Being insanely in love with Road Trips, I think I ended up in the right place – Australia where the distance between places is large and diverse. I had been lucky enough to drive through The Great Alpine Road of Victoria, which is regarded as one of the best driving routes of Australia.
If you are after a long drive through dramatic vistas, farmlands, wineries & rolling mountains, then this bitumen beauty is a perfect one. My first drive along The Great Alpine Road presented me with the magic of “Four Seasons in a Day”, which made me return longing for more!
So Where is The Great Alpine Road?
The Great Alpine Road is a country tourist road in Victoria, Australia running from Wangaratta in the north to Bairnsdale in the east, and passing through the Victorian Alps.
Places: Wangaratta to Metung
Total Distance: 339 KM/211 Miles
Total Time: About 5 Hours (without any side trips)
When to Visit?
The Great Alpine Road promises spectacular scenery and can be taken all year round, however some parts of the road can get closed due to the snowfall in winter. So if travelling during winter it would be worthwhile to check the road status.
Wanderer Trip: Though this drive itself can be a destination, on the practical front, this is a great drive which can be taken while driving down from Sydney to Melbourne or vice versa. Except for a trip to Falls Creek, all my other drives through this area have been while travelling towards Melbourne or Sydney.
Who should not Go?
The road from Harrietville up to Mount Hotham & Dinner Plains is quite windy and have numerous hairpin bends. So if windy roads are not your thing, then this is not your cup of tea.
1. Wangaratta to Bright
Distance: 82 KM/51 M
If heading from Sydney towards Melbourne via Albury, Wangaratta is the starting point of the scenic Great Alpine Drive. This stretch is an easy drive passing through farmlands & vineyards. There are a number of side trips which makes it a beautiful country road drive.
A small township with nice biking trails & few accommodation options, is also famous for the annual Jazz festival.
For more details check out, https://www.visitwangaratta.com.au
Milawa is famous for the wineries & Cheese Factory.
Hurdle Creek Gin Distillery & Brown Brothers Winery are two good spots which you may not want to miss.
Brown Brothers, boasts as one among the topmost wineries in Australia which produces the largest number of varieties of wines in a cellar. A definite reason to visit it!
Rutherglen is known for its food and wine scene as well as for camping, fishing & local produce such as olives. However, it is more renowned for the Rutherglen Muscat – world’s richest type of wine.
Check out Exploring Rutherglen for more details.
Beechworth, a village built on the wealth of the gold rush of the 1800s famous for its historic honey granite buildings, including the courthouse where bushranger Ned Kelly’s final trial commenced.
Myrtleford is another small town on the way. We did stop over at Gapsted winery and it was a great experience.
Mount Buffalo is another national park & a beautiful side trip. More details here.
The leafy suburb of Bright is a prominent stopover on the Alpine Road which also is the base for a bundle of activities. While approaching Bright in winter, you get the scenic view of snow-capped mountains from the distance
Bright welcomes you with the warmth of Autumn colours during April – May which is also the time of festivals. More details on things to do in Bright can be found here.
Wanderer Trip: In one of my trips through the Alpine Drive, we ended up with a rented car getting stuck at the top of Falls Creek and we were dropped at Bright by the Road assistance. Since there was a biking event going on, we did struggle a bit to find an accommodation for the night. So never underestimate the availability of accommodation when there are events, especially in the summer season!
2. Bright to Mout Hotham
Distance: 51 KM/32 M
Road: Narrow & Windy
Once you cross the beautiful Bright, the road starts winding upwards. Harrietville to Mount Hotham is my favourite stretch. The stretch starts with silver coloured Alpine Ashes (Eucalyptus) along the valley. Never seen a valley in the silver shade before!
Time to lower the windows of your vehicle to feel the smell of Eucalyptus in the air. There were red lorikeets flying around the silver alpines adding on to the beauty.
The landscape starts to change slowly to Snow Gum trees with millions of white flowers all over the valley. It started raining & then the mild hail storm all over the valley. I could not believe the fact that I had started on a sunny summer afternoon and now after a rain, it has started a hail storm! The beauty was nothing like I have seen before.
The beauty was nothing like I have seen before.
Once you are almost close to Mount Hotham, the landscape gives away to heath & yellow wildflowers against the jet black trunk of trees. Mount Hotham has a beautiful café, where you can stop over for a coffee or a bite while getting yourself lost in the silver mountains & the crisp mountain air.
Trekking trails including the Razorback Trail, which takes you to the summit of Mount Feathertop, the second-highest mountain in the state as well as horse riding & fishing are few of the activities over here.
15 minutes drive from Mount Hotham through the windy steep roads will take to the Dinner plain which has nice accommodation options and is quite busy during winters. During summer, I was here and remember it being a very nice place to stay.
I am not sure if this stretch is always this beautiful, but it was a divine drive for me the first time I travelled. Too many events favoured probably – the silver ash alpine trees, the rain, the wind & the hail storm. But irrespective of the weather, the valleys were always beautiful every time I drove across.
Trekking along the fields of wildflowers, horse riding and fishing are few things which can be done apart from cross-country skiing if you plan to take the detour to Falls Creek.
Kiewa valley is another detour which can be taken from Bright and more details can be found here
3. Mount Hotham – Omeo – Metung
Distance: 177 KM/109 M
Road: Narrow & Windy
This is the last stretch of The Great Alpine Road. A 60 KM drive will take to Omeo which was one of Victoria’s richest gold fields.
Bairnsdale, Gippsland lakes Drive are some of the short trips on the way before the end of the beautiful Great Alpine Road.
Wanderer Tips: Things to Note
Wanderer Tip: Fewer Fuel options – Australian Road Trip demands driving long distances. So it is important to get fuel whenever you find a gas station, especially before leaving Bright in this case. We ended up in a situation with no petrol by the time we reached Dinner plan.
Wanderer Tip: Food options during holidays – I have driven down the Great Alpine drive twice during Christmas – Boxing days. The alpine towns are small ones with less number of food options. It is quite possible that you may not get any if you travelling during national holidays. So better to carry some.
Wanderer Tip: Snow Chains – It is a legal requirement to carry snow chains between Harrietville and Omeo during the official ski season (June to October), even if there is no chance of snow. You can get it either from the Car rentals or hire it on your way from the service stations. Also, remember to check the insurance coverage for snow-covered areas.
Where to Stay?
Bright, Dinner Plain & Falls Creek had been my resting stops on different trips. I recommend all of them for the wonderful places they are and also as a base for an array of activities.
Do you need a 4WD?
No, you don’t. It is all sealed and a 2WD will work well.
I think this drive is an underrated drive in Australia. If your interest is in seeing diverse landscapes and good biking trails I would highly recommend this above many other ‘must see’ locations in Australia.
Have you ever taken a Road Trip which has blown to heart away?
Do you have any practical tips for Road Trips?