Wangaratta to Metung
339 km/211 miles, about 5 hours

Wind your way along Victoria's Great Alpine Road, from Wangaratta through the Ovens Valley to Harrietville, up and over the alpine resort of Mount Hotham, then down to the lovely coastal village of Metung on the Gippsland Lakes.

The 339-kilometre adventure along Australia's highest year-round accessible sealed road takes you right up close to Victoria's diverse landscapes. Travel through lofty mountain ranges, down plunging valleys, into lush forests, and past rolling vineyards along the way to the sparkling waterways on Gippsland's coast.

If travelling to Mt Hotham or Dinner Plain you may like to try this route in reverse. Start in Gippsland and travel north from Bairnsdale, diverting west from Omeo.

Be guaranteed an amazing journey year-round, with warm weather walking, cycling, camping and high-adrenaline adventure opportunities, during the perennially popular wintertime snow season and throughout long and lazy summer days.

Whatever the season you'll be sure of breathtaking views, unforgettable scenery and warm welcomes in the villages along the way.

  • Wangaratta to Bright

    83 kilometres, about 1 hour

    Start in Wangaratta, home to beautiful gardens, stately River Red Gums and riverside cafes. Time your visit for the annual November jazz festival, when the city really kicks up its heels.

    Making mouth-watering memories

    This northern leg of the Great Alpine Road is characterised not only by spectacular scenery and crisp mountain air, but also by fine wine and local valley produce.

    At Milawa, call in at the famed Brown Brothers Epicurean Centre and Cellar Door, and sample your way through Milawa Cheese Factory.

    Detour to the village of Beechworth, built on 19th-century gold rush wealth. Explore the historic honey granite buildings, including the courthouse where the final trial of iconic bushranger Ned Kelly commenced. Get a taste of Beechworth's booming food and wine scene: try for a reservation at acclaimed Provenance or pop in for pizza and a beer at Bridge Road Brewers.

    Make a stop at picturesque Myrtleford via the stunning avenue of golden poplars lining the town entrance. Grab gourmet fare and top-notch coffee at the town’s range of cafes.

    Alternatively, break your journey with a pub meal at the Ovens Hotel – replenishing travellers since 1854.

    Alpine adventuring

    Take time to explore Mount Buffalo National Park and its unique rock formations. Stretch your legs along gentle walking tracks to waterfalls, massive granite formations and lookouts with views of the Australian Alps, or head out on horseback or two wheels. Look to local tour companies for guided adventures. Try caving or abseiling down the Cathedral Peak, followed by a cooling dip in Lake Catani. The summit of Mount Buffalo is also popular for tobogganing and cross-country or downhill skiing in winter.

    This leg ends at Bright, a beautiful town on the Ovens River, filled with grand deciduous trees that are simply stunning in autumn. Mark the first stage of your drive with a casual beer and bite at the Bright Brewery or Tomahawks, or settle in for a memorable meal and a gin flight at Reed & Co. craft distillery and bar-restaurant.

    Side trips

    Golden Heritage Drive
    From Wangaratta, take the B500 to Tarrawingee, the C315 to Beechworth and Wooragee, the C352 to Yackandandah, then the C527 to Myrtleford. On your way you'll take in Tarrawingee's historic buildings, including St Peter's church, the Plough Inn and Carinya House, and Beechworth's 30-plus beautifully preserved National Trust–classified buildings and places of significance to the legend of bushranger Ned Kelly. Walk the tree-lined streets of Yackandandah among stately Victorian architecture.

    Gourmet Food and Wine Drive
    From Wangaratta, take the C521 to Oxley and turn left to Milawa and Oxley at the heart of the famed Milawa Gourmet Region, where you can taste fine wines at cellar doors, including the renowned Mediterranean styles of the nearby King Valley. Sample outstanding local produce, experience the hospitality of award-winning country hotels and fine dining restaurants, and pull over at farm gates to fill your Esky with seasonal bounty. Drop into Oxley, a couple of k’s down the road to make a lunchtime stop at Sam Miranda cellar door and restaurant. Loop back to Wangaratta or on to Myrtleford and beyond.

    Mount Buffalo Drive
    At Porepunkah take the C535 to Mount Buffalo and the top of Mount Buffalo Gorge for fantastic views of the High Country and the Alps, and numerous walking tracks for majestic vistas. In winter, hire cross-country or downhill skis to get the adrenaline pumping, and in summer choose from the area's famous adventure activities such as micro lighting, paragliding and hang gliding.

  • Bright to Omeo

    110 kilometres/68 miles, about 2 hours

    The second leg of the Great Alpine Road gives the route its name, travelling from leafy Bright into the High Country's breathtaking alpine area and onwards to the historic Gippsland town of Omeo.

    Upwards to the Alps

    Drag yourself away from the cafes and colours of Bright to ascend along the Great Alpine Road through to charming Harrietville. Along with ample accommodation options and cosy cafes and pubs, Harrietville makes the perfect base for some of the best alpine walking of the region. The landscape changes from alpine ash to snow gum forest and heathland, as you climb to Mt Hotham.

    As Victoria's highest Alpine village, Mt Hotham offers 245 hectares of ski area, including a wide selection of downhill and cross-country trails for beginners as well as experienced skiers and snowboarders.

