Thursday 12 October 2017

Halls Gap, The Grampians accommodation and eating out

I have fond memories of holidaying in the Grampians as a child.  Strangely it has taken me a long time to return as an adult.  Finally last week we stayed in the above house, charmingly named Swampgum Rise.  It was so lovely to get out of the city and enjoy the sights and sounds of the bush.  I written about the walks and wildlife in a separate post.  Today I will tell you about our accommodation and food.

Here is the kitchen in its technicolour glory.  It had all the mod-cons - fridge, oven and a surprisingly blue microwave in the corner.  I took the photo before we covered the bench in our food.  We took the usual array of foods like other holidays:  Cereal, milk, tinned peaches, hummus, crackers, swiss cheese, chocolate, gingerbread men, cheese muffins, liquorice, crisps, popcorn, tea, coffee, English muffins, baked beans, naan bread, pasta, pasta sauce, sausages, carrots, cherry tomatoes, spinach etc etc.

This house was probably the best where we've stayed in terms of kitchen goods.  Not only was there a good array of sugars, spices, oil, vinegar, teas and coffee, but there was also cereal, milk, jam, vegemite, butter, We at all of our breakfasts at home.  Sylvia and E loved the little boxes of cereal and I took a fancy to fruit muffins.  We ate some lunches and dinners out and some at home.  Baked beans on muffins were tea one night and on another we had platters of naan bread, hummus, cheese and vegies.

But let me continue the tour of the house.  The living area was a big L-shaped room (I like this term because of Lynne Reid Banks The L Shaped Room novel that I loved so many years ago and inspired me to go on kibbutz but I digress.)  It was good weather most of our days but cool most nights so the wood stove was cranked up almost every night.

Sylvia loved pottering about at the piano.  I wished we had some of E's music books as I can sight read simple tunes but have very few in my memory from my piano playing days.  We mostly played games such as Scrabble or Cluedo in the evenings though we had Wallace and Gromit on for Sylvia's Fun Friday Film night. "Cracking toast Gromit!"

The bathroom was very roomy with an impressive claw footed bath.  Sylvia loved the bath.

The bedrooms were reached by a red metal spiral staircase that was no fun to climb after walking through the bush did my knees in.  This is the view from the master bedroom.  I loved how the curtains didn't cover all the window and I could lie in bed watching the sky darken or lighten.  The second bedroom at the back looked onto a paddock where kangaroos came early in the morning. 

And here is a photo of our backyard.  Really wonderful to watch the birds and occasional kangaroo as we sat out on the deck.  More on them in another post!

On the first day we set out on a walk that was a bit harder than I had expected.  An ice cream from Coolas ice creamery afterwards was really welcome.  This photo was taken at a quiet time but when we went there, the place was packed both inside and outside.  No wonder.  The ice creams were fantastic.  I had rock salt caramel with chunks of caramel.  E had ginger meggs with chunks of glace ginger.  Sylvia had cookies and cream with great big chunks of oreo.

That night we went to The Spirit of Punjab.  Sylvia was pleased it was close enough that she could ride her scooter there.  We were surprised to see all the statues outside the restaurants.  They were wonderfully colourful and intended to illustrate rural life in India.

The menu had quite a lot of vegetarian dishes, rices, naan breads and chips.  Sylvia wanted the chips.  I wanted her to taste a curry.  So we ordered Dal Makhani and Janatnuma Kofta with some rice and naan bread on the side.  We asked for mild.  Yet I still took the caution of checking the curries before offering to Sylvia.  Just as well.  The creamy cashew gravy had exceedingly spicy potato dumplings.  So I just gave Sylvia the gravy and she ate some with her rice.  I am not sure I got her to eat the dal makhani.  It was nice but not quite as creamy as I expected.

The next day we had lunch at the Bushfoods Cafe at the Brambuk Cultural Centre.  It is a modern building with wonderful large windows overlooking the mountains that dwarf Halls Gap and surroundings.

I was fascinated by the cafe because it offered a chance to eat wattletree damper.  And it had mini spring rolls that Sylvia could eat instead of chips.  They also had cute little cupcakes with Aboriginal dot painting designs on them.  I didn't photograph the cupcakes but I did take a picture of this array of native herbs and spices.  I really loved the chance to smell native river mint and saltbush.  At the top right of the picture are quandong seeds.

