Winding through deep mountain valleys, past weaving rivers, old growth forests, historic country towns and high-mountain passes, Australia’ highest sealed road provides drivers with unprecedented access to the spectacular Victorian Highlands.
Linking the Greater Gippsland Area with the dramatic highlands and historic goldfields of Victoria’s northeast, Great Alpine Road runs between the towns of Bairnsdale and Wangaratta. Access to the road is found via the Hume (N31) and the Princes Highways (A1). Covering Australia highest driveable terrain, sections of Great Alpine Road are frequently closed due to heavy snowfall; making show chains essential in winter months.
Positioned at the junction of the Ovens and King rivers, the small town of Wangaratta perfectly captures the essence of country Victoria. Located at either the start or end of Great Alpine Road, Wangaratta provides all the necessary services and amenities required to kick-start your journey into the Victorian Highlands. With a train station, post office, large grocery store and specialised adventure and outdoor retailers, you should be able to find every thing you need.
Just 36 kilometres from the commencement of Great Alpine Drive in Wangaratta is the historic gold mining settlement of Beechworth. Settled in 1853 this gracefully aged town is steeped in Australian gold mining history. Nestled in foothills of the Australian Alps, Beechworth’s elegantly persevered main street seems to whisper memories of the past. Take a midnight stroll through its vacant streets on a cold winters evening and you will be instantly transported back to the days of Victorian gold rush. With over 30 buildings listed by the Australian National Trust, many consider Beechworth as Victoria’s best-persevered gold rush town.
Beechworth Historic Park
Only a few minutes drive from Beechworth town centre lays the impressive Beechworth Scenic Park. This picturesque historic park allows visitors to explore the areas rich gold mining history, by providing unprecedented access to town’s closest digging sites. A great way to access the park is via the 5-kilometre Gorge Road, which follows the hand carved Spring Creek Gorge to Beechworth Scenic Park. From here there is a variety of walking trails that provide access to Lake Sambell, Lake Kerferd, The Precipice and Cascades.
A charming small town situated in the northern foothills of the Mt Buffalo Range, Myrtleford is home to several establishments that offer affordable one-way or return snow chain rental. Situated on Great Alpine Road, Rays Ski shop offer a decent rental deal, allowing customers to return snow-chains further along Great Alpine Road in Omeo.
Note: If you are planning on driving between Harrietville and Omeo in winter months snow chains are mandatory.
From Myrtleford take a short detour off Great Alpine Road to the gorgeous tree lined alpine Lake Buffalo. Accessed via Buffalo River Road, Lake Buffalo is situated on the western border of the impressive Mt Buffalo National Park. A great spot for fishing, water sports, hiking, camping or relaxation, a trip to Lake Buffalo is defiantly worth the short 20-kilometre detour.
Mt Buffalo National Park
Continue along Great Alpine Road until you reach the beautifully named town of Porepunkah. From here cross the Ovens River and take the third exit at the roundabout onto Mt Buffalo Drive. This scenic 1-hour drive provides access to the alluring Mt Buffalo National Park. Bursting with an abundance of wildlife, flora and fauna the area features over 90 kilometres of walking tracks, stunning alpine scenery and jagged granite rock formations. From here you can camp in the snow gum forests of nearby Lake Catani and explore the areas striking waterfalls, alpine valleys and meadows.
Tip: Access on Mt Buffalo Drive may be limited in winter months, check the Parks Victoria site for road conditions, hiking information and safety regulations.
Tree-lined streets burst into red, orange, crimson and amber every April as the town of Bright celebrates its annual Autumn Festival. Located in the heart of the Victoria Alps, Bright is a picture postcard town. A true year round destination, Bright is popular with skiers, families, hikers, outdoorsmen and weekenders. The towns surrounding areas provide an abundant assortment of leisure and outdoor activities. Positioned on the banks of the Ovens River and surrounded by stunning mountains and an array of sensational foliage the town’s geographic location is its main draw. With great small town shopping, restaurants and cafes, a walk around Bright is a must for all drivers of the Great Alpine Road.
