With its alpine beauty and mountainous landscape, the Victorian High Country town of Bright is a picturesque getaway from Melbourne at any time of the year. But come autumn, a chance to see its deciduous forest foliage ablaze in reds and golds is incomparable.
There are plenty of other colour palettes to soak up throughout the seasons in Bright. As well as seeing the shades of fall, walk among the tumbling wildflowers of the nearby national parks in spring, and toboggan through the crisp, clean drifts of freshly fallen snow in July.
In the mountains, you can opt for adventure or bring it down a notch. Take your time rambling through Mt Buffalo Park, or charge through at high speeds by bike. Long summer nights camping by the river await those who come here, as do evenings by a roaring fire in snow-covered cabin lodges. All you have to do is pick a date.
Cool climate wines are the name of the game here. Try them at the Billy Button Wines cellar doors. Named after a local native daisy, the winemakers serve up wines made from locally sourced grapes. The family-owned Bright Brewery is a buzzing venue that, alongside making its own beer from locally-grown hops, moonlights as a live music and outdoor dining venue with an extensive menu.
Bright is a two-wheeled adrenaline junkies paradise. The MTB network takes you through hand-built mountain biking trails, pine forest and old gold mining country. This caters from beginners to experts, but if you’re after something more sedate, the self-guided Murray to Mountains Rail Trail from Bright to Porepunkah is a mellower option, with over 100km of sealed bike paths.
To chase some alpine waterfalls, make your way to Mount Buffalo Road for Eurobin Falls-Ladies Bath Falls 1.5-kilometre return walk. Taking in the Lower Eurobin Falls and the Ladies Bath Falls, you can take a dip come summer. The mountainous region provides plenty of excellent views, like those from the steep, and rewarding Apex Lookout walk.
As the seasons shift to colder climes, the Bright Autumn Festival comes back around, with parades, market days, music and live entertainment. That’s not to say the other seasons don’t share the love. As winter thaws, it’s time for the Bright Spring Festival’s lush open gardens, wildflower spotting, markets and food and wine events.
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Northwest of Bright, The Kilnhouses are three luxurious self-contained villas in the Ovens Valley. Part of a winery and cattle farm, the houses are a stylish, Scandi-style stay with incredible mountain views to boot. You can book local deli platters ahead of time, which can be prepared in the connected kitchens.
Can’t get to Canada, eh? The award-winning Tewksbury Lodge outside of Bright gives you the full, friendly experience with its Canadian-style log cabin, complete with access to the Owen River out the back. The self-contained and family-friendly lodge is only an hour drive from the ski fields.
Sit back and relax at the Bright Riverside Holiday Park. Right next to the ebbing Owens River near the centre of town, the waters provide ample opportunities for tubing and fishing in summer. Accommodation here includes powered and unpowered tents and caravan sites, as well as cosy cottages and cabins.
Alternatives include the NRMA Bright Caravan Park by Morse’s Creek, the BIG4 Bright Holiday Park and the BIG4 Porepunkah Holiday Park. All have cabins, villas, caravan and camping sites.
Outside of the holiday parks, there’s plenty of bush camping to be done near Bright. Out in Mt Buffalo National Park, book the Lake Catani Campground to sleep among the snow gums at this basic, but beautiful, park campground. In summer, the Alpine National Park has self-sufficient camping grounds all over the hills. Note that weather can reach extremes here, so be prepared for any changes.
Get a taste of Melbourne in the countryside with a visit to the passionately caffeinated folks over at the welcoming Sixpence Coffee Cafe, which shares a space with Reed & Co. Distillery. Load up for a day of adventure, tucking into a plate of maple syrup-soaked French toast, topped with bacon and berries while overlooking the view at the Riverdeck Kitchen. For a light winery lunch, the popular Billy Button Bright Cellar Door serves up cheese boards.
Come dinner time, duck back to the family-owned Reed & Co Distillery. As well as making a mean negroni, they have shared dishes like wallaby tartare and wood-fired river trout that are to die for. Based out of a heritage medical surgery, Elm Dining sources its fine-dining set menu directly from its gardens as well as the local surroundings.
Tomahawks is a slightly more casual, but no less scrumptious, affair. The vibrant bar and eatery has everything from a selection of burgers and sticky southern chicken to deep-fried morsels like corn, mozzarella and jalapeno fritters. For a cosy night, the Wandi (Wandiligong) is a traditional country pub with an outdoor area that is great for both the kids and for its occasional transformation into a live band venue.
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Bright is just a three-and-a-half-hour trip north-east from Melbourne and can be visited as part of the Great Alpine Road trip. For those who don’t want to drive, there are trains to Wangaratta from Melbourne and Sydney, but you’ll need to make the one-hour drive to Bright from there. Alternatively, there are VLine buses to Bright, or airfields at Porepunkah and Mount Beauty.
Autumn is the season Bright is the most famous for. Between April and May, visitors can see the shifting copper colours of the trees change – something that is celebrated at the Bright Autumn Festival. As one of Victoria’s alpine towns, Bright is also stunning in winter with access to the nearby ski fields. As the thermostat plummets, you can play in the snow at the nearby Mount Buffalo National Park.
If you’re up for the experience of a lifetime, strap yourself in for one of the area’s most famous ways to see the mountain scenery – paragliding. Adventure sports tour operators Alpine Paragliding, Active Flight and Bright Flight Paragliding will all take you safely step by step until that spectacular moment, where you’re flying in the sky.
If that isn’t enough for you, Bright Adventure Company has a range of thrilling activities like whitewater kayaking, rock climbing and underwater river caving.
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