WALKS IN THE GRAMPIANS, VOLCANO COUNTRY AND THE SHIPWRECK COAST
Experience Spring in Victoria this year! Come and walk amongst dramatic sandstone features and rich forests in the Grampians (Gariwerd) NP, explore fascinating geologic features around Volcano Country and delve into history on the Shipwreck Coast where the coastal landscape is spectacular and stories come to life.
… to him who likes to escape for a while from the conventionalities, and to be brought for a while face to face with nature in her solemn, grand and eternal beauty, we say: try the Grampians. Guide for Excursionists from Melbourne, 1868
The Grampians was declared a National Park in 1984 after a long conservation campaign. Covering 167,000ha this dramatically beautiful park is home to more than 1000 species of plants, including 26 that are unique in the world, and more than 260 bird species. This rich diversity rests on geologic formations that are about 430 million years old, originating from an ancient sea that lapped the coast where the Grampians peaks rise today. Subsequent tectonic plate movements uplifted, folded and faulted the region resulting in the dramatic features that characterise the Grampians.
For at least 20,000 years Aboriginal culture has been an integral part of the Gariwerd landscape and today traditional owners play an active role in managing the park and sharing knowledge and understanding.
Travel: Tullamarine Airport – Halls Gap Approx. 250 km
Walk: Chataqua Peak (429m) and Clematis Falls Loop 5.6km Easy - Moderate
Accom: Boronia Peak Villas, Halls Gap (Shared facilities)
After collecting everyone from Melbourne Airport we head west on the M8 via Ballarat to the Grampians. En route we make a lunch stop at an upmarket café in the main street of Beaufort. From Ararat the scenic route affords views to the peaks of the Mt William Range on the eastern side of the Grampians.
Once in Halls Gap we settle into our share accommodation. Set on three acres at the foot of Boronia Peak, this is a peaceful setting within walking distance of downtown Halls Gap.
Once settled in, there is a lovely introductory walk on offer. The summit of Chataqua Peak is reached via a scramble along a rocky ridge (not great in wet and windy conditions) and the reward is a birds-eye view of the town and surrounding ranges.
Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant.
NB The next few days are subject to rearrangement, depending on weather conditions.
Walk: Wonderland Loop 9.6km (highest point The Pinnacle 715m, elevation gain approx. 475m) Moderate +
Accom: Boronia Peak Villas
Meals: B L D
This classic walk offers the very best of the Wonderland Range and is truly magic. Every turn in the track will make you pause to take it all in: waterfalls, views, wildflowers and intriguing rocky scarps… so we have all day to enjoy the experience!
The loop begins in Halls Gap along a well-constructed track that traces the course of Stony Creek, passing Venus Baths beneath the Elephants Hide slabs, then the Five Cascades and a short side trip to Splitters Falls before passing through Wonderland Carpark (chance for a loo stop!). From here we begin the 300m ascent to The Pinnacle via ‘The Grand Canyon’ and ‘Silent Street’.
The track then traverses the Wonderland Range for a short distance before descending steeply through stringybark forest to the east of the cliff rim. After about 2km there is a steep, short (and exhilarating) side trip to Mackey’s Peak. Back on the main track a wide path and a series of switchbacks lead us back to Halls Gap … and a great choice of coffee shops where you can rest and reflect!
Dinner is prepared at home tonight by your guides.
Walk: Sundial Loop 5.4 km (summit 802m, total ascent approx. 392m, total decent approx. 382m) Moderate + / Silverband Falls 1.4km return Easy
Travel: Approx. 10km to Sundial Carpark
Activity: Brambuk Cultural Centre
Accom: Boronia Peak Villas
Meals: B L D
This morning begins with a visit to Brambuk National Park and Cultural Centre. This magnificent structure is shaped to reflect the totems of the Jardwaldjali and the Djap warrung people, the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo (grugidg) and the Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo (gamadj). Inside are the Gariwerd Dreaming Theatre with a presentation created to give visitors an excellent insight into many aspects of the Grampians NP. Following this you are free to explore the building and its displays and photographs. You may also enjoy morning tea at the Bush Food Café.
