Where to Go for an Outdoor Adventure in Regional Victoria: Grampians, Great Ocean Road, and More!

Where to Go for an Outdoor Adventure in Regional Victoria: Grampians, Great Ocean Road, and More!

Depart from Melbourne to explore the regional Victoria along the Great Southern Touring Route. This outdoor-focused itinerary focuses on the attractions in the Grampians and along the Great Ocean Road.

Planning a trip to the “Land Down Under”? Then this probably isn’t the first time you’re hearing of Melbourne. Dubbed Australia’s cultural and sports capital, the city is favoured by tourists for many reasons. It’s not only a hub for live music, art galleries, and chic fashion boutiques, it’s also a graffiti hotspot and a sports destination with a busy calendar (think the Melbourne Cup, the Australian F1 Grand Prix, and the annual Australian Open)! Oh, and don’t forget about the flourishing café scene too… coffee lovers, rejoice!

But what most people don’t know is aside from being a bustling city, Melbourne is also the perfect jump-off point for a long road trip that lets you discover the rest of the region. And for those who need a geography refresher, Melbourne is the capital city of Victoria, one of Australia’s six states. Luckily enough for adventure buffs and nature enthusiasts, regional Victoria is the perfect place to lose yourself in if you’re up for an excursion filled with countless natural wonders. Whether at the wheel or in the passenger seat, scenic routes await those who choose to cruise around the regions.

So pack your hiking boots and swimsuits, and brace yourself for a road trip along the Great Southern Touring Route. Our journey begins in Melbourne City, from where we’ll eventually make our way to Ballarat, Grampians, and Great Ocean Road. The last stop is Geelong, another one of Victoria’s culturally rich urban centres, where we can slowly acclimatize ourselves to the pace of vibrant Melbourne before heading back to the capital.

Regional Victoria absolutely took our breath away and we have a feeling it’s going to make your jaws drop, too. To nudge you in the right direction, here’s an easy guide to how you can make that drive around Regional Victoria. The best part about road trips? You get to decide how long to spend at each destination and what to do while you’re there. Are you ready for your greatest outdoor adventure yet?

First stop: Ballarat

Koalas

Crunch the Crocodile

Crunch the crocodile

Kangaroo Island Kangaroo (left) | Alpine Dingo (right); Image credit: Ballarat Wildlife Park Facebook

Begin your adventure at Ballarat Wildlife Park, which is only a 90-minute drive away from Melbourne. The Ballarat Wildlife Park is home to all critters, from koalas and wombats to a number of reptiles and even a colony of Little Penguins, the only species of penguin found on the Australian mainland”.

Take a leisurely walk inside the park and catch some emus and alpacas roaming around freely, or visit Crunch the five-metre-long super croc, one of the largest captive crocodiles in the country. You can also stop by Kangaroo Island to interact with its friendly inhabitants, or meet the park’s newest residents, a family of meerkats! Take a guided tour or simply wander around the area – Ballarat Wildlife Park lets you choose the memories you carry home with you.

Address: Cnr of York & Fussell Streets, Ballarat East 3350, Victoria, Australia

Opening Hours: 9am to 5pm (Every day except Christmas Day)

Admission: Adults AUD 35, Children AUD 19.50

Book your tickets online to enjoy a 10% discount  

Second stop: Grampians

Image Credit: Parks Victoria

Grampians National Park is the perfect introduction to the great Victorian outdoors. It is known for its rugged mountain ranges, rich cultural heritage and extraordinary 360-degree views. Spend a few days in the region to explore the 168,000-hectare park, where there are plenty of walks and hikes to take on. From relaxing strolls to more strenuous treks that bring you to stunning waterfalls, lookouts, and rock formations, Grampians National Park offers an unforgettable outing for tourists of all ages and physical conditions.

While you’re there, we suggest that you check into the Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park, where you’re treated to an unparalleled view of the mountains. Get comfy in well-equipped cabins after a day of exploring, or gather ’round a campfire while roasting some marshmallows and stargazing the night away. Don’t be too surprised to find some friendly kangaroos casually hopping by your cabins!

Address: 27 Tymna Drive, Halls Gap 3381

Enjoy the scenic lookouts

The Grampians are made up of a series of five stunning sandstone ridges that run from north to south, with steeper slopes on the eastern side and gentler ones to the west. The Earth’s gradual lifting and tilting of the sandstones have created this remarkable landscape of peaks and valleys, and the best place to take this all in is from one of the site’s many lookouts. The great news is, these viewing decks are just a short walk away from all the carparks. Some routes are easier than the others, so take the more challenging paths if you’re looking to break a sweat.

