The new Grampians Peak Trail is a hiking route that spans 160 kilometers of terrain through the Gariwerd/Grampians National Park in western Victoria, Australia.
It’s an amalgamation of existing trails and 100km of new paths through the national park. Some parts can easily be walked by families with kids – I even spotted little ones in gumboots, doing a walk to a local waterfall – while other sections lend themselves to the more adventurous, with camping and hut stays on offer.
I chatted to Philip Clark of ABC Radio’s Nightlife program, about hiking through this beautiful part of Australia. You can click here to listen to the interview.
It’s also the cover story for this week’s Senior Traveller – have a look here!
And finally, a couple of links to get you planning your adventure along the Grampians Peaks Trail:
The official site for Parks Victoria, which looks after all the state’s national parks.
Grampians Peaks Walking Company supports hikers with drop-offs and pick-ups, food and water drops, maps and even gear hire.
Visit Victoria is the state’s tourism body, and has a good overview of the trail, as well.
After two years of lockdown here in Australia, where we couldn’t leave our country, what’s the dish you missed the most? I chatted to 10 of Sydney and Melbourne’s top chefs about those delicious travel memories they hold dear, and where they’re heading when they’re back on a plane this year.
I reckon I’m booking a ticket to Spain to take Brigitte Hafner’s recommendation for slow-cooked lamb in Rioja. Or maybe I need to go back to Turkey for Iskander kebab, which Paul Farag reminded me of. Or snapper cerviche on a beach in Lima, Peru.
If you’re not heading overseas, chefs including Shannon Martinez, Christine Manfield and Scott Pickett also shared some favourite dishes closer to home, within Australia, from dumplings at Supernormal in Melbourne to arkhe in Adelaide, for the Parfait Tartlet a la Burnt Ends.
Take two days on the Mornington Peninsula or the Yarra Valley, or three days in the Grampians? What’s your choice for your short escape this autumn?
In the Grampians, three hours north-west of Melbourne, you should hit the track on the new Grampians Peak Trail (visitgrampians.com.au), which cuts north-south through Gariwerd-Grampians National Park. You don’t have to walk the full 160kms – that’d take 13 days, but bite off a day walk or a short, scenic walks to local beauty points. For the quickest panorama hit that’s accessible by car, watch the sun rise at Boroka Lookout.
Otherwise, cruise the wineries and beaches of the Mornington Peninsula, or head an hour north of Melbourne to the green, green hills of the Yarra Valley.
With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the best-laid wedding plans, elopements have moved out of the realms of star-crossed lovers (think Romeo & Juliet, Angelina Jolie & Billy Bob Thornton) and into fashion.
So, you need to dodge lockdowns and border closures, and want to get hitched? Here’s where to elope in the Yarra Valley & Dandenong Ranges.
While you might thing an elopement requires just two people and a celebrant, by law, you do actually have to have two witnesses. And the celebrants I spoke to for this story did tell me tales of weddings being interrupted by park rangers, checking to see if they had the correct paperwork to be married in the public gardens.
If you’re thinking of eloping, check out this piece I wrote for Off-Peak Weddings, which is published by Yarra Ranges Tourism.
Click here to read the full story.
Last night, I walked through the heart of Melbourne as we went into our sixth lockdown.
The city’s laneways rang with the sound of shutters going down as the city locked itself up.
It was a pretty crazy time to be editing a guidebook for the city. But there I found myself, sitting in little Shandong Mama Mini, eating its fabulous mackerel dumplings with manager Gin, taking notes and talking optimistically about when New Yorkers are going to roam freely through our little laneways once again…maybe next June.
Walking the darkening streets, I saw a woman at the gates of Gucci, pleading, pleading to make a last purchase before lockdown – only to be turned away by staff. The cash registers are closed, she was told, night is falling and lockdown looms.
The doorman at Society, the hottest new restaurant in town, told me all the late bookings had been shunted into earlier time slots, with diners ushered back onto the streets before the stroke of 8pm.
