Image: Blue Rag Range Track, High Country
Encompassing a major part of Australia’s Great Dividing Range, the High Country is one of Victoria’s most precious jewels. It offers rugged mountains, magnificent snowfields, quaint country towns, picturesque wineries, powerful rivers and a rich history kept alive by cattlemen’s huts and ruins.
The area offers a range of activities for just about everyone: you can tackle a number of formidable four-wheel drives, go fishing and boating in rushing rivers, take a hike in one of many national parks, or try local wines at cellar doors. No matter what activities you try, the High Country’s mountain vistas and fields of wildflowers are sure to thrill you.
Best time of year
As part of Australia’s cool temperate zone, Victoria’s High Country experiences cold winters and mild to warm summers. Alpine weather is notoriously changeable and snow has been recorded in all months of the year. When you go will largely depend upon what you wish to do.
Four-wheel driving from November to May, as most 4WD tracks in the region are normally closed from approximately June to the end of October. Skiers will seek out the mountains from winter to early spring (June to September) with the exact timing depending on the particular season’s snowfall. Hikers and cyclists may prefer the autumn months (March to May) when the sunshine isn’t so intense.
Image: Dingo Hill Track, High Country
Victoria’s High Country is the place where many of our best four-wheel drivers earned their spurs. Its alpine destinations and tracks – Wonnangatta, the Dargo High Plains, Blue Rag, Mount Stirling – are legendary and not for the faint-hearted or inexperienced. It's country where making a mistake can be fatal, or at the very least, expensive. Steep climbs and descents, lumbering over large rocks and ledges, deep water crossings where a snorkel is mandatory; this is the place where you can expand your 4WD repertoire once you’ve practiced on something a little bit easier. It would be a good idea if you’re not completely confident to go with a friend, a 4WD club or sign up with one of the many tagalong tour operators in the area.
Not only is the driving challenge there, but the scenery is breathtakingly beautiful. Don’t forget that as much of the driving is low range work, your fuel consumption will be much higher than normal, so if you don’t have long range tanks, take along some jerry cans. For the same reason, don’t set yourself an unreal itinerary – most of it is slow going. Allow plenty of time and remember it may take a whole day to travel as little as 50km. You’ll need a high clearance vehicle with low range, and be careful to keep your wheels on the high ground. If you have a soft roader, forget it, and it shouldn’t be necessary to point out that this is not camper trailer territory for the most part.
Image: Davies Plain Track, High Country
You’ll probably need to bring your own firewood if camping out, and taking along a chainsaw to clear tracks of fallen timber is a good idea. Remember that some tracks are closed off during winter (or impassable because of heavy snow- snow chains and anti-freeze required), and that summer can be hot and dusty, making spring and autumn the optimal choices.
Please be aware that some tracks may be signposted, warning of road damage. As always keep your options open when travelling, and seek an alternative route if the track deteriorates or the weather suddenly changes.
Image: Ingeegoodbee Track, High Country
Top 10 4WD Tracks
Throughout the High Country are thousands of kilometres of four-wheel drive tracks. The status and conditions of these tracks are constantly changing. Many tracks are subject to seasonal closure, especially in winter, and some may be permanently closed. For the latest details on seasonal road closures in national parks visit Parks Victoria.
- Stringy Bark Creek & Powers Lookout
- Sheepyard Flat to Jamieson
- Mount Terrible
- Blue Rag Range Track
- Benambra to Tom Groggin
- Buchan to McKillops Bridge
- Wonnangatta Station
- Billy Goat Bluff
- Butcher Country
The Great Alpine Road
Spend some time exploring one of Australia's most spectacular scenic drive routes, which extends 308km from Wangaratta to Bairnsdale. The road is Australia's highest year-round access road and provides outlooks onto rugged mountains, fertile valleys, flowing rivers and silky plains.
Hiking & Bushwalking
Victoria’s High Country offers plenty of opportunities for bushwalking, whether you are an experienced hiker looking for a new challenge or merely wanting to take a stroll. In most cases, walkers should be reasonably fit in order to cope with the rugged terrain and occasional extreme weather. Mobile phones rarely work in such remote areas, and you should never set out in bad or deteriorating weather.
The region is crossed by well-known long distance walks including the Australian Alps Walking Track and the Bicentennial National Trail. Both trails are suitable for keen hikers and require significant forward-planning to complete in their entirety, however more casual walkers may opt to tackle smaller sections.
Image: Woolshed Falls, Beechworth
Taking two weeks to complete, the McMillan’s Walking Track is the slightly less strenuous option. The Murray to Mountains Rail Trail from Wangaratta to Bright is suitable for cyclists as well as bushwalkers. Challenging walks allow the fit and healthy to tackle the trek up Mount Hotham to Mount Feathertop in Alpine National Park. Or, if you are very fit and experienced, try the spectacular walk from Mount Hotham to Mount Feathertop via the Razorback Spur.
Popular short walks in Alpine National Park include Bryce Gorge Circuit (2.5hr), Peppermint Walk (1.5hr) and Howqua Heritage Walk (1.5hr).
Just south of Bogong Village, the new Fainter Falls Track is an easy 700m walk to two lookouts with great views - the more energetic can continue a further 200m down a steep track to the base of the falls.
