Packed with history and outdoor attractions, the quaint alpine town of Omeo in East Gippsland Victoria, is an intriguing place to visit all-year-round. Here’s our Omeo travel guide.


We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Jaitmatang people who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.


Omeo, derived from the Jaitmatang word meaning ‘mountains’, is a small historic gold-mining town at the foot of the Australian Alps in Gunaikurnai / East Gippsland, Victoria. From Omeo, the ski resort of Mount Hotham can be reached in under an hour by car.

About Omeo

More often than not, Omeo is treated as simply a thru-town for a skiing weekend at Mount Hotham. On past trips to the snow, I admit my own impression of Omeo was primarily limited to the quality of firewood bought from the last fluorescently lit servo before hitting the mountain.

But prompted by a few frozen nights of snow camping at JB Plain one season, I popped down to Omeo to check out this intriguing little place. And I’ve had a fondness for it ever since.

‘So, are you on your way up or down from the mountain?’ a shop owner asked me, proving even the locals are surprised that someone would actually hang around in their small mountain town.


The Fresh Air Cafe


But I don’t understand why. This arty, history-rich and slightly eccentric town of 400 residents actually has a lot going for it. It really is more than simply the gateway to the mountains. As we speak, there’s nearly $10 million being injected to establish its reputation as an alpine and High Country adventure hub.

At the very least, Omeo is worth visiting for a day trip to check out its super cool history and outdoorsy attractions. But if you can spare a weekend, you won’t get bored.

Here’s my year-round Omeo travel guide.

Omeo’s History

The history of Omeo is fascinating, and a big draw card to visit.

Aboriginal people often travelled to Omeo to gather quartz crystals from the Omeo River, which they believed to possess supernatural qualities. Tracks criss-crossed the region for this purpose, and also to make contact with other groups, including for the ceremonial feasting at the Ngan Girra / Bogong Moth festival in summer. One such path is now the Omeo Highway.

In 1853, a European travelling party from NSW went in search of new grazing pastures and founded what’s believed to be Victoria’s first cattle grazing station in Benambra near Omeo. A treeless grassy plain surrounded by a rim of mountains, the area of Omeo and Benambra provided ideal conditions – though its isolation posed a challenge to access.


Omeo’s main street


Omeo’s fate as a quiet farming settlement turned in 1851 when a geologist, Reverend W.B. Clarke discovered alluvial gold in nearby Livingstone Creek. Despite this revelation, its remoteness hampered infrastructure development and it became a largely lawless, ramshackled tented shanty town. It wasn’t until 1870, when cashed up off the back of its gold rush peak in the 1860s, that land settlement was officiated. Up sprung multiple buildings such as churches, schools, a gaol, courthouse, and a multitude of thriving community businesses, serving at its height up to 9,400 residents.

Omeo to this day retains many wonderful insights into its farming and gold mining past. And that’s despite the fact bushfires have practically burnt the place to the ground multiple times, including during the infamous ‘Black Friday’ bushfires of 1939.

How to Get to Omeo

Omeo is located 400km north east from Melbourne, taking about five hours to drive in good conditions. Driving is by far the quickest and most convenient option to reach Omeo.

If you don’t have your own transport, you could always try your luck at car pooling on one of the Hotham Facebook pages. You’ll just need to check that people are heading up (and down) the mountain via Omeo (the ‘back way’) and not via Harrietville (the ‘front way’).

There’s also the Hotham Bus to either Dinner Plain or Mount Hotham which runs from various places in Melbourne, Albury, Sydney, and Adelaide. It’s not exactly a cheap or direct service, but from Dinner Plain you could always try hitching a ride back down the mountain to Omeo.

Where to Stay in Omeo

Accommodation in Omeo is fairly basic, so don’t expect five star luxury. However, there are a handful of charming, clean, and comfortable options in the centre of town. Here are my top picks of where to stay in Omeo:

Snug as a Bug Motel – The cheap & cheerful option

Picture your grandma’s house in the 80s crossed with a European alpine hostel and you have Snug as a Bug Motel, a budget option for crashing in Omeo. I’ve stayed here in the pits of winter and found it well, very snug. The well fitted-out communal kitchen was especially useful. So long as dated decor such as floral carpets and orange wood panelling doesn’t offend you, Snug as a Bug does the job.


Snug as a bug accommodation


Snug is probably the best place to stay in Omeo with friends or family as there are four motel-style units and a three-bed apartment. Four smaller rooms on the ground floor are available for double or single occupancy. Doubles start from $120 per night.


