A couple sitting on a cliff face looking out onto the Grampians.
Photograph: Robert Blackburn

Weekend getaways: the Grampians

Looking for a guide to the Grampians? Here's everything to see, do and eat while you’re in this craggy pocket of Victoria

Adena Maier
Contributor: Rebecca Russo
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The Grampians region is perhaps best known as one of Victoria's best nature escapes, particularly for its collection of grand mountains and high sandstone peaks that seemingly split the horizon in two. The dazzling national park also houses one of the biggest collections of Indigenous rock art sites in southeastern Australia, is home to the epic Pinnacle walk and becomes specked by gorgeous wildflowers during springtime. 

But did you know that the region is also home to some of our state's best wineries and eateries? If you're planning a visit, the natural wonders are an obvious must-see – but you'd be remiss not to spend some time eating and drinking your way through the region's renowned local produce and cool-climate wines. 

To help you plan your next weekend getaway, we've laid out the best things to see, do, eat and drink while you're here. And if you're looking for more Victorian escapes, check out our guide to the Mornington Peninsula, the High Country and the Great Ocean Road

Can't get away for the weekend? No stress – here are the best things happening across Melbourne this week.

Guide to the Grampians

Do

Listen closely, can you hear that? It’s the sound when crowds and cars give way to bird songs, trickling waterfalls, the wind through trees and the crunching sound your boots make on the mountain trails of the Grampians National Park. Hiking is serious business here, but there’s such a range of hiking options that almost everyone will find something to their liking. 

Head off early on the ultra-popular Pinnacle Walk early in the morning and take the hour-long walk up to a lookout, where you’ll watch green peaks emerge through the mist. Ancient volcanic rocks flank your path, and longer trails offer a challenge to more experienced climbers. 

Photography enthusiasts will want to bring a camera to Mt Abrupt, a picturesque slice of rock rising 827 metres over the sprawling Serra Range to the north and Dunkeld to the south. It’s a steep climb to the summit, and keep your eyes out for kangaroos, lizards, peregrine falcons and other creatures on the ascent. 

Found smack bang in the middle of the craggy and mostly dry national park, Mackenzie Falls is a gorgeous surprise. You’ll hear the falls before you actually see them as you descend down the steep yet well-marked path. Eventually, you'll set eyes on the cascade, which thunders over a vertical slab of rock into a deep pool of fresh water. Follow the path on the left of the falls towards neighbouring Fish Falls if you want a less crowded waterfall view. 

Probably the best view in all of the Grampians (if you’re not that keen on hiking for several hours) is that from Reeds Lookout. From the car park, you can take in breathtaking views over the entire Grampians mountain range. Come at sunset for a real showstopper.

These mountain areas are central to the creation stories of many of the region’s Indigenous communities, who have been living here for thousands of years. Head to Brambuk: the National Park and Cultural Centre and learn more about the region and see Aboriginal art and artefacts from over the years. There’s even the option to join a tour to visit ancient rock art sites across the region traditionally known as Gariwerd.

If you're not much of a hiker, don't stress – there are ample views to be had without having to strap on a pair of hiking boots. As you're making your way to the region, stop off at Ararat and drive up to One Tree Hill Lookout for unparalleled 360-degree views. If there's a footy fan among you, drive from Ararat through Carols Cutting to Moyston, the birthplace of AFL. And once you're in the region, take the scenic drive along Grampians Road (C216) and stop off at one of these lookouts.  

Eat

You haven’t properly visited the Grampians without eating at the Royal Mail Hotel. This fine-dining institution split into two venues in late 2017: there’s fine diner Wickens and the more casual Parker Street Project. Seasonal produce comes from the restaurant’s organic kitchen and garden, and lamb and beef come from the property’s own farm. There’s now swanky accommodation there, too. 

For breakfast, pop over to Izzy's Café next door for its famous pies. It's also a great spot to stock up on snacks if you're planning on hitting the road soon, as it has shelves packed to the brim with locally made goodies. 

Down in Dunkeld, you can head to the Dunkeld Old Bakery for some of the best pies and pastries in the region. It's been operating out of the same space since 1887, so soak up a bit of history while enjoying a hot cuppa. 

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Drink

When you think about Victorian wine regions, the first places to come to mind are likely the Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley. They're fabulous for their proximity to the city, but we're telling you, wines from the Grampians region are worth the trip all on their own. 

As you make your way to Ararat, stop off at Mount Langi Ghiran's cellar door. This isolated winery is nestled against the towering granite cliffs of a long-extinct volcano, and it produces some of the highest-ranked shiraz in Australia. It's often considered one of our state's most beautiful wineries, and for good reason: the light-filled cellar door offers unobstructed views of the mountains, and in warmer months, you can stroll through the property that's laden with chestnut, walnut, hazelnut and fruit trees. 

If you're taking the picturesque Grampians Road, head east after driving through Halls Gap and make your way to the small town of Great Western. It's home to Grampians Estate, a boutique winery that's collected numerous accolades – particularly for its sparkling reds. Partake in a $5 self-guided wine tasting, and be sure to taste the Rutherford sparkling shiraz. It's an effervescent and dark ruby style that produces a rich purple mousse and has a sweet berry and chocolate profile.

Stay

For the ultimate Grampians retreat, book a stay in the Deluxe Mountain View rooms at the Royal Mail Hotel. Picture this: waking up and immediately being greeted by the grandiose sight of Mount Sturgeon and its surrounding bushland. Brew a cup of coffee, enjoy it on the back deck and see if you can spot any ash-coloured wallabies grazing nearby.

It's breathtaking, but what really puts this accommodation over the edge are all of the little touches, like heated floors in the bathroom and a minibar that's stocked with little tubs of yoghurt and delicious house-made muesli. 

Here with your significant other? Go the full romantic getaway and book a self-contained villa at Blaze Rock Retreat, where the bed is literally one metre from a large claw-foot bath and kangaroos hop across the expansive grounds outside your window. Just eight minutes from Halls Gap, it’s the perfect base for your hiking adventures.

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