If you’ve never been to The Grampians before….go!! Whether you live in Australia, or are just visiting, they are an amazing place to spend the weekend! A 3 hour drive from Melbourne or 5 hours from Adelaide.
Where we stayed: Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park – Aussie Outback Bell Tent – $120/night
What we did:
– Sunrise at Boroka Lookout
– The Pinnacle Walk
– Silverband Falls Walk
– Mackenzie Falls Walk
– Swimming at Fish Falls
– The Balconies Walk
– Sunset at Reid Lookout
– Massage ($30 for 30 mins)
Where we ate:
Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park
So first things first, the campsite, wow oh wow honestly one of the best I’ve ever stayed in!
In December 2016 they installed 4 bell tents, each decorated with a different theme. They were equipped with a warm double bed (with electric blanket for winter), indoor chairs, outdoor decking, chairs and BBQ, fire pit, fridge, kettle, electricity…. Basically, a dream.
They were so spacious too, plenty of room to stand up, do a little dance, etc.
The campsite was a few km south of the town of Halls Gap. It was teaming with wildlife: deer, mice, Cockatoos, ants (small temporary infestation when they found our leftover pizza) and kangaroos….including one fearless young Roo who took a liking to our morning cups of tea and we had a bit of a stand off with (read… us running away flailing).
The camp shop made fresh coffees, and sold local produce, and logs and marshmallows for the fire pit. There is also an on-site masseuse, who we each had a 30 minute massage with in order to quiet our aching legs after a big day of exploring!!
Boroka Lookout – best at sunrise
We set off about 30 minutes before official ‘sunrise’ to drive up to the Boroka Lookout.
We were cutting it a little fine as we arrived JUST as the sun was peeking over the hills, but there weren’t many clouds in the sky so we didn’t miss much ‘pre sunrise glow’.
We had the lookout to ourselves, which meant we could enjoy the sunrise in peace…and not be subject to any disapproving looks when we edged towards potentially dangerous overhangs for photos!
There’s no walking distance to the lookout, it’s right by the car park.
After a delicious early morning breakfast at LiveFast (brown rice and quinoa porridge with stewed apples) we headed to….
The Pinnacle via Grand Canyon – 4.2km return from Wonderland car park, 1hr20 walking time
This does what it says on the tin. The Pinnacle of viewpoints in The Grampians. A relaxed walk up from Wonderland car park. It gets a bit steeper near the top but very manageable.
It was amazing how even on a short walk there could be such varied terrain! We went up the shortest route, through a cool rock gulley (which would be a tight fit if you were larger or had broad shoulders!)
I found a very comfortable rock seat on the next ledge out from the pinnacle where I could happily have sat all day, but there was plenty more to explore in the area!
Silverband Falls – 1.6km return, 20mins walking time
Silverband Falls apparently aren’t recommended in the summer due to lack of water, however this was a lovely flat walk through the forest, and a refreshing splash of water at the turnaround.
It’s also worth visiting them just to drive the Silverband Road loop around from Wonderland down to Bellfield Lake (one-way road), which gives some great views of the national park.
Once back in town we went for another delicious lunch at Harvest cafe. We were super impressed with the quality of the food in Halls Gap, given how remote it is. Ellen especially as she is coeliac and there were lots of great gluten free options!
We checked out the shops in town (none of great note) and then popped our heads into the community centre/town hall where there was a display all about the history of the town. It was manned by an old guy who had spent his whole life in Halls Gap, his grandparents and parents had run hotels within site of where we were and he’d owned the newsagent. They have all been evacuated previously due to bush fires. One year they could see the fire burning along the ridge above the town, but somehow it caused its own storm which then put it out. Bush fires are an essential part of nature rejuvenating…..they just have to be kept under control!
McKenzie Falls and Fish Falls – 4km return, 1hr 10mins walking time
MacKenzie falls is along with the Pinnacle one of the most visited spots in the park. The guide talked up the number of steps down from the car park to the falls but we saw young children and older people walking it, it was very manageable.