This board made me realise how little I know of native herbs and spices.  I did make amends in the gift shop with purchases of wattleseed (which I love), salt bush (which I've never had) and quandong (which I have only tasted once) in a dessert sauce.

With hindsight I would have ordered my meal and then taken my time perusing the gift shop while the cafe staff grew the plants, dried them out and ground wattleseed for my damper.  I jest but it was very slow service.  Much slower than you would expect for soup, a toasted sandwich and some reheated chips and mini spring rolls.  Sylvia was delighted about having chips in her meal.  I enjoyed my damper and pumpkin and capsicum soup but I was so hungry by the time they arrived I fell on them like a starving woman rather than a discerning blogger!

That night we had fish and chips.  We don't have fish and chips often but love them when we are on holiday.  The Halls Gap Fish and Chips were pretty good.  As usual the vegetarian options were pretty limited and we had chips, corn jacks and potato cakes.  And E enjoyed his flake in batter.

It is not the healthiest meal but I confess to loving the nostalgia involved with fish and chips.  For me the ritual of waiting in the fluorescent light fish and chips shop, the anticipation as we walked home clutching a burning hot paper wrapped bundle to my chest and then the unwrapping of the paper at home to reveal a steaming pile of golden chips is as much a part of the enjoyment of fish and chips as the meal.

On our final day, I was set on going to Harvest Cafe, which boasted its sourcing of local produce for the meals.  I liked the space with its rustic-country-meets-scandanavia wooden interiors.  We sat out the front which was warmer than we expected.  Sylvia had vegemite on sourdough toast.

I really wanted to try the Pumpkin Quesadilla with roasted pumpkin, tomato and bean salsa, and cheese plus some guacamole on the side.  It was nice but a little heavy on the pumpkin for my liking.  As I was not getting much vegies on the holiday, I asked for some coleslaw on the side.  It went well with the quesadilla.

On our final night after one of the healthier dinners of the trip, I was very proud of lighting my first outdoor campfire (with a little help from some firelighters).  I had promised Sylvia that I would do toasted marshmallows on a campfire.  It was her first time and she was so excited.  It is years since I have done this - possibly not since I was a kid.  I let her put lots of marshmallows on the branches in the picture above but insisted she only put one on a stick in the fire at a time.  E also got out his ukulele to sing some songs which was fun.

On our last morning, we woke to this beautiful sunrise and a few kangaroos in the top paddock.  It felt sad to be leaving.  We drove down the gum tree lined driveway for the last time, stopped at the gift shop for a few last presents and headed home. 

Coolas Ice Creamery
Shop 1 Stony Creek Stores
97 Grampians Road
Halls Gap
Tel; 03 5356 4466

The Spirit of Punjab
161-163 Grampians Road
Halls Gap
Tel: 03 5356 4234

Bushfoods Cafe
Brambuk - The National Park and Cultural Centre
277 Grampians Tourist Road
outside Halls Gap
Tel: 03 5361 4000

Halls Gap Fish and Chips
109 Grampians Road
Halls Gap

Harvest Cafe
2 Heath St
Halls Gap
Tel: 03 5356 4782


  1. Would love to hear more about your walks as I'm reading this post from Halls Gap... 😀

    1. Hi Dorothee - I am a little jealous of you being in Halls Gap - will get up some walks info soon but we didn't do lots of long walks - mostly quite short ones as only 1 of three of us made it to the pinnacle! Enjoy Halls Gap.

  2. Thanks Johanna! I doubt we'll make it to the pinnacle as we're in Dunkeld tomorrow afternoon. We went to Mackenzie Falls today, that was nice.

  3. Aww what a gorgeous trip! That kitchen is straight from the 70's-love that they've kept it (and the rest of the house too!).

  4. I loved this recap and it sounds like fantastic holiday. What great accommodation, great food and great sights. The fire just rounds it all off - what child wouldn't get excited about that and many adults too!

  5. Thanks for sharing your trip - it all sounds fun. A blue microwave is novel. I have never been to The Grampians.

  6. Looks like a lovely getaway! I have fond memories of visiting the bush tucker cafe many years ago... I think I ordered the damper too.


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