We begin the Sundial walk at the Rosea carpark climbing steeply up through dry open forest to the Sundial carpark (where there is a loo). From here the track gently climb through heathy forest resplendent with wildflowers until the final few hundred meters to the Sundial summit. On the peak is a sundial erected decades ago by a local Scout group. The views extend down the Fyans Valley and south to the Serra Range and Mt Duwil (Mt William).
From below the summit the track narrows and winds steeply downhill through Mountain Grey Gum forest, passing giant boulders scattered on the hillside. At Delleys Dell we follow a trail along a watercourse and end up back at our vehicle.
A short distance down the Silverband Rd is Silverband Falls, which have exposed beautiful bands of ancient sedimentary rock. The flat track is an easy return stroll.
Dinner is prepared at home tonight by your guides.
Walk: Mt Rosea (summit 1009m, ascent approx. 430m) 9.4km return Moderate - Challenging
Accom: Boronia Peak Villas
Meals: B L D
The final, and highest summit in our Grampians collection is Mt Rosea. Though adjacent to Sundial Peak it is quite different in character with a range of vegetation zones, breathtaking vantage points and remarkable rock features. There is classic Grampians scenery in every direction!
This return walk begins at Rosea Carpark on the Silverband Road. The initial climb is steady through stringybark forest, which gradually gives way to drier, open forest dominated by acacias. As the track winds up over a short rocky section a sub-alpine environment is revealed with short, stunted trees and expansive views over the southern slopes of the Wonderland Range.
The route traverses exposed rock slabs and then a sandy track winds between giant weathered boulders, before emerging on a cliff edge above a wild valley. Tower Hill rises in the distance with the Billawin (Victoria) Range beyond. Next is a decent into the eastern end of the valley with a steep climb up the other side via stone steps beneath rock crevasses and overhangs.
The path levels out, reaching the rim of Mt Rosea’s huge east facing cliffs where the trail heads south crossing a spectacular feature known as Gate of the East Wind, pops through a cave and traverses slabs before the fenced summit is reached – one of the very best views in the park! We descend by the same route.
We enjoy our last Grampians dinner out tonight at a local restaurant.
Kanawinka Geopark www.kanawinka.org.au
On the next part of our trip through Western Victoria we leave behind the majesty of the mountains and enter a very different world where volcanoes were erupting a brief thirty thousand years ago to as recently as six thousand years ago! We are travelling through an area where it is easy to imagine rivers of lava and plumes of ash erupting from the flat plains. This part of the Geopark is known as the ‘Cones and Flows Precinct’ and we will spend the day exploring some of the features as we make our way to Warrnambool.
Trans: Approx. 240km to Warrnambool
Activity: Penshurst Volcanoes Discovery Centre
Walks: Mt Napier 3.5km return. Moderate (road conditions permitting) / Byaduk Caves loop 2km Easy / Mt Eccles – various options as time allows.
Accom: Olde Maritime Motor Inn (Private bath)
Meals: B L
Today we pack up and make an early start – there is much to explore on this day! The drive heads south from Halls Gap paralleling the Serra Range. Mt Abrupt marks our departure from the ancient landscape of the Grampians and we quickly enter plains country. From Dunkeld we head south to historic Penshurst tucked beneath the cone of Mt Rouse and visit the Volcanoes Discovery Centre by way of introduction to the geology of the region.
About 25km away lies the solitary and distinctive Mt Napier (named by Major Mitchell), the last volcano to erupt in Victoria. It’s a steep climb up the side of the forest-clad crater for 360 degree views.
In the same park but accessed from a different point are the Byaduk Caves. These are in fact collapsed lava tubes, one of which can be viewed from its floor. There are also great examples of the dry-stone walls for which the region is renowned.
Next we take a detour to see hummocks called ‘tumuli’ or ‘lava blisters’, volcanic features rarely found in the world’s volcanic regions. These are not accessible due to being on private property.
Back on C184 we head to Macarthur then into Mt Eccles NP. There are lots of options here so depending on time we will explore at least some of the features including Lake Surprise, lava bridges and a cave as well as have a look into the lava canal that runs for kilometres through the park.
