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A Weekender's Guide to Bright and Surrounds

Take the Friday off work for an extra day to explore the breweries, orchards and stunning bike trails of this High Country region.
By Leisha Kapor
February 07, 2020

A Weekender's Guide to Bright and Surrounds

Take the Friday off work for an extra day to explore the breweries, orchards and stunning bike trails of this High Country region.
By Leisha Kapor
February 07, 2020

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.

While Bright and its many nearby villages are normally swelling with visitors in the summer months, this year it's been a bit of a different story. After the devastating bushfires in Victoria's northeast, the area has suffered a huge loss of income from the fall in tourism.

But, although much of Mount Buffalo National Park is still closed, there is still so much to see, explore, eat and drink in the region. And now is the perfect time to round up some friends and head to the High Country with empty boots and hungry stomachs, ready to support the local economy. Here's our guide of what to do, what to taste and where to stay while you're there.



The Rail Trail at Feathertop Winery, by Visit Victoria/Josie Withers

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. These guys are currenly closed until March 4, 2020, but if you hire a bike from them, you can finish up your day at Alpine Cellars, a next-level wine store that shares a space with Bright Electric Bikes.

Nightingale Orchard by Visit Victoria/Emily Godfrey

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, Mountain Fresh Trout and Salmon Farm (where you can enjoy sustainably minded fishing), and The Chicken Shop, a humble takeaway chook joint that started bottling and selling its delicious Memphis-style barbecue sauce to keep up revenue during the worst of the bushfire disaster.

On foot, hike to the Apex Lookout for some spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, take a walk around and a cheeky dip in Lake Guy in Bogong, or head to nearby Wandiligong to explore former goldfields in Diggings Reserve. The area still sees 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.



Bright Brewery

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 from 10am or book in a tour of where the magic happens. No matter what you do, be sure to make time for a G&T made with the its Remedy Australian dry gin.

For a healthy and easy lunch, kick back on the sunny balcony at Dumu Balcony Cafe — it's a social enterprise cafe that trains Indigenous youth from the Northern Territory's Thamarrurr region in all things hospitality.

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 with fresh mountain water and a pizza or burger from the brewery's kitchen.

Reed & Co Distillery by Visit Victoria/Emily Godfrey

Pub meals up in these parts come a bit more sophisticated than you'd expect from the country. 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 wagyu 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 (on Fridays and Saturdays) with a garden backdrop and live music every second Friday 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.



Nine Steps

For serene mountain views from a hot tub and deck on the edge of the Alpine State Forest, there's Kangaroo Lodge, while Mill House in nearby Wandiligong offers a pool with a stunning forest backdrop.

Nine Steps is a classic Aussie shed — it's just been given a luxury makeover by a talented architect and set on 29 acres of bushland at the base of Mount Buffalo. Book this one for February or March 2020 and six guests will stay for the price of four, or four guests for the price of two, as part of a bushfire recovery offer.

Book a getaway weekend with your best friends to Leader Reef House — the package includes two nights accommodation, a bottle of bubbles, gourmet brekkie, dinner and your choice of activity, like a winery trip or pilates class.

Inspired by the tobacco kilns you'll see around the surrounding countryside, The Kilnhouses are three luxury dwellings on a working angus cattle stud — you can spy the original concrete kiln which influenced the builder's methods from the balcony of The Sorting Shed. All three of the homes 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.


Top image: Bright Brewery by Visit Victoria/Josie Withers. 

Published on February 07, 2020 by Leisha Kapor

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