The Victorian High Country was first put on the map when it became the hideout for Australia’s most notorious bushranger Ned Kelly – who had his own reason for appreciating the region’s vast untamed wilderness. This setting was later brought to world attention with the Man From Snowy River film – with its panning shots of horseman riding along ridgelines against a backdrop of blue and purple mountains disappearing into the horizon.
Today visitors to the High Country, with the town of Mansfield as its gateway, are drawn by its abundance of natural beauty. There’s the trio of rivers that converge in the area – the Delatite, Jamieson and Howqua – luring the fishermen and rafters. And there’s Lake Eildon, Victoria’s largest inland lake that has recently filled to capacity after more than a decade of drought, that brings water-skiiers and house-boaters. And there’s nothing quite like the song of falling snow: as tens of thousands of annual pilgrims know at Mt Buller.
And amid this beauty comes adventures for the thrill-seekers and gourmands.
Sightseeing for the adventurers:
For a bird’s eye view of this spectacular part of the country, you can head out on a chopper ride. The most popular trip is one that touches down at the iconic Craig’s Hut – with its Man From Snowy River star appeal.
The film also led an upsurge of horse-trails in the area. You can be guided in relative comfort with well-equipped mountain horses – trotting along trails lined with Snow Gums that pass through dramatic forests of Alpine Ash – with views over the mountain peaks and valleys that will make you feel you’re on the set of a film.
For those wishing to pedal on their own steam: the old railway line has recently been converted into a bicycle track. The first 20-kilometre stretch from Mansfield to Bonnie Doon has stunning views of lolling, luscious hills and a ride over Victoria’s longest rail trail bridge that runs across an arm of Lake Eildon at Bonnie Doon.
For those seeking culinary delights:
The Hunt Club Merrijig serves up a great atmosphere with its hearty counter meals and jovial locals who are often happy to share some High Country mythology before you trek into the hills. It is most beautiful in Spring as the snow is melting and the cherry blossoms flourish. 1870 Mount Buller Road. (03) 5777 5508.
Mansfield is rapidly becoming a gentrified country village – now brimming with options for a gourmet feast or finely frothed cappuccino. Pick of the bunch is the Mansfield Regional Produce Store, where you can dine in or order a picnic hamper if you’re heading out for a picnic out of town. 68 High Street, Mansfield. (03) 5779 1404.
Autumn is a spectacular time in this region, with a climate cold enough to send the leaves off in a flush of deep reds and oranges. No better place to appreciate this than at one of the area’s vineyards. Head no further than Mansfield’s main street to taste the region’s most celebrated drop at the Delatite Winery: 26 High Street, Mansfield (03) 5775 2922.