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The legacy of our settlers

7 Sep. 2020

In 1836 Major Thomas Mitchell, along with a small group of explorers, scaled Mt William, the highest peak in the Grampians. From there he surveyed the vast expanse of rocky ridge tops and lush native forests and named the area ‘the Grampians’, after the rugged region in his native Scotland. This moment marks the beginning of European settlement in the area.

A variety of farming, mining and timber production ensued, and along with it a rich tapestry of industrial and cultural life.

A region with farming at its heart

Early settlers included Lieutenant Robert Briggs and C.B. Hall (to whom Halls Gap owes its name), who established pastoral runs and wheat farming.

To this day, wheat remains a common Grampians crop, among a plethora of others, including ryegrass, canola, flaxseed, berries, and vegetables like lettuce and onions.

More recently, olives have become a staple crop in the Grampians with Red Rock Olives and the Grampians Olive Co. being great places to stop off and gather some gourmet goods. Take the Mount Zero (Mura Mura) Walk to soak in views of various olive plantations, Mt Stapylton and the surrounding Wimmera plains.

Great Western, the charming township located between Ararat and Stawell was first settled in the 1840s by sheep graziers. Today 4th and 5th generation sheep farmers continue their forebearers’ long and proud legacy in the area. Most have added other produce to their farms including ducks, hens and grapevines.

The Langi Morgala Museum is a great place to learn about the large squatters estates and farming history of Ararat and the surrounding district.


The Grampians gold rush

Gold was discovered around Stawell and St Arnaud in the 1850s, signaling the beginning of what would become the 1900s gold rush. The Mount William Goldmine at Mafeking operated until 1912.

The gold rush sped up the growth of towns throughout the Grampians.

It also saw the introduction of Chinese settlers to the region. In fact, Ararat is the only city in Australia founded by the Chinese. Visit Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre to learn about the arduous journey of the Chinese miners from Southern China to Robe in South Australia, and on to the Grampians region in 1857. In the eastern Grampians they discovered a rich shallow alluvial goldfield completely by chance. This became a thriving gold rush settlement and the city of Ararat was born.

Home to some of the world’s oldest grape vines

During the gold rush grape vines were grown throughout the region and these 150+ year-old vines are now some of the world’s oldest. The Grampians has long been renowned for quality wine production, in particular peppery shiraz and sparkling wines. From Horsham to Halls Gap and through to Buangor, you’ll discover a plethora of welcoming wineries.

Historic Seppelt Wines is one of the original winemaking pioneers of the region. The Great Western winery was founded in 1865 by Joseph Best, who commissioned local gold miners to tunnel the underground cellars which became known as ‘The Drives’. Stretching for 3km, The Drives are the largest underground cellars in Australia. An integral part of Seppelt’s history and heritage.

Our wine region is spoilt with award-winning wines, picturesque views and fascinating tales of yesteryear.

The European and Chinese explorers and settlers of the Grampians laid the foundations for the thriving communities that call the region home today, let alone an abundant fresh produce industry we’re very proud of.

Discover your own journey and learn about the rich history of our region the next time you visit us – The Grampians Way.

*Please note some of the attractions and operators listed may be currently closed and some may have limited hours. Call ahead to find out more information before you visit us.

Before visiting us, we recommend you review your travel plans in line with the latest safety guidelines: www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert. And take a look at our guide to travelling the Grampians responsibly and safely.