This is what a long weekend road trip in Victoria’s iconic Grampians wine region looks like

The best-laid plans for a long weekend road trip are those made well ahead, and well researched, if you want to squeeze as much as you can into your next regional experience.

It’s advice we did well to heed on a recent trip to the Grampians in western Victoria.

Driving from Melbourne, and knowing we wanted to take in Great Western, Hamilton, Dunkeld, Halls Gap, Pomonal and Mount Langi Ghiran, there was enough on offer to make it a three-day trip.

If you want to add in a few gourmet meals and kitchen garden tour, contemplate the Baroque period with an exhibition at the Hamilton Gallery, or embark on a decent bushwalk to the top of the Grampians National Park at Reeds Lookout for that epic Instagram pic? Make it four.

Add to that the repercussions of the bushfires in February – which rattled communities around Halls Gap and played with winemakers’ nerves before annual harvests – and it’s unsurprising that visitors are advised to book ahead for accommodation, eating out, historic tours and wine tastings.

It’s worth remembering, too, that after any natural disaster, tourists play a vital role in economic recovery by putting their hard-earned cash into a meal at the pub, buying a few bottles of locally produced wine, and staying in a bed and breakfast or winery.

Follow this itinerary and you will not be disappointed.

The Drives is a three-kilometre walk through the history of wine in a series of underground cellars at Seppelt Wines Great Western. Photo: Visit Victoria

Day One:  Great Western and Best’s Winery

Leaving Melbourne at 8.30am, it’s 11.30 by the time we arrive in the small town of Great Western, the jewel in the crown of the Grampians wine region with Seppelt and the ConConGella vineyard, operated by Best’s Wines.

Custodian of the Great Western Estate, local Danial Ahchow, gives us a history lesson on the original winemaking pioneers of Seppelt, before accompanying us to their heritage-listed cellars, known as The Drives.

First excavated in 1868 and the longest cellaring system in the southern hemisphere, the interconnecting tunnels stretch for three kilometres, and can house up to three million bottles of wine. (Underground Tours occur five times a day, seven days a week, and are well worth it.)

We follow that with a light lunch of chef Nonna Fran’s roasted spatchcock with salad, and a drop of Seppelt Salinger Vintage Cuvée (2018).

After a quick tour of Best’s across the road – founded in 1866, a family-owned and operated winery with some of the oldest and rarest vines in the world – and a taste of its flagship Bin No.0 Shiraz (2020), we hightail it to our next destination.

Lucretia, by Artemisia Gentileschi, c.1630-35, is in a private collection and currently on display at the Hamilton Gallery. Photo: Visit Victoria

Hamilton – who needs to go to the Uffizi?

The drive from Great Western to Hamilton takes about an hour and a half on single-lane sealed roads, heading further west towards the state’s border.

Arriving about 4pm, we head straight for the Hamilton Gallery and its Emerging from Darkness: Faith Emotion and the Body in the Baroque exhibition, which runs until April 14.

It’s a stunning collection drawn from the National Gallery of Victoria and private lenders – including sculptures by Bernini, as well as drawings by Annibale Carracci and Federico Barocci – and marks the first time many of these European works have been on display in Australia.

Closing the doors behind us at 5pm, we wander the emerging business and retail hub of Hamilton and visit the Botanical Gardens, first planted in 1870, before checking into our digs for the night.

Petschel House is a restored 1856 homestead now offering bed and breakfast accommodation by owners and artists Jenni Mitchell and Mervyn Hannan. Photo: Supplied

Petschel House, located on the outskirts of Hamilton, is owned by former Eltham and Monsalvat artists Jenni Mitchell and Mervyn Hannan.

For the past seven years, they’ve hosted guests on tours of their expansive orchards and gardens, conducting drawing classes in the studio, and serving delicious home-made cakes and local produce to tourists.

They’ll whip up dinner at an extra charge – though we already have plans to hit pizza restaurant Roxburgh Cafe, owned and operated by a former mayor.

Do not miss out on lunch or dinner at the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld. Photo: Emily Weaving

Day Two – Dunkeld, Halls Gap and Pomonal

Leaving Hamilton about 9.30am, it’s a 30km drive to Dunkeld.

While Mount Sturgeon in the background forms part of the lure to stay and dine at the Royal Mail Hotel, it’s also home to Australia’s largest working restaurant kitchen garden.

Twice-daily tours conducted by the Royal Mail Hotel’s knowledgeable chefs gives an insight into the organic practices in the dishes served at both dining venues – the Parker St Project and Wickens. Make sure you book as it’s an integral part of your dining experience.

We feast on steamed dim sum zucchini flowers, duck terrine with frisee salad and strawberries, followed by pork with smoked beetroots and Warrigal greens, and lamb with pomegranate and bitter greens.

Boroka Lookout at Halls Gap. Photo: Visit Victoria

From Dunkeld, it’s an hour’s drive north-west to Halls Gap. We’re keen to walk off lunch, so it’s straight up to Boroka Lookout, which delivers a panoramic view over Halls Gap and the Grampians.

Further along is Reeds Lookout and The Balconies. A two-kilometre walking track presents more opportunities for epic photographs. Lastly, Venus Baths is a one-hour walk from the Botanical Gardens in Halls Gap.

Hosts with the most! Pep and Adam Atchison at Pomonal Estate. Photo: Visit Victoria

At 5.30pm, we arrive at Pomonal Estate, 10km north-east of Halls Gap.

Pep and Adam Atchison started the vineyard operation in 2017 and have built up a business including a cellar door and restaurant, live music and six luxury eco cabins decked out to perfection for weary travellers.

Pep is the perfect host, filling us up with a jug of local beer and some snacks before heading into Halls Gap for wine tasting at the Grampians Wine Cellar (offering up to 20 local wines to try).

Dinner is at the popular and packed Paper, Scissors Rock Brew Company, where we refuel on delicious Moroccan chickpea and tomato tagine with roasted pumpkin and crumbed barramundi with chips.

Mount Langi Ghiran. Photo: Kim Landy/Visit Victoria

Day Three: Mount Langi Ghiran and the long drive home

Sitting on the deck of our cabin eating a breakfast of home-made bread, fruit and juice, we gaze out at the sheep and kangaroos making themselves at home in the next paddock. But there’s no time to rest.

Heading back in to Halls Gap at 10am, there’s the option of exploring the town with a History Walking Tour or sampling chocolates from Kerrie’s Kreations.

From Halls Gap, we began our round trip back to Melbourne, stopping at Mount Langi Ghiran vineyard and winery for lunch.

Established in 1969, the vineyard is home to one of Australia’s most iconic cool-climate wines, the Langi Shiraz.

Wine tastings are conducted by knowledgable staff who can take you through their history and terroir. The menu is limited, but they pride themselves on the (local) lamb souvlaki – though they’re only open Friday to Monday, 10am-5pm, so once again, it’s best to book.

From the vineyard, we easily made our way back onto the Western Highway for the long trip home, which takes almost three hours in heavy weekend traffic.

My advice? Take the week off and make it a seven-day trip.

Louise Talbot was a guest of Grampians Tourism

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