Tourism Australia does a great job promoting the ‘super cities’ like Sydney and Melbourne, along with places like the Gold Coast. They promote the beaches like Bondi and the Gold Coast.
But here’s the thing: Overseas visitors are seriously missing out if they don’t spend some time in the Victorian Highlands.On the stretch of road between Bright and Myrtleford, you’ll drive through scenery that is so beautiful that you’ll wonder why the rest of the world doesn’t know about it. As you walk the town of Bright, poking into this shop and that, you’ll question what the hell is wrong with Tourism Australia that they aren’t promoting this place? I did anyway.
Maybe that’s the intention of the Victorian tourism board? Perhaps they want to keep it secret? It’s clear that Victorians are aware of it. They have little reason to go anywhere else. Any Australian who loves the outdoors is aware of this amazing place, nestled into the Victorian mountains.
Okay, enough gushing from me.
Why is it so amazing, I’m sure you’re asking by now?Let’s base this from Bright.
Within 30 minutes, you can be skiing in winter, whether it be downhill or cross country at not only one amazing ski resort, but three. All high quality, all catering to different levels of skiers. All with views that will blow your mind.
If you’re not visiting in winter, you’re certainly not missing out. This is the cycling Mecca for Australia. Take your mountain bike to the numerous runs carved out of the dry slopes. If mountain biking isn’t for you, there is the to cycle, whether it’s for 5 minutes or 5 days. The Rail Trail runs from Bright to Wangaratta, taking you along rivers, through eucalyptus forests, and best of all, completely off road where you can take in the scenery without having to worry about traffic.
Of course, you can walk the Rail Trail as well. In fact, there are also lots of places to walk here as well. The Alpine National Park and Mount Buffalo National Park, two outstanding parks for hiking trails, are within 120 minutes of Bright with plenty of trails to hike.There is really no excuse to not go outside.
In summer, the Ovens river offers some amazing swimming holes. Within Bright you can swim in the river by the park, even if it’s to simply dip your toes in to cool off. The Centenary Park is the perfect spot for a picnic under the gum trees, once you pick up your delicacies from the local shops, including chocolate from the Bright Chocolate Factory.
Now, if you’re not an outdoorsy type, there’s still a lot to do. Fantastic cafes and restaurants, including wineries and breweries, mob the area. Art galleries and eclectic shops are plentiful too. While Bright can keep you busy, we liked Mytleford for the shopping best. While we didn’t get there ourselves, we heard that Beechwood is outstanding for shopping as well.We stopped in at Café Fez for lunch in Myrtleford and let me tell you: This is THE stop for lunch. Mediterranean delights in the middle of rural Victoria with flavours bursting in your mouth, making you want more. Our lunch was accompanied by Turkish tea, expertly poured long. It was a dining experience I will definitely remember fondly.
At the back and side of the Fez Cafe is their sister store, Red Ramia Trading. Now this is an experience for every shopper. If you’re not a shopper, you’ll at least appreciate the interesting offerings. Everything from Turkish slippers to kimonos to ancient doors from Asia to stunning floor tiles—they all looked absolutely fantastic.
We loved it. We discussed, with still half the store to explore, easily decorating an entire house with the choices available. I considered buying a handmade bedspread before reminding myself that I had nowhere to fit it and certainly nowhere to ship it for later.The highlight of the Victorian Highlands for us was simply wandering down the many country roads.
Driving to the Victorian Highlands from the Gippsland Lakes area, we found ourselves gasping at breath taking views on more than a handful of occasions. The scenery is so diverse and the Great Alpine Road is definitely one for the Living List. I have driven the Great Ocean Road but I found that the Great Alpine Road offers a lot more diversity in the landscape than the coastal route. On the highlands route, you vary from rolling hills, to meandering rivers hugging the mountain ranges, to alpine landscapes offering colourful snow gums and varying shades of grassland. At the top of Mount Hotham, particularly at a lookout called The Cross, the view offers a myriad of blue hues varying in intensity as the mountain ranges stretch on for miles.
Truly this is a place that Victoria has well hidden. I’m more than happy to share this spot with the world. It deserves to be placed on the Great Australian Road Trip itinerary.