Driving the Great Alpine Road On Victoria’s high country is perhaps one of the most impressive circuit that an intrepid traveller could take by car. It’s also one of the main things to do on your visit to Victoria. The stunning Alpine wilderness is not its’ only plus point, but the 300 km road passes by the Australian Alps, little known by most tourists. The Great Alpine Road starts from Wangaratta in northern Victoria, and finishes in Bairnsdale, at the gateway to Gippsland Lakes Entrance in the East.
Travel into the very heart of Victorian countryside, and you’ll be mesmerised by the picturesque scenes of the perfectly manicured green pasture, lush rainforests and lofty mountain ranges.
Over the years, the road was given many names and the current name similar to Great Ocean Road, was given to promote the mountain region as an unforgettable touring road with a throng of bucket-list worthy experiences. Whether you tour by car, campervan or a motorcycle, it’s a journey for all ages.
As avid travellers, we like to keep our travels fresh by doing things a bit differently. My husband and I started the Great Alpine Road from Bairnsdale to Wangaratta rather than taking the common route.
Also Read: Take a scenic drive on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria
Great Alpine Road Drive Itinerary
Leg 1: Metung to Omeo
If a break from the busy schedule is what made you plan this trip, then watch your worries fade away as you enter the picturesque village of Metung. Dappled with Harbourside restaurants where you can indulge in delicious local seafood and wine, Metung will whet your appetite for more activity-filled days ahead.
Save a couple of hours to explore the Gippsland lakes, featuring 400 kms of lagoons, lakes and rivers, for fishing, canoeing or kayaking.
Back on the mainland, head directly to Bairnsdale to stock up on some nibbles to munch on as well as outdoor/camping gear to make the rest of the trip more adventurous. Located at the junction of the Great Alpine Road and Princess Highway, Bairnsdale is a gateway to Victoria’s East with easy access to the Alpine villages of Omeo, Dinner Plain and Mount Hotham.
While you’re in Bairnsdale, don’t miss detours to the Bataluk Cultural trail to get an insight into the culture of East Gippsland Koori people. The trail runs from Yarram to Cape Conran with routes that Gunai and Monaro people used for over 18,000 years.
Like us, If you’ve had a long day driving from the suburbs or the Melbourne city, choose to settle in for the night at one of the stays in the town centre.
From Bairnsdale, drive about 27km towards Bruthen and take the C620 for a scenic 20 minute ride to Buchan caves as a side trip. The spectacular limestones in the caves await some exploration: take a guided walk through the ancient caverns or cool off in the Buchan Reserve Pool.
Back to Bruthen, head north to Omeo passing by Ensay and Swifts Creek. This stretch bares a renowned history among the richest goldfields in Victoria.
Also Read: About Cape Otway (on the Great Ocean Road) untold story
Leg 2: Omeo to Bright
The highlight of our Great Alpine Roadtrip is this stretch of road where we start ascending towards Bright. Chatting away in our sedan, humming to the repetitive tunes from our Spotify playlist, we were not in a hurry to reach anywhere. We’d heard so much about the recently sealed Bogong Alpine Way but less-imagined it’s true beauty until we experienced it ourselves. The Bogong Alpine Way, on the Bogong High plains loops through Falls Creek, Bogong, Mount Beauty onto Bright.
The entire stretch is inside the Alpine National Park so there is plenty of things to see and do. The abundance of walking trails invites revisits from adventurers and photographers for a classic sunrise shot over some of Victoria’s best lookouts. The views are even more spectacular from the Danny’s Lookout to the summit of Mount Feathertop, the second-highest mountain in Victoria.
Much of the Bogong High Plains are off limits to vehicles and an option to explore these areas is by foot. What’s more intriguing are the cattlemen’s huts dotting the Alpine area. Some of the moderately difficult walks give access to these huts built in the 1800s. It’s hard to imagine what the living conditions of these pioneer cattlemen must have been living in the windswept plains. To get a quick glimpse, the easiest stroll is to the Wallace’s hut built with snow gum and kerosene tins.
Continuing the drive, there is a stretch of road that practically looks like it’s sitting on the ridge of a mountain. Watch out though, with tight corners and sweeping bends, the spectacular views on both sides can be distractful. In winter, snowboard enthusiasts and skiers drive directly to Falls Creek to enjoy the white dust while its charm is appreciated even during the summer – for its expansive meadows of wildflowers and an escape from the heat in the valley.
From Falls Creek, head a quick 15 minute dash to Mount Mckay to watch the sun setting over Razorback Range, while sipping a glass of wine appreciating the good things in life.
At the leisurely space you will be driving, you probably will end up finding a stay to rest the night. Continue the adventure by staying at a scenic bush camping area that includes pit toilets and picnic table for a relaxed night in the Alpines.
Just before leaving Bright, don’t miss out the Tawonga Gap Lookout overlooking the Kiewa valley and river and Mount Bogong from afar.
Take note though, the Great Alpine Road via Falls Creek is closed during winter but the route via Dinner Plains is open all year round.
Leg 3: Bright to Wangaratta
Known for it’s tree-lined avenues, Bright is an alt-lifestyle haven for those who like to experience a combination of history with its nearby Wandiligong, a gold-rush site and the Chinese Swing Bridge, built as tribute to the Chinese who worked on the diggings; and outdoor activities like biking towards Beechworth along the Murray to Mountains Rail trail.
The epicentre of this stretch from Bright to Wangaratta is the side trip to Mount Buffalo for some amazing views of the High Country and the Alps. Make time for some walks for a closer look into the granite formations and waterfalls while you can also consider rock climbing at the summit of Mount Buffalo. For the Mount Buffalo drive, take the C535 from Porepunkah. If you take the C521 to Oxley and onto Milawa, you’ll get to sample the local produce.
By the time you’ve experienced the Great Alpine Road the way true explorers do, you’ll know exactly what Ernest Hemingway meant when he said: “It’s good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end.”
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