE IN A GLAMPING TENT
Sure, you've likely heard of glamping, but have you ever heard of aero-glamping? Fair, it's pretty weird. At Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park, you'll find plenty of campsites, cabins, caravans and stock-standard safari tents, but you'll also find a glamper with an attached flight simulator. The aero glamper really takes glamping to new heights.
Inside the canvas walls is a decked out timber-clad pad with all the amenities. Equipped with a bed, kitchenette and full bathroom, it's got everything, including the kitchen sink and a fully functional 737 flight simulator. Priced at $149 per night, the aero glamper includes one complimentary hour of fly time, with additional hours available for purchase at $50 an hour.
MAKE SNOW ANGELS ON MOUNT WILLIAM
Mount William is the highest peak in the Grampians National Park. It stands 1167 metres tall and provides panoramic views of the surrounding mountain ranges. Although the valley rarely gets blanketed in snow, Mount William is a winter wonderland almost every chilly season. Perfect for building snowmen, making snow angels or having a cheeky snowball battle, Mount William should be at the top of your list if you want a little winter jaunt in the Grampians. Plus, it will make stopping into one of the many wineries for a full-bodied, cool-climate shiraz even sweeter.
Whether you're planning to travel for a couple of nights or a couple of weeks, Holiday Here This Year and you'll be supporting Australian businesses while you explore the best of our country's diverse landscapes and attractions.
Top image: Mount William by Robert Blackburn, Visit Victoria.
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