If you’re pressed for time and can only fit in a weekend in the Grampians, this is our complete guide to ensure you have an epic escape in the Aussie bush. Whether you’re after adventure or relaxation, this mountainous region of Victoria has got you covered. It’s close proximity to Melbourne and dense wilderness is a tourist mecca for locals and foreigners alike with its popularity ever-growing, along with the regions quality restaurant and hotel offerings. And if it’s wildlife your after, this is the place for you, with kangaroos found in their hundreds. With hikes and trails crisscrossing this vast expanse of area, it would take a thesis just to cover all of the sightseeing, so this guide is just our top recommendations that you should not miss!
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How To Get To The Grampians
You are definitely going to want to have a car to explore the Grampians. Firstly they are over three hours drive west from Melbourne and secondly the attractions are fairly spread out over a large area and driving is the only way to check them out (unless your a very keen walker and have more than a weekend!). To get there, type in Halls Gap into your Maps, and commence road trip!
The drive from Melbourne travels through just some of the nations many farms where towns are few and far between. The drive along the Western Freeway is easy going and not a difficult drive by any means. As you near the Grampians you will notice the farms shift to forest and dramatic mountains. For visiting the Grampians you have a few options, however, for just a weekend we recommend staying in the centre, in the town of Halls Gap. The driving distances between places can seriously eat into your time so it makes sense to stay in the middle of the action.
By Public Transport
Although not ideal, you can travel to the Halls Gap via public transport. However, it will just make it a bit more tricky to access many of the lookouts and trails. There are however quite a number of trails starting from the town centre, so if it’s your only option, you could still make a great weekend out of it!
From Melbourne, take a V/Line train from Southern Cross to Ballarat Station (90 mins). At Ballarat Station change to a V/Line bus to Stawell (90 mins). From Stawell, there will be another bus you can take to drop you off in Halls Gap Town Centre (30 mins).
For further info and the timetable click here.
When Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit The Grampians?
The Grampians has its perks any time of the year you choose to visit with each season offering totally different experiences. Spring and Summer are definitely the prime times to go though!
Winter: There’s no denying, it will be pretty chilly in the Grampians in Winter, however, this holds a few positives. Fewer crowds, campfires, cool hiking temperatures and the possibility for snow make winter a surprisingly nice choice. Rain and cloud bound days though are a possibility so be aware that your perfect sunrise shoot may take a few attempts.
Spring: In our opinion the ideal time to visit. Crisp mornings and beautiful sun-filled days make it ideal out and about exploring or climbing mountains. It’s not peak season yet so you’ll still often have attractions to yourself as well. Plus being spring there will be an abundance of wildlife, birds and wildflowers throughout the region.
Summer: Clear skies 95% of the time means sun-drenched days. Average temperature highs are 30 degrees, though 40 degree plus days are a regular summer event so you will get a chance to sample some of the many swimming holes. This is peak season though so you will find many of the more popular areas seriously crowded.
Autumn: Autumn can provide often provide great weather and being a shoulder season there are usually good deals to be had from accommodation providers.
If possible, try to avoid travelling during school holidays or on long weekends as it will be extremely busy, meaning crowded trails and jacked up pricing!
The Best Things to Do In The Grampians
You might hear ‘The Grampians’ and think it’s all about the hikes, but there’s actually so much more to the region, you could easily fill a month here!
Take A Hike
It wouldn’t be a proper trip to the Grampians if you didn’t do at least one hike. Regardless of fitness level or ability, there will be a trail for you, with easy walks ranging from 5 minutes to multi-day adventures for the seasoned hikers. Getting amongst nature and exploring the wilderness is what this region’s famous for and trust us, it is absolutely stunning. Rugged towering mountain ranges, epic lookouts, picturesque valleys, gentle streams, rocky canyons and dense forest make this a serious natural paradise. With many walks commencing from Halls Gap itself, you have no excuse!
On the topic of becoming one with nature, try to make it to at least one waterfall. There’s a handful scattered throughout The Grampians with a couple that is really easily accessible. MacKenzie Falls is the most popular by far due to its size and constant flow, you can also climb right down to the base of it and enjoy the refreshing misty spray. Unfortunately, swimming is prohibited here, so we highly recommend following the falls further downstream to the gentle Fish Falls if you are keen on a dip. Silverband Falls is another picturesque fall and a only a short 700m walk through shady fern filled forest.
Being a pristine national park, there is no shortage of Australian wildlife enjoying their natural habitat. You are pretty much certain to see at least one kangaroo, but usually, you can find them in their hundreds grazing around the town. Throughout the park, it’s not uncommon to see deers and emu’s, the enormous flightless Australian native bird.
If spotting a kangaroo is on your bucket list, we highly recommend the short Fyans Creek Loop. This easy pram friendly walk through the Aussie scrub opens up on a large grassed area almost always full of kangaroos, for the best chances try to visit late afternoon close to sunset.
You will also notice an abundance of birdlife, especially cockatoos and parrots. When having afternoon tea on our balcony one afternoon, we were joined by no less than ten birds eager for a snack. They were so tame from years of visitors that they would happily jump up onto your shoulder for a bit of fruit!
