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L

ocated 260kmwest of Melbourne, the area

known simply as the Grampians is a huge 167,000

hectare national park that has been embraced

within the Australian National Heritage register for its

outstanding natural beauty. As a camping destination

it is one of the iconic locations in the nation.

The park boasts a dual name, in line with many other prominent

localities around Australia, with its European name given by Sir

Thomas Mitchell in 1836, and Gariwerd as it was known to local

aboriginal tribes.

The park’s main attribute is its mountain range which consists

of a series of north-south ridges of faulted sandstone, featuring

a sawtooth skyline and spectacular near vertical cliffs on the

eastern sides of the ridges and long forested inclines along the

west. Rising as it does from the flat landscapes surrounding it

the Grampian Ranges draw you in long before you have reached

your destination.

The area has many attractions aside from its basic natural

beauty. In spring time the wildflowers are a major drawcard,

and there are numerous waterfalls scattered throughout the

park, which assist in making bushwalking one of the principal

highlights. The week following any rain is a great time to see

these in full cry.

Rock climbing is popular on the cliff faces, and the nearby

Mt Arapiles is a climbing destination of world significance,

attracting devotees from across the globe eager to take on

the many challenging faces. Beginners can even undertake

elementary climbing activities under the guidance of trained

experts.

Gliding is also eagerly pursued n the area, with Mount

William producing what is known as the Grampian Wave, a

phenomenon produced when strong westerly winds form a

standing wave of air which enables the glider pilots to reach

heights of over 8500 metres. Book yourself in for a spectacular

day’s experience as you silently soar through the air riding the

air currents.

The park has also one of the richest collections of aboriginal

rock art in south-eastern Australia, and there are numerous cave

paintings and other culturally important sites. While much of

the aboriginal knowledge and cultural significance is passed on

through local tribal connections much has also sadly been lost.

Weather in the area can be very hot and dry during summer

months, and care must always be taken with bushfires. While

the township itself was spared, the Halls Gap surrounding area

was severely damaged by fires in the park only as recently as

2014. Autumn, winter and early spring are the best times to

sample the Grampians.

The park’s resources are severely taxed during major holiday

times, as its ease of access from all directions, most especially

from Melbourne, encourages many people to occupy camping

sites and accommodation. As a highly developed national park

there are very few free camping sites available, and there are

limits to even the extensive camping resources around the park.

In busy holiday times booking ahead is strongly recommended.

In addition to the formal caravan park type of campgrounds with

hot and cold showers, camp kitchens and other comforts Parks

Victoria maintains a number of bush camping areas with more

basic facilities such as composting toilets.

The area around the Grampians is also well known as a wine

producing area, and the lovers of fine food and cellar doors

can find a never ending range of attractions. This is a region of

niche food producers and farmers’ markets offer a wide range

of handmade and specialist food stuffs, to enjoy on the spot or

take home with you.

Halls Gap, at the northern entrance to the park, is the major

township in the reserve and offers supermarket shopping as

well as cafes and galleries to satisfy the tourists. The regular

markets held in the local school grounds are worth a day’s

outing as well. There is plenty to keep the kids happy as well,

with a public swimming pool, mini golf course, bike riding tracks

and even a zoo.

But whatever else you may take a fancy to, the Grampians

cannot be bettered for its grand sweeping views from a

whole series of outlooks high on precipitous ledges. Most

are reached along winding bush tracks that draw you into the

local environment before your senses are overwhelmed by

the sudden revelation of the grand views. However, if you have

limited mobility then a drive to the Reeds or Boroka lookouts

should satisfy your need for spectacular views.

Get up early and take in Mount William and its surrounds at

dawn. This is a steep and lengthy (1.8km) walk up a sealed road

(you can park at the bottom but cannot drive up), but it is the

highest point in the park so the views are sensational as the sun

rises over the surrounding countryside and the mountain faces

nearby.

Mountain biking is another popular activity, and there are

established bike tracks alongside some of the major roads as

well as plenty of opportunities to test your skills and endurance

on bush tracks. Kayaking and canoeing are also popular

activities on some of the lakes and waterways. Fishing for trout

in the lakes and streams, as well as four-wheel driving are

always available if those meet your desires. The areas around

Halls Gap, Ararat, Stawell, Avoca and St Arnaud have been

strong gold prospecting localities for generations, especially

in the streams. Gold panning gear can be purchased in many

camping stores or you can take lessons at the Chinese Heritage

Centre in Ararat.

To grasp the full cultural experience of the Grampians allocate a

day to a visit to the Brambuk National Park and Cultural Centre,

on the southern edge of the Halls Gap township. Here you will

gain a glimpse into the cultural and natural significance of the

area through displays in the centre and the Gariwerd dreaming

theatre, and refresh yourself in the bush tucker cafe.

Through the Centre you will be able to book a bush tucker

walk or rock art tour with a Cultural Ranger, learn to throw a

boomerang or you can try your hand at traditional aboriginal

painting methods.

Face it, if there isn’t something to satisfy you in the Grampians

then your palate is truly jaded. Camping around here offers a

lot more than just the usual delights of getting away from the

pressures of 21st Century living.

''The par k has also one of the r ichest

collections of abor iginal r ock ar t in

south -easter n Australia ..."

2017

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