Bright and its surrounding area is a wonderful place to visit at any time of year but Autumn is my favourite time. Not only is there is breathtaking alpine scenery, quaint towns and villages steeped in history, wonderful river walks and easy access to Victoria’s amazing rail trails, at this time of the year, the area is awash with colour.
But would Covid allow us to visit? Well, back in early May, Kenn and I finally made it. And Bright and Mount Buffalo did not disappoint. There were still plenty of beautiful, mature autumn trees decorating the streets and countryside in hues of gold, red and burgundy, even though the trees would have been at their best, a couple of weeks earlier as many of the yellows had fully dropped.
Bright is a long way from Byron Bay, roughly 1800 kms. So we timed our trip to coincide with our grand daughter, Genevieve”s birthday celebrations in Sydney. The trip along the Pacific highway was very enjoyable as the last section of the highway between Ballina and Coffs Harbour has been completed. We stopped for brunch at Cafe Aqua in Coffs. This cafe has won many awards for its coffee and its food is excellent: tasty and reasonably priced. It is opposite the foreshore park, so a great spot to stretch your legs if you so wish. A few hours later, we found ourselves at Hornsby on the outskirts of Sydney. This time, we did not get into the wrong lane and find ourselves heading for the Blue Mountains along the North Connex tunnel! This time, we stayed on the M1 and made our way to the Northern Beaches stress-free.
Genevieve, who started school this year, was turning 6! It seems like yesterday that I was holding her for the first time in Perth! She was so excited about her party and so to were her two little sisters. 20 little friends had been invited and there was going to be a very special guest, a princess who would paint their faces and organise party games .
The party was a huge success. We also made time for a coastal walk to Manly and popped into the Art gallery there.
Early Monday morning found us navigating our way out of Sydney and along the Hume highway to Bright. My sister, Jenny recommended that we stop at Trapper’s Bakery in Goulburn for morning tea. It was a great choice and just opposite the Big Merino so it was easy to find. The rest of the drive passed without incident except for the last 100 or so kms. We didn’t have a road map of Victoria with us and although we did know where Bright was, as we crossed the Murray River at Albury, we decided to ask Google Maps to direct us the rest of the way. It was definitely the scenic route as we navigated various back roads to Bright. Still, we arrived with plenty of time to check into our accommodation, a cabin in a nearby caravan park just a few kilometres from Bright on the Ovens River. This was our first time in this type of accommodation and the cabin exceeded our expectations. It was spacious, quiet, well equipped, very comfortable and even had a wood fire. That evening, snuggled up on the leather sofa watching the flames dancing about in the fire and with a good red wine from Rutherglen in my hand, I felt that our little Victorian tripette had really begun!
Early next morning, we enjoyed an early morning walk to the river before breakfast.
As well as enjoying some of what this region has to offer, we were also reconnecting with a long lost branch of Kenn’s family. The two branches hadn’t met for well over a hundred years following Kenn’s great grandfather’s departure for the green fields of the central west of NSW.
While socialising with others is always wonderful, we were looking forward to exploring more of the haunts of Kenn’s ancestors. His great grandfather James had been raised near Wandiligong, which is just a few kilometres from Bright. As we drove towards the village in the early morning mist, we were treated to a quintessential, Australian bush scene.
Wandiligong has a rich mining history and there is an interesting walk on the outskirts of the village that takes you along the creek to the old Chinese diggings.
This was going to be a busy day. The Bright Visitor Centre was our next stop. We found out that we didn’t have enough time this trip to really explore the rail trails so decided to visit Mt Buffalo instead. This is a bush walker’s paradise. Due to time constraints, we chose three of the short walks to tackle: the Eurobin falls Track, the Gorge Catani Track and the Horn Track.
Next, we wanted to visit the chalet and the Gorge Day Visitor Centre. We were disappointed to see the chalet still in disrepair. Hopefully, it will be restored to its former beauty sometime soon. It was time for an early lunch. While the picnic facilities were very good all over the mountain, we hoped to support local businesses so hadn’t packed any lunch, only water. However, on on the day we went, no cafes were open, a fact the visitor centre in Bright and the information sheet from National Parks had failed to mention. Since we couldn’t while an hour away over an amazing lunch and linger over a hot latte, we set off for Lake Catani.
On the return to the Gorge Day Visitor Area, we noticed signs for walks to the Underground river and the Monolith. We were so tempted to do both but knew that we also wanted to go to the horn, the highest point on Mount Buffolo. The Horn is about a 30 minutes drive from the Gorge and the last couple of kms is on an unsealed road. While the walk is only a km long return, it is very steep.
It was time to channel our inner hunter gatherer and go in search of food. There were not eateries open at 4pm in Bright so we settled on a ‘gourmet’ pie and a coffee. In this part of the world, a pie is not just a pie! It is gourmet, artisan, vegan or lovingly pummeled into shape by somebody’s nanna and baked to perfection in an ancient wood stove! Accordingly, they are not cheap but starving walkers can’t be choosy! And really, what a wonderful day we had had.
Back at our cabin, there was another treat: a beautiful sunset.
Another action packed day awaited us the following morning. We wanted to fit in the famous “Canyon Walk” at Bright, hightail it to Yakandandah for lunch with Carmel, one of Kenn’s cousins, make it back to Bright for afternoon tea with the Victorian ‘Sealeys’ at their farm and treat ourselves to Dinner at an historic pub. Could we do it?
Lunch at Yackandandah and afternoon tea did not disappoint. either. It was so good to reconnect and natter away. But after such a busy day, we certainly didn’t want to cook for ourselves. The Happy Valley Pub came highly recommended by the relatives and was on the way home. We had no idea that the place would be so busy on a Thursday night but serendipity, they had a table for two! The pub is well over 100 years old and instead of one large dining area, we found ourselves in one of several smaller dining rooms, which were tastefully decorated in a colonial manner and warmed by open fires. Needless to say, we really enjoyed our meal but would heed the advice we had been given to book ahead next time.
It was overcast and very cold as we packed up next morning. Apparently, it was snowing just up the road and we certainly could believe it. It made leaving a little easier and as well, we were concerned about a covid case that had been found in Melbourne and didn’t want to be caught on the wrong side of the border.
There is just one little highlight I would like to share with you. On our way back to Sydney, my sister Jenny suggested that we meet at the Sir George Pub at Jugiong for lunch. This was a great suggestion. We got to eat a delicious meal, stretch our legs and explore the Long Track Pantry which was right next door. The pantry’s newsletter shared two of their iconic recipes, one of which I have tried and loved.
This trip was not long enough! Next time, hopefully next year, we would like to revisit Omeo, Mount Beauty, Yackandandah and Harrietville. We’re both keen to tackle some of the rail trails that criss cross the area and I know Kenn would like to kayak some of lakes and rivers. And there might be time for a little detour to Rutherglen, one of my favourite wine areas or perhaps to the Grampions? Nothing is very far away in Victoria.
As always, thanks for reading