After many years of visiting Melbourne and fossicking in its fashion shops, I now have a preference for destinations around country Victoria. I took a short trip to the oh-so-spectacular Great Ocean Road. Upon visiting Melbourne for a handmade experience, I thought I would immerse myself in the wilderness of the Grampians National Park. I saw this as an opportunity to reacquaint myself with solo travel. This is something I used to be very good at and haven’t done in a long time. Looking for some peace, I decided to take a solo Grampians National Park tour.
The Grampians National Park is located 260kms west of Melbourne and hosts a spectacular sandstone mountain range. Also known by their Aboriginal name Gariwerd, the Grampians offer a wide range of activities and sights, including camping, bushwalking, rock climbing, rock art, waterfalls and wildflowers (in spring). I decided to take a road trip.
The Grampians emerge as a mountain range coming out of nowhere in a flat rural valley and offer spectacular views over jagged peaks and stacked sandstone piles.
Grampians National Park Tour: Dunkeld
Dunkeld is a small town at the southern tip of the Grampians and the Great Dividing Range. My AirBnb accommodation offered great views of Mount Sturgeon, so that was a good start. I had driven from Melbourne that morning, with a 4-hour stop at Sovereign Hill, in Ballarat. Most people probably arrive for their Grampians National Park tour through Ararat and Stawell, and you do get a great view on that road.
The Piccaninny is a shortish walk between Mount Sturgeon and Mount Abrupt, and the views are nice enough. There is quite a display of grass trees along the way but I would skip it next time, it’s probably best to head straight to the heart of the Grampians for something more spectacular.
The Grampians Tourist Road is a thoroughly pleasant one, and you get the instant impression of being in the wilderness, crammed between mountain ranges.
My next stop is Mount William, and a pleasant drive through the bush. Have a break on the way to admire the views over Pomonal.
You leave your vehicle at the carpark and finish the last 1.8 km on foot. The sealed service road is not open to the public but it only requires 45 minutes and moderate fitness to get there.
Mount William was first scaled by Sir Thomas Mitchell and a group of explorers in 1836.
There are three transmission towers at the top and some say it spoils the view. Well, it doesn’t. Indeed, Mount William offers a great vantage point and is a relatively easy walk, so I wouldn’t miss it.
Halls Gap is a small village nestled in the heart of the Grampians National Park. It has a bunch of cafes and restaurants, a post office and newsagent, a supermarket, and seemingly the only petrol station in the national park. Also, there are plenty of accommodation options and the Brambuk Cultural Centre is nearby.
Take Victory Road and head to Boroka Lookout, the road is beautiful if a little tortuous. Boroka Lookout is definitely worth a stop, as it offers beautiful views over Lake Fyans. I didn’t quite get why some people insisted on blasting a loud stereo out of their car while playing soccer but you get all sorts I guess.
Mount Difficult Road
I took this road on a whim, yes, I do that sometimes. It’s an unsealed road, good for any vehicle, but I felt nervous all the way, wondering if I was going to come across some sort of obstacle and have to turn around.
Whilst the road circles Lake Wartook, you can’t see it as the road is completely lined with trees and bush. I was a bit disappointed by that because I was looking for lookout views.
There is a lookout to Lake Wartook but the track is unclear and there are no clear signposts. As everything seemed quite overgrown, I decided not to venture further in order not to get lost. I did make it onto a ridge overlooking the road, and that offered some views over Lake Fyans but that’s it.
I did come across some wallabies and lots of rosellas but more interestingly, a couple of emus walking along the road. They didn’t seem to mind me slowly stalking them in my car for a little while, however, something startled them and they ran off in their rather awkward and inelegant way…
At the end of the road, you will find Lake Wartook, good for bird watching.
Continue further on Victory Road and stop at Reed Lookout. It’s quite busy and parking can be difficult but it is entirely worthwhile. The views at sundown over the mountains and lake are stunning. Indeed, there is a wide range of blues, greens and greys meddling in the horizon and if you are into photography, it’s a great opportunity to take some dreamy shots… At sundown, the Grampians illustrate the word “wanderlust” very well…
Watching the sunset at Reed Lookout is a highlight of a Grampians National Park tour.
The Balconies were a next-day thing for me, the light was seriously dimming when I got to Reed Lookout and I didn’t have time for the one-kilometre walk. It’s an easy flat-ground walk, very rewarding at the end.
But do it, it’s also beautiful, with views over the lake. Interestingly, the blue and grey colour mixes are just as dreamy on an overcast day than at sunset.
I love a good waterfall, but I have to say MacKenzie Falls are a little underwhelming. The walk around the viewpoint is easy however you may need to walk all the way down to the bottom for more impressive views.
And so that’s the end of my solo in the Grampians National Park. I then headed back to Melbourne to get on my flight back to Sydney. And then…
And Then Ararat Happened
I wasn’t going to stop in Ararat. Mind you, there are things to see there, like the Aradale Asylum. And then foolishly, I did stop at Ararat, and thought I would grab some lunch quickly. Unfortunately, Ararat didn’t seem to offer decent lunch options. Indeed, as soon as I walked into the diner, I sensed something was a little off… Maybe it was the bottle of soda I really didn’t need… I had water in the car, surely that should have sufficed… But no, I had to have the sugar, and after gobbling down a more-than-average sandwich and drinking the damn soda. After that, I grabbed the plastic wrapper and the empty soda bottle in order to throw them out. But I also grabbed my phone, because when you spend a weekend relying on GPS, Spotify, Facebook and Instagram, you don’t let the phone out of your hands. Except that it’s exactly what I did. The phone slipped out of my hands, and smashed on the ground… In almost twenty years of mobile phone usage, that was indeed a first… And it was well and truly dead.
So I’m in Ararat, with no GPS, no boarding pass, and how am I going to find Melbourne Airport?
Well, I hit the road, crossed my fingers and raced. And raced.
I made it on time and since then, I have fixed my phone and been trying to forget Ararat.
Another Victorian Experience
If there is a moral in this story, a solo Grampians National Park tour is a great idea. Insisting on multitasking is not. Thankfully, my time in Victoria was a success, check out my blog post on visiting Sovereign Hill for more stories.
That weekend had started in Melbourne with a cookie-decorating class at Miss Biscuit.
Have you been to the Grampians National Park? Any stories you would like to share? Please tell me in the comments below.