Grampians National Park

Grampians National Park, David Scaletti / Tourism Victoria
Barbecue Bike riding Campfire Disabled Fishing Horse riding Kiosk/Restaurant Swimming Toilets Watersports Wildflowers Wildlife Aboriginal site Camping area Four-wheel drive touring Information Picnic area Ranger Walking

Introduction

The weathered ranges that form the Grampians rise abruptly from the sweeping Wimmera plains, protecting a remarkable landscape of peaks and valleys, high plateaus, lakes, silvery waterfalls and awesome rock formations. This is an ancient landscape where Aboriginal people have lived for at least 22 000 years. To them the mountains are known as Gariwerd.

Since its creation as a national park in 1984 this area has become one of the state’s favourite natural attractions, the rugged landscape, eucalypt forests, fern gullies and spectacular wildflowers inviting campers, bushwalkers and rock-climbers to explore its many treasures. The park was extensively damaged by a storm in 2011, and at the time of writing some areas and visitor sites were still closed; check with Parks Victoria for the latest.

Fact file

Access

From Melbourne via Western Hwy to Ararat or Stawell then Halls Gap; or via Western Hwy then Glenelg Hwy to Dunkeld

Best season

Spring and autumn

Location

260 km north-west of Melbourne; 25 km west of Stawell; 48 km north-west of Ararat; 5 km north of Dunkeld

Park information

  • PV 13 1963
  • Brambuk – The National Park & Cultural Centre (03) 5361 4000

Size

167 000 ha

Visitor information

Ararat (03) 5352 2096, 1800 657 158

Dunkeld (03) 5577 2558

Halls Gap (03) 5361 4444, 1800 065 599

Hamilton (03) 5572 3746, 1800 807 056

Horsham (03) 5382 3778, 1800 633 218

Stawell (03) 5355 0281, 1800 330 080

Featured Activities in the National Park

  • Explore Indigenous culture in the fascinating Brambuk Cultural Centre

    Enjoy the spectacular spring wildflowers

    Visit Billimina shelter, Victoria’s most impressive rock-art site

    Canoe on the calm cool waters of Lake Bellfield, Lake Wartook or Moora Moora Reservoir

    Follow the Pinnacle Track for breathtaking views from Pinnacle Lookout

See Also

A look at the past

From the 1167-metre peak, Mount William, the park’s highest point, visitors can survey the valleys below – just as the first European visitor, Major Mitchell, did in 1836. He thought the ranges so ‘sublime’ that he named them after the mountains in his native Scotland.

Graziers followed in Mitchell’s footsteps, and then hundreds of fortune-hunters flocked to nearby Stawell in 1853 when a local shepherd discovered gold. When the gold ran out timber cutters started logging in the foothills of the ranges. The newcomers showed little concern for the environment, felling trees and hunting the kangaroos and emus. The traditional owners of the land, the Jardwadjali and Djabwurung, found themselves dispossessed of their campsites and livelihood. But the rugged nature of the landscape was also its saviour, and it has remained largely unchanged.

Aboriginal culture

Today the national park protects the area’s unique natural features, and the local Aboriginal people, based at Brambuk Cultural Centre, share the administration of the art sites. The centre, nestled low in bushland 2.5 kilometres from Halls Gap, was built to an award-winning design. It celebrates the culture of the Kooris of south-western Victoria and is jointly owned by five regional communities. Talks on traditional culture, guided tours of rock-art sites, exhibitions and displays of traditional dancing, music and cooking provide an insight into the area’s rich Aboriginal heritage. A restaurant offers variations on a range of bush tucker, such as emu kebabs and kangaroo burgers.

Natural features

Four main mountain ranges run north–south to form the Grampians: Victoria, Serra, Mount William and Mount Difficult. Formed by an upsurge of rock some 400 million years ago, the folded sandstone shapes rise sharply in the east and stretch for about 50 kilometres before their sawtooth peaks taper off to meet the western plains. Evocative names such as Wonderland Range, Lady’s Hat, Fallen Giant and Silent Street Gorge reveal the dramatic impact this landscape must have had on the area’s first European explorers.

Lake Wartook and Lake Bellfield form the headwaters of the park’s major rivers and streams. Best known is the MacKenzie River, bubbling westward from Lake Wartook to drop spectacularly over the rock terraces of MacKenzie Falls. Beehive, Buandik, Silverband and Turret are a few of the other falls worth visiting (some are seasonal so check before you go to avoid disappointment).

