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The Grampians Region
grampiansJourney west from Melbourne for around three hours and you will come across the blue skies, majestic mountains and lush plains of the Grampians region. The essence of the area is best encapsulated in the Grampians National Park, which incorporates four stunning mountain ranges that rise out of the rural plains. The mountains stretch high into the sky and are carpeted with thick, green forest and divided up by an inland network of winding rivers and picturesque lakes. As the home to over 200 bird species, 900 species of native plants and and a plethora of local wildlife, a trip here is sure to put you back in touch with nature and eat ease with the vastness of our great country.

Most people visit the Grampians to experience the sheer splendour that the mountains project, but that doesn't mean the rest of the region should be ignored. The regional towns here are scenic, cosy and exceptionally friendly, and provide great bases for you to stay. Halls Gap is the largest in the National Park, and the drive to it through the famous 'gap' is just as pleasant as the destination itself. Spectacular views of the Wonderland and Mt. William Ranges can be seen in every direction, and are begging for your camera to capture them. There is also a wide variety of choice when it comes to the style of accommodation to suit you.

If you are not content with just taking in the scenery, then do it with a set of clubs in your hands on the aptly named Mt Difficult Golf Course. If golf isn't for you, there is also a wildlife park to explore, and the tourist oriented nature of this town means all the luxuries such as spas and massage parlours are also available if you feel like a bit of indulgence and relaxation.

Like many other areas of this unique state, the Grampians are renowned as having some of the country's finest marked bushwalking trails. Many of these are just a short drive or a walk away from Halls Gap so this should act as a great base. A particularly famous monument along these walks is the Pinnacle, a lookout that has recently re-opened after being destroyed by bushfire a couple of years ago. This lookout offers breathtaking views of the country below, extending all the way from the north to the south. Here, you will also find some picturesque waterfalls, that flow into magical rockpools which are perfect for a much-needed refreshing dip. The most impressive of these would have to be the Mackenzie River Falls, a wide sheet of water plunging into a round rock pool. Simply awe inspiring!

Bushwalking is not the only physical activity on offer here. In fact, the Grampians have actually become a centre for adventure sports and activities in Victoria. Canoeists and kayakers can tackle the narrow and fast flowing sections of the rivers, while rock climbers and abseilers throw themselves up and down the steep mountain cliffs. Mt. Arapiles is perhaps the most popular place to embark on these adventures, as this large outcrop near the town of Natimuk that has been dubbed Victoria's 'Ayers Rock'. The range of gradients on its slopes means it caters to all levels of climbing ability, and it is also popular amongst walkers and sightseers.

For those who appreciate fine food and drink, the Grampians will be right up your alley. The vineyards here have been around since 1863, establishing a wine region that coninues to thrive and thrive. The Great Grape Road is a touring route you can take your camervan or hire car on that passes through many of the larger wineries in the region, such as Seppelts and Montara. Seppelts offers a tour of its labyrinthe-like cellar tunnels and through its immaculately kept grounds which is a great way to build up a thirst. The fertile Grampian soils also produce superb quality olives, and livestock and cheese production is well established here. This makes eating out in some of the fine restaurants a culinary delightful experience!

The town of Ararat, just east of the National Park, is an interesting place to visit because of the great scenery through the Grampians foothills and also the town itself. This area is rich in the historical importance of the aboriginal people, and this is reflected in the Langi Morgala Folk Museum and its diverse collection of artifacts. Ararat is also widely known as being an old gold rush town, offering an interesting insight into Australia's gold mining history. The Gum San Museum pays tribute to the history of these miners, showcasing the history of the Chinese miners through exhibitions that incorporate sight, sound and touch. The beautifully kept botanical gardens or its unique old world architecture are other beautiful features of the town that simply cannot be missed.

There is so much to see and do in and around the Grampians that it would be impossible to experience it all in just a few mere days. A campervan or hire car will allow you to explore unseen areas and will give you an insight into the diversity and uniqueness of this area. Many visitors plan their trips here to coincide with the bloom of the wildflowers, so if you are able to visit in late winter, spring or early summer you will be greeted by the sea of colour of the blossoming flowers.

Christine Barton

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