Don’t let this peaceful country town fool you into thinking it’s just another quiet backwater. Bright has nailed that quaint, small town vibe, but it’s also the perfect basecamp for Victorian High Country adventures.
Positioned perfectly between Mt Buffalo National Park, Alpine National Park and Mt Hotham, Bright is the focal point for so much outdoors action – from hiking, camping and cycling to 4WDing and kayaking. Also, unlike most small towns, Bright has lots of amenities and is packed with plenty of cafes, restaurants, pubs, and even a brewery. You’ll find a couple of cycling stores and outdoors stores catering for winter and summer activities. Here’s the lowdown on the oodles of outdoor fun to be had in Bright and its surrounding.
Road Cycling – Bright’s Steep Alright
If you’re into road cycling, you’ll enjoy Bright. If you’re one of those crazy cyclists that love climbing, you’ll love Bright. Bright is perfectly nestled in between the Victorian Alps and snow resorts. There’s no shortage of long and tough climbs to get you over those 9-5 blues.
Distance: 40 km
Elevation gain: 290m
Duration: 1-2 hrs (return)
In saying that, the road to Buckland is generally flat and takes you through beautiful farmland. Keep your eyes out for apple trees growing on the side of the road for a delicious snack. This ride is perfect for a leg stretcher and is a great way to get to know the area.
Falls Creek via Tawonga Gap and Mt Beauty
Distance: 120 km
Elevation gain: 2,815m elevation
Duration: 5-6 hrs (return)
For those cyclists who enjoy a full of day of struggling, this is the ride you want. The route starts east from Bright with picture-perfect views of the surrounding alpine areas. Then the first climb begins at Towonga Gap.
If you’re a seasoned rider, this’ll be a nice warm up on a chilly morning with beautiful views over Mt Beauty. Don’t be tricked, ‘Mt Beauty’ is one of the lowest points on this ride as you’ll descend in from Towonga Gap.
Re-stock and refill here for the upcoming slog up to Falls Creek. Leaving Mt Beauty, the climb is spread over 25km of winding road through the Alpine National Park, slowly working its way up the mountains.
Unfortunately, the views from the summit aren’t much to look forward to, but not to fear, a hot chocolate is waiting. The views and the never ending downhill make for an unforgettable descent back to Mt Beauty which is a real highlight. Don’t let all this fun fool you, there’s still another climb to get back over Towonga Gap (this is a real heartbreaker).
Mt Buffalo Chalet
Distance: 65 km
Elevation gain: 1,360m
Duration: 3-4 hrs (return)
The ride from Bright to Mt Buffalo Chalet is your more traditional climb, flat, climb, flat. This ride takes you up through Mt Buffalo National Park to the historic Chalet at the summit. The main part of the climb snakes its way up Mt Buffalo and provides panoramic views once you reach the alpine zones and the trees begin to thin. If you’re in for more climbing, the road continues past the chalet and onto The Hump and The Horn. The Horn is the highest point of the park and offers up 360º views.
Want to know more about Mount Buffalo? Read: All-Seasons Playground // Mount Buffalo (Vic)
Harrietville and Mount Hotham
Distance: 110 km
Elevation gain: 1,900m elevation
Duration: 5-6 hrs (return)
The single biggest climb in the area is Mt Hotham. Unlike Falls Creek or Mt Buffalo, this climb is tough because it’s relentless. While the majority of the ride is a steady climb, some areas kick up to +10% which will really test your resolve.
Like Falls Creek, there are a few shops on the summit which form the winter time resort. Grab a quick drink to warm up and then it’s back in the saddle for the best part of this ride, the descent. At the base of Mt Hotham is Harrietville, a small alpine village. There are numerous cafes and bakeries boasting amazing country pies and cakes, well worth an indulgence after conquering the mountain.
Bushwalking and Hiking the Victorian High Country
If hiking and bushwalking are what you’re after, look no further. There are endless options from small day walks in and around Bright, to overnight explorations up in the mountains. Mt Buffalo National Park has over 90km of tracks traversing it and the Alpine National Park claims to offer the best mountain walking country in Australia. For a full break down of the two parks, check out the Victorian Parks website for all walking tracks and campgrounds.
Climbing, Caving, and Abseiling Inside Mt Buffalo
Venturing further into Mt Buffalo, an underground river cave penetrates some 350m into the mountain. Local companies, such as Adventure Guides Australia, offer guided explorations of the caves as it’s not a good idea to explore them alone.
While caving, be sure to keep an eye on the roof for some natural lighting. Living in these alpine caves are a family of glow worms which are believed to be a new species and suggest that Mt Buffalo was once covered in rainforest.
Canoeing, Kayaking and Rafting The Ovens and Buckland Rivers
Not forgetting about water activities, The Ovens and Buckland rivers flow through Bright and offer up plenty of water for canoeing, kayaking or just floating down the river. There are many local operators that can take you on a short trip down part of the calmer, but interesting sections of the river or guide you through some more exciting and challenging sections.
Winter In Bright – Skiing And Snowboarding
In addition to being the centre of summer activities, Bright continues to deliver during winter. A short drive to some of the country’s top ski resorts at Mt Hotham and Falls Creek, Bright is a great place to set up camp for a weekend on the slopes.
Basecamp: Bright, Victoria
Whether you’re into exploring on two legs, two wheels or two paddles, Bright is the perfect place to set up camp. There are a number of campsites and holidays parks that are a short walk from town, as well as holiday apartments and units.
Local campgrounds include:
- Bright Riverside Holiday Park
- Bright BIG4
- NRMA Bright Holiday Park
- Cedar Holiday Units (complete with a hot tub!)
After a hard day’s slog hiking or pedalling, the Bright Brewery will fix you a top feed and some quality local brews. Each morning there’ll be a different cafe to check out, all offering up amazing local coffee and bites. When it comes to dinner, the bistro at the pub does a great feed, and the local Italian restaurant, Sole e Luna, serves up classic family-style meals.
- Cycling kit (be prepared for chilly conditions at the peaks, even during summer)
- 3-4L water per day
- Camping gear
- Slackline and hammock
- Watercraft (canoe/kayak/raft)
- Climbing and caving gear
How To Get There
To be able to explore and make the most of the area it’s best to drive as there’s no public transport around Bright. Depending on your location, it’ll take roughly 7 hours from Sydney, 5 hours from Canberra, or 3.5 hours from Melbourne. Be sure to allow plenty of time to check out the surrounding towns and bakeries!
Feature photo thanks to Visit Victoria