Experience one the world’s most scenic drives! This picturesque route takes you through Victoria’s high country and is well worth doing. The Great Alpine Road (GAR) is 303 kms or 188 miles of sealed road between Wangaratta and Bairnsdale. It’s Australia’s highest all-year round accessible sealed road. You should take around 6 hours to drive it. That’s if you don’t get tempted by one of the many interesting side trips!
You can start your drive at either end. There are no particular benefits to doing it in either direction. The fascinating scenery remains the same! At the northern end is Wangaratta on the Hume Highway. This is a major rural centre in northeastern Victoria. At the southern end is Bairnsdale, a small city in East Gippsland. The route takes you across the Victorian Alps through the Alpine National Park. You’ll journey through alpine forests, valleys and mountains. Farms, vineyards and winding rivers also await you in a fascinating blend of scenery.
Between Wangaratta and Bright (76 kms / 47 miles – 1 hour) the GAR wends across open farming country. Half way across the town of Myrtleford nestles against the ranges. This marks the start of your trip into the mountains. From here you’ll head up the valley to Bright. Farms along the way stretch across the valley floor to the foot of soaring ranges either side.
Interesting side trips:
- Golden Heritage Drive (Wangaratta to Myrtleford via Tarrawingee, Beechworth, Wooragee and Yackandandah)
- Gourmet Food and Wine Drive (Wangaratta to Myrtleford via Oxley Flats and Milawa)
- Mount Buffalo Drive (From Porepunkah to Mount Buffalo National Park)
The middle section of the GAR takes you through the heart of the Victorian Alps and Alpine National Park. This section between Bright and Omeo is 110 kms / 68 miles – 2 hours. But beware; there are tempting side trips! You will also pass, or visit, Victoria’s highest ski resort at Mount Hotham.
Once past Mount Hotham you come across the quaint by name and quaint in character Dinner Plain. This small town is popular with folks who enjoy horse trekking. And there’s plenty to see from horseback in this area too! After Dinner Plain you come to the gold mining town of Omeo. Don’t miss the stunning views of Australia’s famous Snowy Mountains.
Tempting side trips:
- Great Alpine Discovery Drive (Bright, Mt Beauty, Bogong, Anglers Rest, Omeo)
- Bogong Alpine Way – a must if you want to see some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere in the world!
The stretch between Omeo and Bairnsdale takes around 2 hours to travel the 153 kms / 95 miles. You’ll drive through Victoria’s oldest gold mining towns complete with historic buildings.
Enticing side trips:
- Wine and Gold Drive (an alternative route from Omeo to Swifts Creek that takes you through historic Cassillis)
- Buchan Caves Reserve (Bruthen to Buchan)
- Gippsland Lakes Drive (Bruthen via Nowa Nowa to meet up with the A1 that takes you into Bairnsdale)
During snow season (June to October) it is compulsory to carry snow chains. Oh and don’t forget your camera! The scenery along this exquisite winding mountain road presents many photo opportunities!