The Grampians, a name that might sound familiar to us British expats, because it was named after the Grampian mountain range, one of the three biggest in Scotland.
Of course – as with everything in Australia – the Grampians were here long before European invasion, known as Gariwerd to the indigenous population and pivotal in many ancient stories. The ancient history was one of our big reasons for visiting, as it has the largest number of rock art sites in southern Australia along with the fantastic Brambuk Cultural Centre.
The Grampians are a popular destination with Melburnians, being less than three hours from Victoria’s capital.
In this post I will share what I think are the best things to do in the Grampians, along with some useful information and history.
If you’re looking specifically for a Grampians weekend itinerary, then click here for another post which will be perfect for you.
So here we go…
- Grampians Basic Info
- 12 1/2 Wondrous Things To Do in the Grampians
- 1. Boroka Lookout
- 2. Brambuk Cultural Centre
- 3. Gulgurn Manja
- 4. Lake Bellfield
- 5. Mackenzie Falls
- 6. Zumsteins Historic Area (& Picnic Spot)
- 7. Ngamadjidj Shelter
- 8a. Reed Lookout
- 8b. The Balconies
- 9. Grampians Adventure Golf
- 10. Fish Falls (Mackenzie River Walk)
- 11. Bunjil’s Shelter
- 12. Proper Australian Roads!
Grampians Basic Info
Where are the Grampians and How to Get There?
The Grampians are around 230km west of Melbourne.
The most direct route is along the A8, the road that links Melbourne to Adelaide, which is around 275km, so best to leave three to four hours for the trip.
Many people will also visit the Grampians as part of a trip that includes the Great Ocean Road, with a popular trip being around seven to ten days, driving the Great Ocean Road to Port Fairy and then cutting back to Melbourne via the Grampians, and even adding stops at Bendigo and Ballarat.
There are no trains directly to the Grampians, so if you are not driving then your only other options are to get a bus or a scheduled tour. The big challenge with getting the bus is going to be getting around once you get to the Grampians as there is white a large area to cover. A tour may include many of the fantastic things to do in the Grampians that I include on the list below.
Here are some tours to the Grampians which are on my partner site GetYourGuide, which will provide some more inspiration.
Recommended Places to Stay in the Grampians
There are some fantastic places to stay in the Grampians, all centred around Halls Gap, which is the main town in the National Park.
My Top Pick – A Heavenly Escape, Halls Gap
We have stayed in the Grampians a few times now and can wholeheartedly recommend a beautiful cabin in the woods style property called A Heavenly Escape.
With a cosy fire, lovely balcony, fantastic kitchen facilities (including amazing coffee) and even a selection of DVDs to enjoy on a cold night it was perfect for us.
A Heavenly Escape
>>> CLICK HERE TO SEE CURRENT PRICES <<<
Recommended Pick 1 – D’Altons Resort
As we’ve only stayed in one place in the Grampians National Park, I reached out to some fellow travel bloggers for some other recommended places to stay. This submission is by Jurga over at FullSuitcase.com.
If you are looking for a place to stay in the Grampians, definitely consider D’Altons Resort in Halls Gap. It’s a rather simple accommodation with private cabins (also for big families), bbq facilities, and nice grounds with a playground, etc. But what makes it really special is its location which seems to be the favorite of local wildlife. There were kangaroos grazing outside of our cabin all the time, and we also saw many cockatoos here. We stayed here for a few nights and it became one of our favorite accommodations from a 5-week road trip in Australia. I guess this says it all.
>>> CLICK HERE TO SEE CURRENT PRICES <<<
Recommended Pick 2 – YHA Grampians Eco Lodge
Recommendation number two comes from Bec at WyldFamilyTravel.com.
The YHA Grampians Eco Lodge is located just out of Halls Gap and is a perfect place to base yourself while visiting The Grampians. With family rooms with an ensuite, twin rooms and dorm options there is an accommodation option for all travellers.
