The Grampians National Park in Western Victoria is known for its sandstone peaks and abundance of native wildlife. It’s considered one of the must-visit places in the state and one of the most beautiful national parks in Australia. This guide to the Grampians will help you plan the perfect visit to this incredible part of Victoria.
The region is a popular getaway from Melbourne, with plenty of things to do for every type of traveller. The forested slopes and bare ridgelines of the Grampians offer some of the best hiking in the state and a great place to go camping. However, for less active visitors, there are still beautiful drives to panoramic lookouts, wineries and Aboriginal rock art, that make for an exciting adventure.
This blog post is your ultimate travel guide to the Grampians with all the information you’ll need for your perfect trip to the stunning national park whether you plan to stay for a weekend or longer.
About the Grampians
The Grampians is located in Western Victoria and is the fourth largest national park in the state. The area has been known as Gariwerd by the native Aboriginals for thousands of years and the park is home to the majority of Victoria’s original rock art. It’s listed on Australia’s National Heritage List for its cultural and historical importance to Aboriginals and the unique flora and fauna found in the area.
The Grampians is one of the most popular destinations in the state for bushwalking, hiking, camping and rock climbing. There are numerous trails and campgrounds looked after by Parks Victoria with good facilities and well-marked routes.
The Grampians is also surprisingly a great gastronomic region, with farm-fresh produce and one of Victoria’s oldest wine regions. Whether it be famous Mt Zero olives or Seppelt’s Sparkling Shiraz, the region has a unique food and wine scene.
Check out my vlog from the Grampians!
When to visit the Grampians
The Grampians National Park can be visited all year round. However, Summer’s are usually overly dry and hot, making it an uncomfortable time to be hiking, although perfect to splash around in the waterfalls. There’s also an increased risk of bushfires at this time and you should check the latest updates on the area here.
Winter is cold and wet, however, if you manage to get some clear days it makes for beautiful views and full-flowing waterfalls.
Autumn and Spring are the two best seasons to visit the Grampians. Both times of the year have mild weather perfect for all kinds of activities in the park.
The national park can be overly popular and crowded on long weekends. Plan your trip ahead if you’re wanting to visit at these times as campgrounds and accommodation can fill quickly.
How to get to the Grampians
The Grampians region is relatively easy to reach and is serviced by major highways and surrounding large towns. Most people travel to the Grampians from Melbourne or the Great Ocean Road, but you can also reach it easily from Adelaide in South Australia too.
From Melbourne | The Grampians are around 260km or a three-hour drive northwest of Melbourne. Major country towns between Melbourne and the Grampians include Ballarat, Ararat and Stawell.
From the Great Ocean Road | The Grampians are located directly north of the Great Ocean Road. The park can be reached by a two-hour drive from the Twelve Apostles lookout to Dunkeld in the Southern Grampians. It’s common to combine a road trip to the Grampians with the Great Ocean Road.
From Adelaide | The Grampians are around 460km or a five-hour drive southeast of Adelaide in South Australia.
By car | The easiest and most common way of travelling to the Grampians is by car. If you don’t have your own, it’s worth hiring one for your trip as it gives you plenty of freedom to explore the different areas of the national park.
By public transport | Regional Victoria is connected by public trains and buses through the v/line network. Trains depart from Melbourne to Ararat, Horsham and Stawell from where you can connect to v/line coach services to the Grampians. It can be a long trip and often requires multiple changes. A standard public transport journey from Melbourne to Halls Gap would look like this: Melbourne – Ballarat train 1.5 hours, then Ballarat – Stawell bus 1.5 hours, and then Stawell – Halls Gap bus 1 hour. Check the latest timetables here.
By tour | There are group tours departing from Melbourne as well as direct bus services. Most people who a short on time and new to Victoria join a day trip or combined tour with the Great Ocean Road. There are also direct transfers to the Grampians from Melbourne for those who want more freedom.
Check out some tours and bus services here:
The small town of Halls Gap is located right in the heart of the Grampians and is usually where most people base themselves for their trip. It has all the essential facilities and amenities such as a petrol station, public toilets and water taps, cafes, supermarket, camping and hiking shop and official Tourist Information Centre.
