DRIVING THE HIGHEST SEALED ROAD IN AUSTRALIA
“I can’t believe we’re driving up there,” you gasp as you look at the bald alpine summits of Mount Feathertop and Mount Hotham. The others stare in disbelief.
The Great Alpine Road through Smoko curves alongside the Ovens River leading you upstream to the historic village of Harrietville, where you stop at the bakery for coffee and baked pretzels.
As you leave, the road kick upward like a wall and you realise, it’s on. You’re on your way to 1,825m elevation; a landmark known as The Cross – the highest point of any sealed road in Australia that's accessible all year.
You snake higher, hugging the steep slopes through a forest of alpine ash – the tallest flowering trees in the world – then snow gums begin to appear. The trees give way to shrubbery kept low by wild weather and you see a vast mountain range, its slopes falling into a cavernous valley hidden from sight.
“Is that a road?” someone exclaims from the backseat.
In the distance, a faint line clings to the mountainside; little car headlights inch along it. Phwaaar.
You’re crossing a narrow ridge through true alpine country now, looking down on a carpet of cloud. You feel like you're flying.
You reach Danny’s Lookout near Mount Hotham and pull in for a break. The air up here is chilly, but the sun is comfortingly warm. Mount Buffalo presides over the north horizon, while Mount Feathertop is now just a stone's throw away.
Everything is silent. Looking down at the earth, you feel like a tiny speck in the universe; the troubles that too often form the centre of your world are insignificant up here.
You drag yourself away and continue over The Cross into the ski resort of Mount Hotham, sleepy in its summertime daze. Further up the road you reach the village of Dinner Plain, an architectural wonder, where the houses are made of the same stone, timber and corrugated iron, but are each unique in their multi-dimensional shapes.
A pub lunch is calling at the Dinner Plain Hotel. In the afternoon, you take a short walk to see Carmichael Falls, and another to the Room With A View walking track, and then it’s back down the mountain as the sun sets over Mount Buffalo, the sky lit with the most brilliant shades of orange and pink you’ve ever seen.
The drive has been one of the best in your life. Can you possibly beat this experience tomorrow? You were hoping to go to a cellar door, but another in your group suggests fishing, after all, the rivers are so nice here. Which will it be?
Choose your next adventure, or scroll down for more scenic drives
SEEING IS BELIEVING
VALLEY LOOP DRIVE
This 120km loop explores sections of the Ovens Valley, Kiewa Valley and Happy Valley as well as the towns of Porepunkah, Bright and Mount Beauty. Adding to the views along the way are three stunning lookouts over the Kiewa Valley and Mount Bogong. The drive skirts close to Myrtleford, which is well worth the short detour if you want to make a day of it. The loop can be driven in either direction starting at any point. From Bright, follow the Great Alpine Road northwest to Ovens and turn right onto Happy Valley Road. At the road's end, turn right onto the Kiewa Valley Highway to Mount Beauty. To return, take Tawonga Gap Road over the pass and turn right onto the Great Alpine Road back to Bright.
MOUNT BUFFALO DRIVE
The road into Mount Buffalo National Park makes for a lovely scenic drive. It's an 85km-return trip from Bright to the top at The Horn Picnic Area. Take the Great Alpine Road to Porepunkah and turn onto Mount Buffalo Road at the roundabout and follow it to the end, returning the same way. The road climbs up to panoramic views over the Ovens Valley before heading inward over the Mount Buffalo Plateau and its granite boulders. There are plenty of spots to stop along the way, most notably Ladies Bath Falls, the old Mount Buffalo Chalet and Lookout, Lake Catani and The Horn. A walking trail leads from The Horn Picnic Area to the summit with 360° views over the Australian Alps.
PREPARE FOR ANYTHING
From snow to bushfires, floods and gale-force winds, the weather in the High Country can be fierce and change rapidly. Always check conditions before venturing out. Importantly, download the VicEmergency and the Emergency Plus apps to your phone and notify someone of your plans before you set out. Many parts of the High Country have poor or no mobile phone coverage. In winter, it is mandatory to carry snow chains into alpine areas. Snow is prevalent from June to October but can fall anytime of year in the mountains.
LEAVE NO TRACE
Our region is sensitive to human presence. We are privileged to have endangered animals such as platypus, pygmy possums and alpine dingoes surviving in our environment. Your behaviour has a direct impact on our flora and fauna. When driving or riding, stay on formed roads. Protect our wildlife and the beauty of our environment by taking all rubbish with you. Never light a fire on a Total Fire Ban day. When fires are permitted, always extinguish it completely before leaving. Enjoy our outdoors, and remember, leave no trace.
ALPINE DISCOVERY LOOP
This two-day scenic drive loops around the tops of the Victorian Alps and down through the towns of the Ovens and Kiewa Valleys.
THE VIEWS ARE BETTER UP HIGH
Lush green valleys and an alpine horizon as far as the eye can see. Here's where to find our greatest views.