AL-KO's Best Aussie Vans 2017: Grampians, VIC, Part 2

By: Tim van Duyl, Photography by: Cam Innis, Graeme Neander, Aaron Flanagan


Finishing our lap of the Grampians uncovered yet more wonder.

A-couple -at -Halls -Gap -Lookout -VIC

Having explored the Grampians National Park and nearby regions, we were ready to flesh out our itinerary while dining at The Royal Mail Hotel. Travellers had told us the Salt Lakes at Lake Bolac, only a touch over 45km from Dunkeld, were deepening in colour. So passing fields of canola, we crested the hills to Lake Bolac, where the lakes were indeed a deep, opaque pink even on an overcast day. While there, the visitor centre recommended the edges of the town’s namesake. The shores of Lake Bolac are popular for day trips but harbour a few free campsites suitable for caravans and motorhomes with access to basic toilets. No bookings are required but expect a rush during the warmer months as skiers and wakeboarders head to its shores.

Caravans -on -the -road -passing The Salt Lakes At Grampians -VIC

With a brisk breeze over the lake we turned north to our original destination, Ararat. The kind folk at the information centre told us of another worthy stop, Lake Buninjon. No camping spot, though it has a decent rest area, so we headed up in search of wildlife. With the strong winds, we expected the local birds to stay low in safe waters. Hoping to spot stilts and plovers known to the region we lucked out. Chins up, we hit the road again.

ARARAT

We parked our rig in a trailer site at the Ararat visitors centre for advice before unhitching the Titan at Acacia Caravan Park, our stop for the night.

A-couple -having -beers -at -One -Tree -Hill -VIC

As we walked the streets we admired the Heritage Victorian architecture dispersed between modern designs. There are good bakeries, second-hand shops, most major banks and key shops like pharmacies and RV supply stores. Earlier in the day, travellers recommended the sunset view at One Tree Hill. Grabbing some Indian fare from the main road we headed up the hill. The elevation is only about 190m but provides great views to the north, east and south with the Grampians dominating the west, where we gazed as shadows grew through the valleys out from the ranges. At the summit are picnic tables and a rotunda, so we ate till the sun was all but down.

A-couple -fishing -in -Grampians -VIC

Morning broke and with it, the weather came right so I fulfilled a promise to Leah, my travelling companion. We would try our hand at fishing Green Lake. After backing the Pajero Sport onto the Titan once more, we were off. Green Hill Lake is a popular campground with a donation box financing its upkeep. We found dozens of caravans and RVs around the southern edge of the lake, all sitting proud in the morning sun. Amenities are good for a donation-site and the grass is well kept meaning you should be able to find a waterside site like we did during the shoulder and off-seasons. Like Lake Bolac, it quickly gets crowded in peak periods.

PYRENEES CARAVAN PARK

Green -Hill -Lake -Campground -VIC

Our last stop in Ararat, apart from yet more early morning coffee with a welcome smile from one of the many local cafes, was Pyrenees Caravan Park. It had recently changed hands with the new owners injecting a new-found vigour into the already picturesque location. We drove through and picked up a gas cylinder before another detour.

I am a bit of a technology fan, particularly when it comes to power generation so we headed east for the wind farm off Warrak Road. The farm went fully operational in February 2017 with 75 wind turbines each with a 103m span. Getting up close to them is pretty impressive. If you have never been near one, they hum.

Cockatoo -in -Grampians -VIC

Not part of our plan we found ourselves continuing east, further away from Ararat in search of some wildlife and peace. We had researched before we hit the road and knew Langi Ghiran State Park had good off-grid camping. Due east towards the park, entry is via Kartuk Road which leads to an open area with fireplaces and ample room. We heard the reservoir, up the valley, was a nice walk or 4WD away so unhitched the van and went up. It was certainly not tow-friendly but the Pajero made light work of it.

THE RANGES

Red -Rock -Olives -VIC

We stopped in at Pomonal, just south of Halls Gap, which is developing at a fast rate. We arrived for the wildflowers just at the right time of year and a quick restock at the general store. We skipped north, past the turn-off to Lake Fyans, another worthy boating and fishing spot. Our destination was to be Red Rock Olives, a standout attraction in the region. We stocked up with bottled olives and oils plus a beautiful tasting plate. Another day all but done, it was time to race the setting sun. An animal strike is a real threat around dusk so we drove cautiously and knowingly, and we came across many creatures including one of the prettiest sambar deer I have seen in Australia.

A-couple -having -wine -at -Red -Rocks -Olives -VIC

Arriving at night at Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park meant we missed the scale of the valley en-route but dawn revealed all. Once lit, your eye is drawn in every direction by the sheer scale of the ranges around you. Boronia Peak sits proud atop the arrow straight ranges to the east while the more jagged and stepped rocks to the west invite you to want to see more. The small valleys appeared to be shaped by forces stronger than nature, so our plan was set. We were to reach the peak at Boroka Lookout after exploring the exemplary Tourist Park and town.

A-couple -having -drinks -by -the -fire -at -Halls -Gap -Caravan -Park -VIC

Set deep inside Halls Gap, the park is between Lake Bellfield, a reservoir at the top of the valley and a nature strip popular with deer, roos and a gaggle of cockies keen to inspect your breakfast. The park had to be one of the best places to stay on the trip; modern, friendly and surrounded by nature’s finest. Down the road, only a two-minute drive, is Brambuk – The National Park & Cultural Centre. A good place to learn about local culture or stop for coffee. Down in the town proper are enough supplies shops and cafes to satiate any traveller plus gas, petrol and diesel and a range of eateries open till late at night.

Leaving Halls Gap was difficult. We could have stayed another week just exploring the different walks and lookouts. Should you go there, drop by Wonderland. We missed it but other travellers told us it was a worthwhile experience. If you are up for the walk, the formed and well-signposted track from the car park will take you to The Pinnacle via the aptly named Grand Canyon, a walk through deep crevasses. We missed the chance but it is popular and well worth the effort, we hear.

HEADIN’ HOME

A-couple -crossing -the -street -in -Stawell -VIC

Our last major port of call was Stawell via yet another of the region’s famous wineries, Best’s. A familiar feeling drive to the preceding 11 days, it was a showcase of Australia’s finest in primary produce. Arriving at Best’s is an experience in itself, off the beaten track, the cellar door is among working vines central to the Great Western basin. The staff are engaging at the small cellar door and the wine isn’t bad either. Stocked up, we headed for our final stop.

Similar in size to Ararat, Stawell offers lots including a highlight my time travelling Australia. We headed to the peak of the town, Big Hill Lookout, which revealed the working fields and the wonder of the Grampians proper, and where we stopped to re-caffeinate at Gallery Cafe. What we found was the essence of the trip been, hospitality and friendliness that sadly doesn’t exist in our cities. It left us wondering what more and certain to return to the surreal landscape and home away from home that is the Grampians region.

The full feature appeared in Caravan World #571. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!