Mountains of relaxing to do
THE Grampians in Western Victoria has long been a magnet for adventure lovers. It has also been home to farmers and pastoralists since the 1800s.
The town of Dunkeld, in the Southern Grampians – about 3½ hours from Melbourne by car – was originally built around the Mt Sturgeon sheep station, named after the mountain that looms above it.
Dunkeld is now a thriving little country town, more famous than most other towns of its size due largely to one of its drawcards – the Royal Mail Hotel. The hotel is a modern incarnation of one of the town’s original pubs, and attracts people on the food and wine trail.
But I am here to sample some of the area’s other attractions and, just a few kilometres out of town, I turn into the red dirt driveway for Mt Sturgeon Estate.
The original homestead on this historic property remains and has been turned into a luxury accommodation and wedding venue. But I will be staying in the original cooks’ and shearers’ quarters – one of six quaint bluestone cottages. All face Mt Sturgeon and its surrounding peaks, which, as I arrive, are bathed in the glow of a setting sun.
Smoke is curling out of the chimney of my cottage and
The rugged western Victorian landscape offers adventure, camaraderie, and ample opportunity to just switch off and enjoy the beauty of nature, writes Jennifer Adams
inside the wood fire is keeping the rooms cosy. A sumptuous bed and tasteful furnishings honour the character of the cottage which, after renovation, retained its bluestone walls and stone floor, but I now have access to amenities including a kitchenette and a bathroom set within a water tank.
There is no television and mobile reception is scant. This leaves guests no choice but to simply switch off, relax and enjoy the peace, which I happily give in to. After a restful sleep I am greeted by a sunrise lighting up the mountains.
On the other side of town, with a different panoramic view of the same mountains, I arrive at Griffins Hill Yoga Retreat. Owned and run by couple Frank and Jane, it is a passion project and business.
Frank is one of the country’s most eminent yoga instructors and, with more than 40,000 hours of yoga instruction under his belt, he draws people from all over the country and the world to his retreats, which can last anywhere from two to seven days. He also runs casual classes and the Mt Sturgeon and Royal Mail guests are encouraged to visit during their stay for a bit of body, mind and spirit balance “Grampians style”.
During my visit, I join a group of people who are midway through a seven-day retreat. They hail from all over Australia and most have travelled specifically to be here. For some, it is their second or third time here.
Yoga is not the only attraction at Griffins Hill, though. Jane has her own talents and caters to the groups with a “paddock to plate” food philosophy. From her organic vegetable garden just outside the yoga studio, she harvests produce daily and turns it into innovative meals.