There were various signs advising against swimming, but for quite a few people cooling off from the 33 degree day seemed to take priority over obeying the rules.
We decided to push on from Mackenzie Falls, to the lesser visited Fish Falls. This was another 1.25km along the valley from Mackenzie but this walk was relatively flat, and a different ecosystem yet again.
At the campground they had warned us about snakes on this section of the path, so I let Ellen go first (she’s Aussie, they teach them how to deal with stuff like that!) but there were none to be seen. Phew.
Fish Falls was wonderful. No fish to be seen so not sure of the namesake. There was a perfect swimming pool at the foot of the falls.
Some guys were leaping into the pool from the rocks at the side. Their female companion opted out and instead swam towards the waterfall, where she promptly disappeared. The guys seemed to be paying no attention to her whereabouts, and when she didn’t reappear for 30 seconds or so Ellen and I exchanged concerned looks and then shouted to the guys “is your friend okay?!”….”oh yeah, yeah she’s fine she’s just gone behind the waterfall” !!
So of course we wanted to try this, there was a rock ledge underwater on the left of the fall that made a nice seat. You have to approach it by shuffling along the ledge and backing under the water. To be honest it could have done with an extra foot or so of room under there, as we never really escaped the drips…or I should have worn my goggles 🙂
After walking back to Mackenzie and up to the car park (again, snake free) we walked along to the lookout over the falls. This probably adds another 1.5km to the walk, and other than seeing a giant wild emu, was rather uneventful, so I’d recommend the walk down and to Fish Falls rather than the viewpoint.
This walk can also be done in reverse by parking at Zumsteins car park. This avoids the steps at Mackenzie falls. 7km return, flat walk.
Reed Lookout and The Balconies – best at sunset. 2.5km return, flat, 25 mins walking time
Sunset wasn’t until 8.48pm (14 hrs after sunrise – lovely long summer days!) so we had a bit of time to walk out to The Balconies before setting up to watch the sunset at Reed Lookout.
When we were in the historical society earlier that day we’d seen a photo from years earlier of perhaps 30 men and women, all dressed in their finest clothes, posing out on the ‘lower balcony’. This led us to believe that it would be safe to hold us also.
The balconies are named because of their shape, however it also used to be called ‘the jaws of death’… I can see the jaws, the death part is a little unnecessary!!
Like the Boroka lookout at sunrise, we were the only people there. I think we timed our walks pretty well, as the balconies would have been teaming during the day. We also tackled the pinnacle nice and early, before it was too hot and there were crowds.
We then strolled back to the car park and Reed lookout point before sunset. It had become very overcast in the afternoon, so we knew the sunset wouldn’t be the most spectacular. Nevertheless after 15kms of walking that day we were just glad to have a sit down, a glass of Grampians rose, and some nibbles.
Ellen made a new friend in ‘Foxy’. The overly tame young fox who had worked out the car park was easy pickings for food. We didn’t feed him but that didn’t stop him from sneaking up behind us at any opportunity and making bedroom eyes at the popcorn.
Despite it being cloudy, it was still a beautiful spot for sunset, and I would love to come back when there’s a ‘good sunset’.
As you can imagine we were out as soon at our heads hit the pillow back at the bell tent. We woke once in the night to rain, which was super cosy, and then it was clear by the morning.
We’d decided not to get up for sunrise on day 2 as we thought it would be cloudy, but in hindsight we should probably have made the 45 minute walk up to Mount William, the highest point in the park where you can see all of the ranges.
We had our lovely massages and then had a leisurely drive back to Melbourne. We went the other way back to Ararat, though the Great Western wineries, and stopped off at Seppalt for a tasting. They have 3km of underground tunnels that used to be used for storing the wine!
Other activities in the Halls Gap area include:
– Electric Bike hire
– ‘Run the Gap‘ (21.5.2017)
– Road cycling
– Horse riding