The Grampians rise up from the flat plains of Western Victoria like a series of giant waves sweeping east, their sheer escarpments of tightly packed sandstone seemingly forming the face of an ancient tsunami frozen in time. Some 400 million years ago, this was the eastern shoreline of what was to become the continent of Australia. Massive forces pushed the accumulated sediment upwards creating the four spectacular west-sloping ranges that are still clearly visible. They’ve eroded over time into the peaks and distinctive rock formations we associate with the region today.
The Grampians National Park, a sizeable 1,672 square kilometres, is a walker’s paradise. Plunging waterfalls, big sky lookouts, abundant native fauna, delicate wildflowers and a rich Indigenous cultural heritage are just some of the attractions. Whether you have a day or a week, there’s a walk to suit. Currently under construction, the Grampians Peaks Trail will eventually link a series of existing trails and newly established routes into one epic 13-day experience stretching from Mount Zero at the northern end of the park, to the village of Dunkeld at the southern end.
In the meantime, here’s a selection of great day walks to suit anyone of a good fitness level. Always carry plenty of water and take care as you walk. Some of the steps in this park are doozies!
Quintessential Grampians grandness awaits you at the Pinnacle – a pointy lookout that tops one of the east-facing wave-like peaks and overlooks the service township of Halls Gap far below. There are two walks to the Pinnacle – one from Wonderland Carpark (just eight minutes’ drive from Halls Gap), and the other from Sundial Carpark (around 15 minutes’ drive from Halls Gap). The Wonderland option takes a bit longer, but it has more scenic variety (including a walk through the beautiful Grand Canyon). It will take you around an hour each way at a relaxed pace.
Reed Lookout and the Balconies
It makes sense to head from here towards MacKenzie Falls along Mount Victory Road, but pull off about halfway to do the short walks to Reed Lookout and the Balconies. The views from Reed Lookout are epic and take in three of the four Gramps ranges. The walk only takes about 15 minutes, but it’s relatively steep.
From the same car park, it’s just over two kilometres return to the Balconies (previously known as the Jaws of Death). These dramatic rocky outcrops do look something like an open set of chops, and again you get the sweeping trademark views that the Grampians are renowned for.
The Grampians National Park has a number of waterfalls, but Mackenzie Falls is probably the most popular with visitors. These falls flow all year round and most day trippers end up here at some point. It’s a two-kilometre return walk from the carpark to the base of the falls and back. There’s also a shorter option that takes you to a viewing platform overlooking the flow. But if you have the time, the view from the base is sublime as the mist of fine spray coats your face and clothes. Give yourself around two hours to do the walk at a leisurely pace.
If you’re up for a longer walk, consider doing the section of the Grampians Peaks Trail from Rosea Carpark on Silverband Road to the peak of Mount Rosea – a distance of just under ten kilometres return. The walk passes through a number of different types of terrain, including tranquil wooded forest, open plateaus and rocky ravines. The stone steps sometimes feel like they were designed for giants, rather than humans, but they’ll do wonders for your quads and glutes!
Those up for yet another challenge may want to take on the highest peak in the Gramps – Mount William – which sits at the most easterly point of the park. Head south from Halls Gap on the Grampians Road and take the Mount William Road turn-off. From the carpark, the climb to the summit along the sealed service road will take you just under an hour, but be warned, it’s super steep! However, the reward at the top is a sweeping 360-degree view of the entire region, not to mention a true sense of achievement!
Restaurants in Grampians? We’ve got you covered!
Located at the foot of the Grampians National Park, the tourist town of Halls Gap is the gateway to exploring both the natural beauty of the park and the local food scene. While it’s not actually open to the public, the two-hundred-acre farm of Mount Zero Olives, wrapped around the foot of Mount Zero, produces fabulous certified organic olive oils. It’s worth shopping for their produce online.
Visitors are welcome at the cellar door of family-run Pomonal Estate, which brews craft beers and ciders, and is under vine with a view to future wine production. Regulars reckon a riot could erupt if they ever run out of ginger beer. The unusual chocolate milk stout is another favourite. The liquid wares are best paired with their popular tasting platter, packed with produce from local organic growers and orchards, and meats and jams from Five Duck Farm and Red Rock Olives (which has its own farm gate).
The jagged peaks of the nearby Grampians look like they may well have been formed by giants in a fit of rage. Fallen Giants Wines, named in honour of the local Indigenous creation story, has shiraz vines dating back to the 1970s. Their yield takes on the distinctive characteristics of the ancient soils they inhabit.
A relaxed and fun-filled Grampians wine tour ticks all the boxes for first-timers to the region or those short on time. Visit the national park and three to five wineries on half or full-day tours. You can even take to the skies for a scenic helicopter flight and drop into Best’s for a picnic or arrive in rock star fashion for lunch at the Royal Mail Hotel.
The celebrated degustation menu at two-hatted Wickens at the Royal Mail Hotel Dunkeld is widely recognised as the region’s premier dining experience. The five-course menu changes frequently, but expect delicious duck, fresh fish or tender lamb, married with the freshest of produce grown onsite in the organic kitchen garden.
Next door, Parker Street Project offers casual a la carte dishes that are perfect for sharing. Build your own meal by pairing a protein like succulent lamb with sweet carrots or buttery brussels sprouts.
Need a place to stay?
The town of Horsham makes a great base for exploring the Grampians, offering convenient access to the northern half of the park. Comfort Inn Capital Horsham is contemporary in style and features an on-site bistro. Comfort Inn May Park is located on the northern edge of the CBD, within walking distance of cafes and restaurants.
About the writer Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten