Full of stunning viewpoints, world-famous hiking trails, and incredible natural beauty, Grampians National Park attracts visitors from throughout Australia and the rest of the world. On the eastern edge sits Halls Gap, a small town with a big personality.
It’s the perfect place to base yourself while exploring further afield in the Grampians, and most visitors do exactly that, whether they’re in the park for just one night or several days. What many people don’t realise, though, is that Halls Gap itself has an awful lot to offer as well.
Hiking trails abound in the area, many of them starting right in town or very close to it. From easy nature strolls to strenuous climbs, you can take your pick. Those who prefer pedals to walking shoes are also well catered for: there’s a dedicated bike trail that runs through town, and most of the streets are quiet and easy to cycle around.
Climbing up the side of a mountain or sweating your way along a bike path aren’t the only options in town, though. From golfing to wineries, fishing to scenic flights, you’ll run out of time long before you run out of things to do!
There are a number of things to do in Halls Gap with toddlers and small children as well, and even when it’s raining, you’ve got plenty of options beyond just sitting in your hotel room.
Of course, Halls Gap’s location on the edge of the Grampians National Park means that heading even slightly out of town opens up a vast array of hiking trails, waterfalls, lakes and waterholes, and other stunning natural attractions.
Most of the activities I’ve mentioned start right in Halls Gap or will be an easy walk or bike ride from wherever you’re staying, and nothing in this guide is more than a half-hour drive from the centre of town.
I’ve loved every trip I’ve taken to Halls Gap, and in writing this guide, I’m hopeful you’ll do the same!
Take a Dip at Venus Baths
Just off Mount Victory Road lies a series of crystal-clear rock pools and small rapids fed by water from Stony Creek. Known as the Venus Baths after the Roman goddess of love and beauty, the pools’ clear blue waters reflect the surrounding trees and sky in a particularly photogenic way.
The water comes from the mountains and is definitely refreshing (I’d say downright cold!), making it a popular spot to cool off after a sweaty walk. The water levels vary depending on the season and how much rain there’s been lately: while most of the pools are quite shallow, there are often a couple of deeper options if you’re after more of a swim than a paddle.
The surrounding area is full of local plants and wildlife, and if you walk quietly, especially early in the morning, it’s not unusual to see kangaroos and wallabies along the trail. A number of bird species also live in the surrounding trees, and you’ll almost certainly hear them before you see them!
We visited on a cloudy weekday morning and there were only a couple of other people around, but it gets far more popular on hot summer afternoons.
You’ve got a few choices about how to get there. The easier option starts from the Botanic Gardens right in the middle of town, with signs pointing the way. It’s about a kilometre each way and relatively flat, making it a good choice if you’ve got small kids or mobility issues.
Starting from the caravan park and running along the other side of the creek, an alternative path is about the same length but has a few more steps and narrow passages to navigate. The paths join just before the rock pools, so you can go there on one track and back on the other to make it a loop.
Finally, you can come in from the Wonderland carpark on the other side, which is also the starting point for a number of longer walks. The Wonderland Loop, for example, runs for about 10km and takes in the Venus Baths as well as the Pinnacle and other attractions mentioned below.
Explore the Grand Canyon. No, Not That One
Why fly all the way to Arizona to visit the Grand Canyon when you can do it in Halls Gap instead? Yes, that’s right, some local visionary has named a rocky canyon just outside town after one of the most famous natural wonders in the world.
Having visited both, I’m not sure I’d recommend cancelling your US trip quite yet, but that doesn’t mean this one isn’t worth a visit! Accessed from the Wonderland carpark, a short 900m loop trail takes you over a footbridge and into the canyon and its fascinating rock formations.
You’ll walk past sandstone cliffs that have been endlessly worn and carved out by the wind and rain, with plenty of native bush and small trees for company. The track is generally easy, albeit largely made up of uneven rocky ground and steps, so you’ll need to watch your footing to some degree. There’s a reasonable amount of shade, depending on the time of day.
Many people will likely go through the Grand Canyon as part of a longer walk to the Pinnacle (below), a trail that also takes in other interesting geographic features like the shady Cool Chamber cavern, Bridal Veil Falls, and the narrow, high gorge known as Silent Street. Like I say, they sure know how to name things round these parts.
That’s a longer and more difficult trail, though, so if you do decide to take it on, just make sure you’ve got decent shoes and enough water on hot days.
Stand Atop the Pinnacle
One of the most popular viewpoints near Hall’s Gap, the Pinnacle is a big rocky outcrop with spectacular vistas over the town and for miles around. It requires a bit of effort to get to, but you’ll be well rewarded for it, so lace up those walking shoes!
You’ve got a few different options on how to get there. The shortest and easiest walk is from the Sundial carpark on (shockingly) Sundial Road, which is about 2km each way and doesn’t really get steep until the final stretch.
The better route in my opinion is the one I mentioned above, starting at the Wonderland carpark and taking in the Grand Canyon and other attractions enroute. It’s only slightly longer, but there’s much more to see along the way. It is harder, however, due to some rock hopping and up-and-down sections along the way.
You can also take the eastern half of the Wonderland Loop to get to the Pinnacle, which is a good option if you want to walk directly from the village rather than driving to a carpark.
However you do it, this isn’t a super-difficult walk if you take your time and have some decent shoes and a hiking pole if you want to take the pressure off your knees. Like viewpoints the world over, though, pay attention to the weather before you set off.
Fog or low cloud means you won’t see much of anything when you get to the top: it’s still a worthwhile walk either way, but if you can time it for a sunny day, the views will be dramatically better.
Take in the Views From the Top of Boronia Peak
One of my favourite walks in Halls Gap is the track up to Boronia Peak and back. For some reason it’s less popular than most of the other walks around town, and I’m not really sure why: on a clear day, the views are absolutely stunning. Other people’s loss is your gain, I guess.
You’ll start your walk along the Boronia Trail, which runs all the way from beside Delley’s Bridge on Grampians Road to Lake Bellfield. If you’re heading to the peak, you’re best to start either from the bridge (about 4.5km each way) or for a shorter walk, the trailhead at the end of Tandara Road (a bit over 3km each way).
I’ve seen loads of animal life on this part of the trail, mostly wallabies and kangaroos, along with a cacophony of birds. It’s a great trail to slowly wander along: while this part isn’t exactly flat, it’s a lot flatter than what’s to come!
Whichever direction you’re coming from, you’ll hit a side trail with a signpost pointing towards the peak. That’s where things start to get more steep: it’s a steady climb for roughly 3km from there to the top, mostly along well-defined trail, but with a fair amount of rock scrambling at the end. As a result, this is definitely a fine-weather walk.
You’ll work up a sweat on the way for sure, but it’s so worth the effort. On the day we were up there, we had the entire rocky ridgeline to ourselves for well over half an hour as we enjoyed incredible views while demolishing a packed lunch in the sunshine.
The usual story applies: wear shoes with plenty of grip, be prepared for the weather (it can be windy at the top, and sunburn is always an issue in summer), and take snacks and water.
Check Out the Impressive Mackenzie Falls
There are several waterfalls near Halls Gap, but most of them don’t flow all year unless it’s a particularly wet summer. The notable exception here is Mackenzie Falls, which is highly impressive no matter when you show up, and should absolutely be on your itinerary while you’re in town.
The falls are about a 25-minute drive west of town just off Mount Victory Road: there’s a picnic area and large parking lot on your way in, hinting at how popular this spot can get at peak times.
Once you’re parked up, you’ve got two choices: the easy way and the hard way. The easy option is just walking to the viewpoint that overlooks the falls from above (signposted from the carpark as Cranages Lookout). It’s a good view, and only takes a couple of minutes to get to.
If you don’t mind stairs, though, follow the Mackenzie Falls signs to the first of 240 steps that take you down to the base of the falls. There are viewing/breath-catching areas in appropriate spots along the way, which give interesting angles that you don’t get from either the top or bottom.
You’ll likely want to spend a little while at the bottom, to take a whole bunch of photos, dip your feet in the water, and to put off starting the climb back up again. Signs warn against swimming under the falls due to strong currents and submerged objects, but that didn’t seem to be stopping people when I last visited.
Note however that as of March 2023, the large rock shelf opposite the base of the falls is closed off due to safety concerns: you can’t currently get any closer than the end of the path that leads down there.
If you’ve still got any breath left by the time you get back to the top, it’s worth a quick walk to the Broken Falls lookout as well. It’s a different view, and worthy of some photos if there’s been a bit of rain recently.
Stop In At Reed Lookout and the Balconies
On your way back from Mackenzie Falls, be sure to stop in at Reed Lookout. It’s about halfway between Halls Gap and the falls: follow the small signpost (labeled Reids Lookout, just to confuse you) off Mount Victory Road to the carpark.
The viewing platforms are less than a minute from where you park, and provide stunning panoramic views over the surrounding bush-covered hills and valleys. It’s a particularly great option if you can time your visit for sunrise and sunset.
If you’ve done enough walking for the day, then just jump back in the car once you’ve taken your photos and head back to town. I’d definitely recommended mustering a little extra energy if you can, though, and walk the short (1km each way) easy track from the carpark to the Balconies.
This is another lovely viewpoint that looks out in a different direction, towards some flat-ish rocks that give the area its name. They’re worth seeing in their own right, especially with golden light bathing the rocks at the end of the day, but this is also a great place for a bit of wildlife spotting.
Wallabies are common around there, I saw an echidna on the trail on my last visit, and there’s always plenty of birdlife as well.
Like all the rest of the viewpoints in and around Halls Gap, pick your time to visit based on the weather. You won’t see anything on cloudy or foggy days, so it’s not worth the trip out there (unless you want to go echidna spotting, of course, which in my opinion is worth doing in any weather!)
Go Rock Climbing
All of those sandstone cliffs on the way into Halls Gap can mean only one thing for those in the know: rock climbing is a big deal around here. Don’t be surprised if you see climbers scrambling around above you as you walk on some of the nearby trails: there are several popular climbing areas close to town.
If you’re new to the sport, give local climbing instructors Hangin’ Out a call to arrange an introductory half or full day lesson. In business for over 20 years, they’ll provide instructors and all the gear you need to safely learn the ropes (pun intended) of this fun and exciting activity.
Prices get much cheaper per person for bookings of 3 or more people, so gather some friends and get ready to scale that sandstone!
Take a Dip in the Pool
When the mercury rises in summer, a dip in the pool starts looking super-appealing. Sure, you can head to the natural pools at Venus Baths (above), but when water levels are low (as they often are in summer), you’re better off heading to the public baths instead.
The pools are generally open from 7am to 7pm from November 1 through Easter weekend, and popular with lap swimmers in the morning and everyone else later in the day. Hours do vary, though, so check the Facebook page for the latest updates. There’s both a 25m pool and a toddler pool on offer.
Beside a small playground and opposite the caravan park, it’s easy to find, and there’s plenty of grass around nearby to lay out a towel and dry off after your time in the water. Entrance fees are $5.50 per person.
Learn More About the Park and its People
It may have an unwieldy name, but Brambuk The National Park and Cultural Centre should be one of your first stops in town if you need local tips, maps of the area, or just a good coffee.
Just out of town on the way to Lake Bellfield (below), the site has three main parts: a cafe, visitor centre, and cultural centre. The latter is currently closed for some fairly major renovations that will run through to 2024, but when it’s back up and running, it’ll be full of information about the culture and history of the local Djab Wurrung and Jadawadjali people.
The information centre is still open, however, and it’s the place to go for information about the area, trail maps, aboriginal art, and a range of souvenirs. Hit the staff up for local tips: they definitely know their stuff!
The cafe’s opening hours are a bit variable, but it’s typically open most days from 9am until mid-afternoon: if you’re there at the right time, it’s well worth stopping in for a coffee and toasted sandwich or pastry. They even cater for dairy-free people like me, both with the food and the plant milks.
If you do grab something to eat or drink, be sure to sit outside on the deck if the weather allows: local wildlife wander past all the time. Keep an eye out for emus!
Swim, Paddle, and Picnic at Lake Bellfield
There are several lakes around Halls Gap, but the most accessible is Lake Bellfield. Luckily it’s also one of the most beautiful, especially on a calm winter morning when the sky and surrounding mountains are perfectly reflected in the still waters.
It’s lovely the rest of the year as well, though, and the perfect spot for a waterside picnic or lazy swim to cool off from the summer heat. Because it’s the main water source for Halls Gap, petrol and diesel-powered vessels aren’t allowed on the lake. Electric motors are fine, though, as is kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and other human-powered activities. It makes for a much more peaceful experience!
