And for this week’s road trip: two days in High Country Victoria! I can’t believe I only have 7 weeks left in Australia. It’s always the same when you have a big trip looming and at that point the end isn’t even comprehensible. Then, hold on, what’s that on the horizon? Oh gawd. Reality, and my return airfare. So despite the cooling climate and dark evenings it’s full steam ahead with exploring every corner of Victoria and Melbourne. This 48 hours involved a little too much driving for my liking however the scenery in High Country Victoria is gorgeous. I felt particularly lucky to witness the early autumnal red and golden leaves, that I realised you don’t get in more tropical Sydney. Strangely it was like a little taste of home in Australia’s Alps.
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3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
CARTERS MILL CAMPGROUND | we had THE best time at this free camp spot, just past Mirimbah on the road from Mansfield. As it’s now Autumn in Victoria I wasn’t hugely thrilled by the idea of roughing it in our cheap K-Mart tent but instead this proved to be the weekend highlight! Carters Mill has a basic toilet (no water) and a fire pit, which our neighbours kept lit for a good few hours in the evening. It was brilliant sat listening to tales from a whole bunch of characters around the camp fire: an older English and Aussie couple, two teachers from NSW, a brother and sister from South Australia, and then a group of year 12 boys and their teachers on a mountain bike trip. Not true isolation but the perfect number so I wasn’t petrified!
Also check out: the tourist info centre recommended other free spots along the Howqua River in High Country Victoria, also reached from turning off near Mirimbah.
POWERS LOOKOUT | wow, what a view. Harry Power was a highway robber and bushman with a bit of a conscience, captured at his hideout in 1870. He used this look-out to scope the valley below and spot coppers on his tail. Definitely worth the small detour from the main Mansfield-Whitfield road.
KINGS VALLEY | we hadn’t left time to stop off at the wineries of Kings Valley, supposedly known for its Italian varietals, however the drive was pretty spectacular. Around midday we set off from Mansfield in the direction of Whitfield, which takes about an hour. You can enjoy rolling countryside and gentle hills covered in grazing cows and sheep, absent-mindedly climbing higher and higher before suddenly there’s a pretty spectacular drop down in to the Kings Valley itself. No pics sorry!
Also check out: the small village of Milawa is known for its gourmet produce shops selling olives, mustards, cheeses and marinades (but everything shuts by 4pm or 5pm).
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
JAMIESON | there is honestly nothing to do in this teeny village, but it’s quite charming and has a lot of history. We stopped for (a pretty grim) lunch in the General Store and had a wander around. Jamieson was established as a supply town for gold miners in the 1850s and you can see the site of the Jamieson Chronicle that printed WANTED signs for local outlaw Ned Kelly and his gang.
Also check out: the Jamieson Brewery has a great reputation, but was shut when we visited on a Tuesday (open Thursday to Sunday only at this time of year).
PARADISE FALLS | I’m popping this here because the pictures of the waterfalls in full flow looked pretty cool. Needless to say it’s been a very dry summer in High Country Victoria and not even a trickle made it over the edge on this trip. Should have paid attention to someone’s helpful advice at the top of the path…..
MANSFIELD | is apparently the gateway to snow-fun on Mount Buller during the winter months, and just your ordinary Aussie country town in Autumn. There’s plenty of outdoorsy activities if that’s your vibe (think horse riding, mountain biking, kayaking) but we just grabbed lunch at the Witches Brew cafe and watched the world go by.
3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR:
CRAIG’S HUT | I feel pretty controversial popping this amazing destination here, however it just isn’t quite worth the almost three-hour round trip on a poor condition dirt track. The total distance is probably no more than 80km, starting and ending at Carters Mill campground – but the drive is painful. This is the cabin featured in the film The Man from Snowy River, which I’d never actually heard of! Probably best to reserve this epic slog for the mega movie buffs. That said, the panoramic views from the top are breath-taking. What a conundrum.
EILDON | I was quite disappointed with Eildon, our first stop out of Melbourne. The guide-book waxed lyrical about being a brilliant place for fishing and houseboat holidays, even recommending to stay a couple of nights. I don’t know why. I didn’t see a single houseboat except rusty ones in the repair yard. The dam was equally unremarkable (although with a cool James Bond-esque water tower) and the southern road around the lake to Jamieson was tedious and windy, with little variation in the admittedly pretty scenery.
KILOMETRES | on that note: watch the mileage dial in High Country Victoria! As so often happens in Australia, it is very easy to clock up some pretty serious distance and turn a short break in to endless driving for Des. In my opinion, the Hume Highway provides the speediest access to the most interesting parts of High Country Victoria, and if I was to do this trip again I’d bomb it straight up to Wangaratta, checking out Beechworth and Bright as well as my listed top spots, before returning on the freeway again.
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
MOUNT BULLER | after the three-hour trip to see Craig’s blimmin’ hut, we felt slightly frustrated that we hadn’t just driven the tarmac road an easy 14km up to the ski resort of Mount Buller, at elevation 1805m. The resort is visible from Mirimbah and I expect the views are phenomenal across High Country Victoria.
AND KNOW THIS: Black Caviar – world-famous retired racehorse and undefeated 25 times – was born on 18 August 2006 at Gilgai Farm in Nagambie, Victoria. She has a life-size bronze statue at the same location in her honour.