You’ll also find the Brambuk – The National Park and Cultural Centre in Halls Gap dedicated to sharing the history and culture of the Jardwadjali and Djab Wurrung Aboriginal communities of southwestern Victoria, as well as information on the park in general.
Halls Gap also has plenty of accommodation options, from caravan parks up to hostels and guesthouses.
The closest large town is the old gold mining township of Stawell. It’s just a 20-minute drive away from Halls Gap and located on the Western Highway that connects Western Victoria with Melbourne.
Dunkeld is a small town at the southern end of the Grampians National Park and a nice alternative base to Halls Gap. It sits at the foot of Mt Sturgeon and has a few essentials like accommodation, restaurants and a visitor information centre.
If you’re looking for a larger town nearby, Hamilton is just a 25 minute drive from Dunkeld.
Be aware that Dunkeld does not have a petrol station. The closest is at Glenthompson, just a 12-minute drive away. Otherwise, you can continue on to Hamilton or Halls Gap for fuel.
Where to stay in the Grampians
The Grampians have a range of accommodation options to suit every type of budget and comfort level. Most people use Halls Gap as their base and pick a hotel, caravan park or campground that’s in close proximity to the town. However, you can also base yourself in Dunkeld to the south or in one of the larger towns nearby like Stawell or Hamilton.
Camping in the Grampians is one of the most popular ways to experience the park. There are numerous caravan parks that have camping sites as well as powdered sites for vans. Or, you can stay at one of the public campgrounds operated by Parks Victoria.
Halls Gap Caravan Park | This is one of the most popular caravan parks in the area and located right in the middle of Halls Gap. They have a range of facilities including powdered and unpowered sites and self-contained cabins. Unpowdered sites are around AU$36 per night and powdered sites $43.50 per night. Cabins start from AU$105 per night. Check their latest prices and availability here.
Public campgrounds | There are 12 campgrounds scattered around the national park operated by Parks Victoria. Three of these grounds are free, while the rest must be booked and paid for on their website here. They all have basic toilet and shower facilities as well as tank water and fire pits.
Plantation Campground | This is the largest and most popular public campground in the Grampians. It’s entirely free and has room for plenty of tents, caravans, campervans and cars. It’s 10km north of Halls Gap along the corrugated dirt Mt Zero Road. Note that there’s not much phone reception in the campground.
Wannon Crossing Campground | This is another great free campground option, although it’s much smaller than Plantation and quickly fills on weekends. However, mid-week this is the perfect quiet spot to set yourself up. It’s conveniently located halfway between Dunkeld and Halls Gap on the Grampians Tourist Road. Note that there’s no phone signal in the campground and surrounding area.
If you prefer not to camp, then there are other Grampians accommodation options.
Grampians Eco YHA | A long-standing favourite with backpackers and all budget travellers is this hostel in Halls Gap. It has dorms and private rooms available. Their facilities are fantastic with large communal kitchens and lounges. It’s the perfect place to meet other travellers. Dorm beds start from AU$40. Check their latest prices here.
Southern Grampians Cottages | These self-contained cabins in a spacious garden setting are a great place for a little extra comfort in Dunkeld. Prices start from AU$100 per night. Check availability here.
Aquila Eco Lodges | If I wasn’t a budget traveller, then this is where I’d stay. They have four self-contained lodges in a beautiful location near Dunkeld. Their sustainable and cutting edge design is stunning and definitely my dream type of accommodation. They’re not cheap at $300 per night, but if you’re up for a splurge it would be worth it. Check their availability here.
Where to eat in the Grampians
Although most people consider the Grampians an outdoor adventure getaway, it also has a great food and wine scene.
Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld | No guide to the Grampians would be complete without mentioning this place. It’s regularly considered one of the best dining experiences in the entire country. They also have accommodation on-site. It’s right in the middle of Dunkeld town.
Harvest Halls Gap Cafe | This is the best cafe in the region, in my opinion. This cozy place has an amazing menu cooked with local produce, with vegan and gluten-free options. They also have a small shop inside that sells local products, beer and wine. It’s to the southern end of the Halls Gap main street.
