Overview

The Great Alpine Road

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

Wind your way along Victoria's Great Alpine Road, from Wangaratta in the north-east across to Metung on the jaw-droppingly beautiful Gippsland Lakes.

The 339-kilometre adventure along Australia's highest year-round accessible sealed road leads you through diverse landscapes, from lofty mountain ranges, down plunging valleys, into lush forests, and past rolling vineyards to sparkling coastal waterways.

Dine on fresh local produce and award-winning cool climate wines, or catch your own lunch in a mountain stream or lake as you go.

Make the journey year-round, whether you prefer warm weather walking, cycling and camping or high-adrenaline adventure opportunities and perennially popular wintertime snow action. Whatever the season, breathtaking views, unforgettable scenery and warm welcomes in the villages are guaranteed.

Travelling this route in reverse can take you from Gippsland north to Bairnsdale, then diverting west from Omeo to Mt Hotham or Dinner Plain.

  • Wangaratta to Bright

    76 km/47 miles, about 1 hour

    Start in Wangaratta, home to beautiful gardens and period homes. 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. Meet the bold young winemakers at historic Rutherglen, famous for its muscats and fortifieds.

    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.

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

    Alpine adventuring

    Travel onwards to Mount Buffalo National Park and its unique rock formations. Stretch your legs on a gentle walk to waterfalls, granite formations and lookouts with views of the Australian Alps, or head out on horseback or two wheels. Rock climbers will be in their element at the summit of Mount Buffalo, also popular for 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 memorable meal at Simone's, one of Victoria's most celebrated restaurants.

    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 stock up on seasonal bounty. 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 km/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

    Farewell the cafes and colours of Bright to ascend through charming Harrietville to Mount Hotham, Victoria's highest alpine village. Watch the landscape change from alpine ash to snow gum forest and heathland as you climb.

    In winter, test your snow skills on 245 hectares of ski area, including downhill and cross-country trails for beginners as well as experienced skiers and snowboarders.

    When mild temperatures come to Mount Hotham, trek along fields of spring wildflowers, or go horse riding and fishing. On a clear day, take in 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. Following the Razorback Trail will take you out along the exposed ridge, to the summit of Mount Feathertop, Victoria's second-highest mountain.

    Continue to architecturally sensitive Dinner plain, nestled in among the snow gums and wildflowers 10 kilometres south of Mount Hotham. It's a popular centre for horseback trail rides, with local tour operators running year-round treks through the High Country, as well as cross-country skiing in winter.

    What goes up must come down

    After conquering alpine heights, it's time to descend to Omeo, once the site of one of Victoria's richest goldfields, now a service centre for cattle, sheep and timber industries. Lush grazing fields and vistas out to the Snowy Mountains will make a lasting impression, as will the gold-rush-era buildings.

    Side trips

    Great Alpine Discovery Drive
    An alternative route turns off the main route at Bright and follows the C536 to Tawonga Gap, the C531 to Mt Beauty, Bogong, Falls Creek and across the Bogong High Plains. Then joins 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

    153 km/95 miles, about 2 hours

    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 big history of mining, grazing and timber milling, and a modern-day passion for freshly baked goods, just-picked fruit, and local wines. Next up is Bruthen, a rustic village overlooking the Tambo River. Try a refreshing ale at the local brewery before exploring the town's immaculate heritage buildings.

    Bustling Bairnsdale

    Your last stop before the seemingly endless expanse of the Gippsland Lakes is Bairnsdale. Set on the banks of the Mitchell River, this inland port settlement is now a major gateway to Victoria's east.

    Pay a visit to St Mary's Roman Catholic Church, noting the interior, painted in the 1930s by Francesco Floreani. While in town, look out for annual musical and sporting events, or explore the Mitchell River silt jetties that extend 8 kilometres into nearby Lake King. Fuel up for upcoming lake exploration at local cafes and restaurants.

    Life on the Lakes

    You’re on the doorstep of the Gippsland Lakes system, the biggest expanse of inland waterways in the Southern Hemisphere, consisting of five main lakes, fed by the waters of four major rivers, and fringed by the Ninety Mile Beach. With more than 400 square kilometres of lakes, rivers and lagoons, this region is an ideal location for all forms of water-based fun, sport and exceptional fishing.

    Carry on to Metung, a picture-book village on the shores of Bancroft Bay and Lake King, where the Great Alpine Road touring route ends. Life assumes a relaxed pace here. Follow your nose to harbourside restaurants for quality seafood and wine; spend a day floating around in a boat; and stroll 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, exploring the caverns and calcite-rimmed pools. On a hot day, take the plunge in the Buchan Caves Reserve pool, spring-fed from an underground stream with the purest water imaginable.

    Wine and Gold Drive
    An alternative route from Omeo to Bairnsdale runs through Cassillis, a small town that was once a thriving mining community. Explore the pretty 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 to sample the area’s fruit and berry wines and mead, and snack on top-notch baked goods in the town 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 perfect base to explore the Gippsland Lakes and walk Ninety Mile Beach.