15 KNOCKOUT SUNDAY DRIVES

Our favourite regional drives

These road trips, covering ground from Mansfield to Wagga, and Euroa to Gundagai, let you explore North East Victoria and the Southern Riverina region of New South Wales at your own pace.

For travel advice, more detailed maps, and suggestions on what to see and do along the route, we suggest you visit a local Visitor Information Centre where the friendly staff will offer recommendations and directions. (Pictured: ​Beechworth historic precinct)

* Note: We have not included distance or duration as we believe you will want to deviate along the way

1 - The magnificent valleys of North-East Victoria

 

NORTH-East Victoria is blessed with five magnificent valleys, all of which are interconnected.

This means the visitor does not have to return to the Hume Freeway or Murray Valley Highway to access the next one.

Each valley is easily accessible and each has its own uniqueness, with historic towns and  well-known tourist attractions being added features.

Each of these valleys - King, Ovens, Kiewa, Mitta and Tallangatta - lie south of the Murray River which is the centrepiece of the almost 700 kilometre long Murray Valley  which separates New South Wales from Victoria.

Australia's greatest inland city, Albury-Wodonga, is the geographic hub, with the City of Wangaratta and the major towns of Beechworth, Myrtleford, Bright, Mount Beauty and Tallangatta also located in the region.

All five valleys follow the course of the rivers they are named after, the exception being the Tallangatta Valley which cradles the Tallangatta Creek.

Three are serviced by highways, the Ovens by the Great Alpine Road, the Kiewa by the Kiewa Valley Highway, and the Mitta by the Omeo Highway.

They vary in length from 40 kilometres to 105 kilometres but, as previously mentioned, each can be accessed by other roads, meaning not having to return to your start point before tackling the next.

The most difficult connecting road is the unsealed Rose River Road which runs between Cheshunt at the head of the King Valley, to Myrtleford, which sits on the Great Alpine Road in the Ovens Valley.

It is not the road you would want to tackle in the midst of winter or summer. Extreme care should be taken during these periods and you would be best advised to check with authorities if you have concerns about the weather.

You have three choices in getting from the Ovens to the Kiewa Valley, one from the Kiewa to the Mitta, and one from the Mitta to the Tallangatta.

There are tracks here and there but we would definitely not recommend them.   

For those that follow VicRoads route numbers, the Wangaratta-Whitfield Road is C521, the Great Alpine Road B500, the Kiewa Valley Highway C531, and the Omeo Highway C542.

The main road into and out of the Tallangatta Valley is Tallangatta Creek Road.

The King Valley

The picturesque and bountiful King Valley is located at the foothills of the Alpine National Park, surrounded by mountains and rolling vineyards, with the King River which wends its way along the valley floor  fed by tributaries whose sources lie in the Victorian High Country.

The river's confluence with the Ovens River is at Wangaratta.

This fertile valley has been farmed since the 1880s, its mainly Chinese inhabitants who came from the goldfields, growing mainly vegetables.

Following the end of World War II, a large number of Italian, Yugoslav and Spanish migrants settled in the area and established tobacco and hops crops.

Following a decline in the tobacco industry in the late 1970s, the farmers diversified by growing chestnuts and berries and, more recently, established vineyards.

The valley could now be described as a little part of Italy and you could be forgiven for thinking you had been transported to the picturesque hills of Northern Italy.

This is due to the many vineyards which cover the valley floor and the surrounding hills, their Italian names and the Italian growers. Names such as Pizzini, Dal Zotto, Corsini, Sartori, Ciccone and Politini are known for their warm hospitality.

Along the Wangaratta to Whitfield Road are a number of small towns, including Cheshunt, Whitfield, King Valley, Edi, Moyhu, Myrrhee and Docker.

At the head of the valley is Lake William Hovell, while overlooking the valley above Cheshunt is Powers Lookout, the haunt of bushranger Harry Power.

A narrow-gauge railway line was built between Wangaratta and Whitfield in 1889. It closed in 1953 and is now a rail trail.

These days the valley has been gaining a reputation as a unique wine region for sangiovese, nebbiolo and barbera to name but a few.  With some of the highest altitude vineyards in Australia, this area produces uniquely flavoured and memorable wines.

Prosecco Road, which stops in at five producers in the valley, is an exciting food and wine trail that includes intimate tastings with the winegrowers. You can also savour the delights of rustic Italian cuisine and learn about the region and its friendly people - perhaps over a game of bocce.

