I drove through the Grampians 10 years ago and was so dazzled by how beautiful it was I vowed to one day return and soak it all up, so when Tourism Grampians invited me to take a spring break there I couldn’t say yes quickly enough.
Mother nature put on a real show for my arrival in Dunkeld: clear blue skies, sun beaming down, bright yellow canola fields in full bloom and a mountain backdrop so stunning it looked like an oil painting. With the window down, wind blowing through my hair and my spring break compilation blaring, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
My first stop was lunch at the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld. Wow. Where to start?
There aren’t many meals I’d suggest travelling three and a half hours for, but this is one. Not only the most mouthwateringly delicious meal I’ve had in a while, but their commitment to growing and sourcing food locally really makes this a destination in itself. Eighty per cent of the food served on your plate is grown in the hotel’s kitchen gardens, orchards and olive grove. Everything is organic and anything that isn’t grown there is sourced from local suppliers.
I was so impressed by my experience at the Royal Mail Hotel I wrote a story about it in my ‘food’ section.
There’s a range of accommodations options to suit different budgets, from hotel rooms and self-contained apartments, to the Mt Sturgeon homestead and cottages on a peaceful and picturesque nearby property – a working sheep station.
I continued on to Halls Gap but was so taken by Dunkeld it’s only a matter of time before I’ll be back to experience it properly. There’s nature walks, a bowls club (I’m told they do barefoot bowls on a Friday night), a book store with old and rare books, and of course the Dunkeld Cup, a race meet that happens in November each year.
An hour north of Dunkeld is Halls Gap, a tiny little township surrounded by the rugged peaks of the Mt William and Wonderland mountain ranges.
I was lucky enough to call Boroka Downs home for three days, it’s the epitome of luxury in the bush. Think spacious five star retreat with wood fire, spa bath, hammock, fully equipped kitchen and pretty much everything you could ever need. With only five residences, completely secluded from one another, the only other guests you’re likely to encounter are the kangaroos and emus that may pop up to say hello at dusk.
The delightful Bob and his wife Stephanie are just a phone call away and only too willing to offer tips on the best the region has to offer, or even cook you dinner. There’s a veggie garden you can help yourself to, and they stock the fridge with breakfast goods (including freshly laid eggs) for your arrival.
You’ll find it hard to tear yourself away from your Boroka Downs as there’s little reason to leave, but there’s so much by natural beauty and more look outs than I could count, it’s a shame not to.
I ventured up to The Pinnacle, which is a 2.2km walk that finishes atop a rocky outcrop with the most incredible birds eye view of Halls Gap. With nothing else but me and nature, I felt like Simba in the Lion King standing atop Pride Rock.
The clouds came rolling in on my final morning in Halls Gap, that didn’t stop me driving through the mist up to the Balconies and Reed lookouts – sadly it was a whiteout, but I’m told the panoramic views they offer are spectacular.
Livefast cafe was the place to go for lunch in Halls Gap, I had a yummy slow cooked lamb salad.
A 40 minute drive down a dirt road from Halls Gap is Mt Zero. The blackened trees are an eerie reminder of the devastating fires that tore through their earlier this year.
Nestled at the foot of Mt Zero is the Mt Zero olive grove and the cutest little farm shop, cafe and courtyard. I picked up some biodynamic olive oil and then made my way to the Toscana farm gate for a tasting.
As much as I didn’t want to leave the Grampians after my three days there, reality beckoned. I made my way home through Great Western, calling into the Seppelt cellar door (for a bottle of Pinot, of course!) before making one final stop in Beaufort, where I had lunch at the Pyrenees Pantry – a cute little cafe with a French Provincial feel and a showcase of local produce and gifts.
I loved every second of my spring adventure in the Grampians. If you haven’t been, put it on your to do list, immediately.