It can be SO easy when you come to Melbourne to just focus on exploring the city, making your way through the list of Tourist clichés and adorable cafes. (Because have you really experienced Melbourne if you haven’t sampled the chocolate brownies at 83% of their cafes? Y’know, just in case they’re different to the ones back home.) But this weekend we took a step outside of the Big City and made our way over to the little slice of heaven known as The Grampians.
Located about three hours outside of Melbourne, this National Park features some of the most spectacular sights in the whole of Victoria and provides an enchanting haven full of walks and lookouts. Did we plan ahead? Nope. Did we have a detailed itinerary of what to see and when and how? Nope. Should we have planned ahead? Probably. But here’s what we got up to on our visit:
The only way to reach the Grampians, apart from through a touring company, is to hire a car, and so two weeks beforehand we booked a Wicked Camper online. The price came in at just over $200 (inc. a third party equivalent insurance) which is a little pricey but these campers have oodles of charm, not to mention the daring slogans/artwork that cover almost every single one of their fleet. Whilst Dave was hoping for a van that was rude/funny/ had ‘John Lemon and Apple McCartney’ on the side, we ended with something a little more… feminine.
Meet Rose. Isn’t she pretty?
Our camper included a double mattress (we had to provide bedding), sink with water container, chilly bin, gas stove, cooking equipment, cutlery and storage under the bed for our bags. She was super comfortable and really spacious – perfect for two people.
With our campervan collected we stopped off for the essentials (petrol, food, wine) and began the three hour drive to The Grampians.
The drive there was a little plain. We meandered through Australian countryside that looked pretty much the same as British countryside, with fields and cows and loooong winding roads. A layer of grey cloud filled the sky and the temperature was cool, but I didn’t mind. I was relieved to be getting out of the city after three long months surrounded by concrete and skyscrapers.
The ‘main’ entrance to the National Park is through a cute town called Halls Gap (located in the North East side of the park). It’s set up as the perfect base for anyone going into the park as it has: a large grassy area with cooking facilities (BBQ’s are $1 to use), shops and restaurants, free campgrounds not too far away, and a visitors centre with great staff if you’re unsure of where to go and what to see. Because of our lack of planning we called in here to find out where we would be able to camp that night – and were shown a free campsite 5 minutes away that was literally perfect.
But back to the daytime and being intrepid explorers… as we drove up and into the Grampian Ranges we grew nervous that all we could see were clouds. From the photo’s we’d both seen of friends visits we knew that the views of the Grampians were spectacular, but if all we’d be able to see would be clouds then there would be almost no point in us visiting. The trees and bush that we were surrounded by looked eery in amidst the clouds, and despite it only being midday it felt as if the night were drawing in. Nice one mother nature.
Long story short, we did break through the clouds and we did find blue sky, and yes, we did track down the BEST views. The thing for me is that I have desperately missed the New Zealand landscape and it’s stunning sights, with mountains mirrored in crystal blue lakes and views that make you go OH MY, SWEET JESUS. And I’ve sort’ve felt that Melbourne just doesn’t compare. But as we pulled over at our first Grampian spot, known as The Balconies, I finally saw a view that for the first time in months took my breathe away.
The Balconies provide an incredible view of the entire Grampians National Park, and with the cloudline rising we were given the best possible conditions to take (what felt like) thousands of photographs. We took it in turns to walk out on the rock edge and to feel our stomachs turn at the sight of the sheer drop below.
We literally spent ages at The Balconies, taking photo’s and walking along the 1k pathway, before having a spot of lunch and heading off to the next destination.
With my minimal research I head learnt that a placed called McKenzie Falls was one of the most visited stops, so we drove the short distance there and parked up to be greeted by none other than two emu’s and a wallaby! (Although some said it was a Kangaroo, but after an extensive amount of Googling we’ve concluded it wasn’t big enough to be a Kangaroo.) McKenzie Falls is exactly what it sounds like, a waterfall, that can only be accessed by climbing down some rather steep steps which were a bit slippery from the water spray. We continued past the falls (mostly because a crowd had formed at the bottom of the falls and there wasn’t much space to stand) and followed a path that took us on a 5k walk along the river and in between two rock faces. The sun was out, the river was calming, and there were hardly any other people around. Marvellous. We spent ages along here, enjoying the isolation before heading back up the steps to our beloved Rose.
We decided from here to call it a day, mostly because we were quickly losing sunlight but also because we were knackered. We drove from McKenzie Falls to a free campsite near Halls Gap called Plantation Campground (and saw SO MANY wallabies/ kangaroos along the way, as they ran across the road in front of us(!)). The campground was pretty empty given that it wasn’t peak season, so we parked up and cooked on our little gas stove before the last of the day’s light left us. There was something quite enchanting about being surrounded by nothing but national park and a few other happy campers, but not a single light could be seen for miles.
So there we go! The Grampians. Short and sweet, but overall we loved it. And the brilliant thing about the Grampians is that there are so many little stop off spots to go and have a peak at/walk along/explore, with waterfalls and rocks formations and leisurely treks. We didn’t manage to do it all as the park is HUGE, so if we had had more time I would have loved to have seen more of the Southern side of the Grampians. In fact, because we only really had one day there so we didn’t get to see even nearly as much as I would have liked. I definitely think you could spend a good 3/4 days in the Grampians, but unfortunately we just didn’t have that time to spare.
The next day we were up early as we were heading over to the Great Ocean Road, as it was time to see what all the fuss was about…