Mackenzie Falls | Image credit: Visit Grampians

The iconic Mackenzie Falls is a must-see for all travellers who visit the Grampians. With a gentle, undulating and sealed walking track that cuts through a sheltered woodland, exploring the land by foot is a breeze. Take the 1.9km path to the Bluff Lookout to catch a glimpse of the falls and the Mackenzie River from high up above the ravine. If you’re up for a challenge, opt for the 2km Mackenzie Falls Walk and find yourself at the base of the falls itself after taking on a trail of steep steps. Getting there may not be a walk in the park, but we promise that the view is worth it!

The Balconies | Image credit: Visit Victoria

Boroka Lookout | Image credit: Visit Grampians

Want to watch the sunset’s golden light quietly settling over the mountains? We recommend doing just that at Reeds Lookout, a popular vantage point for capturing Instagrammable views of the Victoria Valley, Victoria Range, Serra Range, Lake Wartook, and the Mt. Difficult Range. If you haven’t had enough after that, continue further on a 2km return walk to The Balconies. Native shrubs adorn the rocky path, which leads to a sweet spot that overlooks the Victoria Valley. Photographers would do well to note that the best time to take some killer shots in the area would be in the morning and the evening.

Early risers, take note! Boroka Lookout is the most recommended spot for watching the sunrise, and it’s just a short stroll away from the carpark. With the Wonderland and Mt. William mountain ranges in plain sight, dawn is best appreciated from viewing decks overlooking Halls Gap and Lake Bellfield.

Take on activities with Absolute Outdoors

Apart from discovering the trails on foot, there are a bunch of other ways for you to connect with nature at The Grampians. Let the accommodating team of Absolute Outdoors at Halls Gap hook you up with some exciting activities to get your adrenaline pumping!

Mountain Biking

Mountain biking tops our list of favourite activities, hands down! With helmets on and the wind blowing on our faces, there’s something about braving the terrain on a mountain bike that makes for a totally different experience. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot some native Aussie wildlife as you make your way through the woods.

Abseiling | Image credit: Absolute Outdoors Facebook

The Grampians is also known for its many rock climbing sites. First-timers, fret not – this is your chance to get acquainted with the recreational sport, with beautiful scenery to boot. Learn about the fundamentals of safety equipment, tying knots, and getting your feet off the ground. You’ll be conquering those rocks and abseiling down before you know it!

Canoeing at Lake Bellfield | Image credit: Absolute Outdoors

Those who prefer the waters get some of the action, too, and may even choose between canoeing and kayaking at Lake Bellfield. After a safety briefing and an introduction to basic manoeuvring techniques, water babies will be all good to go. Unwind as you paddle through calm waters and keep your eyes peeled for wild emus along the banks of the lake!

Sample a fraction of the Grampians Peak Trail

Are you up for a little cardio challenge? Put your fitness to the test with the Grampians Peak Trail, which brings you through dramatic peaks, panoramic vistas, and an ancient rugged landscape. We’re expecting the trail to be completed in late 2019 – something happy campers should definitely watch out for. Once the full trail is opened to the public, hikers will be able to embark on a one-way 13D12N journey through the majestic Grampians National Park all on foot! Currently, visitors are welcome to try out the popular Stage One walk, a 3D2N loop starting at Halls Gap that covers a total distance of 33km.

Grand Canyon

The yellow triangle is an indication that you’re on the Grampians Trail (right)

The distance may seem intimidating, but don’t worry about getting lost along the way. All hikers have to do to stay on the Grampians Peak Trail is follow the yellow triangle markers that guide visitors through the path. Be greeted by the beautiful stone walls of the Grand Canyon and gradually make your way to the towering rock formations along a narrow alley called Silent Street. Remember, you can stop to take photos anywhere along the trail, so lace up those trekking boots and ready your cameras!

The Pinnacle | Image credit: Visit Victoria

But locals say the most photogenic scenes are captured from the Pinnacle Lookout, easily one of the highlights of the entire Grampians. Found along the Grampians Peak Trail, a pitstop at this iconic viewing deck is a must for all who visit. With wisps of clouds hanging just below it, the Pinnacle Lookout towers over Halls Gap as well as the Grampians’ many peaks.   

