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Pizzini Winery
Photograph: Josie Withers/Visit Victoria

Your essential road trip guide to the High Country

Every season is different up here in north-east Victoria – so it's high time you explored all the walking trails, eateries and vineyards it has to offer

By Time Out in association with Visit Victoria
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There’s something so enticing about exploring Victoria’s High Country. Long winding roads flanked by deciduous trees, mountain ranges to hike and explore... and of course, that near-constant nagging in your head that says “hey, we should totally move here.” The High Country, found north-east of Melbourne, is an intimidatingly big region – it technically covers Victoria’s major snow and ski resorts including Mount Buller, Falls Creek and Mount Buffalo, but also towns like Bright and Myrtleford, wine regions including Rutherglen, the King Valley and Beechworth, and, last but not least, Lake Eildon. 

There are endless opportunities to explore up here, we’re bringing you guides to some of our state’s best road trips alongside Visit Victoria’s ‘Stay close, go further’ campaign. We want you to get inspired to explore Victoria’s wide open road, and there’s never been a better time to reacquaint yourself with a corner of this state you haven’t seen in a while. These curated itineraries are perfect for a day trip drive-through or for longer exploration if you’ve got a bit more time. Here’s what to look out for on the road to the High Country, whether you’re a keen hiker, cyclist, nature lover or just a food and wine fanatic.

Pick your trip:

Schoolhouse Thornton
Photograph: Victoria’s High Country

Day trip

Like we said, there’s an incredible amount to explore in Victoria’s High Country. If it’s a day trip you’re after, a good place to head is the town of Alexandra. It will take you a bit over two hours to get there from Melbourne, but once there, you’ll get to explore all the spoils of this Eildon-adjacent village. 

Eat and drink

Settle in for a meal at the Alexandra Hotel. During the day you’ll get casual fare like char grilled prawns with green chilli sauce, buttermilk fried chicken, and salami, cheese and pickle toasted sandwiches. For dinner, they up the ante a little with housemade spaghetti with lemon and poached chicken, ricotta tortellini as well as grilled porterhouse steak. 

Then, over in Thornton, make a beeline for Schoolhouse Thornton, a cute-as-a-button café and bakehouse. The Schoolhouse team have a number of (well-priced) breakfast and brunch options including baked eggs, granola compote and a maple bacon and egg barbecue breakfast burger. As well as that, there’s the jaffle menu (try the bolognese or barbecue pulled pork), but be sure to leave room for a sweet. There are churro doughnuts, rocky road cookies, white chocolate and raspberry lamingtons as well as a selection of cakes baked daily. 

Great Victorian Rail Trail
Photograph: Victoria’s High Country

Things to do

Hop on your bike! This area is exceptional to explore on two wheels, especially in autumn when the leaves are changing and the air is nice and crisp. The Great Victorian Rail Trail is a good place to start as it meanders through local farmland beside the Goulburn River. The views of the mountains, as you would expect, are outstanding. Be sure to check out the well-preserved Cheviot Tunnel – it was constructed using around 675,000 handmade bricks to get trains across the mountain range at McLoughlin’s Gap, which is roughly halfway between Yea and Molesworth. 

If it’s more of a hike you’re after, direct yourself to Perfect Cure Creek car park to climb to the top of Blowhard Spur. This circuit walk is about ten kilometres in length and should take you about three hours. The views from the summit are what you’ll remember most – you’ll be hanging right above Lake Eildon and you’ll also get a good view of Mount Buller to the east. 

Stay a while

Extend your trip with a longer stay around Glenrowan and the King Valley. Glenrowan is probably best known for being the site of Ned Kelly’s last stand in 1880, but there’s also a host of historic vineyards here that are even older than this famous bushranger. Meanwhile, the picturesque King Valley is best known for its agricultural output: here you’ll find a host of talented wine producers doing insanely good things with grapes. 

Eat and drink

Generations of visitors have been heading to the Baileys of Glenrowan vineyard, and it’s not hard to see why. Flanked by historic grounds, this winery has been churning out wine for over 150 years and at the cellar door, you’ll be able to try older labels like the 1920s Block Shiraz and the Founder Series Classic Muscat. Limited release and cellar door exclusive wines are worth a look in, too. 

Long live prosecco! Up at Pizzini Wines, that’s the first wine you’ll tuck your beak into (this is King Valley’s Prosecco Road, after all) and you’ll most likely leave with some nebbiolo, sangiovese and riesling as well. At Pizzini, you can make a real experience of it, thanks to its on-site cooking school where you’ll learn traditional Northern Italian recipes from winery founder Katrina Pizzini. 

Baileys of Glenrowan
Photograph: Victoria’s High Country

Things to do

The thing about hiking is that there’s always a reward when you finish. Sometimes it’s a wondrous view, other times it’s an extra special stopover on your way home. When you’re traversing the Warby Falls Heritage Trail Walk, your reward is a tipple at a winery. The walk is a 3.2km one-way stroll (or a 7.4km loop) through a gorgeous green gully, historic sawmill, dams and even a waterfall. It ends at the carpark near the corner of Booth and Baileys Roads, right next to the Taminick Winery (try the shiraz) and Black Dog Brewery (try the lazy dog ale).

Stay

The tiny town of Milawa is probably best known for the cheese shop, but it’s here that you can also rest your head between checking out all that high-quality High Country produce. Lancemore Milawa is where you’ll get that good night’s sleep you’ve been craving, with gorgeous rooms that boast both vineyard and alpine views. Book a treatment in the in-house spa to truly treat yourself.   

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