Near Bright, the Canyon Walk along the Ovens River and the walk to Wandiligong along Morses Creek are both worthwhile. In Beechworth there are several historic walks around the town.
Mount Buffalo National Park is home to about 90km of walking tracks with everything from hard uphill slogs, such as The Big Walk, to shorter walks like the one-hour easy trip around the top of The Gorge. Other popular 'easy' walks include Eurobin Falls and the stroll around Lake Catani. The climb to the peaks of the Horn and the Hump is another 'must do'.
The Australian Alps Walking Track
The Victorian Alpine Walking Track starts in Walhalla and extends for 650km through the Victorian Alps all the way to Canberra. The High Country section of the track provides hikers with some of the best scenery the High Country has to offer. About six weeks is required to complete the entire journey. Walkers should be entirely self sufficient and prepared for climatic changes. For further information visit Australian Alps National Parks.
McMillan's Walking Track
Running from Omeo to Woods Point, McMillan's Walking Track follows a former mining track blazed by Angus McMillan in 1864. The object of the original track was to open up new areas for prospecting. Its intention was realised when a track-cutting party discovered gold at Talbotville. The track was officially reopened as a walking track in 1988. You'll need to allow two weeks to complete the entire 220km walk and it is only suitable for experienced walkers.
Bicentennial National Trail
Established in 1988, the Bicentennial National Trail is the longest marked multi-use trail in the world stretching 5,330km from Healesville to Cooktown in Queensland. It passes through some interesting and scenic country between Healesville and Omeo during a 443km section before penetrating the country beyond Omeo into the Snowy Mountains. The trail, originally known as the National Horse Trail, follows old coach roads and stock routes once used by bushrangers and cattlemen alike. Although the track is now aimed at walkers and cyclists as well as horse riders, the distances involved make it generally more suitable for riding.
Intended users of the trail are reminded to be aware of potentially harsh conditions at any time. The best time to do the Healesville to Kosciuszko section of the trail is from November through to mid-April. For further information visit The Bicentennial National Trail or contact 1300 138 724.
National Parks & Reserves
Mount Buffalo National Park
This 31,000 hectare sub-alpine park offers some of the area’s best hiking, rock climbing, swimming, scenic views and wildflowers. There are amazing views of the surrounding mountains at spots like The Horn and The Cathedral that will give you an appreciation of the vast majesty of the Great Dividing Range.
Alpine National Park
The Alpine National park, Victoria’s biggest park, covers 646,000 hectares of rugged Alps, dominating the High Country. This park offers exceptional opportunities for bushwalking, snow sports, four-wheel driving, camping, canoeing, fishing, bird watching, horse riding, mountain bike riding and restricted hunting.
Avon Wilderness Area
Tucked away within the High Country are pockets of declared wilderness areas, the most famous and popular of these being Avon Wilderness Park. Covering an area of more than 4,000 ha, the park boasts some of Australia’s most isolated sub-alpine woodlands offering what some consider the best and most challenging bushwalks around.
Snowy River National Park
Snowy River is a stunning park that offers some of the High Country’s best fishing, boating and camping. McKillops Bridge is one of the only 2WD-accesible point into the park with shallow rock pools and sandy beaches that make it a perfect place to put up camp.
Baw Baw National Park
The 13,000 Baw Baw National Park covers much of the Baw Baw Plateau and offers fantastic activities all year round. In winter you can enjoy winter sports at Mount Baw Baw, while in summer you can take advantage of the area’s scenic hikes through snow gum woodlands. Drive to Mount St Gwinear or Mount Erica for spectacular views and enjoy the wildflowers in spring and summer.
Image: Crooked River Track, Wongungarra River Crossing
During summer, camping is a fantastic overnight alternative and there are literally thousands of excellent camping spots available, both basic bush camping or more defined areas with limited facilities. Alpine National Park has a huge range of sites. Other popular locations include Victoria Falls, Howqua Hills and Grant historic areas as well as Walhalla, the state forests near Bright, Buchan Caves Reserve and Lake Catani in Mount Buffalo National Park. Campsites at Lake Catani and Buchan Caves Reserve can be booked online through the Parks Victoria. There are many camping areas outside the parks as well, including in state forests. Of course there are also many caravan parks in the region, usually with cabins available too.
Bairnsdale Visitor Information Centre - (03) 5152 3444
Beechworth Information Centre - 1300 366 321, (03) 5728 8064
Bright Information Centre - 1300 551 117, (03) 5755 2275
Dinner Plain Visitor Information Centre - 1300 734 365, (03) 5159 6451
Lakes Entrance Visitor Information Centre - (03) 5155 1966
Mansfield-Mt Buller Regional Tourism Association - www.mansfieldmtbuller.com.au, 1800 039 049, (03) 5775 7000
Metung Visitor Information Centre - (03) 5156 2969
Myrtleford, Apline Visitor Information Centre - (03) 5755 0514
Orbost, Snowy River Visitors Centre - (03) 5154 2424
Omeo Information Centre - (03) 5159 1679
Parks Victoria - parkweb.vic.gov.au, 13 19 63
Tourism Victoria - www.visitvictoria.com
Wangaratta & Region Visitor Information Centre - 1800 801 065, (03) 5721 5711