Winding through hidden valleys, through lush forests, past towering mountains and rolling fields, the Great Alpine Road is one of Australia’s most popular touring drives and is the highest year round accessible sealed road in Australia. Starting in the city of Wangaratta in Victoria’s High Country the Great Alpine Road stretches for 308 kilometres finishing just outside the lakeside town of Bairnsdale and passes some of Victoria’s most pristine and beautiful scenery on the way.
In winter sections of the road are often covered with snow and have to be cleared daily creating what can sometimes be hazardous driving conditions so be cautious if you are planning to tackle the road trip at this time of year. However, although there is a need for caution when travelling in winter, there is also the added bonus of seeing the snow covered mountains and snow gums dusted with snow.
The northern leg of the trip from Wangaratta to Bright will take you through valleys and fields abounding with local produce and vineyards. Take a side trip along the Gourmet Food and Wine Drive and sample the locally produced wines and gourmet foods including the Cheese Factory and Milawa Mustards sure to impress anyone with a love of fine food. Another worthwhile side trip is the Mt Buffalo Drive – in summer, take an easy walk to see waterfalls, granite formations and lookouts over the stunning alpine scenery and in winter explore the landscape on cross country skis.
The second leg of the Alpine Road winds down from Bright past Harrietville, the alpine village of Mount Hotham and onwards to Omeo. This section of the tour boasts fishing, hiking, horse riding and mountain biking as well as passing forests of snow gums, and in spring, fields of wildflowers. The alpine village Dinner Plain, between Mount Hotham and Omeo, has year round events including dog sled races, polo matches, bike races and the annual ‘pub to pub’ cross country race.
The last section of the road trip from the pretty country town of Omeo to the city of Bairnsdale in Victoria’s Gippsland region passes through kilometres of grazing country to the shimmering blue waters of the Gippsland lakes. The Gippsland lakes are a veritable playground for water sports enthusiasts with sailing, kayaking, jet skiing, snorkelling, swimming and almost any other water sport you can think of.
The Great Alpine Drive finishes in the town of Bairnsdale where you can stay at the Comfort Inn Mitchell on Main – recently refurbished Bairnsdale accommodation featuring a restaurant, pool and free in-house movies.