There’s a paved walking and cycling track that runs to the lake from the outskirts of town, and at just five kilometres from the shops to the top of the lake, I’d recommend using it: it’s a great way of getting a bit of gentle exercise. If you’d prefer to pile everyone into the car, however, there are also parking lots and picnic areas at various points along the lake shore.
However you get there, it’s worth taking a short walk out and back on the gravel track that runs along the dam wall at the head of the lake. It won’t take more than half an hour return, and you’ll be rewarded with some great views of the lake and mountains along the way.
Have a Wildlife Encounter at Halls Gap Zoo
While it’s not exactly difficult to have an encounter with the local animal population (more on that below), they’re still wild animals and you never know for sure where and when you might see them.
Unless, of course, you head along to the Halls Gap Zoo. This family-friendly option is the largest regional zoo in the state, and while it’s unsurprisingly focused on Australian birds, mammals, and reptiles, everything from giraffe and cheetahs to red pandas and bison make an appearance as well.
With large, spacious enclosures spread over 50+ acres, there’s plenty to see, and you should probably allow for two or three hours of wandering. The zoo is open from 10am until 5pm every day except Christmas Day: it’s less than ten minutes away by car on the Halls Gap – Ararat road, or you could bike there instead.
Tickets cost $38 for adults 18+, $19 for children aged three and up, and free for infants. Various family passes and concession rates are available as well.
Or Just Keep Your Eyes Peeled Around Town
Like I mentioned above, even without a trip to the zoo there’s plenty of local wildlife to spot in and around Halls Gap itself. We saw dozens of kangaroos on the playing fields in the middle of town a few minutes after we arrived, and that’s not unusual: they love to hang out and graze there most mornings and evenings.
The fun doesn’t start and end with kangaroos, though. Emus make a regular appearance in open areas near the village, and we saw wild goats ducking in and out of the trees near the holiday park one afternoon.
If wallabies are more your style, I’d highly recommend a stroll along part of the Boronia Trail that I talked about earlier. We saw at least a dozen of the little marsupials in the bushland along the trail, often very close to the path.
Echidnas, too, are a common sight on the trails around town. I came across one as I rounded a bend on my way back from the Balconies (above), who was quite happy to snuffle around hunting out food on the side of the trail for several minutes before wandering off into the undergrowth.
Look Up: Bird Watching Comes With the Territory
Whether you’re a dedicated twitcher or just someone with an appreciation for the unique bird life of the Australian bush, you’re in for a treat in Halls Gap. You don’t need to put much effort into finding them: the Botanic Gardens are regularly full of kookaburras, and we saw several galahs and cockatoos hanging around near the cafes and shops on the main street. Hang onto your chips!
Likewise, once you get away from signs of human habitation (not difficult around Halls Gap!), most areas near town are likely to have local populations of native birds. If you walk quietly on any of the tracks and trails, you’ll almost certainly come across them.
Take on the Twists and Turns of Adventure Golf
It feels like wherever you find tourists, you’ll find mini golf, even in small towns and villages. Halls Gap is no exception, but Grampians Adventure Golf is a big step up from most of the tired old courses I’ve visited over the years.
The 18 holes are set out on a two-acre block out near Lake Bellfield, shaded by lovely native trees and bushland. Don’t be distracted by the gorgeous setting or noisy bird life, though: this course gets pretty tough at times, and most of the holes (named after the local area) require your full attention!
From rocks and other obstacles to waterfalls, split levels, and narrow shortcuts that reward perfect placement and punish anything else, you’ll often wonder how anybody manages to get around under par!
Once you’ve toted up the scores at the end, there’s a cafe and bar onsite to celebrate your victory or drown your sorrows, along with a small art gallery full of contemporary works. The gallery is no afterthought: it has a rotating cast of special exhibitions and runs workshops and classes year-round.
Grampians Adventure Golf is open from 10am every day during school holidays and Thursday to Monday the rest of the year. You’ll pay $17 for adults and $12 for kids aged 4-16. Younger children are free, and there are small discounts for family and concession tickets.
