While Bright might offer sweeping vistas and outdoor adventures galore, the Victorian town also provides plentiful opportunities for comfort food and drink by the fireplace.
You might consider the sub-alpine valleys of Bright in North East Victoria as where only the snow-mad visit. But this verdant pocket lures visitors in each of its seasons. Naturalists chase the autumn leaves and spring flora, mountaineers enthusiastically trudge the walking tracks and cyclists take on the riding trails all year long.
In winter, it’s Bright’s access to the nearby slopes of Falls Creek and Mount Hotham that become the main attractions. But you could easily set your sights on a weekend dedicated to food and drink, dropping into the valley’s many cafes, bars and eateries for a hearty meal paired with local beers, cool-climate wines and the odd local spirit.
Similar to the nearby King Valley, tobacco was once a prosperous harvest in this area. But with the legislated ban of the 1990s, such crop was traded for nuts, apples, grapevines and berries. Australia’s main supply of hops are now grown in the region, resulting in many a good ale.
Just six kilometres from Bright is quaint Wandiligong, affectionately known as Wandi, and Porepunkah lies between Bright and Mt Buffalo, which you may hear referred to as “the sleeping buffalo”.
It’s just over a three-hour drive from Melbourne. Take the Hume, turning off at the Great Alpine Road, then wind your way through the Ovens Valley before arriving in Bright.
Welcome to Bright
Bookmark hearty meals at heaving eateries and humble pubs with fresh organic produce and artisan chocolate.
Cosy up by a fireplace and quench your post-slope thirst. Craft beer is plentiful here, and the coffee and wine is worthy too.
Marvel at this mountainous region’s immense natural beauty on heritage walks, bike trails and ski slopes.
This three-kilometre loop track follows a gorge carved naturally by the river and water races dug by early miners. Populous maple and oak trees make for a colourful entrance at Star Bridge, before shifting to native scrub in mint bush, ovens wattle, orchids and wildflowers along the track. Start at Howitt Park, just a short stroll from Bright’s main street, and head along the north bank. You can make the short loop to the first suspension bridge in about 30 minutes, or continue to the second bridge further up the river, totalling around one hour to 90 minutes. It’s mostly an easy walk, with a few hill scrambles and the option to deviate off the main track and explore intriguing rock formations by the riverbank.
Snow at Mt Buffalo
In 1898 Mt Buffalo was declared one of Victoria’s first national parks. The entire park features more than 90 kilometres of short and long walks, but in winter, you’re more likely to take to the ski trails than the on-foot ones. At Dingo Dell, there’s a ski school, toboggan slopes and ample space for frolicking about in the snow. Keen skiers can take to 10 kilometres of both groomed and un-groomed cross-country ski trails at Cresta Valley, which also has toboggan runs. When you’re all tuckered out, warm up with a coffee at Dingo Dell Cafe, open all through ski season. Snow gear can be hired in town at Bright, or you can pick up snow shoes or a toboggan on the mountain.
Clear Spot Lookout
This scenic viewpoint overlooks the picturesque town of Bright, with sweeping views to Porepunkah, Mt Buffalo, Harrietville and Wandiligong too. From Bakers Gully Road, you’ll spot a sign indicating it’s nine kilometres to Clear Spot Lookout. From here you can take Clear Spot Road all the way to the top. The road is very rocky the majority of the way, making it 4WD preferred or 2WD if you’re patient (not after wet weather though). When you arrive at a crossroads on top of the mountain, continue along Clear Spot Road (the far right track) for another kilometre or so and you’ll find the lookout. Alternatively you can crawl a short way up on two wheels, and then abandon the car when you come to an earlier crossroads, opting for the (particularly steep) hill climb along the walking trail instead. The 33-kilometre drive will take about 90 minutes to drive up and back down.
Sombrero Sunrise Cycle
This half-day bike tour takes in the scenic surrounds of the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail. You’ll commence at Bright, collecting your push or electric bike from Bright Electric Bikes before making your way to Rail Trail Cafe in Porepunkah. Here owners Lucy O’Dwyer and Jesse Rios will kickstart your late brunch with a glass of sparkling, followed by coffee and a dish from a menu shaped by the flavours of Rios’ native Mexico. Next, continue the short ride to Ringer Reef Winery for a wine tasting, before sitting back with a glass of your favourite drop and soaking up the mountainous views. Then simply take your time and enjoy your ride back to Bright. This self-guided tour operates Thursday to Sunday.
Architecture and agriculture unite in this valley, with cosy cottages and modern farmhouses set among orchards and vines. Check out even more places to stay in Bright.
Explore a white winter among beautiful mountains and valleys.
Winter is a rather magical time to visit the North East of Victoria. Catch the adrenaline buzz on the snowfields of Mt Buffalo by day, before retreating to cosy drinking dens in Bright and Wandiligong by night, where comforting food, warming liquor and fireplaces await.
Ginger Baker Wine Bar and Cafe
(03) 5755 2300
Ginger Baker Wine Bar and Cafe
Start your day with coffee at this town favourite. There’s an open fire out front to take the chill off, or brave the cold in the rear garden where leaves blanket the ground and the Ovens River gushes by in the background.
The Wandi Pub
(03) 5750 1050
The Wandi Pub
This regional pub might have some awards under its belt, but it remains humble and quaint at its core. The folk here will keep you well fed and liquored into the wee hours if you let them. Start with the house mulled cider, before moving onto the range of local beers, wines and spirits.