At the northern end of the valley lies the Milawa Gourmet Region, the first official gourmet region in Australia.

It is centred on the township of Milawa and includes the towns of Everton, Oxley, Markwood, Tarrawingee  and Whorouly.

Fuel is available at some of the towns, as is accommodation. Meals are available at most of the cellar doors,

 

The Ovens Valley

The Ovens is the most popular of the five valleys, for many reasons.

The Great Alpine Road which connects North East Victoria to Gippsland (Wangaratta to Gippsland), runs through its entire length, there are many towns and villages scattered along the valley floor, it is picturesque, it accesses the snowfields of Mount Buffalo, Falls Creek, Mount Hotham and Dinner Plain, and from Bright to Wangaratta is the popular, fully-sealed Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail.

The valley gets its name from the Ovens River which rises in the Victorian Alps high above the township of Harrietville and which is sourced by runoff from snow melt and streams within the Alpine National Park and the Mount Buffalo National Park.

These sources include the Buckland River, the Buffalo River and Morses Creek.

The river, which was named by explorers Hume and Hovell in 1824, flows along the entire length of the valley before its confluence with the Murray River at Bundalong.

The towns and villages dotted along the valley include Tarrawingee, Everton, Whorouly, Myrtleford (the largest), Ovens, Eurobin, Porepunkah, the tourist town of Bright, Wandiligong, Smoko and Harrietville.

At its northern end the valley takes in part of the Milawa Gourmet Region.

There are several wineries in the valley and they are a popular stop-over for cyclists on the rail trail, as are the cafes, bakeries and restaurants in Myrtleford, and coffee shops in Porepunkah.

The jewel of the valley is the tourist town of Bright which is flooded with tourists all year round, but more so in autumn when they come to see the spectacular display of autumn leaves. The kaleidoscope of colour is mother nature at her best.

The town has many finery eateries, shops, a micro brewery, chocolate factory and supermarkets, and Bright is also close to Wandiligong and  its popular hedge maze.

Air sports such as gliding and paragliding are popular in the area.

The valley ends at the township of Harrietville, but the Great Alpine Road continues over the mountains through Mount Hotham, Dinner Plain, Cobungra and Omeo before dropping down to Bairnsdale in Gippsland.

The Kiewa Valley

LIKE the King Valley and the Ovens Valley, the Kiewa Valley also has a river running its entire length.

The Kiewa River rises high up on the slopes of Victoria's highest mountain, Mount Bogong at 1986 metres, before spilling into the Murray River at Wodonga.

The upper reaches of the valley start at the former State Electricity township of Mount Beauty, gateway to the Bogong High Plains and the popular snowfields of Falls Creek.

Within the valley are the townships of Tawonga South, Tawonga, Dederang, Tangambalanga, Yackandandah and the satellite town of Baranduda.

Villages include Kiewa, Kergunyah and Gundowring.

The Kiewa Valley Highway is located adjacent to much of the course of the river, along whose banks are many dairy farms which are the lifeblood of the valley.

The picturesque valley is popular with tourists year round, whether they be headed for the snowfields or to Mount Beauty, a popular town noted for its cafes, bakery and caravan park, the latter situated on the banks of the river.

From Mount Beauty you can head up to Bogong Village and the Clover Dam that holds back the waters of Lake Guy,  and other dams associated with the Kiewa Hydroelectric Scheme which traps waters flowing from the Bogong High Plains.

The McKay Creek and West Kiewa power stations are the major generating elements of the scheme which provides peak load to the Victorian electricity grid.

Tawonga Huts, a series of huts and ruins, are located on the lower reaches of the West Kiewa River and are accessible by experienced hikers.

The Bogong High Plains are a popular area for cross-country skiing through winter to the early spring months. Mount Beauty is popular with mountain bikers.

From Tawonga South you can drive up the Tawonga Gap to a lookout which gives uninterrupted views of the valley and Mount Bogong.

The road also leads to Bright on the Great Alpine Road.

Once back to Kiewa, you can then cut across to the Murray Valley Highway to the next valley, the Mitta Valley.

The Mitta Valley

The Mitta Valley, which follows the course of the Mitta River from just east of Tallangatta to the small township of Mitta Mitta, includes the towns of Eskdale and Dartmouth and the rural community of  Tallandoon.

The Mitta River starts high in the Alpine National Park above Omeo, spilling into Lake Dartmouth before continuing its journey north to Lake Hume and the Murray River.