Ovens River Canyon Walk
This popular short walk commences close to the centre of Bright at Riverside Park under Star Bridge. The historic walk trails the picturesque Ovens River passing beautiful tree lined walkways and hand crafted crevasses and canyons, forged by early goldminers. Interpretive signs are put to use to chronicle the ever-changing history of the Ovens River and the surrounding environment. Keep an eye out for bird life, wild flowers and platypi.
An old goldmining settlement just 10 minutes from Bright, the road to Wandiligong is lined with apple orchards and surrounded by the impressive Victoria Alps. The small settlement is shrouded in natural beauty and comprises of picturesque alpine parks, historic walkways, abandoned gold diggings and Australia’s largest living Hedge Maze.
Located just 30 mins from Bright in the adjacent Bogong Valley via Tawonga Gap Road, Mt Beauty is the launching point for adventures into The Bogong High Plains and Falls Creek. The area is renowned for horseback riding, skiing, bushwalking, mountain biking, road cycling and fishing.
Bogong Horseback Adventures
There’s no better way to explore the majestic beauty of the Victorian Highlands than from horseback. So why not throw on a hat, boots, oilskin and saddle up, to take a ride with Bogong Horseback Adventures. A family owned and operated business; Bogong Horseback Adventures present a wide range of Horseback Adventures, that cater to beginners, intermediate and advanced riders. Specialising in multi-day pack trip expeditions, short trails rides and horsemanship advancement programs, Bogong Horseback Adventure are sure to provide an unforgettable experience.
Falls Creek is Victoria’s premier ski-in-ski-out winter destination. Celebrated for diverse freestyle terrain, Falls Creek Ski Resort features 14 lifts providing access to 450 hectares of skiable terrain. At the base of the mountain is Falls Creek Village, which compromises of lodgings, restaurants, shops, bars and nightclubs. The ski season runs from June to October, conditions depending. In summer months the resort transforms into a state of the art mountain bike destination.
Note: Entry to Falls Creek Resort costs $30 per vehicle; snow chains are required for non- 4WD vehicle in winter months.
Road to Hotham Pass
The most challenging and dramatic stretch of Great Alpine Road begins just after Harrietville. From here the road ascends at an impressive incline winding and climbing to the summit at Hotham Pass. This is the highest mountain pass on the entire Great Alpine Road and it does not disappoint. This passage hovers over the valley, passing strikingly gloomy sections of recently burnt forests as soaring eucalypts tower over both the road and rugged valley below. Nearing the summit the landscape narrows and as one side of the road grasps the mountain, the other fades away to reveal a surprising cliff. This section of road is unlike any other road in Australia and while providing dramatic views; it is not for the faint hearted. Approaching the summit the road steadies, before reaching Hotham Pass, the highest sealed section of road in Australia.
From Hotham Pass Great Alpine Road winds and curves down Mt Hotham, passing Dinner Plain and high mountain pastures before reaching Omeo. This small mountain town offers a range of services including snow chain rental. It also acts as a drop off point for one-way winter drivers who rented chains in either Harrietville or Myrtleford.
Tambo River Valley
This section of road follows Swifts Creek and Tambo River through remote mountain gorges and valleys before beginning its descent to the coast and terminating just prior to Bairnsdale. The highlight of this section is driving alongside the tranquil waters of the Tambo River surrounded either side by state forest. The quiet section of road is littered with fishing spots and swimming holes, making it the perfect place to stop, relax and take in the peaceful surroundings.
The gateway to the East Gippsland Area, Bairnsdale is a charming seaside city on the Princes Highway. With all the major amenities and services expected from a town of its size, Bairnsdale much like Wangaratta is a perfect start or finish to your Great Alpine Road adventure.
Explore the isolated Victorian Coast on Princes Highway to the north. Head South West on the South Gippsland Highway to access the sensational wilderness of the Gippsland Lakes and Wilsons Promontory.
Head north to the border town of Albury-Wodonga and take the Murray Valley Highway to Australia’s highest peak Mt Kosciuszko in Thredbo New South Wales. Or drive 14 kilometres south on the Hume Highway to the town of Glenrowan, where the notorious bushranger Ned Kelly made his final stand.