The area is also a good place to rest and grab a bite. We packed ourselves some lunch and had our very own picnic at the summit before continuing our hike. A delicious meal coupled with a magnificent vista view – it doesn’t get any better than this. Don’t forget to clean as you go, though. Don’t leave rubbish behind!

Bugiga Hiker Camp | Image credit: Visit Grampians

We ended our journey at Bugiga Hiker Camp, but if you’re completing the entire Stage One trail, this is where you’ll be spending the night. Just a tip: Remember to book your campsite in advance to secure a spot. The second night is spent at the Borough Huts Campsite so make a reservation with them, too. With good weather, you’ll even be able to squeeze in some stargazing sessions before heading back to Halls Gap on the third day.

Third stop: Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch

The Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives. From observing native wildlife in their natural habitat to exploring the rainforest, or just soaking up the vista of land formations and vast bodies of water from various lookout points, there’s something for everyone who loves the great outdoors. Fitness buffs can even go the extra mile and train for the 100km Great Ocean Walk, which takes you along stunning coastlines as you move from camp to camp.

Admire the seascapes at the Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands Coastal Park is just one of the many attractions found along Great Ocean Road. While its deep, blue waters and geological features mesmerise all who visit, the area is still steeped in cultural tradition, too, thanks to the Aboriginal traditional owners of the ancestral lands. Feast your eyes on cliffs and rock stacks found along the pristine coastlines and sink your toes in the sandy beaches that can be reached via designated access points. Horticulture enthusiasts can also admire wildflowers that thrive in the heathlands.

See the “other” London Bridge

Formerly a natural archway and tunnel located in Port Campbell, the iconic London Bridge collapsed in 1990, which left two stranded visitors waiting to be rescued via helicopter. We heard that if you visit the rock formation at the end of the day, you might witness some Little Penguins making their way home!

Explore Loch Ard Gorge

Among the many stops along the Great Ocean Road, Loch Ard Gorge is probably the most picturesque. It has even made its way to the silver screen a couple of times. One look explains why people fall in love with the natural beauty – between clear waters crashing against rock formations and a stretch of fine, golden sand, it’s hard to determine which feature is more striking.

But Loch Ard Gorge is more than just a pretty place. Spend some extra time wandering the trails and bear witness to the natural occurrences that shape the area. From offshore stacks to blowholes and formations such as the Razorback and Island Arch, there’s much to be explored. If you’re keen, drop by the Port Campbell Visitor Information Centre to learn more about the Loch Ard shipwreck and the area’s rich maritime history.

Hop on a helicopter ride at Port Campbell

Even if some say the Loch Arch Gorge is the most photogenic, we’re sure many will argue that the 12 Apostles are just as impressive. Perhaps the most iconic attraction along the Great Ocean Road, they say the rock formations that make up the tourist attraction are best appreciated from high up above. Thankfully, 12 Apostles Helicopters makes this possible, but make sure to book a flight earlier for a fuss-free experience away from the crowds. You can also choose to journey all the way to Bay of Islands or Cape Otway depending on the flight plans available.

Image credit: Visit Victoria

If flying’s not your thing, though, the formations look just as good from the 12 Apostles viewing deck. After that, marvel at the Gog and Magog rock stacks at the base of Gibson Steps. Make your way down the 86 steps and see the 70m-high vertical cliffs up close as you take a stroll along the beach. Don’t be afraid to get a little wet from the waves – it’s part of the experience!

Step into wilderness in the Otways

Hopetoun Falls | Image credit: Visit Victoria

The Great Otway National Park is yet another place in regional Victoria where you can truly appreciate the wonders of Mother Nature. Set foot on the Great Ocean Walk and discover waterfalls, lush forests, cliffs, and coastal trails. It doesn’t matter if you choose to go inland or skirt around the rugged coast. Either way, the Otways promise a getaway that lets you become one with nature.

Californian Redwoods | Image credit: markdhiggins

Finding yourself deep in the Californian Redwoods Forest is like stepping into a fairytale. A beautiful burnt sienna, these giant Sequoia trees are an awesome reminder of what nature is capable of if we only let it be.

Catch a glimpse of Hopetoun Falls, just 20m away from the carpark, or choose to take a longer walk down to the base of the falls and witness the waters crash into the Aire River.

