Favourite Place #7 – Halls Gap, Grampians, Victoria

Halls Gap, Lake Bellfield and surrounds from Boroka Lookout

What do you call a town set amidst a 360ºpanorama of staggering beauty? A town with not only a clutch of Australia’s most scenic public toilets in and around it, but (arguably) the most spectacular caravan park and bakery settings in OZ?? Not just ANY old bakery, but (arguably) the best in Victoria – and only a few steps from our caravan park site???



Halls Gap Bakery in front of Boronia Peak
Halls Gap Caravan Park
Is there such a wondrous, heavenly place? Sure is, but what would you call it??

Halls Gap, that’s what you’d call it!! Just as well it’s got a real name – my superlative well is running dry …

Echidna
Within minutes of our arrival, we’d spotted an echidna hunting for ants opposite our campsite on Stony Creek. An unmistakeable creaking door call signalled a pair of Gang gang cockatoo drifting overhead, in turn distracting us from the mob of kangaroos feeding on the lawn between us and the amenities block.  And the snakes?  Well … less said about them, the better!

But not even this wildlife extravaganza could get between us and our ultimate post-campsite-set-up goal – the sensational Halls Gap bakery!! Where despite an absence of seven years, one of the staff actually recognised us …

What could we do but reward such devotion with a daily visit?? But I digress …

Main Street – ‘The Pinnacle’ circled in red, more detail in inset
Halls Gap, epicentre of Victoria’s wildly magnificent Grampians National Park, is gateway to many of its most iconic attractions. But the town’s jaw-dropping setting is only part of its attraction – the impressive amalgam of country town, first rate facilities and range of accomodation make it the perfect base to explore. And we should know. While we’ve included new experiences in each of the ~20 trips we’ve made over 20 years, we STILL haven’t seen or done everything.

But our must-see list includes three central Grampians icons – the only three spots common to every Grampians stay we’ve shared. And after such a long absence, we were keen to re-visit our old favourites.

Agnes Foulkes Grave
Heatherlie Quarry Ruin
First, a pilgrimage to the grave of 3 month old baby Agnes Foulkes, a tragic victim of diptheria in 1870 when a floods prevented her parents from getting her to a doctor.  Check.

Next, a trip to nearby Heatherlie Quarry – its rock used to build and repair several Melbourne landmarks, including Parliament House! The spectacular seasonal array of wildflowers (including Grampians endemic thryptomene) and towering rock ledges offset the ruins of remaining buildings and machinery. Check.

Heatherlie Quarry Wildflowers
Finally, we headed towards Venus Baths – rock formations so named because … well, I’m sure I don’t need to spell it out! Pilchard and his five brothers (yes, his mother DOES deserve an OBE) spent many childhood hours frolicking there without serious injury or death – but with the gravity of adulthood, we content ourselves with a more sedate walk and rock hop.

In October 2011, however, our three-icon tradition was destined to come to an end when we reached the fence that blocked the Venus Baths track!

Fence?

The 10 year drought that plagued much of Victoria ended spectacularly in January 2011, when 270mm of rain fell in two days culminating in 190 landslips causing road blockages, track closures and general flood damage throughout the park. Halls Gap itself was threatened by floodwaters from Fyans Creek as it flowed down into Stony Creek through the town – from Venus Baths.  The baths are now fenced off until track viability can be assessed.

Mt Stapylton and Hollow Mountain from Mt Zero Summit
Limited reporting of the flood and its aftermath means local and overseas visitors to this beautiful and historic region are often unprepared for road and track closures, as were we. Visitor Information Centre staff tell of travellers so disappointed by the closure of several well known Grampians landmarks and trails that they take out their frustration on staff.  But now, enough walks to to keep us going for much longer than the 9 days we stayed are open – including Halls Gap landmark ‘The Pinnacle’.



Mt Sturgeon and Mt Abrupt, Dunkeld
In this extensive and diverse National Park, stretching from Mt Zero, Mt Stapylton and Hollow Mountain in the north, to the magnificent Mt Sturgeon and Mt Abrupt near Dunkeld at the southern limit, it’s easy, even for long-time visitors like Pilchard and I, to discover new experiences and new favourites. We walked new trails, visited lookouts and waterfalls. We found wildflowers, birds and animals. We visited neighbouring towns and explored Halls Gap thoroughly.  In fact, we only left because a long weekend meant our prime site by the creek was booked out!!

Why is Halls Gap one of my favourite OZ places?

View from Mt William, Grampians
Halls Gap is more than just a town. Its way of life is a focus for a huge and varied range of activities and features including hiking, bushwalking, sightseeing, wineries, shopping, restaurants, fabulous scenery, wildflowers, scenic public toilets, birdwatching, fishing, camping, lookouts, lakes, mountains, wildlife. And – of course – the bakery!
So what you see isn’t all you get – its majesty, serenity and beauty are legendary.  So much so, I believe its magical properties can deliver amazing and unforgettable experiences no matter who you are!  It’s just that kind of place.

