Where would Christmas Day be without a little adventure? Well, unfortunately this was my first Christmas away from my family, so Tom & I decided to explore the Grampians.
A 3- hour drive from Melbourne through Ballarat and Ararat, you will pass some beautiful scenery on the drive and be sure to stop off at one of these towns, as their old mining roots can be seen throughout the architecture and vibe of the town.
The Grampians is arguably one of the most visited National Parks in Victoria, with rugged mountain ranges and bush offering a wide variety of hiking, camping, climbing, biking and other activities like wine-tasting and ice-cream demolishing.
Halls Gap is a little town at the centre of the Grampians and is a great place to stay, with all sorts of accommodation options such as camping, hostels, motels and resorts. All the necessities you need, you will find here. Outdoor supplies, visitor information, supermarket, cafes , restaurants and plenty of public amenities from toilets to playgrounds to picnic tables.
Again, we opted for the camping option and drove a small way south of Halls Gap to a campground run by Parks Victoria – a low-cost camping ground with basic necessities.
I really recommend staying at these if you are pretty self sufficient. The wildlife is amazing and there are kangaroos, wallabies, kookaburras and all sorts of birdlife surrounding.
We cooked up our Christmas dinner, camping style. It was pretty cool to come back from a full day of exploring and walking and enjoy a meal surrounded by nature. Santa hats and all.
Surrounding Halls Gap both north and south is a network of walking tracks which make up the Grampian National Park. We were fortunate enough to have great weather and really enjoyed several walks.
No better way to start off Christmas Day than to a beautiful spot in the middle of the bush, although the stairs were a bit trying with the 35 degree heat! Stunning views and great little bush walk. Was pretty popular despite the heat and occasion.
Although this is actually one of a few reservoirs for the region, it made for a couple of stunning photos and a nice place to chill out lakeside for breakfast and a well-needed coffee.
Reeds Lookout & The Balconies
Probably my favourite short walk , and definitely some of the best views! These walks are part of the Northern Grampians and the views let you see for miles. Pretty popular for a reason!
Along the walk to get to these fantastic views, we came across hundreds if not thousands of rock piles made by previous walkers. Super cool!
Another popular walk was the Pinnacle Lookout. This too was very popular. The Pinnacle lookout can be reached by several different hiking options depending on length of available time and fitness. We opted for the short sweet version of about 2hours return due to the weather closing in , but can’t wait to go back and explore a few more longer day walks and overnight hiking.
Other popular trails in the area, some which we did and others for next time include:
- Mt William Summit -2km return
- Fish Falls – 4.6km return
- Mt Zero -2.8km return
- Mt Stapylton – 4.3 km return
- Hollow Mountain 2.2km return
- Boroka Lookout
- Reed’s Lookout & The Balconies
- The Pinnacle Lookout
- Grampians Peak Trail
I am looking forward to going back and doing some overnight hiking, including the Grampians Peaks Trail which is part one of a long distance walking track which when finished will cover the majority of the National Park in a multi-day hike. Part one is only 36km and can be done in a loop from Halls Gap.
Halls Gap and the Grampians is one of the best places I have experiences wildlife in Australia so far. As we arrived cautiously in the dark, we saw several wallabies bouncing across the road, and were greeted by many other wide-eyed friends as we drove to our campsite that night.
The campsite itself proved to be a rewarding choice of accommodation , we were awoken at 4am by the laughing kookaburra flock in the trees above. Cockatoos and parakeets, kookaburras and other birds flew around all day and sometimes as close as the picnic table we were on!
As for the kangaroos and wallabies, we had a couple of night visitors which we attempted to take some photos of, but the next morning several wallabies joined us for breakfast. We even had a baby chilling in the shrubs behind our tent!
Although we did not see any snakes (ok I’m kind of glad) apparently seeing them in the Grampians is pretty common. We did have a friend in the male toilet overnight though, which called for some torch holding and camera work in the middle of the night by Tom & I!
Bushfires/Safety in the Australian bush
Alrighty guys, listen up. We are definitely not in NZ anymore. Although there is nothing to stop you going and doing bush walks and exploring, camping and hiking in the Australian bush, there are definitely some things you want to take note of.
A big one is bushfires. We were very cautious as Christmas Day and Eve had been exceptionally hot and windy, upwards of 35Degrees. in 2014 there was a bush fire in the region and reminders are everywhere from regenerated forest to blackened trees. Its really important to have a local radio station to tune into, and know where you can find the latest updated information if you are heading into the bush, and plan and act accordingly. If in doubt, don’t go. Luckily for us the weather cooled down and actually rained the next day.
Unfortunately, there was a massive bushfire near Lorne on the Great Ocean Road this year. Hearing about it while we were celebrating our Christmas was really sad and my thoughts are with all those who lost their homes in the fire. Having been where the fire was only a month ago while driving the Great Ocean Road, it just emphasises the potential danger the heat of the Australian summer can have.
Speaking of heat, in summer, camping and hiking in 30 degree heat means hats, sunblock, sweating a lot and a need to find shade, and rehydrate,rehydrate,rehydrate. Its definitely well worth the effort to try and do some walking at the cooler times of the day and park your car in the shade if possible while you are doing short/day walks.
With Halls Gap so central to everything, we had no problem unwinding and relaxing with massive ice creams and coffees during the afternoon. There are a few quirky little cafes which are very busy but friendly.
The Grampians was one of my favourite experiences in Australia so far, and we are already planning a trip back to this awesome place. Accessible by public transport, next time I will be going with the backpack and hiking boots, on the train for a different view!
It was awesome to celebrate Christmas with Tom doing something we both enjoy and exploring a new area. Missing all my friends and family back home, and really hope you enjoyed your Christmas and New Year celebrations as much as I did!