Tuesday, July 23, 2024

‘Summer is why you stay’: a warm-weather guide to Victoria’s Alpine Valleys

Victoria’s alpine area is not often considered when thinking of “summer getaways.” But the valley and resort towns nestled in…

By Chan , in Travel , at March 20, 2024

Victoria’s alpine area is not often considered when thinking of “summer getaways.” But the valley and resort towns nestled in the mountains offer a lot once the sun comes out and the snow melts.

The Victorian Alps were home to the Dhudhuroa and other Indigenous groups for thousands of years prior to European settlement. After the British arrived, the area became a hotbed of the gold rush. The Victorian Alps and its valleys are now known for three things – wine, skiing, and the fact that it’s a long drive away from Melbourne.

Don’t be put off by the distance, as the views are well worth it. And anyway, you’ll mostly be traveling in a straight line along the Hume River, so the route requires minimal thinking.

What to do?

The Alpine region is composed of several medium-sized cities. Bright is the obvious destination. Bright, a leafy gold rush city is the tourism hub of the area, so it has great amenities and more people during the peak season. Locals of Mount Beauty who live nearby will often say that it is the “crown jewel” of the shire. Their voices are tinged with a little contempt. “Plus, it’s surrounded with all those pine plantations.”

Mount Beauty and Tawonga are both great choices for those looking to enjoy the most unspoiled views of Victoria’s forests and Mount Bogong, the highest peak in Victoria. These towns are located in a valley with postcard-like views from every window. They make excellent day trip destinations. You might get bored of the new restaurants after a few nights.

The township of Myrtleford is only an hour away. It is larger than Beauty and has everything you need, including a Target.

Summer is a great time to visit resort towns like Falls Creek or Mount Hotham. It’s a perfect blend of adventure, comfort, and luxury – if you don’t mind the snowflakes everywhere in January. The cool breezes also make the summer sun more pleasant. Jayne Fatchen is the owner of the popular Milch Cafe on the mountain.

There are many activities to do, including hiking, mountain biking, cycling, picnicking, gravel grinding, and swimming in the dam. Summer is the season to be out and about; there are many restaurants open. The “better-than-sex” brownies at Milch are a crowd favorite.

There are many caravan parks and Airbnb in the area. Just pick a place that sounds appealing. There are lodges available in the mountains that offer more seclusion.

If you’re looking for something different, consider a stay at Spring Spur. It’s a ranch that offers horse-riding weekends as well as five-night packs. But even if riding a beast doesn’t appeal to you, the accommodations are so comfortable and scenic that it’s worth the drive from Tawonga. The two resident dogs are also always happy to be petted.

What to Do

Mountain biking is a big attraction in the summer. As the staff of Rocky Valley Bikes and Snow Sports will tell you, it really isn’t as difficult as you might think. The Bright Bike Park offers wide, machine-built trails for beginners. Even Mount Beauty Big Mountain Park has steep paths that are manageable by those with moderate fitness.

There are many bushwalks to choose from in the area, but on a hot day, nothing compares to a stroll through the town of Harrietville. You can walk around the gently sloped bush before jumping into the Dredge Hole – a freshwater pool formed by a giant gold mining excavator used during the gold rush.

There are vineyards all over the Alpine Valley. Just outside Bright is the Feathertop Winery, which offers a “pedal-and-picnic” experience. You can ride your bike around the vineyard while a picnic area has been set up under a gum tree. The cost is $60 per person, but the cheese and nibbles are locally sourced.

What to eat and where to drink

The Stockpot is the hidden gem in this region. The Stockpot is a restaurant that is easily overlooked because it is located between a mechanic and a petrol station in Tawonga South. However, the food is worth the trip. Mitch Smith is the chef and co-owner. He was trained at Melbourne’s fine dining schools, and that shows. Pumpkin pizza is worth a mention.

The Templar Lodge is a few hundred meters up the road for those looking to enjoy fine dining. However, those who do not book in advance may have difficulty getting in. The restaurant is located in an old Freemason’ lodge. Its veranda, which offers a quiet atmosphere and a fancy cocktail list, makes for a relaxing evening.

Mick Piera runs the Crank Handle Brewery located on the main street of Tawonga South. After years of being a backyard brewer, Piera decided to start brewing full-time to be closer to his family. The business had a rough start, having opened just six weeks prior to the evacuation of the valley due to the bushfires in summer. He says, “We’re then open for another 4 weeks, and closed for the Covid first round… We’ve only been open to trade for four months out of the year.”

The brewery offers a variety of beers, including an English bitter beer, a strong porter, and pale ales, which he made on the spot after locals asked for something similar to Carlton Draught. It tastes better.

Piera has a brain tumor and hopes he made enough beer before starting treatment to make the summer rush that everyone prays for. “People talk about 2020 being difficult, but we’ve had it and more.”

The Ramia family runs Café Fez in Myrtleford. The vast home goods store in the back is just as important as the tasty Lebanese, Moroccan, and other cuisines (including recipes from Nana’s book). You can find everything from tiny soya sauce bowls to giant Indian pagodas. This is one of the most interesting and eclectic collections of goods you will ever see in Victoria.

How to get around

Bright is about one hour and a half away from the Albury Airport for interstate visitors. A V/Line train runs regularly between Wangaratta, Victoria and Melbourne. A car is recommended because of the large distances between towns and the dense mountainous bush.