TESTING THE TEST TRACK
THE Ovens Goldfields District is our regular test track. Why not drive it yourself? North East Victoria and the Southern Riverina has plenty more great roads to enjoy as well
Our test loop is a ripper
FOR most of the 52 weeks of the year thecountrydriver.com used a 153-kilometre loop to put our review car of the week through its paces.
For 2021 we have changed direction and after 53 years of road tests, we have settled into a more leisurely way of enjoying our time – ticking off those myriad main and minor regional roads we have yet to conquer.
But this local drive is one we recommend you drive at least once – or three or four times – as you can do it easily in a day.
We refer to it as the Ovens Goldfields District Drive as it takes in two of North-East Victoria's most visited historic gold-mining towns - Beechworth and Yackandandah.
And it has scenery by the bucket full.
The loop starts and finishes in the Victorian border city of Wodonga, travels through the Leneva Valley to Beechworth, visits another former gold-mining town, Stanley, then heads south to join the Yackandandah-Myrtleford Road at Mudgegonga.
It then turns left, travels through the farming-community of Bruarong to Yackandandah, then twists and turns its way to Kiewa-Tangambalanga before joining the Murray Valley Highway at Huon, a former railway siding located on the western shore of Lake Hume.
The highway follows the shoreline, and the High Country Rail Trail, to Bonegilla where you have the choice of continuing to Wodonga or turning north to Lake Hume village to check out the Hume Dam, then follow the Riverina Highway to the city of Albury.
Wodonga is a five kilometre drive from Albury.
Both Beechworth and Yackandandah have a lot to offer the visitor in terms of history, shopping, cafes, hotels, bakeries, museums etc, so allow a half day at least to properly discover each town.
The Wodonga-Wodonga loop is 153-kilometres.
Add an extra 30-kilometres if you include Hume Dam and Albury.
The Wodonga-Beechworth Road is hilly and windy, but is a B-road, therefore in good condition.
Just west of the farming community of Wooragee you can turn left onto Reids way and cut across to the Chiltern-Beechworth Road then, by turning left travelling towards Beechworth, you will come to a sign pointing to Woolshed Falls.
The falls are at the junction of Spring Creek and Reedy Creeks.
Located in the Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Woolshed Falls is a popular destination for nature lovers and history buffs.
The falls, and the area around them, was once the centre of one of the richest goldfields in Australia, where up to 8000 prospectors camped along the banks of Spring Creek, in search of their fortune.
You can view the cascading falls from an observation deck, or you can take yourself on a self-guided walk around the alluvial gold workings.
But be careful, especially after heavy rainfalls, as the rocks can be slippery and dangerous.
Suitable, sturdy footwear is advisable.
At Beechworth you must include the scenic Gorge Drive which is accessed off the Beechworth-Wodonga Road at the entrance to the town.
It is a ripper and includes along the way the historic Beechworth Powder Magazine, the gorge itself, and Newton Falls on Spring Creek.
The views along the one-way road are spectacular.
The road from Beechworth to Stanley is narrow and twisty, and the downhill drive from Stanley to Mudgegonga is also twisty and not caravan friendly.
(The Mount Stanley lookout is worth a visit but the access road is dry weather only.)
The rest of the route is mainly through undulating countryside.
This a great Sunday afternoon drive or, if you are going to stop at the major towns and sight-seeing places along the way, plan for a full day's driving.
You can spend a full day at both Beechworth and Yackandandah and not get to see all that is on offer.