Summer in the Grampians can be dry and hot although mist often shrouds the higher ridges. In winter the peaks are windswept and cold and snow falls on Mount William (it sometimes falls on this mountain even in summer).

Native plants

More than 800 native plant species, including around 18 endemic species and some wonderful orchids, can be found here. Spring is the prime time to enjoy the abundant flowerings, with the popular Wildflower Exhibition, held in Halls Gap during the first week of October, a must for wildflower enthusiasts and native-plant specialists.

Rare and endangered plants such as several bush-pea species and the delicate spiral sun orchid are unusual finds, but more familiar wattles, banksias, crimson bottlebrush, silver daisies and grevilleas also provide lavish displays of colour when in bloom. A small number of plants carry the Grampians name, including Grampians boronia, fringe-myrtle, grevillea, parrot-pea and thryptomene.

At the highest altitudes the rocky, lichen-encrusted crags give way to heath-covered plateaus, with eucalypt forests of messmate and stringybark species spreading across the lower slopes. Dotted among the eucalypts are scattered groups of grasstrees, with their distinctive spikes flowering after rain or fire. On the damp valley floors fern gullies create a lush understorey for swamp gums. Seasonal flooding in the Victoria Valley has encouraged the growth of impressive river red gum forests.

Wildlife

Around a third of Victoria’s animal species reside in the park, ensuring plentiful wildlife-watching opportunities. Eastern and western grey kangaroos – the latter, particularly around Zumstein, can often be seen feeding – but tread softly and you might also spot wallabies, short-beaked echidnas, koalas and potoroos, while after dark possums, gliders, bandicoots and other night-feeders emerge. There are rare mammals including the brush-tailed rock-wallaby and the smoky mouse.

The diverse vegetation also provides habitat for 28 reptile species, including geckos, skinks, the common bluetongue lizard and seven species of snake. The notoriously elusive platypus and the eastern snake-necked turtle inhabit some of the waterways, and the park’s ponds and swamps provide habitat for native freshwater fish and frogs.

Birdlife also flourishes with about 200 species recorded in the park. Ducks, white ibis, herons, cormorants, purple swamphens and spoonbills are a common sight on the lakes, swamps and creeks. In bushland areas you will often see a flash of colour as lorikeets, crimson rosellas and parrots swoop by. The powerful owl – Australia’s largest owl – is found in the forested gullies, and the barn owl in the woodlands; if you are lucky you may even catch a glimpse of the nocturnal insect-eater, the tawny frogmouth. Brilliant scarlet and eastern yellow robins, superb fairy-wrens, treecreepers, wattlebirds and innumerable species of honeyeater thrive in the woodlands, open forests and heaths, while emus roam the heathlands and most other habitats. Soaring above the ranges are wedge-tailed eagles, peregrine and brown falcons, kestrels and kites.

Introduction

The Grampians offer more to see and do than most other parks in Victoria. Birdwatching, bushwalking, four-wheel driving, camping and caravanning, cycling, horse riding, rock-climbing and abseiling, swimming, canoeing and boating are all available. Check with Parks Victoria for local operators who run tours.

Note that many walks and roads have been closed due to floods in early 2011; check with Parks Victoria for the latest.

Cycling

Bikes are allowed on all public roads but not on walking tracks. Itineraries of one to three days are possible with well-equipped mountain bikes (contact the National Park Centre near Halls Gap for details, see Fact File).

Fishing

If you have an inland fishing licence (available at Halls Gap) you can fish in any of the lakes, reservoirs, rivers and streams. Lake Wartook is stocked with brown trout, but redfin, golden perch and eels are other typical catches. Fly-fishing is popular in the Thomson and Aberfeldy rivers. Check out bag limits and seasonal closures.

Historic sites

Fourteen kilometres north of Halls Gap are the remains of Heatherlie Quarry. Nestled in the bush are a few roofless sandstone dwellings, rusting engine parts and an overgrown tramway track, which once provided a transport link with Stawell. An Irish stonemason, Francis Watkins, discovered high-quality freestone here in the foothills of Mount Difficult in 1861. He established a quarry, which in the 1870s supplied stone for Stawell’s courthouse and town hall. The construction of the tramway to Stawell linked the quarry with the Melbourne rail line and between 1885 and 1890 stone was supplied for the capital’s Parliament House, Town Hall and General Post Office. Within a few years Heatherlie was a settlement of around 100 people, but the 1890s depression resulted in the closure of the quarry in 1893. Today the high-quality stone is occasionally quarried for use in repairs to Melbourne’s public buildings.