Before arriving in Warrnambool we’ll detour around the rim of our final volcano - Tower Hill.
Hugging Lady Bay and the mouth of the Hopkins River, Warrnambool is major centre and a prime location for watching Southern Right Whales in their calving waters. With good fortune we will have a chance to see some whales – they are closely watched and sighting are reported as they are happening.
Our accommodation is central and you will no doubt be keen to walk on the beach once you have settled in. There is a patrolled beach here for those eager to swim. Foot tracks start nearby – the Promenade parallels the bay and Lake Pertobe has extensive pathways.
This evening there are no plans and you are free to find a place to dine of your choice, catch a movie or an early night. Our motel is walking distance to Liebig Street, which is the main shopping precinct.
The Shipwreck Coast
The third part of our sojourn focuses on the much more recent history of the era of the great clipper sailing ships and the early days of maritime commerce between the colonies of Australia and the old world. Those were dangerous times and many ships came to grief on this coast as they attempted to ‘thread the eye of the needle’, the narrow passage marking the entrance from the vast ocean to the narrow confines of Bass Strait leading to the heads of Port Phillip Bay. Often they were in contrary and dangerous seas relying on inadequate instruments and bold (or foolish) captains. Over the next few days these times will come alive as we hear stories, visit historic places and walk the coastline.
Activity: Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum
Accom: Old Maritime Motor Inn
Meals: B L D
After such big days you are welcome to have a bit of a sleep in if you wish and enjoy breakfast at your leisure! There will be time to explore downtown Warrnambool in the morning. The Art Gallery is nearby and has a couple of thought-provoking exhibitions running.
Our main focus of the day is the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum. Entry to the complex (located directly across the street from our motel) begins with the museum exhibits and a light lunch of sandwiches in the Stella Marais tearooms. From here you are free to explore the village complex, a collection of beautifully detailed historic reconstructions reflecting life in the era of sail. You may leave at your leisure as we will be returning after dinner to experience ‘Shipwrecked’ the “ 75min spectacular world-class sound and laser show … It is a complete theatrical encounter that magically brings to life the tale of the Loch Ard, wrecked off the coast of Victoria in 1887.”
Dinner is at 6.30pm at Clovelly Restaurant on site at our Motel. At 8pm we will head back to Flagstaff Hill for the 8.20pm Shipwrecked show.
Walks: Short walks at Bay of Islands SP, Port Campbell NP & 12 Apostles Marine Park
Trans: Approx. 77km
Accom: Twelve Apostles Motel (Private bath)
Meals: B D
Today we farewell Warrnambool and travel east along the famous Great Ocean Road. Our first stop is at Bay of Islands, and then we pass through the sleepy fishing village of Peterborough pop. 178. This is the site of the infamous shipwreck of the Schomberg in 1885. Said to be the “most perfect clipper ever built” it ran aground on a sand spit in controversial circumstances. There was no loss of life apart from the drowning of two men who planned to salvage the cargo. Eventually it was all lost to the sea.
Next stop is London Bridge and the Arch before we arrive at Port Campbell for lunch. This small surf and fishing village has a lovely foreshore and jetty area. Here you have some free time to browse the shops and find a café for lunch.
After lunch there is a short drive to Loch Ard Gorge where we will spend about 1 ½ hrs to take in all the walks and viewpoints in this remarkable area.
For those who are keen there is an opportunity to take a helicopter flight along this spectacular section of coastline. www.12apostleshelicopters.com.au The experience isn’t cheap but it is worth every second! This can be arranged on the day (at your cost).
Tonight we stay at the 12 Apostles Motel just north of the famous landmark. Dinner is good hearty fare in the motel restaurant.
Walk: Cape Otway to Aire River 9.9km / Side trip: Rainbow Falls 2km return + Option to continue to Castle Cove 5.6 km Moderate
Trans: Approx. 80km to Cape Otway.