The Grampians are also famous for olive groves, with generations-old farms scattered around the outskirts of the national park. Many of the farms are open for tasting and stocking up on all olive products. Try:
Grampians Olive Co. | Family owned since 1943, this olive grove is home to the historic Toscana Olives. There are free tastings at the farm shop, farm tours and lunch platters on offer.
Red Rock Olives | Just outside of Halls Gap, this olive grove has a small cafe which offers grazing plates made with all local produce.
Top things to do in the Grampians
There’s plenty of things to do in the Grampians whether you plan to stay for a weekend or longer. From hiking to indulging in delicious food and wine, here are the top seven things to do in the Grampians.
Hiking and bushwalking are certainly the most popular activities in the Grampians. There are countless trails spanning the entire range of the park with options suited to all levels of fitness.
Many trails lead to lofty peaks that have spectacular lookouts across the surrounding area, while others take you to Aboriginal rock art and tumbling waterfalls.
The Pinnacle is the most popular short hike and lookout in the Central Grampians’ Wonderland Range. It’s not far from Halls Gap and takes you to the very edge of the ridgeline with views down to town and across the farmlands further afield.
My favourite day hikes in the Grampians have to be Mt Abrupt in the southern end of the park and Briggs Bluff in the northern section. Both have steep climbs but the landscapes are incredibly beautiful and their lookouts offer some of the best views in the park.
I’ve written a hiking guide to the Grampians with the top 10 day hikes to tick off here.
What about the Grampians Peaks Trail? This is a yet-to-be-finished multiday trail that will span 160km across the Grampians and is designed to be completed in 13 days. At present, they have opened a 36km three-day section beginning and ending in Halls Gap. The entire trail is set to be open by the end of 2020. Find out more on the Parks Victoria website here or at the Brambuk Cultural Centre in Halls Gap.
The Grampians are home to stunning waterfalls, including one of Victoria’s largest. Most have car parks and short easy strolls to reach them, making them the perfect places to explore for any visitor. The best waterfalls in the Grampians are:
MacKenzie Falls | This year-round waterfall is one of the largest in Victoria and one of the iconic sights in the Grampians. From the car park, which is a 40-minute drive from Halls Gap, you can take the easy trail to the viewing platform or a steeper trail to the bottom of the falls.
Silverband Falls | It’s just a short 700-metre walk from the car park to these falls. They’re best visited in Spring when the water is flowing amongst wildflowers and an abundance of animals.
Wannon and Nigretta Falls | A decent 115km drive from Halls Gap, these falls are near to each other and connected by a scenic road. Both are quite spectacular plunges of water, especially after heavy rain.
Admiring views at the Lookouts
The Grampians have some epic viewpoints. Scattered along many of the ridges and on top of peaks, you’ll find spectacular lookouts that make all the challenging Grampians hikes so rewarding. Don’t worry though, because not all the lookouts require a long climb to reach them and you can even simply drive to some. The best lookouts in the Grampians include:
The Pinnacle Lookout | This is the most famous viewpoint in the park and is by far the most popular day hike. It’s a one hour hike up from the Wonderland car park through a rocky landscape. The fenced lookout juts out over the ledge and you can see down to Halls Gap and across to Lake Bellfield. The Wonderland car park is just 4km from Halls Gap.
Reeds Lookout & The Balconies | This is one of the most spectacular lookouts in all of Victoria. You can drive the 12km from Halls Gap to Reeds Lookout, where you’ll find a spectacular viewpoint. You can also choose to walk the 1km flat trail to The Balconies for another lookout. Both will leave you mesmerised with the incredible landscape of the Grampians. They are also the best places to watch the sunset in the national park.
Boroka Lookout | This popular panoramic viewpoint is just 15km from Halls Gap town. The two viewing platforms are just a five-minute walk from the car park, making it accessible for almost anyone. This is also the best sunrise spot in the Grampians if you’re keen for an early morning.
Summit of Mt Difficult/Gar | This is one of the most challenging Grampians hikes with plenty of steep climbing and rock scrambling to get to the top. However, all the effort is rewarded by this incredible 360-degree view of the Northern Grampians. You can read more about this hike here.