And after 20 years of taking what Halls Gap and the Grampians National Park has to offer, it’s payback time. Consider this a teaser post, because there’s WAAAAAY too many experiences to fit in here. More posts and more superlatives to come …

Red against Halls Gap panorama!
And who knows? We might even meet you there – because one thing’s for sure. It won’t be another seven years before our next Grampians adventure!!
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35 comments

  • What a wonderful spot! Fab scnery And it’s always nice to have a bakery that remembers you! Gotta’ have those carbs for energy in a spot like this!

  • @Sallie – Haha! That’s my excuse for virtually living in the bakery – when we weren’t scaling rugged peaks, that is!!

  • @Stewart M – I’m always open to other suggestions despite being pretty familiar with the area! You never know what others will find – so bring it on! We’ll be going back soon (although ‘soon’ is an arguable concept)!

  • Hi there – thanks for the comment on my blog – have you not found the “summon picturesque clouds” function on your camera yet? Maybe it’s only on my model!

    I was surprised at how much of the Gramp’s was still shut as well – same problem at Wilsons Prom.

    Was going to suggest some walks – but a. it seems you know the place like the back of your hand b. you seem to have left and c. you did them anyway!

    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne

  • We enjoyed hiking in the Grampians a lot, too!

    If you care for the small luxurious place, make sure to check out the Meringa Springs Lodge! It’s an oasis of small luxury and the rooms come with a view… of kangaroos!

  • @Gladys – Welcome, and thanx! it’s one of many great places in OZ for scenic photos!
    @NJAMB – Thanx! Great to know I’m achieving one of my blog goals!
    @Walter – I think it’s one of the few places in OZ where you’re guaranteed to see kangaroos!

  • Not Just Another Mother Blogger!

    Your descriptions and your photographs are so gorgeous. You have the eye of a tour guide who loves where she lives, every inch of it, warts and all. That is so rare in this day where everything seems to move too fast!

  • Gladys | ByahengBarok.com

    i’m into landscape and nature photography. it would surely be a feast to get here and take photos 🙂

  • diane b – What’s not to love!! And the bakery is ALWAYS bulginb at the seams – not just during holiday season!!
    @SaucyKod – thanx, you’re too kind! But why not share the love with some Canada Reds for my next Red Alert??!! Contact me …
    @PDP – WA is a vast unexplored terrain for us – can’t wait to do ALL of it!! Your suggestion sounds great!!
    @Glen – haha! But you CAN have too many exclamation marks …
    @Frankie – haha! He’d be appalled to think y’all thought of him as a stuffed toy!!! There are a few pix of him back through the archives – but despite appearances to the contrary, he IS a real person!
    @Gemma – You’re SO close!!! I’ll look forward to seeing YOUR pix after you’ve been there!!
    @Mark – I’m so jealous!! Both favourites – but I’m betting you’ll find a marked contrast between Outback BH and Green Grampians! Enjoy!!
    @Mrs Tuna – Haven’t seen a real live porcupine – but this is the closest we get in OZ! Weirdly, Queenslanders (NE OZ) actually call them porcupines …

  • Is that animal similar to the american porcupine?

  • Red we are planning a trip next April out west to Broken Hill then to the Grampians. Thanks for all info and links.

  • I’m ashamed to say that I still have not travelled over this way since I moved to Melbourne in about 2002! Now I live on the peninsula I could so easily take the Sorrento ferry and keep driving! I loathe traffic and would not do the drive through Melbourne when I lived in Blackburn initially! Now I’m running out of excuses! Perhaps money could be a deterrent, but this trip is definitely high on my list of “must do”! Those photos are just wonderful!

  • G’day Red,
    As you know I have been a follower of your blog for some time. I have not seen a photo of Pilchard. Is Pilchard a sort of Red version of Where’s Wally? Have I somehow missed Pilchard as he blended into the background in one of your many photographs? Another blog I follow has a “travelling companion” who, it turns out, is a toy cat and according to the blog writer, insists on being photographed at certain iconic landmarks. I am sure Pilchard is a real person. OR is he?

  • hmm – it’s been too long since I visited you here, beautiful country you have – frankly you can NEVER have too many superlatives.

    ‘The Grampians’ – noted

  • That explains the ‘Red’ and your many adventures explains the ‘nomad’ !! I get the impression that this is definitely one of your favourite places and I can well see why, with that scenery and all the wildlife PLUS the best bakery, hard act to follow.If you ever come to WA you should try The Bibbulmun Track (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bibbulmun_Track) I think you’d love it, my husband did it in 5 weeks continuous walking, loved it!!