The YHA also has a large communal kitchen with plenty of fridge space, 2 large communal lounge areas, an outdoor BBQ area and plenty of seating both indoors and out. Kangaroos make themselves at home on the lawn and you can hear frogs croaking in the small pond at the front. Halls Gap is only a short walk if you need to do some shopping or there is plenty of parking if you are travelling with a car.
YHA Grampians Eco Lodge
>>> CLICK HERE TO SEE CURRENT PRICES <<<
Map of the Best Things to Do and See in the Grampians
12 1/2 Wondrous Things To Do in the Grampians
1. Boroka Lookout
I might regret starting with this one because – well – just look at it.
Boroka Lookout is about 20 minutes from Halls Gap and this viewpoint is literally two minutes from the car park.
Hard to resist taking a photo on that big box isn’t it (I’ll let you into a secret, I didn’t manage to resist it, as you can see from the top of the page!)
2. Brambuk Cultural Centre
Brambuk Cultural Centre is a magnificent celebration of not just Gariweld, but the history and culture of the indigenous people of Australia
It’s also a place that makes me realise what an awful impact Europeans had on this country.
The Aboriginal people have a history going back 60,000 years and are thought to be one of if not the most ancient culture on Earth. Yet when the white people arrived they declared Terra Nullius (nobody’s land) meaning the occupant can claim the territory as their own as no-one is currently there.
Aboriginal people and their culture were systematically wiped out from this point onwards, with them not even being declared citizens until 1967. That’s right, nearly 200 years after occupation to get citizenship for a land they’d been in for 60,000 years.
Kids were taken away from their families to help ‘integration’, Aboriginals were paid for their work in tobacco and alcohol creating lifelong addictions, traditional languages were forbidden and ‘whitefella’ diseases ran riot through immune systems that didn’t have time to build up a response.
It was European colonialism at is very worst and is rarely taught at schools even now.
Brambuk Cultural Centre does a fantastic job of celebrating all the best parts of Aboriginal culture, preserving them for future generations, alongside telling the horrific tales of an entire people almost entirely wiped out, with numbers dropping from an estimated 770,000 at the time of the invasion to a low of 117,000 in 1900 – an 84% reduction!
It truly is a must visit whilst you’re in the Grampians.
3. Gulgurn Manja
Translating as ‘hands of the young people’ these hand prints are believed to belong to several generations of Jarnwadjali children, dating back as much as 22,000 years.
This shelter also contains paintings of emu footprints and burnt rocks from when this cave was used as a meeting point. The location on the side of a sandstone rock outcrop made it the perfect place for a shelter, as the views stretch for miles over the flat plains below.
The shelter is a great destination, but we also loved the 1km walk up from the car park, which we did as the sun was setting, giving us amazing views. We were also lucky enough to see some rock wallaby in the area too, another bonus to coming here.
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4. Lake Bellfield
Located just outside Halls Gap, Lake Bellfield is a great place for an evening stroll, giving some great photo opportunities for some classic ‘mountains-reflected-in-water’ style shots on a calm day (which you can clearly see I didn’t get!
Popular in the summer for kayaking and swimming, Lake Bellfield is also centre of one of the largest water infrastructure projects in Australia, with over 9,000km of pipes stretching out from here, giving 36 towns their water supply.
5. Mackenzie Falls
Mackenzie Falls, wow.
260 steep steps down from the car park (and of course up again) but well worth the trip, even though it was tough in the heat.
A beautiful waterfall, one of the biggest in Victoria, with some fantastic lookout platforms along the way to get great photos.
Can I put on public record here, an apology to my indefatigable and resilient wife Rebecca, who I mocked on the way back up these steps for making us stop for a rest. We found out a week after our return from the Grampians that she was four months pregnant.
It puts a whole new spin on things, it was actually truly remarkable that she completed the amount of walking we did over this weekend, given what we know now.
She’s always had a ‘never give up’ attitude and this is a prime example of it!
6. Zumsteins Historic Area (& Picnic Spot)
Zumsteins was one of Australia’s first holiday retreats, opening in the 1930s with only a few cottages, a tennis court and pool it reached its peak in the 1960s when as many as 200 tents and caravans squeezed into the area.
