A visit to the eastern region of the Grampians is sure to delight the senses – the sixth sense included! The eastern gateway to the Grampians National Park, only 2 hours from Melbourne, the East, including the towns of Ararat, Lake Bolac, Moyston & Pomonal, has plenty on offer for the history buffs, avid adventurers and wine lovers alike.
Delight the senses of taste and sight as you spend your morning strolling the main street of Ararat – check out the cute boutique shops and bustling cafes, before making your way to Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre to uncover the towns role in the Victorian gold rush. Here you can spend some time listening to the stories of the Chinese miners and their arduous journey from Southern China to Australia. See intricate handmade textiles, embroideries and relics of this rich culture. Make sure to stop at the gift shop to find out what your future holds with a fortune cookie or Chinese horoscope reading.
Next stop is One Tree Hill for a lunch with a view! At the top of One Tree Hill you can expect unparalleled views over Ararat, the Grampians National Park and Mount Langi Ghiran. Pack a picnic and enjoy a tasty packed lunch with the best view point in town!
Visit J-Ward: After lunch spend your afternoon delving into the darker side at the infamous JWard Old Gaol. First used as a prison during the gold rush, the old gaol was later handed over to the Lunacy Department and housed the ‘criminally insane’ until its closure. Relive its past by taking a guided tour conducted by the lively Friends of J Ward volunteers. History tours run daily (except Christmas Day) and take approx. 1-1.5 hours.
After getting to know more of this intriguing town of Ararat you may be in the mood for an adventure of another kind – enter the spirit world for a bit of ghost hunting!? Why not try Ararat’s longest running ghost tour, the JWard Lunatic Asylum Ghost Tour. Explore the museum followed by a ghost tour of the home of notorious criminals including Chopper Read, Gary Webb and William Wallace. These ghost tours run on a weekly basis at 8pm on a Thursday and Friday and are extremely popular, so book ahead! They also offer Overnight Paranormal Investigations on select dates throughout the year.
Visit Aradale: Not too far from JWard lies another grand building with a dark history. Aradale Asylum was an Australian psychiatric hospital that treated and housed the mentally ill of Victoria for over 140 years. These days the precinct is used by night as the perfect place to search for paranormal activity or by day for those who are interested in history and architecture.
For those who dare to visit Aradale at night, the professional theatrical historians from Eerie Tours - Aradale Ghost Tourswill guide you on their 2 hour ghost tour, held every Friday and Saturday night (prime ghost hunting time). So hold on tight to discover if you have what it takes to explore one of Australia's creepiest buildings after dark! They also offer extra-spooky extended ghost tours of 4 hours duration, a Paranormal Investigation and for the hardcore ghost hunters, the Ultimate Paranormal Investigation. Bookings can be made online here.
A special J Ward and Aradale Day Tour ‘combo’ deal is on offer each Wednesday and Sunday where a ticket can be purchased for $30.00 p.p. entitling you to a J Ward and Aradale Tour on the same day. It is recommended on a Wednesday so the ticket holder can take the 10am J Ward Tour and then do the 2pm Aradale Tour.
After a night of scares and paranormal investigations you’ll be in need of a bit of fresh air and maybe a glass of wine or two.
Now that your daily exercise as been completed the real fun can begin… wine tasting! Situated at the foothills of Mount Cole is Mountainside Wines. Wander the vineyard and enjoy a picnic with a platter of local foods paired with some of the best premium wine on offer in the region.
Continue your wine trail to Mount Langi Ghiran, continually listed as one of the most beautiful vineyard sites in Australia, Mount Langi Ghiran is also one of Australia's most acclaimed producers of Shiraz. Savour one of their delicate wines whilst enjoying the picture-perfect scenery.
According to the Chinese, things come in threes, and since yesterday you discovered Ararat is a town founded by the Chinese its only logical to visit winery number three: Montara Wines. This winery is only 5 mins from Ararat’s centre and has a great variety of wines for tasting. Sit back on the decking overlooking the vineyard and spend the rest of your day grazing on a selection of local produce wine and coffee.
Today is a day for exploration, leaving Ararat heading towards Halls Gap and the Grampians National park you will pass through the Moyston - the birthplace of Australian Rules Football.
Continuing along the same road you will arrive in the town of Pomonal. Stop by farm gates to fill up the boot with local produce and wares. Call in for a wine, beer or cider at Pomonal Estate and stock up on all things “olive”, including award-winning olive oil, table olives and olive salt, at Red Rock Olives.
If you still are on the lookout for more exciting adventures enjoy exploring the nearby rural towns of Buangor, Willaura, Streatham and Lake Bolac.
As you come to the end of your 72 hours in the East you may need to extend your stay! There’s still plenty to explore, such as the neighbouring wine hub of Western Victoria, Great Western, and for the nature enthusiasts the entire Grampians National Park… we have a feeling you’ll definitely need to stay a while or plan a return visit!