TIME TO DISCOVER ARARAT
Only a two hour trip from Melbourne is the rural township of Ararat, a local service town and gateway to the Grampians.
A town of contrasts, I would highly recommend hiring a car or Melbourne motorhome rental and spending a few nights exploring multiple attractions including the darker side of this unique township.
ARARAT IN A NUTSHELL
Ararat has its fair share of bric-a-brac, curio and antique stores. Supermarkets, specialty shops, cafes and hotels all make for a good day’s browsing, shopping, eating and sampling the odd beverage or two.
A short drive will take you to the Grampians which are a chain of mountains with their own unique views, activities and opportunities. Like so many towns in this broader area, it started as sheep grazing country in the 1830s but the discovery of gold in the 1850s was the true inspiration for the town’s growth.
With such growth came the Chinese prospectors who stamped their influence on the gold field communities. A visit to the Gum San, Chinese Heritage Centre, is well worth the time.
WINE LOVERS GET EXCITED
For the wine lover, Ararat is a great place to use as a base as several major and well known wineries are established nearby.
I would highly recommend doing one of the winery tours. I did and must admit to being amazed at the history, the variety and the intricacies of the art of wine production in this area. Might I point you in the direction of:
Seppelt Wines – established in 1851. I was fascinated by over 165 years of Australian Wine History. The tour was highly informative and we explored the largest underground cellars in the Southern Hemisphere. The tours are available seven days.
Bests’ Great Western – founded in 1866 and only two families have owned this venue. It is one of the oldest truly family owned wine making operations in Australia. With some of the oldest vines in Australia Bests’ produce extraordinary wines with their forte being top class Shiraz. Cellar door visits are not just about the great wines but the old horse, farm and winery equipment that speaks of years gone by.
THE DARKER SIDE…
I previously mentioned there is a dark side of Ararat’s history and the fact it makes for some significant opportunities for a history lesson in goals, asylums and a dark past. I would highly recommend you visit/tour the following attractions. I heard words used like ghosts, phantoms, supernatural, paranormal and the like…..now I am not saying I saw any, but the place is home to some dark institutions with all the stories you would expect to hear. Two of my favourites tours are:
J WARD, Asylum for the criminally insane. Whilst starting life as a jail to serve the 1850s gold rush, J Ward housed criminally insane men for over 100 years. This was not a polite institution. As they say, “Explore the other side….”
Some seriously disturbing stories, and a pensive, foreboding atmosphere makes for a great tour.
Aradale Lunatic Asylum. This institution ran from 1867 to 1993. It housed some truly insane subjects for decades – it holds many stories; some shocking and some inspiring. Tours run from 90-120 minutes and take you through the cavernous wards and halls of an institution that treated the mentally ill of Victoria for over 140 years. They say there are ghosts a plenty!
WHERE TO STAY
The Ararat area has many options for accommodation. Motels and hotels, Bed and Breakfasts along with Holiday and Tourist Parks are all available.
For me, using a motorhome, means that I chose to stay at Acacia Caravan Park and Holiday Units.
Located centrally to many of the attractions I have mentioned, the venue is adjacent to the main highway, making for an easy trip to wineries and the like.
Acacia Caravan Park has excellent facilities and a great range of accommodation from cabins (many brand new), to powered and unpowered sites. My site was close to the clean and tidy amenities, the pool and the camp kitchen (a favourite with me as they have a great coffee/hot chocolate machine available), and I could bring my furry friend as well (pet friendly).
The owner managers are super keen with a wealth of local tourism knowledge and they are proud of ensuring their guests have a great experience.
Better still, they are licensed and can sell you a beer or wine at journey’s end. This venue is proudly part of the Family Parks network, and well worth a visit.
So that’s it! Ararat, from a bright blue sky visit to wineries and cafes, on to the dark side of old goals, asylums and stories of ghosts and paranormal happenings.
See you soon,
(DriveNow has teamed up with “The Chair”, none other than Dennis Werthenbach, the enigmatic and super popular chairman of the board for Family Parks Holiday Parks & Campgrounds – for more than 26 years, Family Parks has represented independent caravan parks and camping grounds, promoting fantastic holiday destinations for travellers young and old. With so many great caravan and camping parks throughout Australia and New Zealand, Family Parks is more than just a holiday, it’s a unique holiday experience.)