Explore


Exploring Victoria’s High Country

28 April 2022

From pristine peaks and vibrant villages to award-winning wines and produce, the long and winding roads of Victoria’s alpine region have something to satisfy all the senses.

Explore


Exploring Victoria’s High Country

28 April 2022

From pristine peaks and vibrant villages to award-winning wines and produce, the long and winding roads of Victoria’s alpine region have something to satisfy all the senses.

Mercedes-Benz GLE in Victoria’s High Country

We headed out in the Mercedes-Benz GLE and discovered there’s a lot to love about Victoria’s High Country. Image: JR Ross.

One of the many great things about Melbourne is its proximity to a diverse range of regional gems to explore. Take Victoria’s High Country, just three hours’ drive north-east of the capital. This is truly a destination for all seasons and all tastes – from the action-packed winter snowfields and exhilarating hikes to its rich history, delicious local produce and fine wines. A three-day trip is the perfect way to sample all the high notes, and what better vehicle to take the journey in its stride than the Mercedes-Benz GLE.

Day 1: Melbourne to Milawa and King Valley

Start the way you mean to continue, with a stress-free morning’s freeway drive of about three hours. Head north out of the city and put the GLE into cruise control once you hit the Hume Freeway, then relax and enjoy the journey to Milawa via Benalla.

Allow a leisurely couple of hours to follow the North East Victoria Silo Art Trail, a breathtaking collection of public art on a grand scale. The trail links the small towns of Goorambat, Devenish, Tungamah and St James and features towering artworks created by street artists including Adnate, Jimmy Dvate, Guido van Helten, Cam Scale and Benalla local Tim Bowtell.

Along the trail, the Winton Wetlands offers some gentle off-road action along a well-graded dirt road. The road, flanked by the silvery ghosts of spindly, desiccated trees, is a breeze for the GLE, which purrs through this almost dystopian landscape to an otherworldly soundtrack of cawing crows and ravens.

The Mercedes-Benz GLE in the Winton Wetlands.

The Winton Wetlands offers some gentle off-road action along a well-graded dirt road. Image: JR Ross.

Hungry yet? Head west to the small town of Milawa, on the cusp of King Valley. Stop for lunch and a tasting at Milawa Providore, which is also home to the cellar door of Redbank Wines. The small but perfectly formed seasonal menu showcases local produce, alongside carefully curated wine-pairing suggestions. Share a cheese and charcuterie platter, an excellent wood-fired pizza or one of the house specials. On the way out, pick up a bottle or two and some treats to enjoy back home. Milawa is a veritable larder of local produce, so make sure you stop at Milawa Cheese Co., Milawa Mustards, and The Olive Shop, and load up with some superb food and wines. At this point, you’ll be grateful for the GLE’s 630 litres of boot space, which extends to 2055L with the rear seats folded down.

If there’s time (and energy), park the car and head to the neighbouring town of Oxley on two wheels via the popular Pedal to Produce cycling route. Hire a bike in Milawa, pick up a map at one of the local stores and make the easy 10km return journey via cellar doors, farm gates and food stores. Don’t miss Brown Brothers, the district’s pioneering family-owned winery, still breaking new ground after more than 130 years.

Grazing menu at Milawa Providore

Milawa Providore’s small but perfectly formed seasonal menu showcases local produce alongside wine-pairing suggestions. Image: JR Ross.

Complete your day with a sunset picnic at elevation652, your home for the night. Set at the peak of Mt Bellevue in King Valley, it offers three different but equally luxurious self-catering accommodation options. Wonderful views beckon from sunrise to sunset, over vineyards, olive groves and rolling pastures on this working farm.

Day 2: Mount Buffalo National Park and Bright

Mount Buffalo National Park was reserved in 1898, making it one of the country’s oldest national parks. It features magnificent granite tors and cliff formations, Snow Gum forests and some 550 species of native plants. You might not notice them on your way up to the summit, though, as the steep, winding climb will keep the adrenaline flowing and your eyes on the road! Switch the GLE to Sport mode and test the mettle of the 4MATIC all-wheel drive system around those bends. Rest assured it will easily rise to the occasion. Set your alarm early and you’ll likely have the place to yourself to soak up the silence and crisp mountain air – the incredible views from the top are just as good as the drive there.

Mount Buffalo in Victoria

Mount Buffalo features magnificent granite tors and cliff formations, Snow Gum forests and some 550 species of native plants. Image: JR Ross.

An equally exhilarating descent is sure to whet the appetite, so why not pull in to the long, snaking driveway of the family-owned Ringer Reef Winery at Porepunkah for a tasting. Stay for a BYO picnic lunch on the lawn or book in for an alfresco grazing platter at a table on the landing. Views of Mount Buffalo and surrounds form the backdrop to this lovely property.

After lunch, head to Bright to explore this bustling enclave, which bursts into full glorious colour in autumn. Get active with a canyon walk along the Ovens River, or pull up a chair at Bright Brewery on the banks of the river for a tasting of its fine craft brews. The brewery is one of Bright’s bike hubs, too, so, if you’re still feeling energetic, you could take a spin along part of the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail or explore numerous mountain bike trails that wind through stunning forests just a few minutes’ ride from town.

