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TRAVEL & LEISURE

Ten Things You Didn't Realise You Could Do in The Grampians

Do things a little differently on your next weekend escape.
By Cordelia Williamson
June 20, 2019
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Ten Things You Didn't Realise You Could Do in The Grampians

Do things a little differently on your next weekend escape.
By Cordelia Williamson
June 20, 2019
  shares

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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 western 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 from the regular inner-city hustle.

From Australia's largest outdoor gallery to walking through hand-dug cellar tunnels dating back to the 1860s, the Grampians is entrenched with a rich cultural history. More of a foodie? Head to one of Victoria's best regional restaurants and try to pick from its 28,000-strong wine cellar. Or, you could venture beneath the surface and explore the region's underground cellar tunnels. Whatever quirky things you decide to add to your itinerary, the Grampians is your place to do things a little differently.

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GO ON A LANTERN GHOST TOUR AT A CRIMINAL ASYLUM

Located in the former gold-mining town of Ararat, J Ward has a haunted past. Once the old town jail, J Ward then became an asylum for the criminally insane. It 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. Closing in 1991, the defunct building now contains a museum complex, with tours running multiple times a day.

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 Friday 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. cp-line

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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 three and half 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 people, 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 as a homage to the local community's strength. cp-line

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 into while you're in the Grampians. Kick off your visit to this old spot (it's celebrating 150 years soon) 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 are 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 it's got on offer for the day.

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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 glamping here is a great option for those wanting to experience the great outdoors with the comfort of an Airbnb — plus, have the added bonus of wines galore right next door. There are two tents — one designed for couples and one designed to share between four mates — and each comes with a spread of treats and a bottle of bubbly on arrival.
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BYO PICNIC ON A VINEYARD

Picnics and wine are as old as time. With Mount Langi Ghiran's Picnic Idyll weekends, you can sip on the sweet nectar of the gods and look out across some stunning countryside as you snack. Open every weekend from 11am–4pm, the vineyard invites you to bring your own feast and set up a spread under the chestnut orchard, with sweeping views of Mount Cole. Drinks are sorted though — Mount Langi Giran will supply the vinos (and wine glasses). For those who are fans of garden party sports, there's bocce and bikes for hire if you feel like exploring grounds.

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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 season and comes in the form of either a five-course ($170) or eight-course ($195) degustation. If you can stretch the wallet as much as your stomachs, there are pairings of cellar, Australian or French wines available, too. With the restaurant sitting on such a grand cellar, we recommend you sample a few.

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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 Carpark 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.

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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 has had its first section just complete. The 36-kilometre circuit is 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 and 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.

The remaining sections of Grampians Peaks Trails are set to be complete in 2020. Once complete, the total duration of the trail will be 13 days and 12 nights.
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LEARN HOW TO FLY A PLANE IN A GLAMPING TENT

Sure, glamping is pretty conventional these days, 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.

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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.cp-line

For more wintry places, spaces and events in regional Victoria, visit Your Happy Space.

Top image: Mount William by Robert Blackburn, courtesy of Visit Victoria.

 

Published on June 20, 2019 by Cordelia Williamson

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