It was a beautiful yet familiar view, heading east from Wangaratta towards the Victorian Alps. Though we’ve done this drive many times before, it is always beautiful and something to look forward to. Fresh white snow covered peaks in the winter, beautiful orange coloured landscapes in the autumn, fresh soft green leaves in the spring and majestic mountains in the summer!
Our first destination was Beechworth, nestled on the edge of the range. It is a pretty little historic town. There are two main attractions in Beechworth that readers may have heard of – the Beechworth Bakery is very well known, and Beechworth Honey is a big brand that can be bought in many supermarkets. There is also a lolly shop with all sorts of lollies lining the walls; from floor to ceiling!
Beechworth Honey have a shop in town where you can sample and buy their many different flavours/sources of honey. They also screen a series of educational videos where you learn about honey production. I didn’t realise how active beekeepers must be in the overall honey production process. It isn’t a matter of just setting up some hives and leaving them there for the spring/summer. The hives are regularly moved around to where the flowers are (moving must be done during the night), and are constantly monitored and tapped for honey when ready. Almond trees are the first to flower after winter, but the range of plant types they move the hives to is huge – all sorts of native and non-native plants, legumes and trees.
In the image above, the jars of honey are grouped according to the type of honey (source of the honey). There are over 20 different flavours/sources, and they each have there own specific colour, flavour etc. They have just opened up a second building in town, the Beechworth Honey Discovery centre. Here you can also learn about honey and honey production, but the main feature is the cafe with a ‘Bee Menu’ of food specifically selected to showcase honey.
Beechworth Bakery is one of the best and well known bakeries in Australia. When we’ve been travelling around different parts of Aus, the many bakeries we’ve visited are invariably compared to Beechworths! On visiting again, the range of product/food is less than what I’d remembered it to be (funny how you build these things up in your mind…) but nonetheless still one of the biggest we’ve seen. More importantly, the stuff they cook still tastes great!
The lolly shop also got a good working over, with the boys being given some Christmas money early – for the purpose of buying some lollies now!
With Daniel being disappointed several days earlier about not being able to pick cherries at Silvan, we decided we visit Stanley which is nearby to Beechworth. Here we found a MUCH better deal – no cost per person, and $6/kg for the product picked. He had good fun, and of course it meant more cherries to eat…. Also picked up some blackberries out that way for a good price – even I like them!
Next we headed up the beautiful Ovens Valley, which takes you along the Ovens River through towns such as Myrtleford and Bright, eventually leading up the mountainside to Mt Hotham. Of course all the ski and chain hire shops that we recognised, and sometimes occasioned in the past, are all closed at the moment. The town of Bright is most vividly remembered for its beautiful autumn colours, but it is still pretty at other times of the year.
Stopping at the turn-off to Mt Buffalo (just before Bright), clouds obscured the view to the highest points of the mountain. It brought back so many good memories though. Mt Buffalo is the closest ski field to Milawa (where we lived), so we went there most often (particularly early on). It is only a tiny field with just a few ski lifts, and not the best/deepest snow, but was cheap and good for learning on. It was also the site of several 4wd adventures, both in the snow, and in summer thanks to tracks around the back of the mountain.
We spent Sunday night close to the Ovens River, just a little out of Bright. Monday morning we stopped by a trout and salmon farm, and fed the fish. With all the rain/storms the water was rather brown, but you could still see them well when they jumped from the water!
As you travel further south it is a fairly imposing view of the mountains ahead that confronts you – made to look particularly ominous by the dark clouds engulfing the high points. It’s a long twisty slow drive up the sides of the hill, but still a lot quicker and easier than it is in the middle of winter! Sure enough the highest points were complete white-outs, with visibility of only around 20m.
Daniel was all excited driving into Mt Hotham with the grassy ski fields and chair lifts. Looks like we’ll have to take them to the snow one day! Fortunately the clouds were on the move (as they always are up here), so we got some views from Mt Hotham at different times.
Falls Creek ended up being our preferred resort for downhill skiing, but we went through Mt Hotham several times to get to Dinner Plains on the other side. Dinner Plains itself is more for cross country skiing than downhill (but does have one lift/slope), and also acts as a base for some skiing at Hotham. It was in one of the lovely chalet’s at Dinner Plains that Jonathan first stood unaided! (His first steps unaided were at Mt Buffalo – he must be a snow boy!)
Dinner Plains is as far as we’d previously been, so it was all new terrain for us from here on (no more flashback photos!). The Omeo Hwy heading south is a much faster straighter road than the twisty mountainside one coming up the northern side. It still has beautiful mountain views though!
We spent Tues night at a lookout a little north of Omeo. If it weren’t for the clouds and mist we would have had beautiful views all the way to Mt Kosciuszko! Omeo is a nice little country town nestled part way down the mountain side. We tossed up travelling from Omeo straight up to the Alps in NSW, Mt Kosiosco in particular, but as the road included 63km of wet hilly narrow dirt we decided against it in the end.
Swifts Creek was the final stop in our trip down the southern side of the Alpine area. Here we had a look at the barbed wire canoe made by Grandad Ted’s brother John. The lady there didn’t know anything about it Ted (must be a more recent employee), and the Gallery was closed so didn’t get to see his cartridge sculpture.
The final stretch of The Great Alpine Road, to Bairnsdale, was the narrowest and twistiest part of the whole descent. Here the road follows the Tambo river quite closely, and results in some spectacular views. The nicest parts were when the steep mountain sides went right to the river, but the road was always narrow on these stretches with no where to stop and take photos….
Arrival in Bairnsdale brought our travels over the Victorian Alps to an end. For this holiday anyway! 😉 We love this area – it’s so different between the seasons, yet still so beautiful in all of them.