Australia: Driving the Great Alpine Road

The Australian state of Victoria is home to some of Australia’s best high country and alpine scenery. Along what is known as the Great Alpine Road from Wangaratta to Bairnsdale there are national parks, ski resorts and alpine villages; vineyards and gourmet eats.

It is one of Australia’s well-known touring routes and over 300 kilometres, running directly through the Victorian Alps, it is an attractive prospect in all seasons.

This is the story of a summertime visit and some of my highlights of a tour along the Great Alpine Road. The image above is taken from ‘Danny’s Lookout’ not far from Mt Hotham.

Mount Buffalo National Park

The huge, rounded granite flanks of Mount Buffalo cannot fail to impress. This little national park offers walking, canoeing, swimming, mountain biking and rock climbing to name a few activities.

This is one of Australia’s earliest-established national parks (1898) and the site of Australia’s first ski tow. Views from The Hump, the highest point at 1,695, are great and we swam in the delightfully clear and warm waters of Lake Catani.

The Great Alpine Road, Australia

From Lake Catani we walked a couple of hours (round trip) to the Gorge. It was good to get away from vehicle tracks, travelling through stands of Alpine Ash and along the Underground River track.

The Great Alpine Road, Australia

The Alpine National Park

Ski bunnies flock here to the Mt Hotham alpine resort in winter, which offers Victoria’s best skiing terrain. The ski resorts are ghost towns in summer of course but there are many long and short walks that will show you the best of the landscape.

Views of Mount Feathertop reveal a 1,922m peak that looks good and rugged with the Razorback ridge leading to it across hills streaked with swathes of silvery snowgums. Crouching close to the earth they almost give the effect of a dusting of frost or snow.

The Great Alpine Road, Australia

Dinner Plain

This is a slightly odd little place. It’s an alpine village that was actually created on the Great Alpine Road from scratch in the 90s: a collection of accommodations and eateries constructed in sympathy with the landscape in an architectural style inspired by the high country huts of old. From here you can walk, cycle or ride a horse through the wide open country. It also has tennis courts and a children’s playground.

We did a beautiful little walk from Dinner Plain (about 1 hour) to what is called the ‘Room with a View’, through attractive woodland of smooth white-barked eucalypts carpeted with Billy Buttons. Then you suddenly descend for about ten minutes to a little seat (in the ‘room’) and enjoy a marvellous view across valleys and ranges to Feathertop.

The Great Alpine Road, Australia

Wildflowers on the Great Alpine Road

Well you have to walk a bit away from the actual road to see the best of the Australian wildflowers that carpet the landscape in summer, lending colour to a landscape that is otherwise a series of browns and dull greens. There are masses of yellow Billy Buttons and silver daisies – the Alpine National Park are renowned for its diversity of vegetation. There were also these more unusual and exquisite specimens (found in Mt Buffalo and Dinner Plans respectively):

The Great Alpine Road, Australia

The Great Alpine Road, Australia

Fire is of course a natural part of many Australian ecosystems but it was still sad to see the many stands of white tree ‘skeletons’, remnants of major bush fires in 2003 and 2006 in these national parks.

Staying along the Great Alpine Road

We stayed in Bright – a year-around holiday town that is busy, well-equipped and heaving with families having a ball splashing about in the river and enjoying the restaurants, cafes and micro brewery. It has a lot of deciduous trees so must be lovely in the autumn. There are plenty of other options for overnight stays on the Great Alpine Road: Myrtleford, Omeo, or in the national parks themselves. Harrietville seemed a quiet contrast to busy Bright, in a pretty valley with a lavender farm, cream teas and a teepee.

Other things to do along the Great Alpine Road

Apart from all the walking, this is a very popular cycling area, both road and mountain biking. The Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, with 106 kilometres of off-road sealed trail, is a gently pleasant way to explore the region.

For foodies the Milawa gourmet trail offers cuisine and fine wines scattered around a small loop adjacent to the Great Alpine Road in Australia. Again, biking is a great way to explore.

By Natasha von Geldern

Have you travelled Australia’s Great Alpine Road? Did you have other highlights or recommendations?

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11 Replies to “Australia: Driving the Great Alpine Road”

  1. Laurence

    This is a wonderful part of Australia. I did the feathertop walk along the razorback, and also climbed Mount Bogong when I was there. Stunning scenery 🙂 Mountains aren’t usually what people think of when thinking of Oz, but these are beautiful!

    Reply
    • Natasha von Geldern Post author

      I agree it is a special place. We would have done Feathertop if we weren’t ‘walking’ with Wandering Kiwi Jnr, which limits us to about 2hrs at a time. Sigh. It must look amazing with snow, might have to return in winter…

      Reply
  2. Sophie

    Never been in the mountains in Australia, except the Blue Mountains. This area looks gorgeous and interesting, though. Is it near Snowy Mountains?

    Reply
    • Natasha von Geldern Post author

      The Snowy Mts are a bit further east, not far though and I guess part of the same Great Dividing Range extending from Victoria up through NSW.

      Reply
    • Natasha von Geldern Post author

      You’re right it’s not iconic Australian scenery, but it’s lovely rugged terrain and the air is fresh in the hills!

      Reply

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