With its dizzying views and prehistoric-looking landscape, the Grampians National Park is one of Victoria's most impressive natural features. Its sandstone mountain range is one of the most striking in Australia and offers hikers and casual walkers something a little bit different to the average stroll through the bush.
At three hours drive from Melbourne it's probably not an ideal day trip, but the hub town of Hall's Gap provides an excellent base for those wanting to explore this beautiful area. Hotels and B&Bs are in abundance there for those who like their creature comforts but it's the campsites that people flock to for that true outdoorsy feel. Your fellow campers aren't your only companions either - you're never too far from a grass-munching kangaroo.
The distinctive and diverse landscape you can explore here at the Grampians (or Gariwerd to give it its Aboriginal name) is the perfect foil for an adventurous spirit. While designated walkways make it safe and keep you from getting lost, they are rough and rocky enough for you to get some impression of what it must have been like for those first European explorers travelling across this vast and peculiar landscape.
A highlight is the hike up to The Pinnacle - a sturdy outcrop of rock pointing out over a vast valley and crisp blue lake. It's a humbling view preceded by a walk (and occasional clamber) past picturesque creeks and through corridors of the curiously ruffled rock. Nearby is a test for those with a head for heights - a tightrope walk along a free-standing wall of sandstone that has a not insignificant drop each side.
There are many lookouts around the Park and each one provides a skyscraper-free view of untouched landscape that stretches right to the horizon. But you can get more intimate experiences of nature as well - not least at the handful of elegant waterfalls you can visit. A highlight is MacKenzie Falls which, although best seen at certain times of year, is both striking and peaceful whenever you sit by the inviting rock pool.
There is a silly distraction to be had in the area as well. We broke up the long drive with a quick hello to The Giant Koala. One of Australia's growing collection of 'Big Things', it makes for a good photo and a quick comment of, "It's really quite big, eh?" before you get a cup of tea. Don't bother going inside though, it looks a bit like someone's neglected attic.