Last weekend, my boyfriend Kevin and I decided it was high time for me to start training to climb the infamous Mount Kilimanjaro, a trip that had been in my planner for months and was set to commence on December 24, a mere 6 days away.
In reality, we wanted a weekend away from Melbourne together somewhere easily accessible from the city and preferably somewhere new, at least for one of us.
Last (Southern Hemisphere) autumn, my friend Caitlin and I had visited the national park for our girls weekend, so I had a rough idea of our accommodation and dining options.
When I mentioned staying at the YHA Hostel in Halls Gap, the town known for being the “heart of the Grampians”, Kevin actually laughed. What’s not romantic about sharing a dorm room with 6 strangers?! Jeez, Kev, live a little…
Luckily, accommodations – budget and otherwise – are readily available in the area, even though it’s summertime. I skimmed through Airbnb and found the adorable Manuka Cottage, a studio-esque cottage with a furnished porch and even a jacuzzi. Well, that decision was easy!
As I booked our cottage, Kevin organized the car rental from Budget Car Rentals and we were all set to go.
We arrived on Friday evening after fighting a bit of rush hour traffic and let the serenity soak in. It didn’t take long. Arriving in Halls Gap, we spotted endless grazing kangaroos leisurely picking at the grass with a handful of tourists attempting to capture the truly Australian moment, while the kookaburra calls and cicada chirps played endlessly in the trees overhead. Ah, hello again Mother Nature!
We made dinner and relaxed, both excited for our weekend and exhausted from the drive. (Please note: my hour long drive to Kevin’s work fried my nerves almost as much as his actual work day plus driving us all the way there. Rest was anxiously welcomed by us both.)
On Saturday morning we headed for Harvest, a delicious nearby cafe, where we had breakfast and coffee before heading off to start our hiking adventures. Everyone knows it’s not a meal without desert, and Kevin really took that to heart by taste testing some Aussie favorites: the chocolate and coconut covered Lamington cake, as well as the (sugar) bomb-ass Yo-Yo cookie. Yum.
Our first day of adventuring took us to the impressive MacKenzie and Fish Falls, the Balconies from Reed Lookout, Boroka Lookout, and the deceptively challenging Mount William.
On our second day, we opted for the picturesque Pinnacle hike followed by (cake and coffee!! and then) the Boronia Peak trail.
Over the two days, the numerous lookouts offered an expedited experience to view the impressive panoramic views of the endless rugged terrain of the Grampians.
The hikes, varying in their degrees of challenge, were equally as impressive in terms of their views along the way and definitely magical from their respective summit points – obviously only available to those who put in the time and sweat!
Each trail is relatively clearly marked and in some cases includes helpful metal mesh paths to avoid slipping or getting lost. Amazing stuff!
Overall, the weekend was an absolute blast. We felt incredibly lucky with the perfect weather we were granted and, despite it being perfect hiking weather, the relative lack of crowds on the trails and in town. It really was a (re)treat for us.
All in all, I continue to strongly suggest a visit to the Grampians National Park for anyone in the Melbourne area!