Or Enjoy a Round of the Real Thing
When you’ve defeated the challenges of adventure golf, it’s time to take on the real thing. Halls Gap Golf Club is open year-round in a lovely location less than a ten minute drive from town, where kangaroos and wallabies are likely to be just as big a challenge as the sand traps.
It’s a nine hole, par 36 course maintained by a crew of enthusiastic volunteers, and green fee players are more than welcome. Clubs are available for hire onsite, and the club runs weekly competitions with prizes from local businesses for the winners.
If you’re heading out for a round, take Mount Zero Road out of town and then take a right onto Red Gum Lease Track (a dirt road) to get to the entrance.
Take a Stroll through the Botanic Gardens
Given the vast swathes of nature on offer in the Grampians, it may seem like a dedicated botanic gardens is overkill, but that hasn’t stopped a team of local volunteers from doing their best to prove otherwise.
Sitting right in the middle of town (beside the kangaroo-filled playing fields), these small but well-maintained gardens have plenty of information about local plant life: it’s the perfect place to learn about the kinds of things you’ll be seeing a lot of on your travels elsewhere in the national park.
A little playground and a “find the kookaburra” game helps keep the kids amused, and local artists have donated a few sculptures and art pieces to keep the adults interested as well. Like most gardens in Australia, these are at their best in spring or after rain: things were getting pretty dry when I last visited at the end of a long, hot summer.
There’s plenty of shade on offer if you’re looking for a picnic spot, or somewhere to relax after a long walk. Speaking of that, the gardens are also the starting point for a few walking trails: the Venus Baths lie just behind the gardens, and you can also get onto the Wonderland Loop from here. I talk about both options above.
Take a Scenic Helicopter Flight
It’s hard to get a sense of the scale of the Grampians from the ground, which is one of the reasons why there are so many viewpoints dotted around Halls Gap! If you really want to get a bird’s eye view, however, you’ll need to get higher still. That’s where Grampians Helicopters comes in.
The company operates from the nearby town of Stawell, about a 20 minute drive from Halls Gap, and offers a few different flight options for seeing the surrounding area. Prices start at around $100 per person for a quick joy ride, but you’ll get more from a proper scenic flight that covers larger sections of the park area. These take anywhere from 20-60 minutes depending on the route.
A particularly fun option is the Heli Picnic, where you get to combine a flight over the with a wine tasting and picnic lunch at Best’s Wines. Flights run every day except Christmas and Boxing Day, but you’ll want to book in advance.
Sample the Offerings at Nearby Wineries
There are over 20 wineries dotted around the Grampians, some of which have been in business for over a century. They’re best known for their high-quality reds, but whites and rosé’s have become more popular in recent years as well.
The closest option to Halls Gap is Fallen Giants Vineyard, around a five minute drive from town (or 15 minute bike ride, if you think you’ll be sampling a few of their wines!). It’s open Wednesday to Sunday, for tastings at the cellar door, or to enjoy a lunch platter and a glass or two of shiraz on the deck.
Slightly further afield, Pomonol Estate is about a ten minute drive away, and likewise opens Wed-Sun. As well as some great wines, it also operates a microbrewery and cider house on site, so there are plenty of options even for those who aren’t wine connoisseurs. The platters are the best option in the restaurant, but there are a few starters and larger meal options available as well.
If you’d like to visit several vineyards in a day and don’t want to drive, jump in the van with Grampians Wine Tours instead. The company offers different trips on different days, and can pick you up and drop you off from local accommodation. You’ll visit three or four wineries, and the day includes lunch, cellar tours, and of course plenty of wine!
Discover the Town’s History On a Walking Tour
While you can easily wander around town by yourself, you’ll learn a lot more about its history if you pair up with a knowledgeable guide. The folks that run the winery tour mentioned above also offer a walking tour of Halls Gap that gives a deeper insight into the people and stories that have shaped this part of the Grampians.
Starting at the information centre and wending along easy paths and trails for roughly two kilometres to the local historical society. which opens up especially for the tour. Running on selected mornings each week throughout the year, it’s the perfect way to start your time in town before heading off to explore on your own.
The tour costs $25 per person (minimum two people), and runs for 1.5-2 hours depending on how fast you walk and how many questions you have! As I mentioned, it doesn’t run every day, so check the calendar on the site to make sure it’s happening on the days you’re in town.
