Australia tops the bucket list of many, and as someone who has been down under many a time, I’ve yet to tick off some of the most iconic spots like the Sydney Opera House, the trendy city of Melbourne or Uluru.
Personally, I love to get off the beaten track, and when the chance came to explore Victoria’s High Country, I jumped as high as I could.
Victoria is one of the states in Australia, home to Melbourne, but once you get out of the big city, you’re in for a real treat.
A lovely mountain town set in the foothills of the Victorian Alps, Bright is the perfect base for exploring Mt. Buffalo and the surrounding Alpine national parks.
It is also the base for visiting Mt. Hotham in winter to ski. While I have yet to visit Victoria in the snowy season, I can heartily attest to the fact that this place is just
Wineries, good foodie spots, friendly locals galore, beautiful views and epic adventures, Bright and the surrounding area really does have it all!
1. Sunset at The Horn, Mount Buffalo
It seems fitting to begin with the first of several all-time favorite places in Bright (yes, I have more than one, I’m allowed!) The Horn, at Mount Buffalo.
This spectacular lookout is what dreams are made of. With truly breathtaking views you’ll feel (quite literally ) on top of the world. While you can drive most of the way, to reach the lookout you’ll have to don your hiking boots for a short steep hike from the final picnic area to get to the top.
If you had to pick a time of day, chose sunset!
Showcasing sweeping panoramas of Mt Hotham, Mt Buller, Mount Featherton and the valleys beyond, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Europe, or even the wilds of China!
At 1,723 meters elevation (or just over 500 ft) The Horn is the highest point in the Mount Buffalo National Park and a definite ‘must do’ when you’re in the area.
As the rolling mountains disappear into the distance, you really feel like you’re on top of the world here.
2. Dip your toes at Ladies Bath Falls
There’s just something about standing under a waterfall in the heat of the day, surrounded by birdsong and native forest. Am I right?
The ultimate bathing spot, Ladies Bath Falls are practically an institution round here.
As the story goes, in the late 1940’s the trains from Melbourne would stop so the ladies on board could ‘refresh’ themselves in the falls before the final leg of the journey to Mount Buffalo. I can heartily attest that that water is, indeed, fresh. It’s freaking cold!
Set just 400 meters back from the road up Mount Buffalo, these crystal clear springs trickle over smooth granite boulders and make for a tranquil detour.
Be warned though, the water is icy! Not shown in pic: My very numb feet.
3. Get nice and cozy at the Kilnhouses
My accommodation near Bright was extraordinary. The Kilnhouses are a unique experience where contemporary luxury and design is combined with the stunning beauty of the high country landscape on a cattle farm.
And I’m not really a ‘cow’ kind of girl, usually preferring sheep farms, but after this – I think I’m converted.
I stayed in the Sorting Shed which was designed to mirror the old style of tobacco sorting sheds, with amazing views of the farms and mountains around it.
Let me ask you something. When I say ‘Australia’ you picture beaches and kangaroos right? Me too. Well, I used to.
Now, when I think of Australia, my mind often wanders back to The Kilnhouses.
Rolling green fields as far as the eye can see, edged with gumtree forests and snowy mountain peaks. Morning mists, and the sounds of a working farm right outside my seriously luxurious room. Can I hide here forever?
4. Be welcomed by the friendly locals
Down to earth, generous and some of the most welcoming people I’ve ever met, the locals in Bright are a huge part of what what make this place so special. From the baristas who made my daily coffees to the people I met on the trails, I left Bright with such a sense of joy for my fellow humans.
Here I felt safe and happy.
Which is actually saying a lot considering I’m the biggest introvert out there.
5. Tuck in for a big feed at the Wandi pub
Now getting to one of the more important points – the food. Which, by the way, was exceptional. Topping my list is the Wandi Pub.
Yes, guys, a pub.
The perfect mix between down-to-earth watering hole and inner city gastro-chic, the Wandi delivers in every regard. The portions are big, the garden is delightful and the decor is en pointe (although seriously, what do I know about pub decor?)
I don’t know what I was expecting when I parked outside the Wandi pub, and I could see heaps of local utes and farm vehicles. Expecting a rural farm kind of pub like we have in New Zealand, you know, with antlers on the wall, a big pool table and a lot of men in plaid and short shorts.