Discover the attractions at Lorne

Teddy’s Lookout

A seaside town, Lorne is known for white sand beaches and its lively arts community. The area is where you’ll find Teddy’s Lookout, a go-to spot for taking some good snapshots of the Great Ocean Road. Need some time to de-stress? Sit back as the surf breaks into the mouth of the Saint George River, or take a quick dip at North Lorne.

Shockwave Zip Coaster | Image credit: Live Wire Park Facebook

Adrenaline junkies need not feel left out. Head to Live Wire Park, Australia’s most impressive elevated adventure park yet. Conquer the world’s latest and largest treetop rope courses and navigate through the raised trails. We highly recommend the Shockwave Zip Coaster, a 525m zip line that gets you zooming past the park’s trees in no time.

Address: 180 Erskine Falls Rd, Lorne VIC 3232, Australia

Take part in the Great Ocean Road Running Festival

If you’re in town during the annual Great Ocean Road Running Festival just like we were, then you’re in for an exhilarating treat. We took part in the marathon along with over 7,500 other participants! The full marathon begins at Lorne and takes you all the way to the finishing line at Apollo Bay. What’s great is that there are many categories to choose from depending on your level. Run at the marathon, or take it slow and sign up for the walkathon. You can even choose to do just half of the entire course. There’s a kids dash for the younger ones, too.

What’s really special about the festival is that the Great Ocean Road is closed for the duration of the run and this would probably be the only time in the year when you’d be able to experience this iconic thoroughfare on foot! Perfect for taking in the scenery while getting a taste of regional Victoria’s culture and sense of community.

Check into the Great Ocean Road Resort

With breathtaking views and lots of activities to choose from, the only thing left to discuss is where to rest and recharge. We checked in at the Great Ocean Road Resort, which proved to be a homey stay. Situated at the heart of Anglesea, you’ll have easy access to the attractions along the Great Ocean Road. Plus, the resort is well-equipped with facilities that cater to active lifestyles, from tennis courts to a trampoline park and a 24-hour gym.

Address: 105 Great Ocean Road, Anglesea, 3230, Victoria, Australia

Fourth stop: Geelong

Image credit: Visit Geelong and the Bellarine (left); Visit Victoria (right)

The Geelong Waterfront is a centrepiece that showcases attractions such as the Armitage-Herschell portable steam driven and hand-carved wooden Carousel, the bollard trail and the Eastern Beach bathing pavilion and swimming promenade. The best way to explore it? Book yourself a Segway Tour and cruise away!

Address: 224 Kilgour St, Geelong 322

Fifth stop: Melbourne

Image credit: Visit Victoria

After all that adventure, allocate some time for urban explorations in Melbourne. A list of things to do in the city would take up an entire article, so we’d like to highlight just two things. Firstly, immerse yourself in the coffee culture in Melbourne so you’ll know first-hand why Starbucks finds it challenging to crack into the Australian market. Secondly, hop on board the City Circle Tram service and get around central Melbourne with convenience at zero charges! Learn about the city as you listen to the audio commentary on details of the city landmarks and major attractions during your ride.

Getting There

Image credit: Scoot

Getting to Melbourne can’t get any easier with Scoot. As of June 2018, you can simply hop on board a plane and Scoot off to Melbourne from Singapore on any day of the week, whenever you wish! Rest and recharge onboard the comfortable Boeing 787 Dreamliner and fill your tummies with a wide range of food from the Scoot Cafe. Can’t wait to set off on an adventure of your own? Grab your outdoor gear and hiking boots and you’re off to explore the great outdoors of Regional Victoria!

So there you have it, an introduction to the Great Southern Touring Route for the nature and adventure enthusiast in you. Don’t forget to bookmark these awesome spots and start planning for your very own road trip. If you need a helping hand with your itinerary, get started at Visit Melbourne for more ideas. We’ll see you there!


A big thank you to Visit Victoria and Scoot for making this amazing outdoor adventure possible!

 

About Author

Cheryl Seet
Cheryl Seet

Cheryl loves the outdoors and lives for adventures no matter how big or small. When taking a break from the sun, she re-watches the Harry Potter series and spends some time on the piano or guitar. She dreams of conquering extreme thrill rides all over the world, one theme park at a time.

CLICK TO SEE MORE ARTICLES BY Cheryl Seet

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