The imposing, ancient landscapes of the Grampians region make a dramatic setting for a history of dreaming stories, European settlement and the discovery of gold.
Archaeologists have dated charcoal from ancient campsites and estimate that Indigenous Australians have lived in the Grampians (Gariwerd) region for over 10,000 years. Join a guided tour and see dramatic rock art that bears testament to their presence throughout the area, and spend time at Brambuk – The National Park and Cultural Centre for innovative displays and experiences recounting the traditional stories of the local Aboriginal people.
Settlements of change
The arrival of Major Thomas Mitchell and later Edward Eyre in the 1830s signalled a period of change and the beginning of European settlement in the region. Encouraged by positive reports of the district, settlers such as Lieutenant Robert Briggs and C.B. Hall – whose name was given to Halls Gap – arrived to establish pastoral runs and wheat farming.
Grampians gold rush
Gold was found around Stawell and St Arnaud in the 1850s, an event that heralded the start of a 1900s gold rush, with the Mount William Goldmine at Mafeking operating until 1912. Visit St Arnaud to see an authentic gold rush town and the well-preserved civic buildings and heritage gardens.
The early days of Ararat
Put yourself in the shoes of the weary Chinese miners, travelling from South Australia to the Central Goldfields in 1857, who made the chance discovery of a rich shallow alluvial goldfield that eventually became Ararat. Visit Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre to learn more about their contribution to the region.
With the gold rush came the construction of an austere bluestone gaol, which was taken over by the Lunacy Department in the 1880s, once gold had all but run out, to house the 'criminally insane'. Guided tours at J Ward, as it became known, provide a fascinating insight into another side of life on the goldfields and an infamous psychiatric institution.
Australia's first saint
Discover Hamilton's place in the history of Australia's first saint, Mary MacKillop. Displays at the Maryknoll centre (open by appointment) as well as plaques at significant sites around the region tell her story.
The birth of fine wine
Get a taste of local history with a tour through the historic wineries of the Grampians wine region, regarded as the birthplace of Australia's sparkling wine industry. Pop in for lunch and wine tastings at Best's and Seppelt Great Western wineries, in operation since the mid 1800s. Soak up the historic surrounds and then take a tour of the cellars for a close-up view of winemaking history.
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