Summer is the new winter in Australia’s highest mountains as ski resorts turn into hiking hubs and black diamond runs become golden-tinged picnic spots. Hike to historic huts, sleep in a tree tent slung between snow gums, take a gourmet cheese and wine masterclass, or just relax with fellow travellers in a casual pub with a mind-bending vista.
However you want to unwind, Mount Hotham can provide the backdrop – here are our top five picks for a summer getaway in the mountains.
Mount Hotham has hikes for beginners through to experts. The seven-kilometre hike to the summit of Mount Loch falls somewhere in the middle: challenging but achievable for anyone of reasonable fitness. Park at Mount Loch car park (not far from Mount Hotham village) and follow the vehicle track past the top station of the Heavenly Valley chairlift. The track steepens as it climbs towards striking basalt columns near the summit, but it’s easy to follow (take care in misty conditions though). The summit is marked with a huge cairn (pile of rocks), and the views are right across to Mount Feathertop and the Bogong High Plains. Come back the same way or do a little off-piste exploring around the winter ski runs.
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Alpine Nature Experience is one of those places people can’t help telling everyone about. Nestled among the snow gums just a few hundred metres from the Great Alpine Road is the hidden eco village – base camp for a range of nature-based activities that combine unique glamping options with gourmet local produce and immersion in the High Country wilderness.
A huge Nordic style tipi lit by a raging wood fire is the centrepiece of the village and hosts communal meals, including Saturday pizza nights and cheese and wine masterclasses. Spend the night at the village in either comfy tree tents (it’s like sleeping suspended in a cloud), or in brand new honeycomb shaped “hypedomes” with a clear ceiling, plush bed and a personal fireplace.
Sustainability is the guiding ethos here; the eco village is fully off-grid and light pollution kept to a minimum – all the better for seeing the stars come out.
Known affectionately as the Genny, Mount Hotham’s General Store is the heart and soul of the mountain. One of the few places open year-round, it serves as the village pub, shop, cafe, music venue, and even post office. You can’t visit Mount Hotham and not call in here at least once for a meal and a drink. No-nonsense burgers are a reliable go-to (including a vego option with a chickpea and “green stuff” patty), and the goat curry and lamb vindaloo are also winners. Or order a large pizza and take it to the deck to eat over a view with a pint of beer in hand. If you can’t tear yourself away from the Genny, you don’t have to: Mountain Dreaming Apartments are connected to the building and offer two-bedroom self-contained apartments with a private outdoor balcony looking out into serene views.
Mount Hotham’s landscape is awash with serene spots to unfurl a picnic rug and break out the cheese and bubbly. The hard part is deciding where. Silver Brumby Hut is beside a gurgling stream and has the feel of a classic cattlemen’s hut (no surprise, because it was built as a replica for the 1993 film The Silver Brumby). Or walk a bit further uphill to historic Spargo’s Hut, former abode of the legendary Bill Spargo, an early prospector and all-round tough guy of the hills. If you’re after most views for the least amount of effort, stroll up to Mount Hotham summit, a short 1.5-kilometre walk from the village, or you can even drive part of the way. Another option for your outdoor meal is the Big Spur Picnic Area, a 1.7-kilometre walk along the Wonderland Trail, starting from Wire Plain.
The township of Dinner Plain is a 15-minute drive from Mount Hotham but often flies under the radar. It shouldn’t, because it has so much going for it. As well as being dog-friendly, it’s easy to get around, with plenty of walking and bike tracks. Get oriented with all things Dinner Plain at The Hub, a social enterprise cafe and bar serving great coffee, craft mead and hearty lunches to keep you fuelled throughout the day.
Alpine Nature Experience has teamed up with All Terrain Barbeque for a “Where there’s a grill, there’s a way,” walking tour starts at Dinner Plain and ambles five easy kilometres to a historic alpine hut, finishing with a barbeque.
Mount Hotham usually gets clear and crisp night skies, so you can expect pretty amazing views of the milky way each night. It’s worth booking a night or two on the mountain to experience it, with a range of accommodation options available.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Hotham Alpine Resort.