VIC : HALLS GAP, THE GRAMPIANS
Nestled at the foot of The Grampians, Halls Gap is a small town surrounded by mountain ranges and bushland. It is a popular spot for hikers, rock climbers and bushwalkers as it’s the base for some of Victoria’s most well-known and much-loved tracks and lookouts. And while it feels eons away from the city, it’s really only a three-hour drive from Melbourne. It’s the ideal getaway if you’re feeling like immersing yourself deep in nature, breathing in eucalyptus-laden air and slowing right down for a few days.
To be honest with you, I’d never actually heard of Halls Gap until we started to plan our journey from Victoria to South Australia. But I’m so glad we stumbled upon it! And just when I thought that I was tired of winter, Halls Gap made me love it again. Because it’s the perfect spot for a winter bushland getaway; think campfires, toasted marshmallows and mist on the mountains. Magic!
We stayed at NRMA Halls Gap Holiday Park which is just a few minutes out of town. It’s a big park with views of the mountains on one side and fields on the the other. A creek runs along the back and it fast became the perfect place for my inquisitive kids to explore and play. Resident kangaroos, emus and deer often make an appearance and the birdlife is abundant; cockatoos, rosellas and delightful fairywrens that are rather bold and brave considering their size.
The park features a variety of accomodation including studios, cabins and villas, ensuite sites and powered slab and grass sites for tents and caravans. The main hall has a woodfire heater and the staff organised regular movie sessions while we were there which was such a treat on a cold, rainy afternoon. Other features include tennis courts, basketball court, heated swimming pool, jumping pillow, children’s playground, go-kart hire and abseiling (during the Christmas holidays).
The walk into town from NRMA Halls Gap Holiday Park is an easy one and perfect if your kids have bikes or scooters. Halls Gap is small and quaint with a distinct holiday vibe; there’s a wonderful playground, a popular bakery, an even more popular ice-cream shop and a few cafes serving fresh, nutritious meals for hungry hikers. Personally, I recommend Harvest which is on a side-road just past the Information centre. The coffee is superb and the vanilla slice one of the best I’ve ever eaten. They also have a freezer stacked with homemade take-away meals so if you don’t feel like cooking but you want a healthy dinner, this is your answer.
On the edge of town is Brambuk, the National Park and Cultural Centre which is an absolute must-see if you’re in the area. The first building on the site features an information centre, boutique and bush food cafe and there’s an abundance of maps and resources for those keen to do more advanced hikes in the National Park. The Aboriginal Cultural Centre is located a short walk away and it’s an impressive architecturally designed building in the shape of a cockatoo with outstretched wings (the cockatoo is the totem animal of the local Yardwadjali and Djap Wurrung tribes, the traditional owners of Gariwerd – The Grampians). It’s brimming with history and grief; the local kooris have told their stories through photographs, artefacts and artworks. The staff are happy to answer questions, chat to the kids and there are opportunities to pain boomerangs and watch dreamtime movies in the Gariwerd Dreaming Theatre. But most importantly, it’s a recognition and celebration of Koori culture and I only hope that there’s more of it in the future.
You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to bush walks in The Grampians. Of course, with little ones who prefer not to be carried, we’re a little limited when it comes to distance and difficulty. Thankfully Venus’ Baths is an ideal walk for the whole family. It starts in the centre of town and is a relatively flat trail with lots of interesting twists and turns along the way. The baths at the end are beautiful; rock pools set amongst bushland that beg for you to take your boots off and splash barefoot, even in the depths of winter.
Halls Gap is one of those special places that you’ll want to return to. Pack your winter woollies, a few good books and head there with your favourite people. It’s the ideal town to make some memories.