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Published June 7th 2021
Idyllic family getaway
Dunkeld in western Victoria is one of those places you might drive through on your way to any number of destinations without ever really giving much thought to staying there. But take the time to look around and you'll soon see that it's very worthy of a short stay.
Dunkeld, with its cafes and coffee shops, is a popular stop-off on the road to somewhere else but certainly worthy of an extended stay. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
For me, the principal attraction lay in the relaxed, very laid-back and dog-friendly Dunkeld Caravan Park, a mix of shady powered and un-powered sites right on the edge of town – a great place to sit and relax for a couple of days.
Dunkeld was first settled in the late 1830s by mostly Scottish pastoralists with the township originally named Mount Sturgeon. Today, Dunkeld is best known as the southern gateway to the magnificent Grampians with easy access via the Grampians Tourist Road.
If you don't want to travel too far from Dunkeld, take a drive on the Mirranatwa Loop, a 60-kilometre, 45-minute drive on sealed roads through the Victoria Valley to Mirranatwa Gap lookout. From here, you'll get some fabulous views across the ranges of the southern Grampians and adjacent pastoral areas.
Next door to Dunkeld's modern Police Station you'll find the towns historic Police Stables and lock-up circa 1860's. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
For a bit of picturesque family exercise, you might consider the Mount Piccaninny Walk. Graded easy to medium the 2.5-kilometre return walk to the peak of Mt Piccaninny starts 4.5-kilometres out of town on the Grampians Tourist Road. With fabulous views back to Dunkeld, Mount Sturgeon and Mount Abrupt, this 1-hour jaunt is ideal for families and us older grey nomads.
If you're a keen walker with a bit more energy, you might want to try the Mount Abrupt and Mount Sturgeon walks. Mount Abrupt is a 3-hour walk graded Hard. A 6.5-kilometre return, walk this steep and difficult trek to the summit of Mount Abrupt winds through thick forest to the rocky summit. This walk starts 8-kilometres north of Dunkeld, just off the Grampians Tourist Road.
Mount Sturgeon, also 3-hours and also graded Hard starts 3-kilometres north of Dunkeld, at the junction of Victoria Valley Road and the Grampians Tourist Road. A distance of 7-kilometres return the walk is over a well-worn track but only suitable for fit and energetic walkers.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more relaxed stop-over than the Dunkeld Caravan Park. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
On the outskirts of town, just a short walk from the caravan park, you'll find the Dunkeld Arboretum, a picturesque community project based on the old Water Reserve. There's a loop walk around the reservoir, the arboretum itself, a historic sawmill, labyrinth and some great views.
Keen foodies won't want to miss the opportunity to dine at the highly regarded Royal Mail Hotel or, if you're just after something light, check out the Old Bakery, the Mount View Café or Dunkeld Delights.
Gastro tourists flock to Dunkeld for a meal at the acclaimed Royal Mail Hotel. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
You'll find the Dunkeld Historical Museum on the corner of Wills and Templeton Streets, housed in an old bluestone church circa 1865 and displaying hundreds of years worth of local information and artefacts covering local indigenous communities, exploration and early settlement.
The museum is open Thursday from 1 PM till 4 PM, Sundays and Public Holidays from 1 PM till 5 PM and other days and times by appointment.
Entry costs Adults $10, Concession $8 and Children $3.
On the edge of town, just a short stroll from the caravan park you'll find the Arboretum and the old saw-mill museum .....
..... along with some fabulous carvings by 'The Chainsaw Chick', Angie Polglaze. Photos: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
If you enjoy a hit of golf be sure to take your clubs with you to Dunkeld where visitors have the opportunity to try their luck on a classic 18-hole, sand-scrape greens country course.
Just 5-kilometres out of town Grampians Golf Club is set in a natural bush setting at the foot of Mount Abrupt.
18-holes will cost you $15, 9-holes $10 or Juniors (Under 18) $10 for 18-holes. The club holds competitions on Tuesdays and Saturdays with visitors most welcome to join in. Check out the website www.grampiansgolfclub.com or call the clubhouse on (03) 5577 2377.
Dunkeld's main attraction is its proximity to one of Australia's great tourism destinations, The Grampians. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
There is literally no pressure in Dunkeld. It's one of those idyllic places where you can simply sit back, relax and enjoy the laid-back rural lifestyle.
Getting There …..
Dunkeld is 275-kilometres west of Melbourne, just over a 3-hour drive via the Western Freeway.
Why? Adjacent to the spectacular natural attractions of The Grampians Dunkeld is a little slice of rural Victoria that provides a fabulous opportunity to sit back, relax and enjoy the very laid-back country lifestyle.
When:Anytime is a great time to visit Dunkeld but The Grampians are at their most colourful best during spring.
Phone:Dunkeld and Grampians Visitor Information Centre (03) 5577 2558
Cost:Dunkeld’s natural attractions are FREE. Entry to the Dunkeld Historical Museum costs Adults $10, Concession $8 and Children $3. A round of golf at Grampians Golf Club costs $15 for 18-holes, $10 for 9-holes or Juniors $10 for 18-holes.