By the Places We Go team
There is something about Bright, in north-eastern Victoria, that lures visitors time again. And that includes us.
Situated in the Ovens Valley, about 3.5 hours’ drive from Melbourne and surrounded by the peaks of Mt Buffalo and Alpine national parks, Bright and its surrounding villages are almost Mediterranean in climate and known for their spectacular autumn foliage.
But every season in Bright is a drawcard. While in autumn the town is ablaze with colour thanks to its deciduous trees, winter is cosy. Expect charming streetscapes, roaring fires in the pubs, cafes, and beer gardens, and easy access to nearby ski fields.
In summer and spring, the rolling fields of the valley are lush with greenery and the gardens come alive, as do the famous bike trails. And throughout the year, wineries and artisan producers do a great trade with people who visit specifically for the food and wine.
Here, we’re reflecting on a visit in late spring when the European trees were flush with new greenery, the sun sparkled on the Ovens River through the town, and the vibrancy was tangible, particularly in the grounds of Feathertop Winery.
Literally opposite our accommodation at BIG4 Porepunkah Holiday Park is Feathertop Winery, named after Victoria’s second-tallest mountain in Victoria and located in nearby Alpine National Park.
"The European trees were flush with new greenery, the sun sparkled on the Ovens River through the town, and the vibrancy was tangible."
This boutique winery is known for its cool-climate varietals and is a destination for visitors to spend the day not only tasting hand-crafted wines, but enjoying the restaurant, deli and café, cellar door, alfresco wine garden, and even a playground.
It is situated along the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, over 100km of sealed bike trails linking popular destinations in north-eastern Victoria, including Bright and Porepunkah. Cyclists drop in throughout the day for both a long lunch, or a quick bite along with a drink. This is the perfect place for a rest, to soak in those views, and pick up a few goodies to take away.
Back at our accommodation, it was easy to sit back and relish in the stillness of Porepunkah. With a population of less than 1000, the town boasts its own lively and recently refurbished pub, a general store, a handful of cafes and a few wineries. But the main hero is the scenery – the sounds of the Ovens River trickling past, the mountains in the distance, and the ambience of the pristine environment around you.
Kids were enjoying the jumping pillow, go-karts, pool and mini-golf that were all on-site, while their parents could simply enjoy just letting them be free.
But it’s hard to stay still here for long, and just 6km away in Bright we were meeting Bright Adventure Company for just that – an adventure. Tim, one of the company owners, was waiting by the Ovens River with kayaks, and it was time to hit the water and see the valley from a unique perspective.
The river accommodates both beginner and advanced paddlers, offering a leisurely cruise along the water with a few small rapids thrown in for excitement. We paddled out of town and into the valley, passing fishermen throwing in a line and enjoying nature all around us.
Setting up a picnic on a pretty bank of the river about halfway along our route, Tim talked about the many adventure and nature-based activities on offer in this region – from cliff top picnics, to rock climbing, stand-up paddleboarding and, of course, kayaking. All are brilliant ways to experience the area for all ages and abilities.
Another popular activity in these parts is a bike ride along the rail trail, and the locals certainly know how to make the most of it. We dropped into Bright Electric Bikes, which rents a range of cycles, from electric bikes to cruisers, kids’ bikes and trailers. Better yet, it also stocks most of the local wines – effectively becoming a regional cellar door. We loved the idea of renting a bike and picking up wine at the same time.
We hit the pedals and, surprised at how easy an electric bike makes a leisurely ride, we could concentrate on the stunning scenery around us as we began our route back towards Porepunkah. Because the trail follows the path of an old train line, there are no hills, so it’s a comfortable ride.
We cruised over historical bridges, through open fields, and past glorious maple and oak trees. An easy 6km later, we found ourselves back in Porepunkah and pulling into the Rail Trail Café.
One of the more popular stops along the trail, the café is owned by locals Jesse and Lucy, and thanks to Jesse’s Mexican background, serves up some of the best breakfast burritos you are likely to find! Coupled with great coffee, it was the perfect place to break the journey, soak up the sunshine at an outdoor table, and boost our energy levels.
Jumping back on the bikes after our leisurely brunch, we passed the BIG4 park and Feathertop Winery on route to our final destination on the trail, Ringer Reef Winery.
A small winery and cellar door with big views over the Buckland Valley and Mt Buffalo, Ringer Reef is a family-owned business with various red, white, and sparkling wines hand-made and bottled on site. A glass of the local bubbly with our eyes on the picture-postcard views was the perfect way to end our cycling adventure…not forgetting to tuck a few bottles away in the bicycle pack rack for later!