The rugged beauty and desire to get back to nature attracts over a million visitors to the Grampians each year and I don’t blame them as the natural attractions that are on display always blow me away. However, on this trip, I decided to dig a little deeper to see if I could find anything else that will add to the reasons why you should extend your visit to the Grampians.
There are several car touring options that provide access to walking trails, lookouts, waterfalls and picnic areas. But if you prefer, there is also plenty of dirt road driving to be experienced, especially in the Glenelg River valley, with several 4WD tracks thrown in as well.
Discover the Aboriginal Connection
The Gariwerd region that encompasses the Grampians is the traditional lands of Aboriginal people for over 22,000 years. The best place to learn more about that is at Brambuk – The National Park and Cultural Centre. A gold coin donation gains you access to the cultural centre, built in the shape of a cockatoo flying. The cockatoo is also the totem for the area.
There are five rock art shelters open to visitors; Gulgurn Manja, Ngamadjidj, Billimina, Manja and Bunjils Shelter (Black Range reserve further west of the Grampians).
The Grampians built Victoria
Well, some of it. The freestone (a type of sandstone) extracted from the Heatherlie Quarry, was used in the construction of Victoria’s Parliament House, the Melbourne Town Hall and State Library. It was also used locally in Stawell including the Catholic Church and the Court House. Located off Mount Zero Road it’s a 2.4km return walk from the car park with the site still showing signs of mining with equipment scattered and a nice collection of stone buildings erected by Italian stonemasons in the 1930s who lived at the quarry.
When I saw “glass blowing” on the pamphlet for glass artist James McMurtrie, I just had to go and see for myself what treasures this artist produced. I was lucky enough to arrive as James and Christina were starting to create one of his works, a glass stalactite. The process that takes place to reach the finished product is just amazing. I could write it down, but I reckon you should just check it out yourselves. The gallery and studio is open most days, or by appointment, but I suggest phoning ahead on 03 5356 6137 or 0427 949 921, that way you won’t be disappointed.
Wine, cider and beer
The growth of the craft beer market has created a new avenue to draw people to the area with the Paper, Scissors, Rock Brew Co. due to open in the main street of Halls Gap in time for Easter. The microbrewery will not only produce a range of beer catering to all tastes but will offer a seasonal food menu, live music, brewery tours and much more.
Pomonal Estate offers a range of wines, ciders and craft beers from their cellar door, as well as a few food offerings containing local produce. Wine tasting is free and for a mere $15 you can enjoy a tasting paddle of five selections from the cider and beer on tap. The ginger beer and Brasil coffee beer were the two I enjoyed the most. The outlook from the deck across to Mount William just tops it off.
If you would like to sample wine with a Halliday rating of 98 points, Fallen Giants Vineyard is where to go. The 2016 Shiraz is a standout, followed closely by their Riesling, Rose and Cabernet. It was hard not to walk out with a handful of the Malbec, it is a stunning red.
There’s always more
Halls Gap Zoo: Experience an animal encounter with a giraffe, rhino, dingoes, red panda or meerkats. Open daily 10 am to 5 pm.
Grampians Olive Co: Enjoy tasting a range of home-grown extra virgin olive oils and artisan vinegar as well as dukkah, infusions, honey and seasonal preserves at the farm shop. Platters are available if you’re feeling peckish and they now have a barista coffee machine ready to go. Open daily 11 am to 4 pm.
Red Rock Olives: The farm gate café offers award-winning extra virgin olive oil, table olives and olive salt for sale as well as a seasonal lunch menu. Open Friday to Monday from 10 am to 5 pm.
Best Place to Stay
Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park is the best place to stay when you are exploring the Grampians. They offer several accommodation options to suit everyone. The powered and unpowered sites are all large and most are nicely grassed with sullage and water facilities. If you prefer the comfort of a modern cabin, there are several options to suit every budget. If glamping is more your style, you are looked after here with a choice of bell tents, safari tents, a pod or even a vintage caravan that’s been glammed.
The modern ablution blocks are kept clean and there is a large communal camp kitchen where you can chat with fellow travellers or sit and watch the big game on the TV. The kid’s playground is one of the best I’ve seen with eight spring free trampolines available for kids of all ages. The outdoor pool is woodfire heated, thanks to an old donkey heater and is a great place to lie around and relax. Drums can be hired for campfires as well as firewood and are able to be lit all year round except for total fire ban days.
The tourist park is overlooked by the Lake Bellfield dam wall and is also a haven for animals and birds. The cockatoos rule the roost and can be very loud when they are standing behind you. You’ll hear kookaburras laughing each morning and evening and the wood ducks waddle around everywhere. Emus, kangaroos and even deer wander around the park so you will be busy snapping away at all the wildlife.
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