- Countryside Vineyards, valley, peaks, produce
- Country Life Tree-changers with a taste for the high life
There’s some extraordinary beauty in them there hills. This region of northeast Victoria is visually dominated by alpine peaks – snow-capped for much of the year – and their surrounding national parks.
Each year, as winter arrives, these mountains are overrun by skiers and snowboarders taking to the chairlifts and swishing down the slopes. In the valleys, it’s a completely different story. This is one of Victoria’s most prolific food bowls, with farmers producing vegetables, fruits and livestock year round. Trout come from the mountain streams, and vignerons create some of the country’s great muscats and tokays, alongside pinot noir, chardonnay and Italian varietals. The landscape is lush and the climate mild, with four distinct seasons celebrated by a host of annual festivals. Cyclists are drawn to the Murray to Mountains Trail, 94km of sealed path that winds through the alpine valley villages, while hikers can amble along riverbanks or push themselves on mountain treks.
Do go/Don’t go
It depends on what you’re after. The height of summer can be deathly hot (up to 40°C) in the valleys, although it will always be significantly cooler on the mountains. Spring will see warm days, brilliant green landscapes, and quite chilly evenings. Autumn is serene and beautiful, with the leaves turning and few visitors to contend with. Obviously, ski bunnies will want to come in winter. The high season is from late July to August, but you should still be able to head downhill during June and September.
Planes Most people heading to the High Country will arrive at Melbourne Airport (www.melbourneairport.com.au), which has flights from all major Australian cities and regional centres, as well as international destinations. Depending on exactly where in the High Country you’re heading to, expect a three- to four-hour drive. Albury Airport, about an hour-and-a-half away, has services from Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. Hotham Airport services the ski fields during the season with Qantas flights from Sydney; charter flights also land here.
Trains V/Line (www.vline.com.au) runs services from Melbourne’s Southern Cross station to Wangaratta, where passengers can connect via coach to centres including Bright and Myrtleford. The journey takes around five hours.
Automobiles A car is essential for exploring the High Country, since you’ll want to visit wineries, head up the mountains and explore the country towns while you’re here. All the major hire car companies have desks at both Melbourne and Albury airports.
- Taxis There are a number of local taxi services in the region: Bright Taxi Service (+61 (0)408 589 370); Myrtleford Taxi (+61 (0)419 512 886); and Feathertop Taxi (+61 (0)418 844 212), operating out of Harrietville.