And if your keen on even more animals, the Halls Gap Zoo is host to a wide variety of Australian wildlife such as wallabies, koalas and dingos. You will also spot exotic animals from further afield like meerkats, monkeys and the rare red panda.
You will be spoilt for choice if you enjoy a bit of blood pumping activity on your holidays. The Grampians being a natural wonderland are home to many awesome activities, begging to be explored. From great mountain bike trails to ideal rock formations for abseiling and rock climbing, to huge waterways to enjoy by boating, kayaking and fishing – there is something for everyone. The hardest part is choosing what to fit in! You will find a range of adventure companies that will kit you up and guide you through a wide variety of activities if you don’t have the gear or the knowhow! Check out Absolute Outdoors, Hangin’ Out and Grampians Adventure Co to get an idea of pricing of different activities and hire options.
In Halls Gap town, you will also find Halls Gap E-Bike Hire. These guys rent out push bikes or electric scooter type bikes, so you can enjoy the bike paths in the region without the hassle of bringing your own.
Indulge In Amazing Food
The Grampians region has started gaining traction as a bit of a haven for foodies. With such a variety of local produce available and the sheer number of farms, it’s no surprise the food on offer at some places is exceptional. Think award-winning restaurants and farm to plate experiences. Although not in Halls Gap itself, these more enticing offerings are located slightly off the beaten track but are well worth the trip. You’ll also find a variety of quaint cafes, take-aways and family-friendly restaurant and pub offerings in Halls Gap. Over the course of a weekend here you should be able to sample some great food if you choose the right places!
Explore The Local Vineyards & Farms
It goes without saying that there are a LOT of vineyards and farms in close proximity to the Grampians. In fact, James grew up on one close-by, but that’s another story. Anyway, the area is known for several great wineries where you sit back in picturesque surroundings and taste test straight from the cellar door, with many offering awesome platters of food as well. You’ll also find many farm tours available to get up close and personal with the animals that have made the area’s farmland so famous. Read ahead to find out about our top winery picks in the area!
Catch Up On Culture And Art
The Grampians are an important area for Aboriginal culture, with a wealth of stories stemming from the region and various Aboriginal rock art sites. Some of this art is visible by following short trails throughout the national park. The Brambuk National Park and Cultural Centre in Halls Gap is both a visitors centre for the region but also the longest-running Aboriginal cultural centre in the country. If you are interested in the Aboriginal Culture, this place has you covered with various exhibits and activities immersing yourself in their way of life. Art and artefact displays, cultural talks, didgeridoo playing, dances, boomerang throwing, painting and more are all prominent in the centre. By the time you leave, you will be totally informed of the Dreamtime story of the Grampians and why it holds such a special place in the Aboriginals hearts.
If it’s art you are keen on, well the Grampians has that too. Starting from Horsham is Australia’s biggest outdoor gallery – the 200km Silo Art Trail. An amazing initiative to transform ugly drab wheat silos into enormous pieces of art, commissioned by some of the world’s best street artists. They really are something to be seen to be believed, they are enormous and dominate the flat landscape!
See It From Above
Why not see the Grampians in the most luxe way, and take a flight over them in a helicopter. Grampians Helicopters will sort you out with a range of flight options from joy rides to longer scenic tours. They also have a ‘Land between vines’ tour where you will fly to two separate wineries and enjoy some wining and dining with your own heli chauffeur!
The Best Walks And Lookouts In The Grampians
It’s no surprise MacKenzie Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in the Grampians, it’s massive, flows year-round, has two epic view choices and it’s easy to reach.
If you search the Grampians on Instagram, one of the most common photos will be of the Balconies, or as it was formerly known ‘The Jaws of Death’. We think the Jaws of Death is a much more appropriate name because it really does resemble the jaws of a T-Rex Dinosaur. This spectacular viewpoint is seriously amazing and insane for sunrise, sunset or any time in-between!
The Boroka lookout is the ideal place for those who find waking up for sunrises hard enough, it’s seriously only a 1 minute walk to the viewpoint from the carpark. And it is an epic vantage point of the Halls Gap and the nearby mountain ranges and lakes.
This trail is the longest in our suggestions, but it’s well worth it because it passes through some seriously spectacular scenery. Starting from Halls Gap you can walk all the way up to the dramatic Pinnacle viewpoint. Along the way, you’ll spot Venus Baths – a natural swimming hole up the mountain, Splitter Falls, Grand Canyon – A massive rocky expanse, Bridal Veil Falls and Silent Street a narrow rocky passageway. If your feeling adventurous this walk is a great introduction to the region showing off many highlights at once. Be aware its a good half days walk, comprising of about 9km of track.