Summit of Mt Abrupt | One of my favourite views in the park. A short but steep 3km hike will get you to the top of Mt Abrupt from where you can see the entire Grampians stretching to the north. It’s located in the southern Grampians, closer to Dunkeld.
Rock climbing has been a top activity in the Grampians for a long time. However, the increase in popularity has led to Parks Victoria recently restricting some of the permitted areas due to concerns for environmental damage and cultural importance.
The most popular place for climbing that is still permitted is in the Mt Stapylton amphitheatre in the Northern Grampians. You can check the updated requirements and permitted areas here.
If you’ve never climbed before or would prefer to climb with a guide, then I suggest contacting Hangin Out, a local business that offers all sorts of sessions and courses no matter your experience level.
Gazing at Aboriginal rock art
The Grampians are known as Gariwerd by Aboriginal people and the area is home to an astounding 85% of Victoria’s rock art. Some of these sites date back more than 20, 000 years. There are four rock art sites open for viewing: Gulgurn, Manja, Ngamadjudj and Billimina.
You can learn more about these sites at the Brambuk Cultural Centre in Halls Gap.
Visit Brambuk Cultural Centre
The Brambuk Centre was set up to preserve and share the history and culture of the traditional inhabitants of Gariwerd. Ownership of Brambuk is shared between five Aboriginal communities with historic links to the ranges and surrounding plains.
The centre has an Aboriginal Cultural Centre which has a range of activities including boomerang throwing and discovery walks. You can also find the Bushfoods Cafe there where you can try kangaroo or emu from the traditional menu. The complex also houses an official Information Centre that can help you plan your time in the Grampians-Gariwerd National Park.
Any visit to the Grampians-Gariwerd should start here. It’s open daily form 9am to 5pm.
Most Grampians travel guide’s focus more on the outdoor adventure side of the region, however, you can’t ignore some of the oldest vineyards in Victoria. The Grampians wine region has some of the state’s premier wineries and cellar doors.
Wineries you should take the time to visit, include:
Best’s Great Western | An award-winning winery that has vines that date back to the 1800s. You can visit their cellar door for a tasting as well as the original underground cellar on their self-guided tour.
Grampians Estate | This boutique winery has something for all visitors and has won awards for its great wine. The cellar door offers wine tastings as well as afternoon tea and lunch platters.
Seppelt Wines | Considered the original winemaking pioneers in the region, Seppelt is a must-visit. You can have an underground tour of their original cellars as well as a tasting and light lunch in the cellar door. You have to try their sparkling shiraz!
If you have your own car and it’s your first time in the region, this is the perfect three day Grampians itinerary. It covers all the main highlights around the central and southern parts of the national park:
Day 1 | On your drive to the Grampians, stop in at Seppelt Wines or Best’s Great Western to sample some of the region’s best wine and have a light lunch. Continue into Halls Gap and either check into your accommodation or set up your campsite. Then in the afternoon head out to MacKenzie’s Falls and enjoy one of Victoria’s largest waterfall. On your way back, drive to Reeds Lookout and watch the sunset from The Balconies.
Day 2 | Wake up early and drive to Wonderland Car Park. Do the two-hour return hike to The Pinnacle before all the crowds start pouring in. Then head back to Halls Gap and out to the Brambuk Cultural Centre. Take the time to learn more about the Aboriginal history of the area and have lunch at the Bushfoods Cafe there. To complete your afternoon, park at the end of Tandara Road in Halls Gap and hike up to Boronia Peak for another beautiful viewpoint over the area.
Day 3 | Have breakfast in Halls Gap at the Harvest Cafe before driving down to the southern Grampians. If you have time, drive up to Mt William on your way and walk to the top of the highest point in the park. Then continue down the Tourist Road towards Dunkeld. Stop at the Mt Abrupt car park and hike the 4km return trail to the summit. The beautiful views from the top are worth all the effort. Then drive into Dunkeld and stop for lunch at the Royal Mail Hotel, for an award-winning meal. Then it’s time to head home after your three day Grampians adventure.