What to do in Dunkeld, Victoria
A local gem at the tip of the Grampians.
A quarter of a million tourists and rising visit Dunkeld each year. They come for festivals and markets, for runs, racing and a rodeo, to eat, drink, hike or simply to contemplate. What stays with them is the thing locals love about their gem at the southern tip of the Grampians – a very Australian beauty which, like the three mountain peaks that frame the town, reveals a little more of itself with each and every glance.
“I work across Australia, and my favourite part of work is coming home,” says Darren ‘Cat’ Gordon, an agricultural consultant old enough to remember Dunkeld as a shearer’s town where Friday was fight night at the pub. “If you didn’t have enough of a go Friday night you’d be back Saturday. It was a tough town, and I’m very glad it’s not any more.”
Chef Dan Hunter brought his knives to the table in 2007 and made the Royal Mail Hotel a rural gastronomic trailblazer. Under current chef Robin Wickens the pub remains a key pillar in drawing visitors with hearty appetites, and budgets to match. Undoubtedly the revamped pub changed Dunkeld, but the community has taken the ball and run with it.
Three years ago, Alison Prentice and husband Derek started the Peaks & Trails Run, which in August draws up to 450 fit folk to tackle a range of tracks into the Grampians, including a 50-kilometre ultra marathon that sends runners up Mount Sturgeon, The Picaninny and Mount Abrupt. “We have 50 volunteers on course during the runs, out there all day,” Alison says. “They’re all locals.”