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 …
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!
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!!