I wasn’t disappointed, except I wasn’t prepared for the incredible beer on tap and the delicious and fresh menu inspired by owner’s Tim and Paddy’s travels.
If I could have ordered everything on the menu, I would. However, I’m unashamedly all about ordering food that looks good on camera (not a curry then) and I went with the Zaartar cauliflower and omg guys it was amazing.
6. Go for a wander at sunrise at the Mount Beauty Gorge Walk
If you’re after an easy hike that really delivers on epic terrain – this one’s for you. Roughly six kilometers of sheer granite cliffs, cool green canopy and clear waters, the Mount Beauty Gorge Walk takes you through the heart of a natural canyon.
Starting out you’ll traverse the Kiewa River via swingbridge, before the track descends into the belly of the gorge. Be sure to pack a pair of shoes you don’t mind get wet for wading – there are several river crossings on this hike.
There’s also a fair bit of boulder hopping! And also it’s Australia, so snakes!
As you continue on, the sun is filtered through the trees, creating the most beautiful light. I’ve been on a lot of hikes, but I was really struck by how magical this place felt.
The further you go, the sides gradually get steeper, and you’ll come across a series of natural pools, perfect for taking a dip along the way! I recommend taking a picnic to enjoy on the rocks post-swim – Everything tastes better with the sun on your face!
7. Enjoy all the colors
If there was ever a town to embody the essence of landscape diversity, it would be Bright. As happy as its name suggests, I can’t help but make my number seven point all about the color palette.
The soft pastels of dawn give way to a vibrant orange sunrise, which transforms the landscape into a patchwork of greens and browns.
The constant dust in the air mean that during sunset, the horizon is painted every shade of purple and yellow.
Everything is sharp here, bolder and brighter, pun intended.
The vineyards, mountains, red dirt roads, bare rock and lush undergrowth all meld seamlessly, creating a truly wonderful snapshot of Australia at its finest.
It’s also not unlike my hometown of Wanaka, so possibly that explains my affinity with the land.
I know that it’s probably glorious come autumn when the leaves begin to change.
8. Take in a sunrise at Tawonga Gap
Ok, this one was a happy coincidence I stumbled upon while driving one day and knew it’d be a great spot for sunrise.
Halfway between the towns of Mt Beauty and Bright, on the Tawonga Gap Road is a secluded little lookout with the most sensational views over the surrounding mountains.
It’s extra special because most of the drive you’re shrouded in forest, so when you reach this tiny clearing it makes the panorama seem all the more remarkable.
Native bush turns to lush farmland, turns to mountains and endless skies. I managed to catch the sun as it first appeared, but whichever time of day you choose, the Tawonga Gap is an ideal spot to stretch your legs and get a dose of vitamin N. Plug in into maps on your phone and you’ll find it.
9. Explore as much of Buffalo National Park as you can!
A natural paradise of walking tracks, waterfalls, wildflowers and wildlife – Mount Buffalo National Park is another essential addition to the ‘must see’ list.
Regardless of your fitness levels, this vast park has something for every hiker.
Tracks range from short 45 minute strolls to steeper six hour treks. Interesting granite formations dominate the craggy peaks, and its endless gum forests provide shelter for the wildlife. If you’re lucky you may spot a kangaroo or two, wallabies, possums and variety of native birds and wombats. Yes, I said wombats.
I repeat, WOMBATS.
Contained within the park is an old chalet, built in 1910. Surrounded by beautiful gardens it has sweeping views of the landscape and adds a touch of charm.
Camping is allowed, and there are a range of campsites both with basic facilities and others more remote. Oh, and there’s a lake! In the warmer months you can swim or kayak – or simply just relax with book on the water’s edge.
From wombats to wineries, mountains to waterfalls, Bright is a real gem and definitely worth checking out on your next trip to Australia. You won’t regret it.
Have you ever been to Victoria or heard of Bright? Is this the kind of place that appeals? Have anything else to add? Spill!
The Feast High Country Festival coming up from May 3rd to May 19th, 2019 and is an amazing time to explore, eat and drink around the Victoria High Country