I’d forgotten about the Grampians. In my mind they were a destination for people interested in serious bushwalking, as I once was.
Also, they were far away and long car trips with children just did not compute for me for a long time.
It was only when I visited the Grampians recently with some bloggy friends, that I realised how magnificent to look at they were and how close from Ballarat. A two hour road trip is much easier for the boys to handle, than a four hour one. I also found out about some easy walks to do with children and was reminded how kid-friendly caravan parks are. As good as any interstate resort, which have been our holidays of choice for the past few years.
So these school holidays, I booked us into a cabin at the Big4 Parkgate Resort in Halls Gap and with great excitement we set off on our first “local” family holiday. Armed with electronic devices, the boys survived the road trip reasonably well, although Mr 6 did complain about being bored a few times, as he didn’t have the “right” game loaded into his Nintendo DS.
As soon as we arrived, the boys rushed off to explore the park, particularly the jumping pillow and the games room, while I sat outside in the courtyard with a glass of wine and admired the view. The bare bones of the earth come to the surface in the Grampians and erupt all over the place as rocky outcrops.
We spent most of the afternoon like this – the boys exhilarated with the freedom to explore on their own, me just happy to have some peace and quiet and trees all around.
The next day we explored Halls Gap, particularly the Livefast Cafe, the fudge shop and the supermarket where I paid $21 for a bottle of sunscreen. Word of warning – groceries are mega expensive there!
Having ingested my daily caffeine, while the boys explored Stony Creek, I was ready to explore the mountains.
We stopped at the Brambuk National Park and Cultural Centre for some directions and headed off to Mackenzie Falls.
I love the curvaceous roads of the mountains, but it seems they make most drivers very nervous and several times our roller-coaster like driving was curtailed by cars slower than ours. Until they turned off the road.
Our first (and as it turned out only) stop was at Mackenzie Falls. I had been warned about the steep descent to the base of the Falls, but until you experience the climb back with your own body, you can’t know how much (and how long) it will hurt. It only remains to be said that we did nothing else that day. (And my legs were still in pain when we got back home three days later.)
As painful as the climb was, the descent was definitely worth it. I sat on the big swathe of rock at the base of the Falls, experimenting with my camera while the boys explored the rocks.
Despite passing several more destinations on the drive back to our caravan park, we were all too tired and hungry for any more adventures. Even after lunch and a rest, all we wanted to do was lounge around the park and heated pool.
I did force us out of the cabin on the following day and, bribed with pancakes, the boys and I set out for more adventuring.
This time we checked out The Boroka Lookout, with glorious views over Halls Gap and then made our way to Silverband Falls.
Silverband Falls are part of Dairy Creek and we were amazed to see the devastation that was visited upon the area in 2010 following some record rainfalls which caused massive landslides. Where before there was greenery, ferns and trees, we now saw piles of dead branches, tree trunks and rocks. Some of this had been cleared and the path to the Falls rebuilt, but the area was not as I remembered it.
On the way back to the car, we talked about what had happened and my older son decided that his mission in life was to fix global warming, by first becoming an engineer and then the Prime Minister. Both worthy goals to have. We discussed prices of traditional energy versus new energy sources and I could just see the wheels spinning in his head, as he was trying to figure out how to save the world.
After a re-visit to the Brambuk Centre, we headed back to our cabin and lazed around for the rest of the day. All this fresh air and walking had exhausted us, or perhaps we all just needed lots of rest, because that’s what we did. Well I did – one child spent about an hour in the heated pool playing with new-found friends, while the other had his nose in a book.
A dinner of delicious fish and chips rounded off the day and after a quick shower both boys headed off to the camp movie night, giving me a welcome break from their chatter and fighting. Because the fighting never stops. Not even on holidays.
Next day was home day and we were sad to say goodbye, but also glad to be getting home to our beds and spaces.
I was disappointed we did not see any wildlife on this trip, especially since last time I visited the wildlife was all around me. We could see its visiting cards all around the park, but did not spot any during our time there. This probably would be the only reason we’ll stay somewhere else next time, somewhere I know the wildlife is always around.
Overall, the resort is very well equipped for children and adults alike, with two swimming pools, two tennis courts, a jumping pillow, a games room and a hall for kids’ activities during school holidays, including movies. Our cabin had everything one could ask for, including a split system for heating/cooling, a flat screen TV (but none in the main bedroom), stove, oven, microwave and fridge. It did lack a chopping board and a proper chopping knife, which made meal preparation a bit tricky, but not impossible. I took enough food for two dinners, one lunch and all breakfasts, giving us a chance for some eating out, especially ice cream and pancakes!
I’m glad I took the chance with this holiday. It definitely broke up the school holidays for us – being in different surroundings makes kid wrangling a bit easier to bear, although there was some shouting. I’d love to go back and attempt some bigger bushwalks, hopefully not killing myself on the first attempt with a big climb.