    Take advantage of mild summer temperatures on Mount Hotham by trekking along fields of wildflowers. Enjoy spectacular views from Danny's Lookout to the summit of Mount Feathertop, over the Alpine National Park and as far as Falls Creek and Mount Buffalo on a clear day. You can then follow the Razorback Trail, which takes you out along the exposed ridge, to the summit of Mount Feathertop, the second-highest mountain in the state.

    Nestle in among the snowgums and the spring wildflowers is the architecturally designed village of Dinner Plain, just 10 kilometres south of Mount Hotham. The well-marked trails for walkers and mountain bikers in summer are too fantastic for cross country skiers in winter. Dinner Plain is a popular centre for horseback trail rides, with local tour operators offering year-round treks through the High Country.

    What goes up must come down

    After conquering the alpine areas it's time to descend to the old gold town of Omeo, as the landscape changes from alpine beauty to lush grazing fields. With vistas out over the Snowy Mountains and gorgeous goldrush-era buildings, Omeo will quickly make an impression.

    Side trips

    Great Alpine Discovery Drive
    An alternative route from Bright follows the C536 to Tawonga Gap, the C531 to Mt Beauty, Bogong, Falls Creek and across the Bogong High Plains. Then join the C543 to Anglers Rest and Omeo. This road (closed in winter) takes you past historic cattlemen's huts and breathtaking views across the High Country, before connecting with the Omeo Highway to wind past the notable Blue Duck Inn at Anglers Rest and descend into Omeo.

    Bogong Alpine Way
    For superb scenery, veer off onto the 230-kilometre Bogong Alpine Way, on the Bogong High Plains Road, which loops through Bright, Mount Beauty, Bogong, Falls Creek, heads over Dinner Plain and Mount Hotham and returns to Bright.

  • Omeo to Metung

    120 km/75 miles, about 1 hour and 40 minutes

    Depart Omeo, and follow the Great Alpine Road south past Bairnsdale, East Gippsland's only city, and on to Metung, starting point for exploring the spectacular Gippsland Lakes.

    Travel temptations

    First stops: Swifts Creek and Ensay, small towns with a long history of mining, grazing and timber milling and a modern-day passion for freshly baked goods, just-picked fruit, and local wines. Next is Bruthen, a rustic village overlooking the Tambo River with its very own brewery. Be tempted by a pot of refreshing ale before you explore the township's many heritage buildings.

    Bustling Bairnsdale

    Your last stop before Metung and the seemingly endless expanses of the Gippsland Lakes is Bairnsdale, on the banks of the Mitchell River and originally settled as an inland port. Bairnsdale is now a major gateway to Victoria's east, with everything you need and all the cafes and restaurants to sustain you for some time.

    Pay a visit to St Mary's Roman Catholic Church, the interior of which was painted in the 1930s by Francesco Floreani. Attend an annual musical and sporting event or explore the Mitchell River silt jetties that extend 8 kilometres into nearby Lake King. Whet your appetite at local cafes and restaurants, to ready yourself for exploration of the Gippsland Lakes.

    Life on the Lakes

    With five main lakes, fed by the waters of four major rivers, and fringed by the Ninety Mile Beach, the Gippsland Lakes system is the biggest expanse of inland waterways in the southern hemisphere. Over 400 square kilometres of lakes, rivers and lagoons make this region an ideal location for all forms of water-based fun, sport and exceptional fishing.

    Carry on to Metung, where the Great Alpine Road touring route ends. Life assumes a relaxed pace in this picture-book village, on the shores of Bancroft Bay and Lake King. Follow your nose to the harbourside restaurants to indulge in quality local seafood and wine, spend a day floating around in a boat and stroll along the water's edge at sunset, cooking up your next adventure.

    Side trips

    Buchan Caves Reserve
    From Bruthen take the C620 for a scenic 20 minute drive to Buchan. Just past the town centre lies the picturesque gateway to the Buchan Caves Reserve where you can enjoy camping, bushwalking and wildlife spotting. Inside the ancient caves lies a honeycomb of spectacular limestone formations. Guided tours take you for an easy walk through these ancient caverns, exploring beautiful calcite-rimmed pools. On a hot day, take the plunge in the Buchan Caves Reserve pool, which is spring fed from an underground stream, providing the pool with the purest water imaginable.

    Wine and Gold Drive
    An alternative route from Omeo to Bairnsdale is through Cassillis, a small town that was once a thriving mining community. Explore the picturesque valley on foot and see relics of the gold-mining era, including the unmissable Oriental Claims walking trails, the Cassilis Cemetery and the old goldmine. Call into a local winery and sample some of the area's fruit and berry wines and mead, and snack on renowned baked goods in the township of Swifts Creek.

    Gippsland Lakes Drive
    Departing Bruthen, take the C620 to Nowa Nowa and the A1 to Lakes Entrance to watch the daily catch being unloaded or to cast a line yourself. Continue along the A1 and Nungurner Road to Metung and stop for a stroll along lakeshore. Then take the C606 to Swan Reach, the A1 to Bairnsdale and the C604 to Paynesville, a great place to base yourself to explore the Gippsland Lakes and walk Ninety Mile Beach.

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