REVIEW: Grampians National Park Day Tour with Autopia Tours
It is 7.20 am on the morning of June 5th; this is the earliest I have been up in months. Why? Because today we are getting out of the city and heading for the Grampians National Park. Being residents of the city we have headed over to the nearest hostel for pick up by our tour guide. Ushered on to the bus so they can head to the next stop it’s all a bit fast for first thing in the morning. Needless to say once we have headed over the West Gate Bridge I drift off to sleep.
Our driver Andrew has done a great job of talking and trying to interact with this sleepy and small bunch of people but there is little he can do to keep us awake or liven us up in that first hour and a half drive. We arrive in Aallarat for tea and biscuits which soon has everyone woken up and talking about how cold it is. We don’t hang around long before jumping back on the bus for the second leg of the drive. Andrew has us all introduce ourselves over a microphone – we are a British heavy group but with several Asian couples too. However it seems we are the only people who are sticking it out in Melbourne for any length of time.
Arriving after 11 in the National Park, there is low cloud hanging over the mountain tops and a very cold chill in the air. The first stop is the culture centre to learn more about the aboriginal history of the park and Victoria as a whole. As interesting as it is we don’t spend long there before heading on a little walk to find the kangaroos. I imagined we would see maybe one or two but as we turn the corner there is a group of 20+ just right in front of us. They don’t run away, some don’t even acknowledge us. We all stand there staring and snapping away with our cameras. It’s all a bit much to believe that these wild kangaroos haven’t run away at the sight of us!
Next stop is Stony Creek in Halls Gap where we have time to grab some lunch and enjoy the view before we start the climb up the mountains. Lunch choices consist of a bakery and two cafes – not the biggest range of choices but at the same time not too pricey.
After waiting for the stragglers from lunch we got comfy in the bus again and started the drive up. It was very twisty – needless to say I began to feel very travel sick despite having my pressure point bands on. We reached the Boroka lookout and I was very thankful for the break in driving. The lookout takes in all of Halls Gap as well as several lakes and mountain ranges. Problem was we couldn’t see very much. That low cloud we could see from the ground was engulfing half of the view. Still what we could see was beautiful and a few of the clouds started to lift in the time we were there.
Next stop was Reed lookout and the Balconies, probably the most famous of the views. After a little trek we were greeted by a stunning view at the balconies. A lot of the cloud had lifted so we could see right across the valley only missing the tops of the mountains. Despite the wind chill and not being allowed beyond the fenced off area it was easily the best part of the day. The last stop for us was Mackenzie Falls and Broken Falls. We had found out that morning that the lower path for the falls was closed due to maintenance working taking place. I wasn’t too bothered until we got to the far away lookout point of the waterfall and REALLY wanted to be able to get up close to get some photos. Despite our tour guide going to down the path and asking the guys doing the work it was just a no-no. So we enjoyed that far away view, checked out Broken Falls and saw some wallabies.
By now it was 4 pm and time for us to leave the Grampians and head back to Melbourne via another stop in Allarat for dinner. Where the choice was extremely limited to the chip shop!
The tour itself is a long day, with a lot of driving but if you want to do the Grampians just for the day then it is the only option unless you hire a car yourself. The Grampians trip is ideally suited as a 2 or 3 day trip including the Great Ocean – which I would thoroughly recommend if you have the time and money. If however you are short on time or like us had already done the Great Ocean Road then the best bet is to take one of the few tours out of Melbourne. Autopia Tours is a budget tour company which we paid $130 for the Grampians trip and entry to Eureka Skydeck and Edge experience.
Overall my review would be that a lot is crammed in to a short space of time but I expected that and taking a trip which involves so much driving wouldn’t be possible otherwise. The lunch and dinner stops did not provide much choice of food – had I of known this I would have opted to take my own food with me. The guide was talkative and knowledgeable despite being a small group of quiet characters I thought he did very well at making it fun and social. It’s a trip I would recommend but only if you do not have the time and money to team it with the Great Ocean Road. Oh and try and choose a day when the weather is good…