Nature, food and wine, plus add a little adventure all just a hop from Melbourne. Where else can you stay in a treehouse cabin, explore the Grampians, take a helicopter to lunch and land between 150 year old vines for wine tasting?
By Justine Hide
WHAT TO EXPECT
- Explore Grampians National Park from below and above
- Culture, history and nature
- Local food and wine at every stop
- Time: 3 days
- Distance: 254 kilometres (158 miles)
- Transport: Car, helicopter
- Nearest major city: Melbourne
Surprise someone with a three day adventure that will allow you to see, learn, experience and taste the Grampians in a unique way. See the Grampians National Park from below and above, dine on fresh seasonal produce, taste the award winning wines, learn about the area from your locally born pilot and stay in a lux treehouse cabin surrounded by nature.
DAY 1: MELBOURNE TO THE GRAMPIANS
Set off, driving west from Melbourne – it’s just a 2.5 hour drive. The enjoyment begins when you reach Ararat and take a 5 minute detour to Montara Wines, a location of amazing beauty that locals love. Enjoy wine sampling, coffee or their amazing local produce tasting platter (AUD$30), which is perfect for a light lunch. Continue your journey to reach Halls Gap by mid-afternoon, explore the town, grab an ice cream or hang out with the locals (wild, but friendly kangaroos). Check into DULC Halls Gap and discover the peaceful location of your accommodation.
Leave yourself enough time in the evening to drive the ten minutes up to Boroka Lookout and watch the sunset over the town and surrounding region. Here you can grab that signature sunset photo that so many drive to the Grampians for. Head back down the mountain, right to the heart of town where you will find the lovely Kookaburra Hotel. This venue is an all time favourite by visitors and locals for dinner plus a great selection of beverages including a large local wine list. Finally, tuck yourself into bed at your lux treehouse at DULC (between AUD$580-$630, for 2 nights). DULC Halls Gap is known for seclusion, local wildlife and high quality facilities in a beautiful environment, making relaxing super easy.
DAY 2: FLY – DINE - WINE
Soak up the fresh morning from your treehouse cabin, or get outside for an early morning hike to one of the many walking tracks the Grampians National Park have on offer for every level of fitness and timeframe. The Pinnacle or Mackenzie Falls tracks are always popular, or you can drop into the information centre where the friendly team can provide you with maps and information to many more options around the park. Stop in for a coffee or breakfast from Livefast Café, and savour the local produce featured on the menu. With your batteries charged, you’ll be picked up by Grampians Helicopters for the 20 minute drive to Stawell Airport. Boarding your R44 you will make tracks for the Grampians. As you fly over you will learn about the area from your locally born pilot before landing right between olive trees at Laharum Grove Deirdre’s – this hidden restaurant is a secret locals like to keep. Here you will be treated to 3 courses of fresh seasonal produce and local wine – with no need to rush, just enjoy. After departure, you will enjoy more of the national park from above before landing at Best’s Wines, a vineyard with more than 150 years of history with vines so old even DNA testing cannot determine their origin (2 people, flight/lunch/wine/transfers AUD$1240).
After landing at Stawell Airport you will be transferred back to DULC to enjoy any recent wine purchases or maybe grab a takeaway to enjoy in your treehouse from Spirit of Punjab. You can also choose to dine in at The Views Restaurant or just down the road at Halls Gap Hotel – all of which have great dinner options for visitors.
DAY 3: SEE, TASTE, EXPERIENCE, LEARN
Start the day with a walk (or sleep in). You’ll enjoy a leisurely morning exploring the township of Halls Gap. A must is a visit to learn about our traditional owners of Gariwerd (Grampians) the Jardwadjali and Djab Wurrung Aboriginal communities. By visiting Brambuk cultural centre (entrance is free) you can understand more of the history of the area – plus grab brunch or a coffee at the Bushfoods Café. To continue your appreciation of the region, on your drive back to Melbourne (just 20 minutes outside of Halls Gap) you will find one of the many Aboriginal artwork shelters open to the public. This particular shelter located in the Black Range is an easy 5 minute walk to view the Bunjil Shelter. The artwork here is regarded as the most important in the area as it shows an image of the creator. From Black Range head to Great Western to stop for lunch at Steel Cutters Cottage, a new gem to the region, which provides artisan food at the highest quality with local wines to match.
After lunch, just down the road you will find Seppelt Wines. Not only can you sample wine and beer – yes their own beer – you can also take a guided tour of “The Drives”, Australia’s largest underground cellar. This unique labyrinth features over three kilometres (1.9 miles) of underground cellars built during Australia’s gold rush era. Tours kick off on the hour, every hour, from 11am to 3pm each day and cost AUD$15 per person. It’s the perfect way to finish off your three day escape before completing your drive back to Melbourne.