Name: David Roberts
Position: Chief ranger, Grampians Gariwerd
Years in the Grampians: Six
Why he loves it: It’s the community around the Grampians that make the place special, with genuine people who are passionate about their patch of dirt.
Absolute favourite? Paddy’s Castle. You can sit of the rocks for hours and ponder big-ticket items.
1. Take a walk
Stage 1 of the Grampians Peaks Trail is open for business. The Mount Rosea walk is a fantastic experience with the trail starting at Silverband Falls Road, near Halls Gap. This four-hour walk provides 360-degree views of the Grampians National Park, transitioning from the foothill forests through to the rocky escarpments and moss-beds of the upper Serra Range. The walk goes to the summit of Mount Rosea, weaving in and out of rock formations. My kids love it because they can run ahead and explore the rocks and caves so it’s a good family outing. Remember to carry water, food and wear good shoes.
2. Visit a quarry
A fascinating walk through the historic relics of the sandstone quarry where the facades for some of Melbourne’s most prominent buildings – such as the State Library, the Town Hall and Parliament House – were sourced. The signs tell the story of the workers who lived in a settlement there and look out for the original tools and machinery. It’s an easy 10-minute walk from the car park to the site. I love it because it’s hidden away and the wildflowers are also spectacular in spring.
3. See old handprints
Gulgurn Manja, meaning “hands of young people”, features handprints from centuries ago. This northern Grampians site is a reminder of the significance of the Gariwerd, the Aboriginal name for the Grampians National Park, to the traditional owners. Accessed via Hollow Mountain car park, this rock art site overlooks the Wimmera Plains and underscores how important landscape and its resources are to the traditional owners and local communities alike. It’s easy to put yourself in the feet of the Aboriginal people of the time in this powerful location.
4. Enjoy olive groves
The area is home to amazing olive groves due to its Mediterranean climate. Stop at the rustic farmgate of Red Rock Olives at Pomonal or discover Toscana (Grampians Olive Co) farmgate in the Wartook Valley. You can watch the harvest in winter. A lot of produce such as Mount Zero olives ends up in fine-dining establishments in Melbourne and Adelaide.
5. Snack time
The Parker Street Project at the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld is a great place to relax and enjoy seasonal local produce, along with interesting local wines, beers and ciders. This casual eatery is the sort of place where locals drop in.
6. Secret gem
Paddy’s Castle is a secret gem in Victoria Valley in the central Grampians. If you clamber up this small rocky outcrop, the entire valley is framed by the magnificent mountain ranges. Paddy’s Castle gives you a remote experience without having to travel to a remote location. It’s a great place to avoid the crowds. You can sit on the rock for hours and ponder big-ticket items such as “What’s for dinner?” or “Did I put my footy tips in?”
7. Wine down
The Grampians boasts some of Australia’s oldest vines and has great cellar doors to visit. Grampians Estate winery is a good place to taste some of Great Western’s wines, especially the shiraz and sparkling shiraz.
Sample the cheese platter or just chill out on a lounge and sip one of the best coffees for miles around. Montara holds a Wine Down Friday once a month.
These wineries are owned by local families for multiple generations and have a strong following in the community.
8. See the fall
People normally go to MacKenzie Falls upstream but Fish Falls is equally impressive. Park your car at the historic Zumstiens area and it’s an easy 20-minute walk upstream along the river’s edge. People think of coming in spring and summer but it’s an all-year-round beauty that showcases the flora and fauna of the area with the convenience of an excellent standard walking track. This is a local favourite.
9. Spooky tours
Aradale Ghost Tours in Ararat offers something a little out of the ordinary. I’m a bit biased because I live in Ararat. Aradale is an old mental asylum on a hill, which was closed for many decades. The local historical group has set up a great interactive ghost tour through the 120-year-old building. It’s a fantastic experience for families to hear the stories, learn a bit, and also meet the odd spook here and there. For teenage kids or younger, it’s a few hours well spent.
10. Brambuk cultural centre
Whether you’re familiar with the area or not, it’s fantastic the way the traditional owners and Parks Victoria have collated all the local stories and information in an accessible way at the centre. Visitors can be met and greeted by Aboriginal people and understand what they value in terms of landscape and culture and young Aboriginal people get work experience here. I love the artwork, traditional and modern, around the centre that shows the diversity of Aboriginal culture from different Australia and how artwork gives you a better understanding of the cultural landscape. You can also try your hand at boomerang throwing or tasting bush tucker.
Story: Mary O’Brien
Pictures: Anne Morley
Published in RoyalAuto Oct 2016
DAVID’S TOP TIPS:
Make sure you plan well otherwise you end up in trouble.
Learn something when you’re out and about. Ask the locals some questions.
Have fun, have great experiences and share those experiences with others.
MORE INFO: Go to visitgrampians.com.au or parkweb.vic.gov.au.