The Grampians National Park is a 3.5-hour drive northwest of Melbourne and is one of the largest parks in Victoria. We started our trip flying from Sydney to Melbourne, overnighting in Melbourne, then renting a vehicle and hitting the road. From Melbourne it’s a short (1 hour) drive to Ballarat, Australia's largest inland city and a former gold-mining town. We set off in the wee hours of the morning and arrived in Ballarat for a leg-stretch and a big pancake breakfast.
After exiting Ballarat, The Western Highway becomes a nature lover's dream, featuring incredible landscapes and hide-and-seek glimpses of the Grampians Mountains in the distance. This area is a major wine-producing region with many wineries operating in the vicinity. A stop at a winery will set you back anywhere from nothing to $15, but you drink your value in tasting. Be forewarned that police checkpoints along the highway require all drivers to submit to a Breathalyzer exam, so drivers should refrain from taking even a small sample while on a wine tour.
After 2 wine tours (and two drink-driving checkpoints), we arrived in Halls Gap. Halls Gap is the largest town in the Grampians, and most travelers use it as a base or a starting point for exploration of the National Park. Halls Gap features a wide variety of accommodation, a grocery store, restaurants, etc. The Grampians National Park Visitor Centre in Halls Gap is highly recommended and chock-full of interesting information. Adjacent to the visitor centre, The Brambuk Living Cultural Centre educates visitors about the aboriginal people of Victoria and their traditional lifestyle in The Grampians prior to European settlement. After a quick bite in the town, we headed to the visitors centre, picked-up a map and went on a 2-hour walk that began and ended at the centre.
We then rushed off to a nearby campground, rented a small cabin and started to plan the next day. Why the rush? Sunset was looming and the area has abundant wildlife, many of which come out and cross the roads beginning at nightfall. As we didn’t want to run into a kangaroo on the road, we thought it would be best to get off the road early.
In the morning, we woke to the sound of kangaroos digging through our rubbish-bin and an exceptional sunrise view of the mountains. We went into town for coffee and a hot breakfast, then headed off to see everything, with McKenzie Falls as our absolutely must-do excursion. McKenzie Falls exceeded expectations and is truly breathtaking.
We found the park extremely navigable and accessible, as all the roads are sealed and lookouts/scenic areas/amenities throughout the park are clearly signposted. As a result, the most enjoyable experience in The Grampians National Park is truly the driving. The best bit of driving is along the road heading south to the hamlet of Dunkfeld. The road hugs the Southern Grampians' Serra Range and is both a scenic and easy drive, traits that are often mutually exclusive on mountain roads. Once into Dunkfeld, we found accommodation, food and spectacular walking trails into the mountain range.
We did this trip in three days and two nights, but it can definitely be made into a longer trip. Three days required a tight schedule and limiting our travels to short hikes and viewpoints within close proximity to the car park. Four nights would make for a fantastic trip! Bring your hiking boots and enjoy the ride, The Grampians will not disappoint.