Carolina: Cruising Past 70: 6 Unexpected Things on the Road Trip to Australia’s Grampians National Park

Thursday, September 7, 2017

6 Unexpected Things on the Road Trip to Australia’s Grampians National Park

Daddy and Mommy Kangaroo with a joey in her pouch!
The road trip to the Grampians National Park of Australia takes a little more than three hours from Melbourne. So we designed this such that we could make stops at Ballarat, a little more than an hour away from the city, the Grampian wineries another hour away on the way up, and the Pyrenees wineries an hour away from the national park and two hours more back to the city.

heritage buildings around Ballarat downtown
Heritage Buildings and Art Gallery

Ballarat is the most significant Victorian era gold rush boomtown in Australian history, transforming itself from a small sheep station to a major settlement. It was in 1851 when gold was discovered at Poverty Point. News spread and people from all over the continent and the world rushed to the district in search of gold. Unlike many other gold boom towns, however, the Ballarat fields yielded sustained output for many decades, evidenced by the rich heritage architecture in the city.

We were greeted by a giant statue of a miner and his dog upon entering the city. At the famous Sovereign Hill theme park built to reenact the illustrious history of gold mining, Christmas in July (1-31) was an extra highlight. But the Sovereign
the little Ballarat Art Gallery
Hill experience was so expensive, A$50 per head, that we opted not to do it. Instead, we walked around the town to discover the many heritage buildings from the Gold Rush era: Her Majesty’s Theatre, the Royal Craig Hotel, the Regent Theatre, the Old Railway Station, and the Town Hall.

But something we missed on our first pass through of the main street became the best part of our walking around. The little Ballarat Art Gallery had rooms for periods, depicting the obvious art shifts, from the early times when all that was available were imported European art, to the early works of colonizers, to the earliest works of locals all the way to the modern contemporary art scene. One thing that caught my attention was the little sculpture called Highway to Hell, featuring all the priests of Australia convicted of being a pedophile.

Wattle Trees and Cheese Platters

Although the stops at the wineries were a major part of the road trip, I would like to postpone much of the
wattle trees in bloom!
story-telling to a future post on the bustling Australian wine industry. The Grampians (on the way up) and the Pyrenees (on the way down) wineries are but two of Victoria’s wine regions we visited. The other two were Mornington Peninsula and the most well-known  Yarra Valley.

What I would like to share on this post are the two exciting things that we chanced upon during our tours of Grampians and Pyrenees wineries we visited. First is the wattle tree, Australia’s national tree. I had long wanted to see these wonderful golden trees. Here in the Australian cool climate wine country, they were blooming at their peak! We must have taken hundreds of pictures.

But it was the delicious antipasto platters that truly surprised us. Each platter was filled with local produce: local cheeses like smoky cheddars, triple cream brie, and blue blushes, local or homemade meats (terrines, pates, or hams), fruit products like pastes, jams or dried ones, and olives, caperberries, and other variants. We had a total of three full platters, two on the way up at the Grampians wineries.
cheese platter
We had only one on the way down because we wanted to beat the rush hour in the city. That last one was the best. It was at the Dalwhinnie vineyards. It was the only winery from where Bill took home an expensive Shiraz to be opened in 2025! He was intrigued by the name which derives from the famous Dalwhinnie scotch. We learned that the owners were originally from Dalwhinnie, Scotland!

the Gariwerd Motel
The Gariwerd and the Kangaroos

Although the Barkly Motel we stayed in at Ballarat was clean, comfy, and reasonably priced, the Gariwerd (the other name for Grampians) Motel we chose at Halls Gap at the heart of the Grampians National Park was, as TripAdvisor reviewers wrote, remarkable not only because of the caring couple, Tony and Angeline, that ran it but also because it was set in a green clearing on Grampians Road, the main road, with a spectacular view of the Pinnacle, the highest point. Tony even lent me his mouse for my
just outside our motel room door
laptop as I had left mine at Barkly’s!

But the best part of our stay was the hundreds of kangaroos, and some emus, that freely roamed the fields around Halls Gap. We had so much fun and took hundreds of photos of kangaroos scratching personal areas, staring at us begging for food, and bounding back and forth. Little did I know that the best part was to happen on the morning of our checking out. Several kangaroos were having their breakfast right outside our room, including a joey who jumped in and out of mom’s pouch!

some sights around the Grampian National Park
The Grampians National Park

The Grampians National Park is located in the Grampians region of Victoria, Australia. The over 400,000-acre park was listed on the Australian National Heritage List in 2006 for its outstanding natural beauty with one of the richest indigenous rock art sites in a striking series of sandstone mountain ranges. It didn’t disappoint. Each after 2 kilometer walks, the MacKenzie Falls and the Balconies off Reid’s Lookout and the Boroka Lookout offered uniquely breathtaking views. But they were all quite expected unlike the six things detailed above that are now treasured memories of our Australian adventures!

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