Accom: Head Lightkeeper’s House, Cape Otway (Share bath)
Meals: B L D
After packing a lunch we head to Cape Otway where we stay for the final two nights of our tour. Before settling in though we don our boots once more for a hike on a section of the Great Ocean Walk. The track begins at the Lightstation entrance. The sandy track first passes through wind-sculpted vegetation hugging the slopes and cliff tops above Station Beach before dropping down the beach. Here we can take the return side trip to Rainbow Falls, a fascinating limestone formation stained with dissolved minerals and hung with thick pelts of moss. The route takes us along Station Beach and then up to the cliff tops again. From the Escarpment Lookout the track drops down through dense vegetation before emerging beside the Aire River estuary. The van will meet us here. If we do continue the next part has us climbing back up to the escarpment via a GOW campsite where the track traverses coastal heathland for the next 5.5km with fabulous views along the coast. The walk ends at Castle Cove on the Great Ocean Road.
The drive back is along the Great Ocean Road. Back at Cape Otway we settle into our accommodation, which is securely within the Lighthouse precinct. You are free to wander around the buildings during our stay.
Walk: Melanesia Beach to Moonlight Head 9.6km Moderate - Challenging
Trans: Approx. 40min to trail head.
Accom: Head Lightkeeper’s House, Cape Otway
Meals: B L D
After packing our lunch and loading our gear we drive to the hike start where we will be dropped off for our final through walk.
The first section takes us down a 4WD track to the beautiful Melanesia Beach. The geology here is striking and if the tide is low we will be able to take our time exploring the rock pools and enjoying the unique patterns in the cliffs. Between Melanesia Beach and Moonlight Head the walking is hard though the track is well constructed, with steps in steep parts, through the rough terrain and the last section to Moonlight Head is along an old fishing track. On a clear day, Moonlight Head is a magic spot to just sit and watch ocean.
Tonight we feast at the Lighthouse Café for our final dinner together on the tour.
Trans: Approx. 200km to Melbourne Airport
All fine journeys eventually lead back home and so today we pack up and farewell Cape Otway. The drive back is via one of Australia’s most famous drives along the Great Ocean Road to Torquay, passing through Apollo Bay, Lorne and Anglesea. En route we will stop for a morning tea break before Geelong where the byways join the M1 to Tullmarine Airport.
Teresa Cause based in Boonah, founded Horizon Guides Pty Ltd in 2007. Offering a specialised bushwalking guide service, Teresa has a background in outdoor and environmental education, with a particular emphasis on natural history. Teresa's extensive guiding experience includes tours in Australia and overseas. She is also the proprietor of Far Outdoors in Boonah.
Boronia Peak Villas, Halls Gap www.boroniapeakvillas.com.au We have two private cabins, one three bedroom and one two bedroom (Queen bed and bunks) Features include:
- Spacious living area and fully equipped kitchen with microwave, fridge and dishwasher
- All linen and towels are provided.
- Share bathroom with spa
- Wood heating
- Washing machine in each villa
Best Western Olde Maritime Motor Inn, Warrnambool www.oldemaritime.com.au Recently refurbished, award-winning motel conveniently located near to the beach, shops and parkland. Features include:
- Clovelly Restaurant and bar with free Wi-Fi
- Gym for guests to use free of charge
- Free washing machines and coin operated dryer
Apostles Motel and Country Retreat, 12 Apostleswww.twelveapostles.com.au (RACV 3 Star Rating)
- Heated indoor pool
- Free Wi-Fi
- Twin share rooms with en suite
- Bar and restaurant serving hearty Australian country meals
- 3km from the 12 Apostles
Head Light Keepers House, Cape Otwaywww.lightstation.com
Cape Otway Lightstation Located in the historic precinct this house takes you back to a bygone era. There are four rooms with four beds in each. Two shared bathrooms. Meals (except dinner on the last night) will be prepared by your guides in the house kitchen.
- “Discovering Grampians – Gariwerd” Alistair Paton and Bruce Paton VNPA 2004
- Northern Grampians Outdoor Recreation Guide Spatial Vision
- Kanawinka Geotrail Map
- Great Ocean Walk Information Guide and Map 3rd Ed. Parks Victoria
- Walks of the Shipwreck Coast and Volcano Country Ken Martin BAS Publishing 2010
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Please note spaces are limited - strictly 10 participants per walk.
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