The Omeo Highway follows the course of the river from Tallangatta to Omeo, and while now being fully sealed, the narrow, twisty highway is closed during much of the snow season.

Eskdale is the biggest township in the valley and has some services, while Mitta, and in particular its historic pub, is a popular visitor destination.

Another popular tourist destination is Dartmouth township, located east of Mitta.

The town is close handy to the impressive rock-filled Dartmouth Dam which holds back the waters of Lake Dartmouth, a popular fishing destination.

The lake has a catchment area of 3600 square kilometres and when full holds 3856 gigalitres of water. When overflowing, the sight of the water cascading down the spillway attracts visitors in their droves as it is not a regular occurrence.

 

At the base of the wall is the Dartmouth Power Station which is open to visitors.

To skip across to the Tallangatta Valley, you have to drive back to Tallandoon where you can follow the Yabba Road to Spring Creek Road which brings you out just north of the rural community of Tallangatta Valley.

The Tallangatta Valley

Often overlooked for a day drive, the Tallangatta Valley is a must destination, the picturesque valley being home to mainly dairy farmers who have eked out an existence along its floor since the early 1880s.

At the time they would have supplied milk to the Old Tallangatta Butter Factory. These days it goes to Murray Goulburn's processing plant at Tangambalanga.

Located to the east of Tallangatta, the town that moved in the 1950s, the Tallangatta Valley follows the course of the swift-flowing Tallangatta Creek from Bullioh on the Murray Valley Highway, to the Cravensville Bushland Reserve.

The aptly named Tallangatta Creek Road is sealed its entire length, save for a couple of kilometres to the reserve.

It is the main road into and out of the valley, but experienced four-wheel-drivers can go deeper into the mountains beyond the reserve.

There are plenty of photo opportunities along the way, but be aware of cattle crossing the road during peak milking times.

There are no services but Tallangatta Valley does have a primary school, is home to the Bullioh Football Club, and there is a reserve for picnickers.

Back at the Murray Valley Highway, you have the choice of returning to Albury-Wodonga, or by turning right you can follow the Murray River to Corryong and The Man From Snowy River country.

Corryong is the western gateway to the magnificent Snowy Mountains.

2 - Milawa Gourmet Region

 

THE Milawa Gourmet Region is a culinary adventure waiting to be discovered, whether by car, by bike or on foot. 

It is in this small but picturesque part of North East Victoria where you can experience awesome food and wine any time of the year and it is an easy area to find and get around.

Centred on the Glenrowan-Myrtleford Road (Snow Road), the Milawa Gourmet Region was Australia’s first proclaimed ‘gourmet region’.

 

Since it was proclaimed in 1994, the region has grown into a food and wine lover’s paradise, renowned as the epicentre of the gourmet experience – and what an experience it is.

It is home to Brown Brothers of Milawa, Milawa Mustards, Milawa Cheese Factory Bakery and Restaurant, Sam Miranda, Christmont, Ciccone, Wood Park and John Gehrig wineries and Blue Ox Berries, to name but a few.

The region also includes restaurants and cafes, cosy pubs, excellent accommodation, quaint B&Bs and caravan parks.

For the tourist, the region starts at the Wangaratta-Whitfield Road, travels through the towns of Oxley and Milawa and ends at Markwood, but there is more to discover than just what is located along the Snow Road.

This ‘culinary crossroads’, a reference to the cross roads in the heart of Milawa, is home to many family owned and operated wineries where you can meet the winemakers at their friendly cellar doors or the growers either at their farm gates or produce markets which are held on a regular basis in Milawa and in Moyhu.

The region also encompasses the townships of Tarrawingee, Oxley, Everton, and Whorouly, all of which have some remarkable cafes and pub food.

In a very small radius you will be amazed at what the region has to offer and if you don’t want to drive from cellar door to farm gate, or to the various gourmet food stores, you can hire a bike.

The Milawa Gourmet Region is a food lover's paradise and nobody will go home either hungry or disappointed.

The region overflows with an unsurpassed array of farm-fresh products and great raw ingredients, including olives, mustards, chestnuts, walnuts, cheeses, honey, jams, preserves, vegetables, fruit and, of course, wine.

Leave room in the boot of the car as you are going to need it to carry all your goodies home.

There are no hills so you will love the experience.

An alternative route to the region is via the Great Alpine Road (GAR).

You can deviate off the GAR at either Tarrawingee or Everton.

