Victoria – The Grampians – unspoilt natural beauty
Plus sublime food and wine
By Tricia Brown
Just a three hour drive from Melbourne, the Grampians has something for every visitor: spectacular mountain ranges and valleys, wildflowers and wildlife in abundance or for the more adventurous there's bushwalking and rock climbing pursuits...and that's just for starters.
The area in fact offers much more with its fascinating gold rush history, Aboriginal rock art sites, busy regional centres, friendly cellar doors and some of the best farming land in the country producing exceptional ewe's milk and yoghurt, cheese, olives, beef and lamb.
Make Halls Gap your base if you want to be right in the heart of the Grampians. From here it's only a short drive to all the many natural attractions such as scenic lookouts, waterfalls, wildflower drives (in Spring) and walking tracks. Close encounters with unconcerned kangaroos and wallabies wandering around the town is a great hit with the tourists.
Some of the best scenery within an hour of Halls Gap can be found at MacKenzie Falls (short walk through bush with lots of wildlife including emus), Reeds Lookout (accessible by car) with stunning views across the Victoria Valley and beyond, The Balconies (2km easy walk from Reeds Lookout) and Boroka Lookout with breathtaking views over Mount William and the Wonderland Ranges plus Halls Gap far below.
Halls Gap has a good range of accommodation including the five star exclusive Boroka Downs, a luxurious and romantic retreat. You can't beat Livefast Lifestyle Café for its fabulous seasonal menu for breakfast and lunch and also the best coffee in town. This is as good as you would get anywhere, including Melbourne.
For dinner head to the Kookaburra Bar and Bistro for wonderful food and friendly service. In business for over thirty years it is something of a local landmark and is still a favourite. Bookings are essential as this place is extremely popular. The steak is a work of art – beautifully cooked and a taste sensation.
The drive south from Halls Gap to Dunkeld is a lovely drive through the rugged mountain ranges. Take your time and enjoy but keep an eye out for the elusive red deer. Introduced in the mid-1800s they are notoriously difficult to spot as they only emerge from cover at dusk to feed.
At the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld you can have a great lunch or dinner in the bistro but for the meal of a lifetime book for the ten-course degustation dinner in Dan Hunter's award-winning restaurant. Using the region's finest local produce accompanied by one of the most comprehensive wine lists in the country, this will be a memorable meal to be savoured over a period of three to four hours.
A variety of accommodation is offered at the hotel along with restored bluestone cottages at the nearby historic Mt Sturgeon property and all have stunning views of Mt Sturgeon and the Southern Grampians. There are a number of marked walking trails from both the homestead and hotel, including some delightful short and easy ones for all the family.
Hamilton is a prosperous agricultural town with a history of wealth from wool-growing which can be seen in the many beautiful old buildings. The Hamilton Botanic Gardens is one of earliest in the country with plantings beginning in the 1870s. It is well worth a visit along with the Hamilton Art Gallery, one of Australia's best regional galleries.
Darriwill Farm in Hamilton specialises in unique and exclusive gourmet food, kitchen giftware and boutique wines. It's also a deli and a cafe and a favourite destination for those that love the best things life in the country has to offer. Go there for lunch and you'll know what I mean!
- Take time to visit Halls Gap Zoo, Victoria's largest regional zoo
- Top up the wine cellar at Best's Wines, Seppelt Great Western, Grampians Estate and Montara.
- Goldfields (VIC)
- Grampians (Tourism) (VIC)
- Grampians (Wine) (VIC)
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