Five things to do in Australia’s Grampians
1. Take a hike
If you have time or energy for just one walk, take the track to the Pinnacle (see photo above). Don’t take the direct route to the 715-metre-high summit but start in the botanical gardens, follow Stony Creek past Venus Pools and up a rocky gully dubbed the Elephant Hide and through a series of narrow canyons — the skinniest, Silent Street, is little more than a metre wide — up to the aptly-named Pinnacle overlooking Halls Gap, the Grampians’ main tourist centre. After soaking up the fabulous views follow the direct route down the ridge back into town.
2. Climb Mt Rosea
If any hike can tear kids away from their phones, this is it. The trail climbs to the 991m summit through a Tolkienesque maze of rock stacks, passages and tunnels and crosses a bridge over a plunging chasm. They won’t even notice they’re going uphill.
3. Go wildlife spotting
In Halls Gap, the Grampians’ main tourist town, this is as easy as walking out your motel door. If for some strange reason there are no kangaroos on your front lawn there are always dozens munching the grass at the holiday camp or the race course. There are also birds everywhere, especially the raucous, cockatoo-like corellas. If you want to see emus or echidnas you’ll have to head into the bush, but don’t bother looking for koalas. These randy marsupials were wiped out by a combination of bush fires and the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia. I’m not kidding.
4. Visit Brambuk Cultural Centre
Nestled among gum trees behind the national park information centre, Brambuk is designed to give visitors an experience of Aboriginal culture through the design and construction of the building itself as much as the displays within. The curved roof represents the wings of a cockatoo in flight; inside you can watch a movie telling the Aboriginal creation story, make art, eat traditional bush foods, learn about he Grampians’ six seasons, and read a tragic account of what happened to original inhabitants of Gariwerd — the original name for the Grampians — when Europeans arrived.
5. Sample the wine
You’re in Australia so you’re never far from a good drop. The Royal Mail Hotel, in Dunkeld, at the southern end of the Grampians, has a 26,000-bottle wine cellar and a 100-page wine list. In case you’re wondering the cheapest bottle is A$30 (NZ$32.50); the most expensive, a magnum of French pinot noir, is A$9130 (NZ$9900). The Royal Mail also offers daily tours of the kitchen garden where most of the restaurant’s ingredients are grown.
If you liked the sound of this — especially the hiking and wildlife spotting — check out my story about Bushwalking in the Grampians.