All roads are sealed, relatively wide and caravan friendly.

3 - Snowy Valleys Way

 

IF you are travelling between Melbourne and Sydney - or vice versa - and you are not in a rush, there is an alternative route between Wangaratta and Gundagai - or again, vice versa - than heading straight along the Hume Freeway.

 

It is called the Snowy Valleys Way, a rival to such popular tourist routes as the Great Ocean Road.

 

The road, with its meandering back roads, covers a distance of 300 kilometres and is an initiative of the Indigo, Towong, Tumbarumba, Tumut and Gundagai councils and was developed as an alternative for tourists to the busy Hume Freeway.

 

A magnificent drive any time of the year, the Snowy Valleys Way is not route numbered as it is made up of many different roads and highways, but it does pass through towns that are etched in our history, such as the gold rush towns of Beechworth and Yackandandah, Tallangatta, the town that moved, and the Man from Snowy River town of Corryong.

 

Other towns along the route are Kiewa-Tangambalanga, Tumbarumba, Batlow and Tumut.

 

As mentioned, the Snowy Valleys Way starts (or ends) at Gundagai in New South Wales to the north and ends (or starts) in the city of Wangaratta in Victoria to the south west.

 

Crossing the Murray River between states takes place along the Alpine Way between Corryong and Khancoban.

 

This alternative, slow-paced network of roads allows the tourist or day tripper the opportunity to take in some of the country’s most breathtaking scenery, explore the many small towns, villages and hamlets along the way and sample country cuisine at the many hotels, cafes, bakeries and restaurants and sample delicious cool-climate wines at the many boutique winers that are dotted along - and off - the route.

 

Starting from Wangaratta you travel along the Ovens Highway to Tarrawingee, then along the Wangaratta-Beechworth Road to Beechworth, one of the best preserved gold rush era towns in the country.

 

You could spend days aimlessly wandering around this delightful historic town which is swamped with tourists on any given day.

 

Leaving Beechworth, the route continues through Wooragee to Yackandandah, another tourist destination which also owes its existence to the gold rush era.

 

Next stop along the route are the twin towns of Kiewa-Tangambalanga, home to the Murray-Goulburn dairy and cheese factory.

 

After crossing the Sandy Creek arm of Lake Hume, the route - now the Murray Valley Highway - takes you to Tallangatta, the ‘Town That Moved’ in 1956.

 

The highway continues on through Bullioh, Koetong, Shelley and Colac Colac, before coming (almost) to its end at Corryong, a picturesque township which sits in the shadow of the Snowy Mountains.

 

You cross the Murray River downstream of Khancoban.

 

The Snowy Valleys Way turns north east once you cross the Murray River and heads to the farming community of Tooma, which is 35 kilometres from Tumbarumba.

 

The views back towards the Snowy Mountains from along this stretch of road are amazing.

 

Tumbarumba, a picturesque town which straddles Tumbarumba Creek, is known as a timber town owing to its heavy dependence on logging and in particular its softwood timber processing.

 

The typical country-style township boasts an art gallery and a Pioneer Women's Hut.

 

The road then heads to Batlow, a town famous for its apple orchards, Apple Blossom Festival and the many roadside stalls selling local produce.

Tumut, another timber town which is also the northern gateway to the magnificent Snowy Mountains, rivals Bright for its colourful display during autumn.

The Gocup Road leads out of Tumut to your final destination of Gundagai, famous for its Dog on the Tuckerbox.

The entire length of the Snowy Valleys Way is sealed and is caravan friendly.

 

Most of the roads are wide, but some of the interconnecting roads are narrow and some care needs to be taken.

 

The Snowy Valleys Way makes for a wonderful drive any time of the year.

4 - Great Alpine Road

FOR the greater part of its 186 kilometres from Wangaratta to Omeo, the Great Alpine Road snakes across the top of Australia through the

picturesque Alpine National Park and in parts rises to 1840 metres above sea level.

 

That particular stretch of national road B500 is Australia’s highest year-round accessible sealed road, just as Mount Hotham Alpine Village - which it passes through - is the second highest village in the country after Cabramurra in the Snowy Mountains.

 

One of this country’s great drives, B500 climbs out of Harrietville before dropping from Omeo to Bairnsdale, one of Gippsland’s prettiest places

and gateway to The Lakes National Park.

