Top 5 things to do in Victoria’s High Country
Blog contribution by Jennifer Adams, presenter of the popular TV travel series Places We Go.
Think crackling fire, red wine, scrumptious local produce, then throw in a day on the slopes (with or without the kids!), a visit to the famous Bright Brewery, and perhaps a drive through the King Valley, and you have yourself a recipe for a brilliant winter’s break in Victoria’s north-east, in the charming alpine High Country town of Bright.
Bright is the gateway to a weekend of adventures, or a destination in itself.
Nestled alongside the Ovens River, the historical town of Bright was established as Morses Creek in 1824, but was renamed in 1866 as the gold rush gripped the area. As we walked alongside the river on our recent trip, I swear I saw the water shimmer with remnants of the gold that made so many rich; and as I looked up and watched the morning fog lift off the surrounding mountains, I could imagine notorious bushranger Ned Kelly coming down off the ridge to do his business.
Bright, and its surrounding region, is filled with stories that defy its size, from the gold rush to the story of the Italian migrants who settled here in the 1950s – who, along with their families, brought their wonderful culture of food and wine.
When walking along the main street, make sure you look up at the architecture of the old buildings (for there are many), all the while enjoying the buzz of the new generation of cool cafes.
We took the leisurely three-and-a-half hour drive up from Melbourne, stopping off in the tiny towns along the way for coffee (try the Benalla Bakery if you like a good old-fashioned country meat pie!), happily leaving the pace of the city behind, and enjoying the smell of the country air as it passed by our window.
Rolling into town, you’re greeted with deciduous trees that flank the Great Alpine Road, as though luring you to the main street with their beauty.
Basing ourselves at BIG4 Bright Holiday Park, we spent the mornings basking in the winter’s early sun, before setting off on our many adventures each day.
1. Hit the Slopes!
Alpine National Park is a treasure across all seasons, but in winter it’s a white wonderland that brings back so many wonderful memories for us – whether we’ve been skiing, trekking, or just messing about in the snow as young kids.
Bright is the gateway to many of Victoria’s premier ski slopes, including Mt Hotham, Falls Creek, Mt Buffalo, and Mt Feathertop. From beginners to the more experienced, there really is something for everyone – and something to be said for getting out there and being active. As long as you make sure you dress for the conditions, it’s a lot of fun for all involved.
2. Take a drive through the surrounding wine regions.
With the unique sub-alpine environment contributing to wines of great elegance, you are spoilt for choice with boutique wineries from the four surrounding valleys created by the Ovens, Buffalo, Buckland and Kiewa rivers.
We particularly enjoyed an afternoon taking in views of the Alps while meeting local producers and sampling the wines they have passionately brought to life.
If you would like to drive a little further out, we love the King Valley, where family wineries are celebrating their Italian heritage with Italian varietals. Make sure you drop into Pizzini Winery, as they not only make a superb drop, but they have an Italian cooking school that makes for a wonderful afternoon.
3. Bright Brewery
It could be seen as a little odd giving a boutique brewery its own category, but I think Bright Brewery deserves it.
In the heart of Bright, the brewery has become quite the institution in the region, and deservedly so. As soon as you walk in the door, especially on a Sunday when there is live music, you’re treated to the best of the mountain life. The award-winning craft beers, which are produced from fresh mountain water, quality ingredients, and craft brewing techniques, are passionately produced by the local brewer, Ryan, who spends his time dreaming up his next concoction and working with the chef to match the beers to fresh local produce that is served to perfection.
4. Cycle the High Country.
There are so many options to explore the high country by bike. You can take on the mountains in spring and summer, but in winter we particularly love the rail trail where you can roll along through the beautiful Ovens River Valley between Bright and Wangaratta.
As rail trails don’t really have hills – as they follow the old train lines – it really is a pleasurable way to take in the scenery and the rolling farmland. Passing by cows and sheep, with the smell of the gum trees, all you have to do is grab a local map of the rail trail and you can pedal between village producers, filling up your basket with local goodies along the way.
We always love great food on any weekend away, and Bright and its surrounding regions are an absolutely bounty for fresh produce, put together by passionate food lovers and producers. Whether you stop in at the farm gate of local growers to sample their goods, like Mt Buffalo Olives or take a drive through the King Valley and celebrate food from the region's Italian migrants, one thing you can be assured of is it’s all locally made by families who will tell you how beautiful their backyard is.
Another thing we especially love to do when staying at any BIG4 is head to the local markets and buy fresh local produce and whip up a barbie! We came up with a special burger with an Italian twist to pay tribute to the region, but really you’re spoilt for choice with ingredients in this part of the world. I always find it adds another dimension to a region when you do a little research and really get to know whose backyard you’re exploring.
It was hard to leave Bright on our recent three-day getaway. As we sat enjoying the vibe at Bright Brewery down by the Ovens River, we could have easily settled in for the week and soaked up the magic of the surrounding mountains.
For more information, visit the Places We Go website.
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