Walk down the gravel path off Grampians Road and you’ll be welcomed by the laser-cut wooden sign welcoming you to Grampians Eco YHA, enveloping you in the Grampians mountains and hectares of national park right off the properties backyard. Of course, it’s the people that make the place, and you’re always guaranteed the warmest of welcomes from Kelly or her husband Gary – who’s normally fossicking around the property, always working on a new project!
“When we took over, the previous managers had run this place into the ground. It was messy, things were broken... it was pretty horrible. It took about 3 months to clean the place up.” said Kellie, “underneath all that mess was a beautiful hostel.”
Kellie originally started at the former hostel in 2006, working for five years before travelling, and heading to the Melbourne Zoo to work with the big cats, where she met fellow keeper, Gary. The two started seeing each other, eventually heading back to Halls Gap. Seeing what had happened to the property they held so dear, they approached YHA and were ‘given the gig’ of restoring the property to a sustainable, comfortable and unforgettable place in 2017.
Gary considered it perfect timing for a big project, “we’d already been discussing 6 months prior changing our jobs to manage accommodation in other parts of the country, we came to visit here and Kellie was not happy with what she saw!” he said. Kellie’s heartwarming laugh is welcome down the phone line, as she explained, “we’re both zookeepers by trade, that experience helps a lot running a hostel! Coming back here to run the hostel again and get it back to what it was, was a great challenge but it was what we were looking for. Once we got it cleaned up, it’s gone strength to strength, and we’ve won three awards now.”
Those awards include the 2019 awards for Best Backpacker Accommodation in Victoria, and best in Australia, are a fitting acknowledgement of the couple who recently celebrated their first anniversary after Gary proposed at the nearby Clematis Falls. Clearly, there’s something special about the Grampians!
As for what to do when you finally visit? Kellie and Gary have some hot tips…
“Bushwalking is one thing, we’re right in the national park - so you can go into the back of the hostel and start walking. The park’s 100km long with waterfalls all year long with the town of Halls Gap on the southern end,” Kellie said, “we do have a lot of wineries around, there’s a lot that have been winning awards, and we just had a microbrewery open in town. It’s a beautiful natural surrounding, about three hours north west of Melbourne with not much else between here and South Australia. There’s the zoo for families, you’ll find jams and preserves, and lots of country door farm things to see.”
“It’s the hidden jewel within Victoria, that’s one thing that attracts people here, the wildlife, the walks, the climate is great for me (a northerner) – the town is growing and this area has a lot to offer,” said Gary.
Kellie and Gary’s favourite activities for visitors:
Whether you’re watching birds from the kitchen, gawking at kangaroos right at your bedroom door, or feeding the chooks your veggie scraps, the running joke is, if you don’t see a ‘roo, you’ll get your money back. This property is bustling with life, and under the great care of Kellie and Gary, we have a feeling it’ll continue to go from strength to strength!