 

An extraordinary drive at any time of the year, the Great Alpine Road packs a powerful punch as far as scenery goes, as not only does it pass through Victoria’s largest national park —which boasts 10 of the 11 highest mountains in the state — it also traverses through valleys, through forests, past fast-flowing rivers and crystal clear streams and through historic villages which many Australians may never have heard of.

 

The drive from Albury-Wodonga to Omeo can be easily covered in three hours but take your time and soak in everything this beautiful corner of the world has to offer. 

 

The Great Alpine Road, which has existed in some form or another since colonial times, was completed with the sealing of the section between Mount Hotham and Dinner Plain in 1998.

 

The mountain equivalent to the famous Great Ocean Road, you can get on to B500 - referred to by locals as the GAR - at any number of locations.

If you want to travel the road from its south westerly source then you start at Wangaratta, travelling through Tarrawingee, Everton and Gapsted to Myrtleford.

 

From Myrtleford the road passes along the floor of the stunning Ovens Valley through Ovens, Eurobin, Porepunkah, the tourist destination of Bright, Freeburgh, Smoko and Harrietville before you start the steep and windy climb to the alpine resort of Mount Hotham, 32 kilometres further up the Great Dividing Range. 

 

The landscape changes dramatically from alpine ash to snow gum forest and lush valleys quickly turn to huge ravines with sheer drops and steep mountain passes. 

 

The 55 kilometres of road from Mount Hotham through Dinner Plain and Cobungra to Omeo is relatively flat given the very nature of the mountainous terrain.

 

Through the “off” seasons, services at Mount Hotham and Dinner Plain — and Falls Creek — are limited, but in winter these villages turn into mini cities full of skiers and other snow bunnies.

 

The mountains also take on a completely different hue, changing from browns and greens to nothing but white.

 

The road is Australia’s highest year round accessible sealed road.

 

Caravanners do use the road but be aware that between Harrietville and Hotham Heights it is steep, narrow and windy, with many hairpin bends. 

 

Chains must be carried in winter and must be fitted where directed.

 

Be aware that the road is subject to closure during winter.

5 - The Old Hume Highway

 

M31, or the Hume Freeway, is not an interesting drive – it is a freeway after all and not a tourist drive – as its main purpose is as the main inland corridor connecting Sydney and Melbourne.

 

And it is busy.

 

Real busy in fact, as it is part of the Auslink National Network and it is a vital link for road freight transporting goods to and from these two state capitals as well as serving Albury-Wodonga, Canberra and all the cities, towns and villages along its entire length.

 

But it needn’t be busy for the tourist thanks to much of the old Hume Highway still being intact and easily accessible. It offers an excuse for getting off the freeway and exploring the little towns, villages and now cities which were once upon a time the lifeblood of those travelling the Old Hume Highway.

 

For the 292 kilometre length between the Rural City of Benalla to the south west and the township of Gundagai to the north east, M31 only ‘passes’ through the border cities of Albury-Wodonga, and even that is via an internal ‘boulevard’ which splits Albury central from East Albury.

 

It runs just to the north of Wodonga.

 

This section of the freeway was completed in 2007, while the bypass of Woomargama was completed in 2011 and Holbrook in 2013, meaning the freeway is now not interrupted for its entire length between Sydney and Melbourne.

 

In its heyday the old highway passed through Gundagai, Tarcutta, Kyeamba, Little Billabong, Holbrook, Woomargama, Mullengandra and Bowna before zigzagging its way through the streets of Albury.

 

It crossed the Murray River a few metres upstream of today’s Union Bridge, crossed the floodplain with its dozens of creeks and streams and passed down the main street of Wodonga.

 

It passed through the Victorian towns of Barnawartha, Chiltern, Springhurst and Bowser, crossing the main Melbourne-Sydney railway line backward and forth on its journey.

 

The main street of Wangaratta also bore the brunt of highway traffic.

 

The Kelly siege town of Glenrowan was always a popular stop-over for travellers owing to the history of the area, while Winton was the last village on the highway before it entered Benalla, another town, like Wangaratta, which is now a city.

 

The freeway has not only bypassed these towns in our region, but also historic towns such as Kilmore, Seymour, Yass and Goulburn.

 

Making a stop at an Old Hume Highway town is being promoted as a way of combating driver fatigue and for those that do pull in for a cuppa and something to eat, they will not be disappointed, no matter how small the town.

 

Each has its own story and in most cases bypassing them has actually helped their economy rather than see them die completely.

