The Grampians region features a number of towns as well as natural attractions.
Grampians National Park
The Grampians are a range of rugged sandstone mountains up to 1000m high, the last remains of the western foothills of the Great Dividing Range. The highest peak, Mount William (1167m), was climbed in July 1836 by Thomas Mitchell, who named the range after the Grampians of his Scottish homeland. The Grampians were declared a national park in 1984. On one side the mountains fall gently away, on the other they have steep rock faces, much eroded by wind and water. In the western Grampians there are Aboriginal cave paintings, and at the visitor center there is an exhibition of Aboriginal culture. The mountains are covered with heath and scrub, the valleys with forest. The park is famed for its wild flowers (over 700 species of flowering plants), and the fauna include koalas, kangaroos, echidnas, platypuses, opossums, deer and over 100 species of birds.Short trails lead to fantastic rock formations and places with stunning views (especially Balcony, Reid Lookout, Mount William).
Address: Level 10 535 Bourke Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000, Australia
Useful tips: Best time to visit: August to November (when wild flowers are in bloom). Access via Halls Gap, to the northeast, or Dunkeld, to the south.
In the town of Dunkeld is a historical museum with a collection of material on the Aborigines and documents on Thomas Mitchell's journeys of exploration.
Hamilton (pop. 11,500), the 'wool capital of the world', is the most important town in the Western District of Victoria. It lies on the Glenelg Highway and can be reached from Melbourne by way of Ballarat or via Geelong and the Hamilton Highway (310km).In the center of the town is Lake Hamilton. There is a small zoo in the Botanical Gardens. The Art Gallery, in the Town Hall complex, was built up with the help of private donations.Hamilton is a good base from which to visit the water sports resorts of Portland, Port Fairy and Warrnambool on the southwest coast, the Grampians and the Wannon and Nigretta Falls.
Mount Eccles National Park
400ha.Mount Eccles is a long extinct volcano with an impressive crater and lava channels, caves and tunnels left by quarrying. Particularly striking is the rock formation known as Stony Rises and Lake Surprise, a crater lake with good bathing.
Ararat (pop. 8300) lies on Mount Ararat. During the 1857 gold rush here, when the population of the town rapidly rose to 20,000, many Chinese prospectors made rich finds on the Canton Lead and were then driven away by white rivals. After the brief gold boom Ararat became the commercial center of a farming area (wool).The town has preserved a number of handsome buildings (the post office, the Town Hall) from its 19th C. heyday. Other features of interest are the Botanical Gardens (fine display of orchids), Alexandra Park and a monument to the Chinese gold prospectors. There are fine views of the town and surrounding area from One Tree Hill.
At Great Western, 16km northwest of Ararat, since 1863, when a Frenchman named Jean Trouette planted a plot of land. North of Great Western are the Malakoff goldfields.
St Arnaud, Australia
St Arnaud (pop. 3000) lies in beautiful hill country. Founded in 1842 as a pastoral farming settlement, it was soon afterwards caught up in the gold rush. The gold mines continued to be worked until 1926.St Arnaud has preserved many 19th C buildings with rich wrought-iron decoration. There is good fishing in the Avoca River and Teddington Reservoir.The Melville Caves, 40km east of St Arnaud on the road to Inglewood, were the haunt of bushrangers in the 19th C.
Stawell (pop. 6700) is a good base for excursions to the northern Grampians and Grampian National Park. 24km west is Halls Gap, another good base for the Grampians. Gold was found on Big Hill in the 1850s, bringing a great influx of prospectors to the town, then known as the Reefs.Stawell has a number of historic buildings, notably St Matthew's Church. Caspar's World in Miniature displays small-scale models of famous buildings and dioramas depicting episodes in Australian history.
3km southeast of Stawell are the granite crags known as the Sisters. 11km south is Bunjil's Cave, with Aboriginal rock paintings.