The Great Alpine Road
Wangaratta to Metung
339 km/211 miles, about 5 hours
Wind your way along Victoria's Great Alpine Road, from Wangaratta in the north-east right across to Metung on the jaw-droppingly beautiful Gippsland Lakes.
The 339-kilometre adventure along Australia's highest year-round accessible sealed road takes you right up close to Victoria's diverse landscapes. Travel through lofty mountain ranges, down plunging valleys, into lush forests, and past rolling vineyards along the way to the sparkling waterways on Gippsland's coast.
If travelling to Mt Hotham or Dinner Plain you may like to try this route in reverse. Start in Gippsland and travel north from Bairnsdale, diverting west from Omeo.
Dine on fresh local produce and award winning cool climate wines, or catch your own lunch with a fishing line in a mountain stream or lake as you go.
Be guaranteed an amazing journey year-round, with warm weather walking, cycling, camping and high-adrenaline adventure opportunities an alternative to the perennially popular wintertime snow action.
Whatever the season you'll be sure of breathtaking views, unforgettable scenery and warm welcomes in the villages along the way.
The Great Alpine Road
Wangaratta to Bright
76 km/47 miles, about 1 hour
The Great Alpine Road starts (or ends) in friendly Wangaratta, with its beautiful gardens, period homes and love of music. Time your visit for the annual November jazz festival, when the city really kicks up its heels.
Making mouth-watering memories
Waste no time getting acquainted with the fine wine and local produce in the valleys along this northern leg of the Great Alpine Road, also characterised by spectacular scenery and crisp mountain air.
At Milawa call in at the famed Brown Brothers Epicurean Centre and Cellar Door, and sample your way through Milawa Cheese Factory. Meet the bold young winemakers who have poured new life into historic Rutherglen, famous for its muscats and fortifieds.
Detour to Beechworth, a village built on the wealth of the gold rush of the 1800s. Explore the historic honey granite buildings, including the courthouse where bushranger Ned Kelly's final trial commenced. Get a taste of Beechworth's booming food and wine scene and try for a reservation at the acclaimed Provenance or munch on pizza and beer at Bridge Road Brewers.
Alternatively, break your journey with a tasty pub meal at the Ovens Hotel, as travellers have been doing since 1854.
Travel onwards to Mount Buffalo National Park and its unique rock formations. A gentle walk takes in waterfalls, granite formations and lookouts with great views of the Australian Alps, or you can be more extreme by heading out on horseback or two wheels. Rock climbers will be in their element at the summit of Mount Buffalo, also popular for cross-country or downhill skiing in winter.
This leg ends at Bright, a beautiful town on the Ovens River, filled with grand deciduous trees that are breathtaking in autumn. Mark the first stage of your drive with a memorable meal at Simone's, one of Victoria's most celebrated restaurants.
Golden Heritage Drive
From Wangaratta, take the B500 to Tarrawingee, the C315 to Beechworth and Wooragee, the C352 to Yackandandah, then the C527 to Myrtleford. On your way you'll take in Tarrawingee's historic buildings, including St Peter's church, the Plough Inn and Carinya House. See Beechworth's 30-plus beautifully preserved National Trust-classified buildings and places of significance to the legend of bushranger Ned Kelly. Walk the tree lined streets of Yackandandah with its stately Victorian architecture.
Gourmet Food and Wine Drive
From Wangaratta, take the C521 to Oxley and turn left to Milawa and Oxley at the heart of the famed Milawa Gourmet Region, where you can taste fine wines at cellar doors, including the renowned Mediterranean styles of the nearby King Valley. Sample outstanding local produce, experience the hospitality of award-winning country hotels and fine dining restaurants, and pull over at farm gates to stock up on seasonal bounty. Loop back to Wangaratta or on to Myrtleford and beyond.
Mount Buffalo Drive
At Porepunkah take the C535 to Mount Buffalo and the top of Mount Buffalo Gorge for fantastic views of the High Country and the Alps, and numerous walking tracks for even more majestic vistas. In winter, hire cross country or downhill skis to get the adrenaline pumping. Get daring in summer and choose from the area's famous adventure activities, such as micro lighting, paragliding and hang gliding.
The Great Alpine Road
Bright to Omeo
110 km/68 miles, about 2 hours
The second leg of the Great Alpine Road gives the route its name, travelling from leafy Bright into the High Country's breathtaking alpine area and onwards to the historic Gippsland town of Omeo.
Upwards to the Alps
Drag yourself away from the cafes and colours of Bright to ascend along the Great Alpine Road through charming Harrietville to the alpine resort of Mount Hotham. The landscape changes from alpine ash to snow gum forest and heathland as you climb.
Mount Hotham, Victoria's highest alpine village, offers 245 hectares of ski area, including a wide selection of downhill and cross-country trails for beginners as well as experienced skiers and snowboarders.