 

Benalla and Wangaratta are bustling rural cities, Holbrook is just as busy as it was thanks mainly to its unusual submarine displays, while Tarcutta is home to the Australian Truck Drivers’ Memorial which stands in memory of those truckies who have died in road accidents.

 

Gundagai is famous for its Dog on the Tuckerbox, while Chiltern retains its gold rush era charm thanks to carefully preserved streetscapes with historic brick buildings.

 

Villages such as Barnawartha, Mullengandra and Woomargama are also riding on the back of  the freeway bypass, especially with those looking to escape to the country yet still be within  easy reach of major centres – courtesy of … the freeway!

 

And then there are those major centres – Benalla, Wangaratta and arguably Australia’s greatest inland city – Albury-Wodonga.

 

These centres are great tourist destinations in their own right as they offer the tourist a starting and finishing point to the many attractions the region has to offer.

 

Albury-Wodonga is the hub of the region, with major roads and highways branching out in all directions yet allowing you to return by another route.

6 - Kiewa Valley Highway

 

AS the name suggests, the Kiewa Valley Highway follows the course of the Kiewa River which has its headwaters high up in the Alpine National Park.

 

State route C531 meanders along this picturesque valley for 84 kilometres from the Rural City of Wodonga in the north, to the sub alpine town of Mount Beauty which sits in the shadow of Mount Bogong, Victoria’s highest peak at 1986 metres.

 

In the 1950s the road was sealed and realigned to permit the transport of materials for the construction of the Kiewa Hydro Electric Scheme.

 

From Mount Beauty the road continues as the Bogong High Plains Road through the village of Bogong to the alpine resort of Falls Creek.

 

The drive from Wodonga to Mount Beauty is magnificent at any time of the year, more so in winter as the further up the valley you drive the more spectacular the scenery courtesy of the snow-covered Victorian Alps which is home to not only Falls Creek, but the ski fields of Mount Hotham and Dinner Plain as well.

 

The valley is dairy country and of late a number of boutique wineries have been established along its length.

 

The small towns along the way owe their existence to dairying but many families are now starting to settle in them owing to their close proximity to Albury-Wodonga and the excellent condition of the two lane highway.

 

After leaving Wodonga the highway passes through Bandiana and Baranduda before skirting the twin townships of Kiewa-Tangambalanga.

Kergunyah, Gundowring, Dederang and Coral Bank are farming communities, with Tawonga and the adjoining Tawonga South vibrant townships which also boast many holiday houses.

 

And it is from Tawonga South where you get the best views of Mount Bogong.

 

The Tawonga Gap Road north of Tawonga South connects the Kiewa Valley with the Ovens Valley and the Great Alpine Road.

 

Other roads further down the valley connect to Myrtleford and Yackandandah.

 

The main town on the highway is Mount Beauty which has reinvented itself as a tourists town and as a launching point for those visiting Falls Creek and the Bogong High Plains.

 

The town has several ski hire shops and tour operators doing daily trips to Falls Creek 32 kilometres away.

 

The town is also a popular destination for bushwalking, gliding, mountain bike riding, horse riding and fishing.

 

The town has excellent services, fine eateries and a variety of accommodation.

 

The entire length of the highway is caravan friendly but there are a number of tight pinches and narrow sections.

7 - Omeo Highway

 

DESPITE being gazetted a highway in 1925 and previously known as Omeo Road, the name highway is a misnomer as the road from Mitta Mitta to Omeo is nothing more than a narrow, windy, hilly two-way road that, up until 2014, was not fully sealed.

 

Yet it has a certain charm about it.

 

The final leg of a 28 kilometre section which was started in 2010, was finally completed, giving drivers and riders a sealed road for the ‘highway’s’ entire 157 kilometre length which begins at the junction with the Murray Valley Highway  just east of Tallangatta to a junction with the Great Alpine Road at Omeo.

 

Signposted route C543, the Omeo Highway is one of the lesser known, therefore less travelled, Victorian High Country roads, yet it is a great drive and takes in excellent views of the New South Wales and Victorian High Country.

 

The highway is an alternate route to the Great Alpine Road for those wanting to get to Gippsland from the border area.

 

Despite being fully sealed, it is not an all-weather road and during winter it is often closed because of snow coverage.

 

Try and avoid extreme high temperature days as you could be trapped by bushfires.

 

Most vehicles will have little trouble on the road, but it is not suited to large caravans and motorhomes.

 

Also be aware that once past Mitta Mitta there is no fuel or any other services until you reach Omeo.

