Grampians National Park (Gariwerd)
The four greatest mountain ranges of the Grampians are the Mt Difficult Range in the north, Mt William Range in the east, Serra Range in the southeast and Victoria Range in the southwest. They spread from Ararat to the Wartook Valley and from Dunkeld almost to Horsham. Halls Gap, the main accommodation base and service town, lies in the Fyans Valley.
At the heart of the central Victorian goldfields, Castlemaine is a rewarding working-class town where a growing community of artists and tree-changers live amid some inspiring architecture and gardens.The main grid of streets is home to some stirring examples of late-19th-century architecture.
Like a pop-up folk museum, the whole of tiny Maldon is a well-preserved relic of the gold-rush era, with many fine buildings constructed from local stone. The population is significantly lower than the 20,000 who used to work the local goldfields, but this is still a living, working town – packed with tourists on weekends but reverting to its sleepy self during the week.
Kyneton, established a year before gold was discovered, was the main coach stop between Melbourne and Bendigo, and the centre for the farmers who supplied the diggings with fresh produce. Today Piper St is a historic precinct lined with bluestone buildings that have been transformed into cafes, antique shops, museums and restaurants.
The major town to the northwest of the Grampians and the capital of the Wimmera region, Horsham makes a convenient base for exploring the surrounding national parks and Mt Arapiles. The main shopping strip has postal and banking facilities, supermarkets and plenty of other shops and eateries. Grampians & Horsham Visitors Centre has information on the surrounding areas.
Mt Arapiles State Park
Mt Arapiles, 37km west of Horsham and 12km west of Natimuk, is Australia’s premier rock-climbing destination. Topping out at 369m it’s not the world's biggest mountain, but with more than 2000 routes to scale it attracts salivating climbers from around the world. Popular climbs include the Bard Buttress, Tiger Wall and the Pharos.
The Southern Grampians
The southern point of access for the Grampians, Dunkeld is a sleepy little town with a very big-name restaurant. The setting is superb, with Mt Abrupt and Mt Sturgeon rising up to the north, while the Grampians Tourist Rd to Halls Gap gives you a glorious passage into the park, with the cliffs and sky opening up as you pass between the Serra and Mt William Ranges.