  • Hi Red: Love the photo, as we do not get to see an actual photo of you that much.
    I love the fact that when you get to the top of a hill, bluff or mountain, you can see for miles. We have an area here called St. Davids Ridge, and we drove up there yesterday and the view is sooo beautiful – still quite a few colours of Autumn in the hills and valleys, all the way out to the Bay of Fundy..
    Thankyou for this most informative post and the beautiful photos. Golly, I am becoming so knowledgeable 🙂

  • It sure is a beautiful part of our country. We were there some years ago and stayed in the posh villas. It was Easter and it cost us an arm and a leg.There were many tourists and the bakery shop was bulging at the seams.
    I loved the hundreds of kangaroos grazing in the evenings and mornings, I loved the bright red parrots that sat on our balcony rail. We walked the venus trail and our daughter and SIL climbed to the top of one of the peaks. A really beautiful spot.

  • @Windsmoke – It hasn’t changed THAT much in 20 years … but some of the old faves are buried beneath rocks & rubble. Still an AMAZING place to go – why not plan another trip?!?!
    @Diane – And I love that you love that I love my country!!! Paradise? Well yes, now that you mention it!!
    @Dina – So great to hear from you! It’s not far from Melbourne, so slot it in for your next trip! And the bakery? I guess that means we were SUCH good customers …

  • @Kath – The day I tire of the Grampians, just shoot me!
    @Beach Bum – EVERYONE heard about the QLD floods – but many other areas in OZ (esp Victoria and WA) had killer floods too!
    @SFlaGuy – Wow, thanx! Was a bit concerned I’d cut it off! It was either that or post a 27 pager …
    @Mary – Thanx! And no problem – Jan (or anytime!) will be fine!
    @TGFN – You’re too kind! Wasn’t sure if my pic was a treat … or a punishment!!!
    @Magsx2 – You got that right!

  • @Joan Elizabeth – Don’t put it off any longer – this is why we travel! Got a ‘Royal’ pic for you too!
    @FruitCake – We’re still trying, after all these years … and sign up for the virtual bakery tour right here!
    @Alessandra – Just look at the pix! They’ll make you want to visit!! Will email u re NZ!
    @Andrew – Do what all the other Melbournites do and go there for the weekend! Only 3 hrs away …
    @River – I don’t know whether to be embarrassed or thrilled we were remembered after all that time … But I think it tells you how often we’ve been to the bakery …
    @Dianne – Yes, what’s NOT to love??!!

  • I loved seeing a photo of you.

    Halls Gap was one of the places I wanted to go!

    That’s amazing that the bakery remembered you after seven years!!!!

  • Wow! I love your country! And I love that you love your country! It comes through in everything you write. This sounds like the best place of all. All those amenities from animals through scenery AND fresh baking. Did any one say paradise?

  • Visited the Grampians back in the 70’s towing my dad’s caravan the landscape was spectacular back then and by the looks of your Bonza photos not much has changed thankfully :-).

  • Hi,
    The views are magnificent, looks like a fantastic place.

  • TexaGermaFinlaNadian

    Well we don’t often see pics of you, so that was a treat! What a locale. I love finding spots that you can see everything from. Too cool!

  • More wonderful photos. I love to visit here. I am going to have to say no to your offer. Time is going to be a problem through the end of the year. If you are still interested in January, Things will free up. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  • I think this is your best post ever… and there is a lot to compete with. If I ever hop a plane to the land of OZ, this would surely be on the must do list.

  • The 10 year drought that plagued much of Victoria ended spectacularly in January 2011

    I heard something about floods in Queensland that were even worse. Of course the American news media did not mention anything after that, they spend most of their time talking about some scandal.

  • Top photos, Red. And one of the best places in Oz to visit. Over and over again. 🙂

  • Must put this on my bucket-list – the scenery looks amazing and with a top-notch bakery within walking distance from the park – well that would just top it off!

  • Recognised after seven years?
    Now, THAT’S impressive!

    Oh, okay, the rest of Hall’s Gap is also impressive.
    Adding it to my list of places to go.

  • We saw the Grampians in passing on our return from Adelaide. Even from a distance they look spectacular. On the list.

  • Nice to see a pic of you Red! This looks great but I’ll have to come back to it, not enough time to read it all, skimmed through thinking about toilets with snakes, but then happy that there are also echidna, and yes, looks very green now that you have rain again…
    I am planning a trip to Australia next year so I will check a few of your posts :-).

    Re talking about NZ… what exactly do you need?

    Ciao
    A.

  • OK Red, I can see that I might have to set a goal of visiting every bakery in Australia at least once…
    unless there’s a bakery tour I can sign up for.

  • Wow I will put it back on the list. My Mum always wanted to go the the Grampians and because of this I have tried to head that way several times but it has always been out of the way of where we are really going.

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