|Ballarat - Halls Gap|
|Grampians & Beyond|
Southwestern Victoria is a region of many contrasts. This exciting itinerary takes you to the Pyrenees Ranges and the rugged Grampians, to fertile wool and wine country, volcanic lakes, and pristine wildlife areas.
From Melbourne head northwest on the Western Freeway (M8) to Ballarat. Originally a small farming settlement, the city developed rapidly once gold was discovered in the area in 1851 - this is now Victoria’s largest inland provincial city. There is a great deal to see and do here, but Sovereign Hill is an absolute must.
Travel northeast via the Midland Highway to Bendigo, an old mining town. Visit the Central Deborah Gold Mine, the Chinese Joss House, the Golden Dragon Museum and take the famous tram tour. Browse the Bendigo Art Gallery to view examples of the local artwork this town is so renowned for.
Then move on to Stawell where, unlike many old Victorian mining towns, gold is still mined. This is also the home of the famous Stawell Gift foot race and the Stawell Gift Hall of Fame, which contains race memorabilia dating back to the 1920s. Before heading south, the 1850s goldrush town of Ararat is worth a visit. This Grampians region is famous for its fine wines and you can visit several wineries around Great Western and Ararat itself.
The next stop on this drive is Horsham. Established in the 1840s, riverside Horsham is the commercial centre of the Wimmera region, one of the world's finest wheat and wool growing areas. This substantial town has many attractions - particularly the delightful Botanic Gardens, the excellent collection of artworks at the Horsham Regional Art Gallery and The Wool Factory, where ultra-fine wool is produced. You can also fish for trout and redfin in the Wimmera River and nearby lakes and visit the Toscana Olive Plantation.
From Horsham, it's just a short drive to Halls Gap, the gateway to the fabulous Gariwerd (Grampians) National Park. At the western extremity of the Great Dividing Range, this rugged region of sandstone ridges and peaks is known for its bushwalking and rockclimbing, Aboriginal rock paintings, and profusion of wildlife - there are koalas, kangaroos and over 200 bird species here, including emus and wedge-tailed eagles. Another Grampians highlight is the Brambuk Living Cultural Centre, where you can explore Koori cultural and artistic traditions.
From Halls Gap, take a drive south through the national park's breathtaking scenery to the small village of Dunkeld and on to Hamilton, which labels itself as the 'Wool Capital of the World'. Not surprisingly, one of the major attractions here is wool-related - the Big Wool Bales is the ideal place to find out more about the industry. Other things to see and do include browsing through the Hamilton Art Gallery, visiting historic houses and fine gardens and boating or fishing at man-made Lake Hamilton.
To return to Melbourne travel south to Portland or Port Fairy and link up with the spectacular Great Ocean Road drive.
Where to Stay
Time required: 7-10 days are recommended.