The Best Places To Eat In The Grampians
The Royal Mail Hotel offers a diverse offering of fantastic foods and wines. The Royal Mail is host to the 2 Hat award-winning Wickens restaurant, and the cheaper yet still impressive Parker Street Project. These two restaurants offer up amazingly curated fine dining sourced from Australia’s largest working kitchen garden and locally sourced ingredients. Exquisite architectural detail and amazing views of Mount Sturgeon make this place a must-visit on any trip to the Grampians. It is one of the culinary delights of the region and its extensive wine cellar would have to be one of the largest in the country. For a more casual laid back vibe there’s also a public bar with typical pub fare.
98 Parker St, Dunkeld
Located on an Organic Olive Grove covering 300 acres, Diedres is nestled beneath dramatic western escarpment of Mount Difficult Range within the Grampians National Park. This restaurant serves up lunch and dinner which celebrates the seasonal diversity and quality of fresh produce sourced from small, independent growers. You’ll also be able to purchase some of the yummy award-winning oils and preserves.
1603 Winfields Rd, Laharum VIC 3401
This award-winning olive farm produces a whole range of olive products and has a farm gate cafe focusing on a paddock-to-plate experience. The cafe showcases the range of produced olive products through a seasonal menu that emphasises their use of local produce. The cafe has implemented a Backyard Trading program so that local growers can donate any excess produce to the cafe and reduce food wastage that would otherwise occur, a neat concept! You’ll also be able to purchase loads of local delicacies from local producers.
3594 Ararat – Halls Gap Rd, Pomonal
Located in the Stoney Creek Complex right in the centre of Halls Gap, this is probably the best place to grab a bit to eat in the entire town. There’s an epic menu that you’d expect to find in Melbourne, not in the middle of the remote national park! Offering up a range of brekky, brunch and lunch as well as loads of drinks and fresh juice options!
5/97 Grampians Road, Halls Gap
With a large sun-soaked front porch surrounded by lush mountain ranges, Harvest definitely has a great location. The Cafe aims to demonstrate the delicious fabulous food and wine created within the Grampians and sources many local ingredients where possible. You’ll be able to grab a hearty breakfast, brunch or lunch along with the usual coffee, tea and treats! Harvest and their scrumptious food is a complete surprise to find in quiet little Halls Gap!
2 Heath St, Halls Gap
It’s not a trip to Halls Gap without visiting Coolas Ice Creamery and it’s the perfect treat after a days exploring! You’ll find everybody else in town has the same idea because this place is always insanely popular. It no joke has a queue of 20 people waiting for ice creams when we visited, and yes you we joined the queue! You’ll find all the classics as well as some special more gourmet ice cream blends – the apple pie one was insane! It was also Ollie’s first ever try of ice cream – big mistake, he cried when we took it away!
97 Grampians Rd, Halls
For a more casual feed theres always the Halls Gap Hotel for a good ol fashioned Aussie pub meal. Although nothing to write home about, the food here is reasonable and portions well sized. Also has a roaring fire to keep you toasty in the depths of winter.
2262 Grampians Rd, Halls Gap
Located at the base of Mt Sturgeon at the southern tip of the Grampians, this luxury hotel is well renowned in the region. Offering free WiFi, an outdoor swimming pool, a fine-dining restaurant and a casual dining area, Royal Mail Hotel is located in Dunkeld. Guests are invited to join a daily, complimentary chefs tour of the hotels organic kitchen garden. All rooms feature a flat-screen TV, an iPod docking station and tea/coffee making facilities. Each room has a private bathroom with a shower, a hairdryer and bathrobes. Some rooms have a mountain view and a garden view. If staying in the hotel style rooms isn’t your style, they have luxe bluestone cottages located just down the road on prime farmland.
This deluxe standalone villa is located in Halls Gap, and is a retreat featuring an oval spa with mountain views. Free WiFi and parking is provided. The adults only villa has 1 bedroom with air conditioning and a fully equipped kitchen with a dishwasher. It offers a fireplace, and an outdoor fireplace and wood-fire pizza oven. The secluded villa is also home to native wildlife and is central to Halls Gap town centre. Icon Central Halls Gap offers a range of wellness facilities including a sauna. BBQ facilities is available for guests to use at the accommodation.
Featuring included breakfast, a spa bath and a fireplace, each of the Marwood Luxury Villas offers a relaxing escape. All cillas include a fully equipped kitchen, laundry facilities and an outdoor seating area with mountain and garden views. Each of these individually decorated villas features handmade terracotta and slate tiles, granite work surfaces and floor rugs. The lounge and dining area offers a sofa, a flat-screen TV and DVD player. Your private bathroom has a shower and slippers.
Set amongst the tranquility of the Grampians, DULC Cabins offers architecturally designed accommodation with private spa baths. Guests here enjoy free Wi-Fi and free parking. Each room includes a cosy fireplace, a flat-screen TV and a DVD player. They also have a kitchenette with a refrigerator, a microwave, an electric kettle and a toaster. The private bathroom has deluxe toiletries.
The Halls Gap Tourist Park isn’t your average caravan park offering camping and cabins. They have a specialist range of ‘glamping’ options! From safari tents, to pods to bell tents and a well equipped retro caravan. Surrounded by nature and mountains in Halls Gap this tourist park is ideally located for exploring all the region has to offer.