A cheery Big Issue seller chatted about his business model falling apart: with few office workers and less city dwellers, his magazines remain unsold. But he was fully vaccinated, he told me. Was I?
“These lockdowns are killing us,” said the waiter in Pellegrini where, for the first time in living memory, I could get a seat at the bar and a chat with the black apron clad waiters. Snapping a photo of the luscious cakes of the Hopetoun Tea Rooms in the glittering Block Arcade – normally a false hope due to the hordes of drooling instagrammers – was but a cinch, and the Royal Arcade remains empty of its traditional shoppers, down on a day trip from the country.
Street cafes were being packed up, outdoor furniture stacked away, kitchen staff clearing the benches, glass of wine in hand. Music played in empty hotel lobbies, with no-one to listen to it.
The streets emptied so completely they could double as a setting for an apocalyptic zombie movie.
Food delivery drivers tore down empty footpaths on their scooters with impunity.
Traffic lights clicked uselessly as an ambulance careened unimpeded through a red light – lights flashing but the sirens silent in the darkening night.
You’d think it was a divergence from travel writing – writing about ideas for buck’s or bachelor parties – but this fun little story let me take a cruise through the Yarra Valley & Dandenong Ranges.
I found a rum distillery in Belgrave (killik.com.au), discovered a 120-meter flying fox nearby in the Tall Trees Adventures (treesadventure.com.au) and the thing I’m going to do the minute Melbourne is out of Lockdown #5, the O’Shannassy Aqueduct Trail, an easy mountain-bike trail through redwood forests in the Yarra Ranges National Park.
Is there nothing better than a car-free town? I’m thinking those little hilltop towns dotted through Italy, the ancient marketplaces of the Middle East, the pedestrian zones of the otherwise honking, fume-laden roads of South America’s great cities.
My top 10 list includes such greats as Jerusalem’s Old City, the Princes Islands off Istanbul and beautiful Hydra, one of the Saronic islands in the Greek archipelago, which holds a special place in my heart for its donkeys and vast, opportunistic orange cat population. There’s also lovely Hoi An, Vietnam’s town of tailors and, of course, the most famous of them all, La Serenissima, aka Venice.
You can click here to read my list, published in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald’s Traveller section.
Just after it ran, I received an email from a reader telling me that Medina Malta should have made the top 10. Overlooking the fact he had an iconic Maltese surname, he’s definitely got a point – the so-called Silent City, which has been inhabited since 8th-century BC, was another beautiful film location for King’s Landing in Game of Thrones and a worthy contender. Do you have any suggestions?
On a quiet Sunday afternoon in locked-down Melbourne, my beautiful daydream is of Camp Island, on the Great Barrier Reef.
The little island is at the top of the Whitsunday Islands group, and when you take it, you take the whole island. To get there, I had to dodge two cyclones, a COVID outbreak and several COVID scares, but it was worth it. While the island is located in the curve of Abbot Bay, in between Airlie Beach and Townsville, there was almost no sight of another human.
Melbourne is back in lockdown – it’s our fourth lockdown since the beginning of the global pandemic.
On 1 one of our new regime, I had a chat with ABC News Radio in a short segment ambitiously titled, “How to survive a lockdown.”
I might have snorted a little when asked whether photographer Jude van Daalen and I were going to produce a sequel to our book, Together Apart. If it means locking down for another six months, um, no thanks!
Currently, the whole of Victoria is on Stage 4 restrictions, which means working from home, all non-essential shops closed, the ability to travel no further than 5km from your front door and schools closed.
Tune in if you want a little reminder of what’s going on down here in the snap-frozen south – so far, the one-week circuit breaker has been extended for another week, let’s hope it doesn’t continue past that date.
The feature photograph on this post is by photographer Jude van Daalen/The Melbourne Portrait Studio, and features in Together Apart: Life in Lockdown. Click here to order your copy.