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imageMaking the most of the four day weekend, we couldn’t resist extending our Great Ocean Road trip by visiting the nearby Grampians National Park on the recommendations of good friends. Just a couple of hours north west of the coast are three amazing national parks for adventurous and outdoorsy types to explore to their heart’s content. As three girls who love adventures and miss camping trips, we were excited to spend another night camping in a national park, and were excited to have two other friends joining us for two days of exploring the bushwalkers’ paradise. We headed to Hall’s Gap, which was packed with families, to meet our friends who had already found us a great camping spot at the Plantation campsite. It was a lot wilder than the previous night but a great campsite and nicely sheltered from the wind by Mount Zero.imageWhen we arrived during in the late afternoon, we quickly set up camp before heading up Mount Victory to explore some of the lookout points. We drove straight up the steep and winding road – not a fun experience for our friend who suffers from terrible vertigo and happened to be driving – until we reached the Reeds Lookout and The Balconies. It was a perfect place to start our time in the Grampians because it gave us a nice and easy 10 minute walk to the summit where we found the most incredible 360 degree view of the national park from Victoria Valley and Lake Wartook, to the Serra, Victoria and Mt Difficult mountain ranges. The endless empty space was breathtaking. Such an astonishing experience to see nothing but empty space and to breathe that clean mountain air after being in the confines of Melbourne for months. Afterwards we took the easy 2k walk to the balconies to see more incredible panoramic views of Victoria Range, Lake Wartook and Mount Difficult, a perfect location to spend that misty afternoon.imageWe were instantly reminded of the Blue Mountains in New South Wales for those of us who has previously visited Sydney, but the Grampians felt so much wilder and vaster in comparison. As we headed back down to our campsite for dinner, we were excited to spend the next day exploring the other viewpoints. (Check out Planet Camping for equipment.) Back at the campsite, we rustled up a quick dinner of salad wraps with cider. Very basic but we were glad we hadn’t bothered with the excessive set-ups and barbecues those around us were having – we preferred to spend our time having drinks and building a campfire of our own. The five of us (Shoutout to Absolutely-Scootsie) went off collecting wood and rocks to build our fire and our dedication paid off – we ended up building a fantastic fire that kept blazing for around six hours in the end. We sat round with ciders and toasted marshmallows and slices of bread on the fire, it was so much fun! There’s something about getting back to basics that really brings out the best side of everyone. Later, as the other fires around us died down, several others from the campsite came to join us and have drinks. We all ended up pretty drunk and had a hilarious night together.imageThe next morning we all woke up later than planned but eager to start the day’s hiking after a breakfast in Hall’s Gap. After some delicious bacon and eggs, we started driving up the mountain again for an amazing walk we had seriously underestimated. We were to take on The Pinnacle on the advice of our friends – there are two options to enjoy the walk by taking an easy route from the Sundial Carpark, or the challenging hike through the Grand Canyon from Wonderland Carpark. I would seriously recommend the hike – we went for it not knowing about an easier option but were glad we did. The climb through the gorge was incredible and although hard work, was so rewarding when you finally reached the top.imageMake sure to take plenty of water, we took three bottles but it was a hot day and we wished we had brought more with us. We hiked all the way to the very top of the Pinnacle before taking a different route down and rejoined back at the Gorge. We also followed some silly Canadian lads who ended up getting us lost by not following the path so we ended up rock climbing down the last part of the walk. It was brilliant fun, but make sure you pay attention to the paths. By the end of the walk we were knackered but felt amazing – it was lovely to get some real exercise in such beautiful surroundings. In the end we covered around 8km through the routes we took, so it’s well worth it.imageAfterwards we were excited to be heading to Mackenzie Falls to cool off after the hike. At the bottom of a steep 2km train down the cliff, a spectacular view of the water cascading into a deep pool awaited us. Fine rainbow mist sprayed across the faces of those descending the slippery steps as the reached the floor of the gorge. It was a beautiful sight and one that would excite the mermaid in all of us – it definitely had one guy excited as he slipped off his shirt and dived into the water for a photo right under the waterfall. We were disappointed we hadn’t brought our bikinis although I’m not sure you’re actually supposed to swim there, and the water was bloody freezing! We dipped our toes in and watched the water for a while before heading back up the steep steps.imageWe finished the day by heading to what is supposed to be one of the best lookouts in the Grampians – Boroka Lookout. It offered a stunning 180 degree view of Western Victoria, overlooking Halls Gap and Lake Bellfield, and only a tiny stroll from the car to the viewpoint. It was beautiful but I found it hard to really enjoy this on as there were far too many people dangling themselves precariously from the rocks for the perfect photo. It was pretty annoying having to wait ten minutes for a simple photo because there were so many people in the way, and personally I did think the Reed Lookout was far more breathtaking. But Boroka is definitely worth a look! It was the end of an amazing trip and we were all exhausted after a busy couple of days of hiking, camping and having way too much fun. It was time to head back to Melbourne, but we left with huge smiles on our faces and amazing memories with great friends. Our weekend could not have been any better and I’m still grinning now just thinking about it. We’ve already started planning the next trip!image

 

Have you been to the Grampians National Park? What was your favourite part? Can you recommend any other Australian national parks?

