A Weekender's Guide to Bright and Surrounds
You'll want to make it a three-day weekend to explore the breweries, orchards and stunning bike trails of this High Country region.
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Victoria's High Country is prime for a weekend escape from Melbourne — and Bright is the place to stay. The alpine town is a must-visit for cyclists, nature lovers, anyone who loves a nice glass of vino, and those seeking a relaxing couple of days amid the mountains.
Bright and its many nearby villages are normally swelling with visitors, but this year it's been a different story with devastating bushfires in Victoria's northeast followed by park closures in the early months of COVID-19. Though some parts of Mount Buffalo National Park are closed, there is still so much to see, explore, eat and drink in the region.
From pristine beaches and bountiful wine regions to alpine hideaways and bustling country towns, Australia has a wealth of places to explore at any time of year. We've partnered with Tourism Australia to help you plan your road trips, weekend detours and summer getaways so that when you're ready to hit the road you can Holiday Here This Year.
While regional holidays within Victoria will be allowed from May 31, some of the places mentioned below may still be closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Please check websites before making any plans.
There are two gears in Bright and beyond: high and low. It's all about getting out into the mountains by bike or on foot, and then relaxing as the sun sets with a glass of wine in hand. The entire area is connected with walking and cycling tracks, including the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, which follows the old Bright railway line, linking Bright to Beechworth, Germantown, Wandiligong and more. We recommend the 24-kilometre stretch between Porepunkah and Myrtleford, which follows the gorgeous Ovens River past vineyards and orchards.
Join one of Follow My Wheel's produce bike tours to explore the local wineries, providores and breweries — or hire some wheels from Bright Electric Bikes to do it yourself. Both companies are currently closed due COVID-19 physical distancing measures, but are planning to operate once it's safe to do so. The area is home to winemakers like Feathertop Winery, Ringer Reef and Gapsted Wines, as well as producers of all kinds, including the Nightingale Bros apple orchard and cider house and Mountain Fresh Trout and Salmon Farm (where you can enjoy sustainably minded fishing).
On foot, hike to the Apex Lookout for some spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, take a walk around and (if it's warm enough) go for a cheeky dip in Lake Guy in Bogong, or head to nearby Wandiligong to explore former goldfields in Diggings Reserve. The area still reflects the influence of Chinese migration during the gold rush era and it's damn pretty. For the slightly more adventurous, take a horse ride through the Bogong High Plains of Alpine National Park with Spring Spur, or kayak the calm summer waters of the Ovens River valley with Bright Adventure Company.
EAT AND DRINK
To fuel up for touring the wineries and beautiful scenery of the high country, you'll need to eat something delicious and find some good coffee. Thankfully the area has all this in spades.
Bookend your day at 15 Wills Street, a space shared between specialty coffee roasters and coffee bar Sixpence Coffee in the morning and Reed & Co Distillery in the afternoon and evening. You can also stop by the distillery door for tastings or book in for a tour. No matter what you do, be sure to make time for a G&T made with its Remedy Australian dry gin.
For a healthy and easy lunch, kick back on the sunny balcony at Dumu Balcony Cafe — the social enterprise cafe trains young people from the Northern Territory's Thamarrurr region in all things hospitality. The team is currently in the NT, but will be operating in Bright again once it's safe to do so following the COVID-19 lockdown.
In between strolls of Bright Centenary Park and dips in the Ovens River, a stop at Bright Brewery is essential. There's a gorgeous deck surrounded by trees where you can knock back a couple of pints of beer made on site alongside fresh mountain water and a pizza or burger from the brewery's kitchen.
Pub meals up in these parts come a bit more sophisticated than you'd expect. So head to The Wandi Pub for smoked duck breast with miso and kimchi, honey and rosemary lamb bangers and mash, and 12-hour slow-cooked local pork nachos. Or try Tomahawks for a variety of shareplates and burgers — including a Sevens Creek grass-fed cheeseburger or curried roast pumpkin fritter on a milk bun with eggplant kasundi and mint yoghurt. Finish up with a doughnut ice cream sandwich for dessert, complete with Lindt mousse, milk crumb and salted caramel.
If you're after a long, leisurely meal with a few glasses of vino, we recommend Ginger Baker Wine Bar and Cafe for a good brekkie, lunch or dinner with a garden backdrop and live music during the warmer months. Or, discover Templar Lodge, chef-owner Emma Handley's first solo restaurant, set in a historic building among the cattle farms at the foot of Mount Bogong in nearby Tawonga. Much of the fruit and veg on the contemporary Aussie menu comes from Handley's own farm.
For serene mountain views from a hot tub and deck on the edge of the Alpine State Forest, there's Kangaroo Lodge, while Mill Cottage in nearby Wandiligong offers a pool with a stunning forest backdrop.
Nine Steps is a classic Aussie shed — it's been given a luxury makeover by a talented architect and is set on 29 acres of bushland at the base of Mount Buffalo. The house sleeps six, and you'll likely spot wombats and wallabies on your visit.
Book a getaway weekend with your best friends to Leader Reef House, which has a private pool. And The Kilnhouses are three luxury dwellings on a working angus cattle stud — where all three of the homes available to hire are in their own private section of the farm, with cattle and vineyard vistas.
Like the idea of staying on a working property? Indulge in a soaker tub on the private balcony of the Peggy Adelaide Suite at Feathertop Winery; enjoy a quiet weekend away at Lavender Hue Farm B&B and Tea Rooms; or make yourself at home in the Kiewa Valley at Spring Spur Horse Property.
Whether you're planning to travel for a couple of nights or a couple of weeks, Holiday Here This Year and you'll be supporting Australian businesses while you explore the best of our country's diverse landscapes and attractions.
Top image: Nightingale Orchard by Emily Godfrey via Visit Victoria
Published on May 29, 2020 by Leisha Kapor