Grampians NP, three hours’ drive northwest of Melbourne, has something for any adventurer, whether you’re a keen four-wheel driver, rock-climber, hiker, cyclist (both road and MTB routes are found inside the park), birdwatcher, or just want to sit back with a coldie at camp and watch the sun set over some of this country’s most dramatic mountain ranges.
Known as Gariwerd to the local indigenous people, the park’s landscape is dominated by sandstone rock formations interspersed with lakes, waterfalls and a number of rock-art sites, five of which are open to public viewing. The park has some 80 per cent of Victoria’s aboriginal rock art.
From Melbourne, Grampians NP is best accessed from Halls Gap on the park’s eastern boundary, off Grampians Tourist Road reached via the Western Highway, through Dunkeld to the south. Halls Gap is a great place to check out and/or grab some supplies, and it’s also home to the excellent Brambuk, the National Park and Cultural Centre which contains loads of maps, walk guides and park info; plus, it’s the place to grab any relevant permits. It also houses a ‘Dreaming Theatre’ and interpretive displays, and, most importantly, a café.
To explore the park the best bet is to tackle it in sections, with the southern, central and northern Grampians all offering a unique experience. The park is popular, and Parks Victoria (unlike its neighbouring state directly north) understands the appeal of camping in national parks and offers 10 vehicle-based campgrounds (bookings apply for seven of these, visit: parks.vic.gov.au/stay).
We reckon going west is the best way to quickly immerse yourself in the park’s speccy natural attractions. Following the Northern Grampians Road west leads to Boroka Lookout side-trip, which is a cracker; with the peaks of the Mount William and Wonderland ranges, as well as Halls Gap itself, all visible from this lofty viewpoint. From here you return to what becomes Rocks Road when you turn (and continue) west, passing Reeds Lookout and then – just nearby – a turn-off to Bluff Lookout and a grand sight: MacKenzie Falls. Here, you can check out this wild waterfall’s cascading descent into the river of the same name, or you can head to Broken Falls Lookout (from the same carpark) for similar views.
For a weekend in the Grampians, one of the nights you camp has to be at Buandik Campground. Continuing on from the MacKenzie Falls side-trip you will follow Wallaby Rocks Road farther west before looping south. The final side-trip before camp is the spectacular Billimina Shelter Rock Art Site. You can stop here and walk in to view the art, or continue on to Buandik Campground and then tackle the 45-minute return walk to the site. Just south of the campground, via Harrop Track, you will also find Manja Shelter Rock Art Site.
The park is full of bushwalks such as these, but for the really keen/experienced walkers, there is the new Grampians Peaks Trail that, when finished, will comprise a 12-day trek from one end of the park to the other. At the moment, only the first stage is open.
From Buandik Campground, loop south on Harrop Track and tackle a steep ascent (on foot) to another natural feature: the Chimney Pots, a collection of eroded rock turrets that are a steep scramble to reach but offer epic views north across the park. Leaving these age-old sentinels you can either keep following what is now Glenelg River Road or take the ‘high way’ along Victoria Range Road, backtracking north until you eventually reach Boreang Campground. This popular campground (bookings are essential all year ’round) offers a dozen tent sites (with vehicle parking) and 11 caravan/camper-trailer sites. All sites are unpowered but there are toilets, fireplaces and picnic tables. If you had to break down a Grampians trip(s) into a couple, then this campground makes a top spot from which to explore the vast central Grampians, or – as with this route we are describing – it provides a nice final night in this park.
The great thing with the Grampians is that it’s close to Melbourne and you can always return to tackle more tracks or other sections. There’s no need to rush the experience this natural spectacle provides.
Want more Melbourne City 4x4 Escapes?