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imageI love road trips – they’re such a great way to travel and to experience a country whether you stay in the UK or venture abroad. You have so much more freedom when you share a car with friends and don’t have to stick to timetabled flights or buses. The whole experience of driving on the open road without a care in the world is just incredible if it’s done well and fair play to my road trip gang, we did it very well considering we didn’t plan a thing. We set off on Good Friday and after picking up the car at around 9am, we cruised back into the city to pick up the third member of our team, our tent and to ill the car with duvets and food. We left the city around 11am, which was right on schedule for the vague plan we had made – it seemed leaving at this time had helped us beat the real bank holiday traffic of the previous evening and that morning. Despite it being a cloudy, grey morning in Melbourne, as soon as we ventured out of the city and hit the highway, the sun broke through the clouds and with the tune blaring out of our little Yaris’ speakers, we could already feel the holiday vibes.imageThe first hour of driving took us through Geelong, keen to make good time and explore the later beaches we didn’t stop but cruised through on our way to Torquay. This was a town I was keen to see, it’s somewhere I’ve heard about for ages and as we drove along the ridiculously hilly road to Bell’s Beach (hills like this still seem weird to a Norfolk gal) we started to see signs for not just any surfing competition, but the 2016 Rip Curl Pro, the longest running professional surfing contest in the world, and this was the 55th year of the event. We’d just missed the main event, but there were still countless surfers bobbing around in the waves so we walked out the viewpoint where we could see some epic surfing unfold.imageFurther along the road, we continued on past Anglesea which looked like the cutest little town, before stopping at Airey’s Inlet – a beautiful stopover and one that us girls got very excited about once we realised it was also home to the lighthouse from kid’s TV programme Round The Twist! We all walked up thinking the lighthouse loved familiar, but it was only when someone started singing the theme song that we realised why! It’s was a lovely little stroll to the viewpoint that reminded me very much of the Byron Bay lighthouse walk – also an absolute must in coastal walks. Further down from the lighthouse there is also a lovely beach that seemed very popular with visitors as we passed.imageComing up next were Cumberland River, Wye River and Kennett River as we approached Apollo Bay – we didn’t really stop off at any of these but paused at a few viewpoints for more stunning photos. The driving around this part was stunning – all winding cliffs, bright blue ocean and gorgeous sunshine. We got really lucky with the weather because I’m not sure the driving would have been quite as fun were the weather rubbish. Along this stretch of road we also saw a koala hanging from a tree as we approached Apollo Bay – first bit of wildlife of the trip!imageApollo Bay was great – you can see why it’s so popular for tourists and festivals – being Easter Weekend it was very busy so we just popped to the shops for some snacks and drinks for the night ahead as we planned our campsite. We had originally planned to camp around Apollo Bay but we hadn’t booked a campsite and a lot of the good ones were full or overpriced, and the other ones that had sprung up in recreation grounds and football pitches were decidedly gross. Not booking a campsite turned out to be the best thing we could have done, it meant we drove on past Apollo Bay and towards the 12 Apostles, where we had planned to arrive for sunrise.imageWe kept on driving, certain we would find a campsite along the way, and lo and behold we did as we were driving through Cape Otway and towards Port Campbell National Park, the sign sprung up in front of us and before I knew it I had swung the car off the main road and into the forest. Around 7km in we had passed countless kangaroos and all kinds of wildlife, arriving at the campsite we were told it was $50 for a pitch and that they could squeeze us in – there was loads of room left in the busy campsite and we were welcomed by Steve, the awesome campsite manager. It was a fantastic campsite with amazing facilities from spotless showers and toilets to a kitchen, barbecues, log fires and much more. We ended up exploring the campsite and making friends with a nearby group who had a campfire on the go and some great music as we sat under the stars. It was a perfect first night of camping and such a great experience to camp in the national park. We awoke early the next morning in hopes of catching a stunning sunrise with a view of the 12 Apostles.imageSadly we were disappointed by the cloudy day we woke up to, there was a fine mist of rain and despite packing up our campsite and leaving before 6.30am, we were not to see a sunrise. Instead I drove us out of the campsite, dodging kangaroos, baby deer and all kinds of spooky wildlife lit up by the headlights of our little car – we named her Rhonda by the way. But instead of being disappointed by the dark, overcast morning, we used the time to make an early start on the day, driving past the viewpoint we had aimed for, we kept heading towards the 12 Apostles and only stopped in tiny Princetown for a quick breakfast and a chance to spruce ourselves up for the day ahead.image We arrived at Gibson’s Steps – one of our favourite beaches – not long after where we were thrilled to get out and stretch our legs on this wild and untamed beach. The wind blew spray across our faces as we walked across the empty sands and we were glad to have beaten the crowds as we discovered a tiny penguin lying on the sand. He looked a bit lost but was soon rescued by a woman from an animal charity. After a brisk walk, we loaded back into the car for just a short journey to see the 12 Apostles – it was amazing. Incredible to finally see with my own eyes after seeing so many pictures over the years – we were gutted not to get to see them bathed in sunlight but it was still a majestic sight.imageThe rest of the day was perfectly broken up with lots of walking to viewpoints and various rock formations between Port Campbell and Warrnambool, including Loch Ard Gorge, the Arch, London Bridge, Grotto and Bay of Islands. Each one was more beautiful than the last and it’s well worth taking the time to stop at each of these to enjoy the walks and views along the way. imageI actually found some of these viewpoints more spectacular than the 12 Apostles – probably due to the weather improving as we moved further along Great Ocean Road – before 12pm the sun blazed across the sky and brightened up the wet day. We finished Great Ocean Road with a pit-stop in Port Fairy, which is an adorable little seaside town with a lovely picnic area overlooking the beach and quaint little craft shops set just behind, where we re-fuelled and stocked up on food and drinks for our second night of camping.

Read all about our adventures in the Grampians National Park in my next post.

Have you road-tripped Great Ocean Road? How was your experience? What was your favourite part?

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