Take advantage of mild summer temperatures on Mount Hotham by trekking along fields of wildflowers, or horse riding and fishing. Take in the spectacular views from Danny's Lookout to the summit of Mount Feathertop, over the Alpine National Park and as far as Falls Creek and Mount Buffalo on a clear day. You can then follow the Razorback Trail, which takes you out along the exposed ridge, to the summit of Mount Feathertop, the second-highest mountain in the state.
Nestle in among the snowgums and the spring wildflowers in architecturally sensitive spaces in Dinner Plain, just 10 kilometres south of Mount Hotham. Dinner Plain is a popular centre for horseback trail rides, with local tour operators offering year-round treks through the High Country, as well as cross-country skiing in winter.
What goes up must come down
After conquering the alpine areas it's time to descend to the old gold town of Omeo as the landscape changes from alpine beauty to lush grazing fields. With vistas out over the Snowy Mountains and once the site of one of Victoria's richest goldfields, Omeo will quickly make an impression.
Great Alpine Discovery Drive
An alternative route turns off the main route at Bright and follows the C536 to Tawonga Gap, the C531 to Mt Beauty, Bogong, Falls Creek and across the Bogong High Plains. Then join the C543 to Anglers Rest and Omeo. This road (closed in winter) takes you past historic cattlemen's huts and breathtaking views across the High Country, before connecting with the Omeo Highway to wind past the notable Blue Duck Inn at Anglers Rest and descend into Omeo.
Bogong Alpine Way
To see scenery like nothing else, veer off onto the 230-kilometre Bogong Alpine Way, on the Bogong High Plains Road which loops through Bright, Mount Beauty, Bogong, Falls Creek and over Dinner Plain and Mount Hotham and back to Bright.
The Great Alpine Road
Omeo to Metung
153 km/95 miles, about 2 hours
Depart Omeo, the service centre for the local cattle, sheep and timber industries, getting one last glimpse at the original gold rush buildings lining the main street. Follow the Great Alpine Road south past Bairnsdale, East Gippsland's only city, and on to Metung, a starting point for exploring the spectacular Gippsland Lakes.
You then come to Swifts Creek and Ensay, small towns with a long history of mining, grazing and timber milling and a modern day passion for freshly baked goods, just-picked fruit, and local wines. Next is Bruthen, a small rustic village overlooking the Tambo River with its very own brewery. Be tempted by a small refreshing ale before you explore the township's many heritage buildings.
Your last stop before Metung and the seemingly endless expanses of the Gippsland Lakes is Bairnsdale, on the banks of the Mitchell River and originally settled as an inland port. Bairnsdale is now a major gateway to Victoria's east, with everything you need and all the cafes and restaurants to sustain you for some time.
In Bairnsdale visit St Mary's Roman Catholic Church, the interior of which was painted in the 1930s by Francesco Floreani, attend an annual musical and sporting event, or explore the Mitchell River silt jetties that extend eight kilometres into nearby Lake King, whetting your appetite for an exploration of the impressive Gippsland Lakes network.
Life on the Lakes
With five main lakes, fed by the waters of four major rivers, and fringed by the Ninety Mile Beach, the Gippsland Lakes system is the biggest expanse of inland waterways in the southern hemisphere, with over 400 square kilometres of lakes, rivers and lagoons that have made this region an ideal location for all forms of water based fun and sport, and exceptional fishing.
With that you're off to Metung, where the Great Alpine Road touring route ends. Life assumes a relaxed pace in Metung, a picture-book village on the shores of Bancroft Bay and Lake King. Follow your nose to the harbourside restaurants to indulge in quality local seafood and wine, spend a day floating around in a boat and stroll along the water's edge at sunset, cooking up your next adventure.
Buchan Caves Reserve
From Bruthen take the C620 for a scenic 20 minute drive to Buchan. Just past the town centre lies the picturesque gateway to the Buchan Caves Reserve where you can enjoy camping, bushwalking and wildlife spotting. Inside the Caves lies a honeycomb of spectacular limestone formations. Guided tours take you for an easy walk through these ancient caverns, exploring beautiful calcite-rimmed pools. In summer on a hot day, take the plunge in the Buchan Caves Reserve pool, which is spring fed from an underground stream, providing the pool with the purest water imaginable.
Wine and Gold Drive
An alternative route from Omeo to Bairnsdale is through Cassillis, a small town that was once a thriving mining community. Explore the picturesque valley on foot and see relics of the gold-mining era, including the unmissable Oriental Claims walking trails, the Cassilis Cemetery and the old goldmine. Call into a local winery and stock up some of the area's fruit and berry wines and mead, as well as the renowned baked goods in the township of Swifts Creek.
Gippsland Lakes Drive
Departing from Bruthen, which overlooks the Tambo River and features immaculate heritage buildings, take the C620 to Nowa Nowa and the A1 to Lakes Entrance to watch the daily catch being unloaded or to cast a line yourself. Continue along the A1 and Nungurner Road to Metung and stop for a stroll along the shores of the lake. Then take the C606 to Swan Reach, the A1 to Bairnsdale and the C604 to Paynesville, a great place to base yourself to explore the Gippsland Lakes and walk the Ninety Mile Beach.