The Great Alpine Road is an iconic drive. Not only is it Australia’s highest accessible sealed road, but it also offers views of now gums, alpine ash trees, button grass plains, and historic townships. We’ve outlined this iconic drive and included our favourite stops and favourite detours. Because what’s a road trip without detours?
Day 1: Melbourne
Don’t get me wrong, by no means do I think that you can even begin to see Melbourne in only 1 day. Here are a few things that you must do while you are visiting this magnificent city.
First stop, coffee, and not drive through coffee. Australians love their coffee, but not just any coffee, great coffee. Dare I say, Australians are coffee snobs. What does this mean to you? It means that there are tons of great little coffee shops on every corner. Australian baristas are coveted around the world. So take a few moments and enjoy.
Now with coffee in hand, wander through the streets and check out the street art that Melbourne is known for. The city of Melbourne has designated an area and let the local street artists go wild, giving the area a great urban vibe. You will also find many lanes and alleys tucked away with all kinds of interesting shops and restaurants. Maps are available for both the lanes and the graffiti.
The Old Melbourne Gaol is a museum in downtown Melbourne that operated as a prison from 1842 to 1929. This prison executed many men during the time it was open. The prison was used to house many homeless and mentally ill people and had conditions that were deplorable by today’s standards. The museum is said to be haunted. Ghost tours are offered, recounting stories by staff and visitors who were “visited” there.
Day 2: Melbourne to Wangaratta
Just a 2.5-hour drive North on the Hume Highway, get from the big city to where the real adventure starts. Wangaratta is known for its history, popular jazz and blues festivals and hospitality.
Rent a bike from one of the bike rental shops in Wangaratta and hit the trail. The Murray to Mountain Rail Trail is 100 km of scenic sealed off-road bike trails, but the trip can be broken down into smaller rides. Bike through bushland, farmland, green valleys and view spectacular Australian mountain ranges. Bike along the meandering river, through orchards and vineyards and even stop at wine and craft beer houses along the way.
Spend the night at Warby Ovens National Park. There is something for everyone in this park, from the breathtaking views to the hiking, cycling and horseback riding trails. Spend some time on the water boating, canoeing or fishing. Spend the night at Wenhams Camp, a simple campground with BBQ pits and toilets.
Day 3 Detour on The Great Alpine Road
Feast in the gourmet region. Milawa Mustards is the must-stop place for any mustard lover. From hot to mild mustard and everything in between, they have it. Milawa Mustards allow the tasting of products so that you can decide what you love before you buy. They also have jams, chutney, relish, pickles, and honey. All products are made locally, so this would be a great place to buy gifts for all your friends and family back home.
Plan on spending a few hours at Brown Brothers Milawa Vineyard. Browns Brothers are 4 generations of family that have been in the wine business since 1889. Book a wine tasting at The Cellar Door, or brunch in the restaurant. Before brunch, you can book a hot air ballooning experience of a lifetime. Rise at the crack of dawn and be up in the baloon as you watch the sunrise from high in the sky above King Valley.
Day 4: Wangaratta to Beechworth
Beechworth is steeped in gold rush history. Visit the Old Beechworth Gaol and take a stroll through time as the tour guide recounts stories of the past, from daily life in the gaol to stories of the Ned Kelly gang. Beechworth Honey is another great stop especially if you are looking for gifts to take home. Learn the art of beekeeping, honey-making and the history behind Beechworth Honey. Beechworth Honey has over 50 varieties of honey along with skincare products, candles and so much more. When in Beechworth plan to spend some time walking around the townsite. You can visit the old courthouse, telegraph station, and the old graveyard. This little town is full of the wild history of the Australian outback.
Day 5 Detour: Bright
Canyon Trail in Bright is an hour from Beechworth and worth a stop to get out and take a walk through this breathtaking country. Bright began as a mining town in the 1850s, and this walk will guide you through some of the local history. You will learn of the tensions between the miners and the locals and also see the water races dug by the early miners. The trail is partly paved, for a less strenuous walk stay on the south side of the river. If you are feeling more adventurous cross over one of the suspension bridges or take the long loop over the railway bridge.
Now that we have worked up an appetite it’s time for a stop at the Bright Brewery. This family-owned brewery uses mountain water and local ingredients to create its award-winning beer. Enjoy a meal at the restaurant, try one of the charcuterie boards and make sure you save room for a macadamia chocolate brownie for dessert.
Day 6 Detour
Mount Buffalo National Park, make a full day of it if you have time. As you drive into the park you can see evidence of the recent fires, but you can also see how nature is reclaiming this area and the wildlife is returning. One of Mount Buffalo’s most popular attractions is the waterfalls with crystal clear water and granite boulders. Locals know that these waterfalls create the perfect swimming holes for hot summer days. There are lots of hiking trails for every ability, but a must-see is The Horn. Drive up the gravel road until you get to the parking lot. From there it is a 30-minute uphill walk to the highest point in Mt Buffalo National Park. This viewpoint gives you 360-degree views of the plateau and the Australian Alps.
Spend the night in your RV rental at Lake Catani Campground. This campground has everything you need for a great stay including hot showers, toilets, shared gas BBQs and picnic tables, just make sure that you bring in water for drinking.
Day 7: Beechworth to Metung, the End of The Great Alpine Road
From wildflower hikes to cross country skiing, it doesn’t matter the time of year the adventures along the way are equally as spectacular as are the winding roads alongside the Tambo River. Metung is the gateway to the Gippsland Lakes. Spend some time, hire a boat if you can, enjoy exploring the lagoons, marshes and lakes.
Day 7 Detour
Make sure to stop at the Mount Kosciuszko Lookout for a peek at Australia’s high-test peak. This is definitely a day trip as it is a 13-18km return hike up the highest peak.
The Great Alpine Road offers up extensive panoramas and at times the road is directly on the ridgeline with views extending on both sides. Keeping your eyes on the road may be difficult, so make stops as you go, pick up some snacking foods at booths along the way and enjoy the drive.
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