A signposted walking track leads around the site and is an easy 2.4-kilometre, 1.5-hour ramble.

Horse riding

Horse riding is available along designated tracks. Local companies organise group rides and camping trips.

Rock-climbing and abseiling

The weathered sandstone cliff-faces of the Grampians (and those at nearby Mount Arapiles) attract rock-climbers from around the world. Climbing routes range from the gentle beginner’s grade to the sheer heights of Mount Staplyton, best tackled by experienced and skilled climbers. Mount Rosea is also a challenging area. Hollow Mountain is suitable for all levels, as are the walls of Grand Canyon. Rock-climbing and abseiling courses are available; contact Halls Gap Centre for Activities & Services, Main Street (03) 5356 4556.

Scenic touring

A complex network of around 200 kilometres of roads threads its way through the park. Four-wheel-drive vehicles and trail bikes can be used on public roads, but not off-road. The Grampians Tourist Road runs north–south from Halls Gap to Dunkeld. Mount Victory Road winds through the ranges from Halls Gap to Horsham. The unsealed Mount Zero Road provides great views of the Mount Difficult and Stapylton ranges. If time is short, consider taking in some of the major attractions in a 6-hour tour from Halls Gap, visiting Boroka and Reed lookouts, the Balconies (easy 30-minute, 2-kilometre walk from Reed Lookout carpark); MacKenzie Falls (easy walk to the viewing platform); ferny Delleys Dell; and Silverband Falls (an easy 40-minute walk from the carpark).

Watersports

Canoeing is permitted on Lake Bellfield, Lake Wartook and the Moora Moora Reservoir. Power boating is allowed on some lakes around the park, and restricted use is permitted on Lake Bellfield and Lake Wartook; contact Wimmera Valley Water for details on (03) 5362 0200. Swimming is popular at Lake Bellfield but is not permitted at Lake Wartook.

Campsites

Boreang camping area

For those who want to camp right in the middle of the national park, this is the place for you. Nearby are the Balconies, a pair of sandstone shelves that jut out spectacularly from a sheer cliff – the views are... Find out more


Borough Huts camping area

Borough Huts is 11 km south of Halls Gap, just off Grampians Rd. In between these 2 places you’ll find lovely Lake Bellfield, which makes for a fantastic canoeing trip, due in no small part to the grand views of... Find out more


Buandik camping area

The Buandik camping area, at the western boundary of the Grampians, is bookended by two Aboriginal heritage sites – Billimina to the north, and Manja to the south. Manja is fringed by heathlands which are traversed... Find out more


Bush camping (walk-in camping)

You can go bush camping almost anywhere in Grampians National Park. The exceptions are the Wonderland Range, the watershed of Lake Wartook, and within 1 km of a campground or 50 m from a sealed road; check the... Find out more


Jimmy Creek camping area

The campground at Jimmy Creek is in the south-eastern slice of the park, wedged between the Serra and Mt William ranges. To the east along Jimmy Creek Rd is Mafeking, a one-time goldmine site you can explore via the... Find out more


Plantation camping area

The Plantation area is the Grampians’ biggest campground, providing around 30 sites in a pine forest at the northern edge of the national park (technically, just outside of it), at the foot of the Mt Difficult... Find out more


Smith Mill camping area

This pine tree-fringed old mill site is just south of Wartook Reservoir. It has over 2 dozen campsites but not much allowance has been made for compact vans and camper trailers. East of here is the Boroka Lookout, which... Find out more


Stapylton camping area

This large campground has a mixture of sheltered and open sites, and is situated in the far north of the national park. You can take a short, self-guided walk to Ngamadjidj Shelter, a one-time Aboriginal campsite where... Find out more


Strachans camping area

The south-western branch of Grampians National Park is shaped around the curvaceous Victoria Range, and it’s at the foot of these mountains, on the site of an old timber mill, that you’ll find Strachans... Find out more


Troopers Creek camping area

The forested campground at Troopers Creek can be used as a base camp by those who want to rest up before tackling the precipitous but highly recommended climb up Mt Difficult. If you’d prefer something less... Find out more


Wannon Crossing camping area

At Wannon Crossing you’ll find a quartet of campsites on a forested patch of turf beside the Wannon River. It’s a good choice for keen hikers as it’s the closest camping area to the trio of invigorating... Find out more


See Also

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