As the sun sets, for a change of pace – and flavour – settle in for a gin-tasting or cocktail with some delicious izakaya-style bar snacks at Reed & Co Distillery, in the heart of Bright. Owners Hamish and Rachel Reed are ex-chefs and use classic and contemporary techniques to create their unique gin blends, sourcing many of the botanicals locally.

Sorting Shed accommodation in Bright

The Sorting Shed is one of three unique self-catering accommodation villas that have been converted from historic tobacco kiln houses. Image: JR Ross.

Make it an early-ish night, because you will want to make the most of your time at Sorting Shed. This spectacular two-storey retreat is one of three unique self-catering villas that have been converted from historic tobacco kiln houses. Ours takes its name from its former role as a tobacco sorting shed and is a seamless blend of contemporary styling and comfort, surrounded by grapevines and gardens brimming with olive, lemon, plum and pomegranate trees. Floor-to-ceiling views stretch to Mount Buffalo, and don’t be startled if you spot a few cattle in the foreground – this is a working Angus stud farm.

Day 3: Myrtleford and Beechworth

The historic hubs of Myrtleford and Beechworth beckon on your journey back to Melbourne; the only challenge will be deciding how to spend your final day in Victoria’s High Country.

Gapsted Wines, near Myrtleford, makes a strong case for a detour with award-winning cool-climate drops, including innovative Fiano and Saperavi varietals. Pop in for a tasting, then linger for lunch – it also won ‘Cellar Door with Best Food – Alpine Valleys’ in the 2021 Gourmet Traveller Wine awards.

Mercedes-Benz GLE in Victoria’s High Country

Leave some time to detour via the historic hubs of Myrtleford and Beechworth on your journey back to Melbourne. Image: JR Ross.

Myrtleford is a charming little town, with a host of enticing shops to explore. Its wonderful Mosaic Trail, comprising some 100 works, large and miniature, embellishing walls or hidden in tree clefts, starts in Jubilee Park and takes in the Ovens River path. A must for kids and adults alike, it’s a delightful way to slow down and revel in the simple pleasures of discovery.

Chrismont, is another multi-award-winning winery and lunch magnet, located in the little hamlet of Cheshunt. It offers a mostly Italian-inspired menu alongside a fine array of Italian wines under its La Zona label. The Larder also has a tempting line of house-made treats to load up on for the journey home – think biscotti, sweet condiments, pickles and antipasti ingredients.

Or take some time to explore Beechworth, a beautifully preserved gold-mining town. Wander the historic precinct, fossick among the perfectly preserved shopfronts, or leave the designated driver to do it for you, while you pop into Billson’s Brewery to stock up on some excellent brews. This restored venue now offers tastings, lunch with beer or house-made cordials in the Taproom or beer garden, and even a viewing deck to see how it’s all made.

On the road checklist

On the road checklist

For more information, visit travelvictoria.com.au and visitvictoria.com



Milawa Providore

Milawa, Vic

milawaprovidore.com.au

 

Milawa Cheese Co.

Milawa, Vic

milawacheese.com.au

Founded in 1988 by David and Anne Brown, whose first cheese was the now-renowned Milawa Blue. Today, it produces a range of cow’s and goat’s milk cheeses, from the classic David Brown Select Cheddar, to Ceridwen, a superb French-style soft mould style, which has been rolled in grapevine ash.

 

Milawa Mustards

Milawa, Vic

Launched in 1982, it produces a seasonal, small-batch range of flavoured mustards, along with chutneys, condiments and salad dressings.

milawamustards.com.au

 

The Olive Shop

Milawa, Vic

theoliveshop.com.au

A trove of locally grown and crafted produce, ranging from top-quality olives, oils and tapenades to a great range of picnic-friendly ingredients, including cheeses, King Valley wines and more.

 

Milawa Gourmet Ride

tourdevines.com.au

 

Brown Brothers

Milawa, Vic

brownbrothers.com.au

Open daily 9am-5pm; restaurant, Friday-Monday 9am-4pm

Since planting 10 acres of vineyards in Milawa in 1889, the Brown family has led the way in cool-climate winemaking. It now cultivates more than 30 different grape varieties in vineyards across both Victoria and Tasmania. Check out the ‘Kindergarten’, a ‘micro-winery’, where the family continues to push the envelope with new varietals.

 

Elevation 652@Mt Bellevue

Myrrhee, Vic

elevation652.com.au

 

Mount Buffalo National Park

parks.vic.gov.au

 

Ringer Reef Winery

Porepunkah, Vic

ringerreef.com.au

 

Bright Brewery

Bright, Vic

brightbrewery.com.au

 

Murray to Mountains Rail Trail

ridehighcountry.com.au

 

Reed & Co Distillery

Bright, Vic

reedandcodistillery.com

 

Sorting Shed 

Porepunkah, Vic

kilnhouse.com.au

 

Gapsted Wines

Gapsted, Vic

gapstedwines.com.au

 

Chrismont Wines

Cheshunt, Vic

chrismont.com.au

 

Billson’s Brewery

Beechworth, Vic

billsons.com.au

 

Discover the GLE SUV and book a test drive today.

By Sally Feldman