Grampians National Park most grand & popular waterfall: Migunang Wirub
MacKenzie Falls is one of the biggest waterfalls in the Grampians and certainly the most popular. It’s in the northern part of national park on the main Grampians tourist route, Mount Victory Road. It’s about a 30 minute drive direct from Halls Gap, although there are quite a lot places to stop in at on the way.
It’s normally pretty busy here and has been for almost a century, but not to worry, there’s plenty of parking and it doesn’t often feel too crowded, unless a couple of school groups and tour busses arrive at the same time.
Descending down to the base of MacKenzie Falls is the main course of action here, although if heading down (& back up) the steep 250+ stairs is going to be an issue, there are some more accessible options, including a flat 800 metre (1.6 kms return) walk out to the MacKenzie Falls Lookout where you can get an incredible birds-eye view of the entire waterfall and gorge. It’s a beautiful and easy short walk through the dry Eucalyptus forest where you’ll see lots of native Australian flora and listen to the birds.
The river begins breaking up for hundreds of metres at the top of MacKenzie Falls with dozens of cascades and a seperate waterfall, Broken Falls.
The Broken Falls lookout is only a short distance from the Mackenzies Falls carpark and doesn’t have any stairs, making it easily accessible. It’s also just a short detour on the way down to the base of MacKenzie Falls and is worth taking a look at, as it’ll help to get you into the waterfall mood and make the big MacK falls seem a bit more impressive.
Getting down to the base of MacKenzie Falls only takes a few minutes, although there are 260 stairs that were hand-made in the 1930’s, making it a pretty tough hike back up to the car park.
If you feel like walking a bit further, Fish Falls is about 1-1.5 kms from the base of MacKenzie Falls and then Zumsteins picnic area is a further 2.5 kms or so from there. You can hike from MacKenzie Falls, past Fish Falls to Zumsteins.
Getting to the MacKenzie Falls car park
From Halls Gap, you just need to take the main tourist drive which begins next to the Halls Gap Recreational Oval, which is often covered in Kangaroos.
Drive along Mount Victory Road, going past the turns offs for a bunch of major attractions, such as Boroka Lookout or Wonderland Carpark where you could hike to the Pinnacle from. After passing Reeds lookout, the MacKenize Falls car park/turn off to the car park is just a few minutes down the road.
Driving direct from Halls Gap to MacKenzie Falls takes about half an hour.
If you’re coming from Adelaide or Horsham, turn right about 10-15 minutes out of Horsham on the Northern Grampians Road and follow it for about 30 minutes. Be sure to drive super slow for wildlife and the road is right on the edge of a gorge once you pass Zumsteins picnic area. The turn off to the MacKenzie Falls car park is well signed and only a few minutes after Zumsteins.
Camping near MacKenzie Falls
Although no camping is allowed at MacKenzie Falls or the car park, there are loads of wild campsites throughout the Grampians with the closest being Smiths Mill, which is just down the road from MacKenzie Falls.
You’ll need to pay a small fee and reserve a spot, you can book here on the Parks Victoria website
In Halls Gap, there are multiple large caravan and camping parks, then loads of motels and other accommodation.
How to get the best photo of MacKenzie Falls
There are two decent options. Firstly, you could just walk 800 metres past the toilet block near the car park and get a view of the entire waterfall and gorge from the MacKenzie Falls lookout or the second option gets you a bit closer but requires trekking down to the base of the falls.
Once you’re at the base of the waterfall, if you can safely get across the creek (sometimes the water level is too high to cross, but it’s not often as the river flow is controlled, coming from the nearby Lake Wartook dam), you’ll see a track heading part way up the hill from the plunge pool. Follow it until you can get a clear view over the top of MacKenzie Falls. Be careful of snakes and it’s a pretty steep track that could be dangerous for some people.
Where the name MacKenzie Falls came from
The first European colonials to come past this area led by Major Mitchel on an expedition in 1836. They killed most/all of the local indigenous people that they encountered and then had no way of knowing what the waterfalls’ name was.
Captain MacKenzie loved the place so much that Mitchel named it after him.
Eventually, it became known that the original name is Migunang Wirub. It’s called this by the Jardwadjali people who are the original guardians of the area.