Enjoy a Great Meal
For such a small place, Halls Gap has some surprisingly good meal options. We absolutely loved the food and brews at Paper Scissors Rock, for instance, a local brewery and restaurant beside the information centre where we enjoyed our dinner so much on our last trip that we came back for lunch the next day!
The menu changes fairly regularly, but given that each of the four meals we ordered between us was excellent, I suspect you’ll struggle to find a bad dish. There are a few tables outside for when the sun’s out, and several more indoors for when it isn’t!
Back up the road a bit, the small cluster of cafes and restaurants beside Stoney Creek is an ever-popular spot, especially around lunchtime. We tried all of the places here, but the pick of them for brunch or lunch was Livefast Cafe. The breakie burger was particularly good, and Lauren had a beetroot and feta salad that she still talks about to this day.
Elsewhere in town, Gelato Guys is the ideal place to cool off with an ice cream after a long walk: I particularly appreciated the range of vegan and dairy-free options. The Town Fryer (great name) serves up consistently good fish and chips in the afternoon and evening, and if you’re hankering for pizza instead, head over to Raccolto Pizzeria on Heath Street for a range of delicious wood-fired, thin-crust options.
Grab a Coffee or Kick Back With a Few Drinks
I’ve had good coffee in a few different places around town, including some of those I’ve mentioned elsewhere. The pick of the bunch was the flat white at Livefast, which was tasty enough to force me to order a second. The cafe attached to the visitor centre at Brambuk The National Park & Cultural Centre also makes a good brew, assuming you get there when it’s open.
Beer lovers need look no further than Paper Scissors Rock: I gave it a shoutout above for the food, but it’s the craft beers that draw most people in. The beers are seasonal so they change regularly: you can buy them elsewhere in town as well, but I’d definitely recommend going to the source.
Of the more traditional pub and bar options, Flame Restaurant (alongside Livefast Cafe) has a wide range of beers, wines, and cocktails, and a lovely shaded deck to enjoy them on. If you’re visiting in winter, check out the cozy Kookaburra Hotel, and warm up after your hike beside the roaring fire.
Catch Your Dinner With Rod and Reel
If you prefer to catch your own dinner rather than rely on someone else to do it, that’s definitely an option. Lakes Wartook, Fyans, and Bellfield all offer good trout fishing off the bank, and there’s salmon, perch, and blackfish in the latter as well. There are yabbies in many lakes during the warmer months, and trout in some of nearby streams as well.
You don’t have to fish only from the bank, however: you’ll often spot people dropping a line in from a rowboat or even a kayak on Lake Bellfield in particular.
However you do it, don’t forget you need a fishing license in Victoria if you’re between the ages of 18 and 70.
Where to Stay in Halls Gap
Halls Gap has an impressive range of accommodation options for a town this size, catering for all budgets and travel styles.
If you’re traveling as a couple, look no further than these gorgeous chalets: I love the natural wood design and being able to drop into the spa bath at the end of a long day on the trails. Despite being right in town, kangaroos and deer stroll through the grounds: the wraparound deck is the perfect spot to sit with a drink in the evening and watch them wander past.
These two-bedroom villas are the perfect spot for families and larger groups: between the bunks and the sofa beds, it sleeps up to five people very comfortably. Beautifully furnished and with luxury touches like a big spa bath, it’s super-cozy in winter and bright and breezy in the warmer months.
There’s a full kitchen if you feel like catering for yourself, but with the Kookaburra Hotel directly across the road, there’s a good chance you won’t bother!
For those looking to save money, the Grampians YHA at the top end of town is really great. I’ve stayed in a lot of hostels around the world, and this one is right up there: immaculately clean, a well-equipped kitchen (so often a rarity!) and great little BBQ area, and a super-cozy fire in the lounge during colder months.
You’ve got the option of both dorms and private rooms, which range from double and twin through triple and family options. Set on spacious grounds where you’ll often see kangaroos and emus at either end of the day, it’s the best budget option in town.
So there you have it, my guide to the very best things to do in Halls Gap whether you’re only passing through for a few hours or in town for several days or more. We visit regularly (the Grampians is one of our favourite hiking spots in the state), but if you come across a new attraction that should be included before we get to it, feel free to let us know in the comments!
All photos copyright Everything Victoria unless otherwise noted