 

For most of its length the highway follows the crystal clear Mitta Mitta River which rises in the Bogong High Plains.

 

From the Murray Valley Highway junction the highway passes through mainly flat farming country to Tallandoon before it starts its gradual rise to the farming township of Eskdale.

 

Continuing on towards Mitta Mitta there is a turn-off to Lake Dartmouth and Dartmouth township.

 

The lake, which is held back by a massive dam, has a surface area of 64 square kilometres and was built as major irrigation storage for the Murray Darling Irrigation System.

 

A hydro-electric power station at the base of the wall generates 150 megawatts of electricity.

 

The lake is popular with boating and fishing enthusiasts.

 

Mitta Mitta township was founded during the 1840s and swelled during the gold rush era.

 

Today it is a small village that boasts a general store and a popular pub.

 

The next sign of a once-hectic period is Granite Flat which also was a hive of gold mining activity, as was Lightning Creek which was later to become a logging camp.

 

Other former gold mining settlements along the route are Sunnyside, Glen Willis and Glen Valley.

 

Just south of Middle Creek is the turn off to the Bogong High Plains Road.

 

Sitting beside the crystal clear Cobungra River is the historic Blue Duck Inn which is a popular stop-over for those travelling the highway.

 

Motel style cabin accommodation, meals and local wines are available at this traditional country pub.

 

After leaving the pub, the highway meets the Benambra-Corryong Road before you continue your run into Omeo.

 

And for those who love fishing, there are any number of spots along the way to dangle a line.

 

There are also spots along the river that are popular with white water rafters.

8 - Midland Highway

 

IT may only be 63 kilometres in length but the Midland Highway between Benalla and Mansfield passes through scenic countryside, with the majestic Strathbogie Ranges forming the western boundary and the Mount Samaria State Park the eastern boundary.

 

For most of its length the highway follows the course of the Broken River which starts high up in the Alpine National Park below Mount Buller.

 

The river wends its way towards Benalla then on to Shepparton before it spills into the Goulburn River.

 

The highway, signed B300 between Benalla to just south of Barjarg, turns to route C518 from there to Mansfield.

 

It is still called the Midland Highway and is not to be confused with the Midland Link Highway which connects the Midland Highway south of Barjarg with the Maroondah Highway at Maindample.

 

Towns and villages along the way include Swanpool, Lima East, Lima South and Barjarg, the latter once the home of a motor racing circuit which eventually evolved into Winton Motor Raceway.

 

Barjarg is located on the south western edge of Lake Nillahcootie, a storage on the Broken River built in 1967 to harness the flow of the Broken River to meet irrigation, domestic and stock and urban water supply requirements.

 

The main spillway features a unique Gothic arch-shaped crest that allows the discharge of 117,000 Ml/d – equivalent to the volume of an Olympic-size swimming pool passing the spillway every two seconds.

 

A second spillway can be operated during severe flooding.

 

The lake is a popular place for fishing, swimming and boating and there are excellent picnic facilities and a toilet block. Camping is not permitted.

 

Once a small town heavily dependent on farming and logging, Mansfield has reinvented itself and is now a popular tourist destination thanks to its close proximity to Lake Nillahcootie, Lake Eildon, the ski resort of Mount Buller, Mount Stirling and Craig’s Hut, made famous in the film The Man from Snowy River.

 

The town also includes a memorial to those police slain by the Kelly Gang at Stringybark Creek.

 

The gang was known to hang out in the Strathbogie Ranges.

 

Lima East and Lima South are farming communities.

 

Closer to Benalla is the village of Swanpool which boasts a public hall/cinema, a general store and a sporting complex, while the Rural City of Benalla, which sits on the junction of the Midland Highway/Hume Freeway, is the major retail, professional and industrial centre for the surrounding area.

 

The Midland Highway is a two-way road but it is wide and the majority of its length is flat.

9 - Wangaratta to Whitfield Road

 

WHAT a great drive!

 

The King Valley is one of Victoria’s hidden treasures which has only become popular in recent years owing to the number of wineries which are dotted along the valley floor.

 

The King Valley, or King River Valley is a wine producing and agricultural region centred on the King River in north-eastern Victoria, between Wangaratta and the Alpine National Park.

 

State route C521 may only be 50 kilometres in length, but it is such a lovely, scenic drive that you will want to do it time and again.

 

And that probably is more to do with the wineries once you have discovered them.