Golden Age Hotel – The historic landmark

Directly opposite Snug is probably the most iconic building in Omeo, the Golden Age Hotel. It’s actually the fifth reinvention of the original hotel building due to fire destruction. This version is built with bricks salvaged from the last fire in 1939, and designed to honour the classic 1940s style.


The Golden Age Hotel


15 ensuite rooms are available and six budget ‘pub-style’ rooms. Free Wifi is included. The Golden Age Hotel is probably the best place to stay in Omeo for couples and being above the pub for some good grub is very handy. Budget doubles start from $100 per night.


Omeo Holiday Park – Perfect for pitching up

One of the most highly rated accommodation options in Omeo is actually the holiday park, which is ideal for staying in your tent or camper van. Powered and unpowered sites are available with all the typical onsite amenities you’d expect, such as a laundry room, games room, camp kitchen, and BBQs.

Over 140 sites are available starting from $17.50 per night, and it’s open all year round.

The Best Things to Do in Omeo

Located on a sloped plain surrounded by beautiful mountains and hills, Omeo offers far-reaching scenic views all around. You’ll no doubt be drawn to head out exploring – which you definitely should – but there’s lots to see and do within the town of Omeo itself as well.

Here are some of the best things to do in Omeo.

The Pump and Skills Track

Omeo is quickly establishing itself as a leading mountain biking destination in Victoria and beyond. Not only is there a 120km world-class mountain biking trail being constructed to launch in 2023, there’s a newly opened pump and skills track in Livingstone Park, for mountain bikers of all abilities to test their handling skills.


Mountain bike trail


Drop, berm, and roll through loops of rollers on the asphalt pump track before attacking the skills track to navigate across a variety of features, such as a network of skinny beams (and even jumps off an old wooden cart!).

Rather neatly, the pump track spells Omeo from above.


Wild Swim in the Omeo River Swimming Pool

First opened in 1925, the Omeo River Swimming Pool is simply a dredged area of the river in Livingstone Park. I admit the slightly stagnant, murky brown pool in winter doesn’t look all that appealing, but you’ll find brave wild swimmers taking a dip here all year round, especially in summer.


The Cuckoo Clock Shop

If you mention Omeo to someone in Victoria, they’ll probably say ‘Isn’t that the place with the cuckoo clocks?’. They probably couldn’t place Omeo on a map, but you can be sure they know about the quirky German clock shop!


The famous cuckoo clocks!


Famous throughout Victoria, the German Cuckoo Clock Shop was once located in the big wooden building on the hill (which is now a cafe). The extremely adorable owner Leonie, has recently downsized to a building on Day Avenue.

Leonie is the sweetest lady who’ll spend time lovingly showing you all her fascinating hand-made German imported treasures. Be sure to ask her to point out her favourite!


The owner of the German Cuckoo Clock shop, Leonie


The detail on some of the pieces is nothing short of magical and the cacophony of ticks, tocks, and cuckoos is enchanting! OK, so you may not necessarily consider buying one for your own house, but it’s a really delightful stop on a visit to Omeo.


Walking in the Oriental Claims Historic Area

Oriental Claims was one of Victoria’s largest alluvial sluicing works, mined by The Oriental Company. High pressure hoses were used to wash away gold-bearing gravel and soil for treatment, the result being a devastated but interesting landscape of scarred inland cliffs and small tunnels, now reclaimed by nature.


Old water pump


There are a variety of short walking tracks in the Oriental Claims Historic Area to explore, all under an hour long.

Ah Fong’s track is probably the highlight – an enjoyable 1.4km (45 minute) loop passing the key areas of interest such as Starlight Claim, finishing along silvery eucalypts and the beautiful Livingstone Creek.


Old mining bridge


It’s easy to combine multiple walks together here. For example, add on the easy 1.1km out-and-back walk to Pioneer Lookout at the start or end of one of the loops to admire the juxtaposition of the natural and man-made landscapes.


The oriental claims historic area


All of these short walks in the Oriental Claims Historic Area can also be made around 5km longer by walking from Omeo and back instead of driving.


Mt Kosciuszko Lookout

An eight minute drive from Oriental Claims along the Great Alpine Road is a large car park and clearing with views over to neighbouring NSW. As the name would suggest, on a clear day it affords a pretty decent view of Mt Kosciuszko.


View to Mt Kosciuszko

Check Out Omeo’s Art

Even if galleries aren’t your jam, you’ll notice just by wandering around Omeo that the locals have a thing for art.

Along Creek Street you’ll find an imaginatively wacky bike race sculpture series that’ll delight adults and kids alike. Beer slinging spectators and medics tending to injuries included.