With the Grampians National Park formed in 1984, a new focus was put on the area’s natural importance, which led to the eventual closure of the campground in 1994.
Some of the original buildings are still here with some signs about the history and tributes to Walter Zumstein the retreat’s founder.
There is a fantastic picnic area still here though and one where we saw wild emu, a first for us.
7. Ngamadjidj Shelter
Ngamadjidj Shelter is on the same loop of road as Gulgorn Manja, fantastic red sand roads of the type so associated with Australia.
This rock painting is unique in the Grampians as they are exclusively in white rather than red clay. There were originally sixteen figures here, but some are now becoming very faint.
Sadly, not a lot is known about their meaning, as the traditional lifestyle of the Jarwadjali people was wiped out before it could be recorded.
8a. Reed Lookout
Reed Lookout offers fantastic views out over the central part of the Grampians, with the main view being of Wartook Reservoir encircled by mountains
8b. The Balconies
One of the most iconic sights in the Grampians, The Balconies are named after the granite rock formations that stick out high above the valley floor.
It’s no longer possible to climb on The Balconies themselves, but the viewpoints are well position to get great photos, and the views out over the plains around the Grampians stretch for miles.
The Balconies and Reed Lookout are on the same path, with The Balconies being the furthest point, around 1km from the car park on flat paths.
I really enjoyed this YouTube video of the Grampians, a video always does a bit more than a photograph can, I hope you enjoy it too.
9. Grampians Adventure Golf
We’re a little bit addicted to mini golf and have played everywhere from the ocean-front course in Cape Town to the only adventure golf course in Cambodia!
All it took was one sign for ‘Grampians Adventure Golf’ and we were hooked right in.
As crazy golf connoisseurs, I can tell you this is more than your run-of-the-mill course. Set in two acres of beautiful gardens, this course has been carved into the landscape in a very clever way. The 18 holes were great fun and really challenging. It was one of the best course we’ve ever played on.
They have a fantastic cafe attached too, with an art gallery and some photos showing how the course was put together.
We may be biased, but this was well-worth the stop off.
COST: $15 per person
10. Fish Falls (Mackenzie River Walk)
Whilst Fish Falls themselves aren’t anything too impressive, what makes getting to them worth it is the 4km return walk (sorry again Becca!) from the base of Mackenzie Falls.
Parks Victoria describes it as ‘One of the Grampians’ best kept secrets‘ and whilst I wouldn’t claim to know all the secrets of the Grampians, it is definitely worth the hike and we didn’t see many others attempt it.
The route starts off on rusted walkways, turned bronze by the humid climate of the river and turns down the Mackenzie River valley through ferns and forests. We really enjoyed the walk, with the odd scramble up steep rocky outcrops (how many times can I apologise!?), mini river crossings, old bridges and some great wildlife views including a real close-up of a Kookaburra.
This walk is well worth building into your time at Mackenzie Falls, especially if you’re looking for somewhere to escape the crowds.
11. Bunjil’s Shelter
Bunjil is a legendary creator hero in Australian Aboriginal mythology, who provided for all and was a protector of the natural world. When his work was done it is said he transformed into an eagle, which is how he is often depicted.
In the rock art at Bunjil’s Shelter, Bunjil is joined by two dingoes. It is significant because it is the only known rock painting of Bunjil, making this one of the most significant cultural sights in southeastern Australia.
The views from Bunjil’s Shelter (below) are also staggering, and well worth the detour we took on the way back to Melbourne.
12. Proper Australian Roads!
I’m a big fan of ‘road photos’ (check out my post, 14 Beautiful Road Photos from Around the World to see my obsession, this one makes the list) so I was pleased to so many iconic Australian red sand roads in the Grampians.
We had only been in the country for just over a month on our first visit to the Grampians, so this was our first time seeing these most recognisable of Australian scenes.
The easiest to access from Halls Gap is just after Bellfield Lake, where it’s possible to take a left turn onto roads like these which lead all the way to Bunjil’s Shelter. This is marked on the map at the top of this post.
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