Omeo, Victoria: A Guide to Visiting This Overlooked High Country Town, Tammy Thurman

Cycling sculptures


Not included: extra storage on your phone for all the pictures you’ll want to take.

Showcasing affordable contemporary pieces by brilliant local artists, Omeo Makers Market is worth popping in to for a gander at the art, homewares, and textiles.


Makers market


And if you’re a fan of quirky knick-knacks and classic art, check out Petersen’s Gallery a few doors up. The rooms at the front are dedicated to hundreds of years of High Country and Omeo history, including a ‘Chinese room’ celebrating the contribution of the Chinese and their influence on the community. There’s also back rooms spilling with vintage toys, accessories, clothing, and more.


Vintage toys and clothing

White Water Rafting on the Mitta Mitta River

Gushing with alpine water straight from the mountains, Mitta Mitta River Gorge is one of Victoria’s most epic white water rafting locations. Starting near the town of Mitta Mitta, descend 19km south through 60 rapids (with names such as ‘Dislocation’ and ‘Graveyard’!), towards the Omeo Valley.

Rafting Australia arranges all transfers from Omeo to Mitta Mitta, so all you’ll need to do is book, turn up at their HQ (a 10 minute drive from Omeo), and prepare yourself for a totally adrenaline-pumping and unique experience in the wilderness of Alpine National Park!


Tour the Omeo Historical Park and Museum

Currently undergoing renovations, the Omeo Historical Park and Museum is an open-air park dotted with a collection of historic buildings and a museum located within the dominating brick Court House. Rebuilt in 1892, it was an attempt at creating a distinctive Australian architectural style.


Omeo historical park and museum


Exhibits within the park include an old log gaol, a blacksmith, a waterwheel, and stables. There are plenty of information boards to learn about the rich heritage of this area, which’ll keep you entertained for an hour or so.

Call up the Visitor Centre before you visit to make sure it’s open.

Essential Gear for Visiting Omeo

  • Alpine diesel or a fuel additive to stop the fuel freezing in your vehicle, just in case you’re visiting in the pits of winter
  • Snow chains but only if you plan to drive up the mountain to Dinner Plain or Hotham, or visit Omeo in snow or ice conditions
  • A good camera or a phone for snapping pictures of the photogenic buildings and scenery
  • Your bike and helmet – Omeo is great for mountain biking!
  • Good sunscreen and a hat for when you’re out walking


Omeo, Victoria: A Guide to Visiting This Overlooked High Country Town, Tammy Thurman

Tips for Visiting Omeo

  • The best coffee in Omeo has to be at Pippa’s Bakehouse (Pip’s). So grab your Keep Cup and head over for a take-away caffeine fix to kick start your day exploring Omeo
  • Need skis or a mountain bike? Omeo Ski Hire (otherwise known as ‘Billies’) opposite the Golden Age Hotel has you covered
  • Free parking in Omeo is available all over town such as at the tarmacked car park beside Fresh Air Cafe overlooking Livingstone Park
  • Omeo is small so you can do pretty much everything by foot or bike if you want to
  • In winter, accommodation in Omeo gets booked up fast. If you’re planning on visiting then, try sorting a hotel as far in advance as possible

Omeo FAQs

What is Omeo known for?

Omeo is renowned for its gold mining and cattle farming history, beautiful historic buildings, High Country mountain biking and beautiful hilly scenery.

What is the population of Omeo, Victoria?

At its peak in 1901, Omeo was home to over 9,400 residents. These days, according to the 2021 census, Omeo has a population of 242 permanent residents.

Is there gold in Omeo?

Alluvial gold was first discovered in Omeo in the Livingstone Creek in 1851. It was mined until 1904 when the mining company went bust and environmental concerns were raised. These days, permit-holding prospectors can try their luck panning for gold along the Livingstone Creek and other small nearby tributaries.

What river is Omeo on?

The Livingstone Creek runs through the middle of Omeo. Livingstone Creek has an outdoor swimming pool and various riverside parks and walking tracks. To the north in the Omeo Valley is the Mitta Mitta River, a tributary of the Murray River, known for trout fishing and white water rafting.

Does it snow in Omeo, Victoria?

Omeo sits at an elevation of 685 metres, 54km away from the ski resort of Mount Hotham. Heavy snowfall isn’t common in Omeo, but a light dump can be expected a couple of times a year. Black ice either in the morning or at night is common in winter. When driving from Omeo over the mountain to Harrietville, snow chains must be carried by law.