 

With its rich Italian heritage, the King Valley is the home of Italian style wines such as prosecco, sangiovese, nebbiolo, pinot grigio, dolcetto, arneis and barbera which are available at any of the cellar doors where you will be greeted by generations of winemaking familiies.

 

Along with Italian wines there is also rustic Italian cuisine to match them.

 

The fertile valley has been used since the 1880s to grow a variety of crops, including hops and tobacco, as well as a variety of vegetables and fruit. 

 

The valley has a history which includes bushrangers – notably Harry Power and his young sidekick, one Ned Kelly – and Chinese immigrants who came from the goldfields to establish market gardens.

 

Following the end of World War II a large number of Italian, Yugoslav and Spanish immigrants settled in the area but it is the Italians who have turned the valley into the Little Italy it is today.

 

A narrow gauge railway line was built between Wangaratta and Whitfield in 1889 and operated until 1952.

 

Now a rail trail, the railway was one of four narrow gauge lines of the Victorian Railways.

 

The railway stops along the way are, in the majority of cases, marked by their original signs.

 

Whitfield and Moyhu are the major towns along the route which also passes through Docker, Edi and a town called King Valley.

 

From the well-serviced town of Whitfield the road becomes the King Valley Road to Cheshunt.

 

Further on is Lake William Hovell which provides the King River with water for irrigation.

 

High above Whitfield in the Wombat Ranges is Power’s Lookout from where the bushranger was able to keep an eye on the valley below.

 

Ironically he was captured by troopers at his hideout.

 

The lookout can be accessed from the Whitfield- Mansfield Road.

 

The Whitfield to Wangaratta Road is two lanes and in most cases is wide and in very good condition.

 

Two spots to take care are the junction with the Snow Road at Oxley and the Boggy Creek Road at Moyhu.

10 - Murray River Road/Great River Road

 

C546, or the Murray River Road, is one of Australia’s great drivers and riders roads.

 

It’s a cracker.

 

It snakes its way almost its entire 156 kilometre length from Albury-Wodonga to Corryong following the route of the Murray River which separates New South Wales from Victoria.

 

The last six kilometres into Corryong is known as the Murray Valley Highway and if one is keen to continue his or her drive or ride in a different direction, there is the option of returning to Albury-Wodonga via the highway.

 

As the course of the river meanders through the Upper Murray, so too does the Murray River Road, with plenty of slow in, fast out corners,

winding bends, tight curves, crests, flat straights and a number of causeways.

 

There are not too many hilly sections, but there are some blind corners and in sections, especially where the road runs adjacent to the Mount Lawson State Park, it becomes narrow, with a drop to the river on one side and rock face on the other.

 

Drivers and riders should take extreme care along this section.

 

From Albury-Wodonga you follow the Riverina Highway to the Bethanga Bridge which spans Lake Hume.

 

This impressive and historic nine span bridge was built between 1927 and 1930 and is the only permanent crossing place between New South Wales and Victoria until 91 kilometres upstream at Jingellic.

 

Once across the bridge the road veers left and it becomes windy for about 15 kilometres.

 

Just east of this section is the Wymah ferry which takes vehicular traffic across the Murray arm of the lake.

 

At the 50 kilometre mark is the Granya Road turnoff which climbs through the Mount Granya State Park to join the Murray Valley Highway at Bullioh.

 

The Murray River Road continues through picturesque farming countryside and the rural communities of Burrowye and Guys Forest to the Jingellic turnoff.

 

The small town on the New South Wales side of the river has a general store, a camping ground and the historic Bridge Hotel, a popular stopover

for those touring the Upper Murray.

 

A couple of kilometres further along is the Upper Murray Resort.

 

Walwa is the main town on the road before you reach Corryong.

 

This busy little town, which sits close to the Murray River, includes a general store, fuel supply, medical centre, a caravan park, pub, tennis courts and a golf course.

 

The town is also close to Pine Mountain which is located in the Burrowa-Pine Mountain National Park.

 

Pine Mountain is the largest monolith in the southern hemisphere at 1.5 times the size of Uluru (Ayres Rock).

 

A further 29 kilometres is the historic township of Tintaldra where you can glean some amazing views of the distant Snowy Mountains.

 

The town has a great pub and a general store and there is plenty of fishing spots close handy.

 

Before your drive (or ride) finishes at Corryong, you pass the historic Towong Racecourse where scenes from the movie Phar Lap were filmed and where

gangster Joseph ‘Squizzy’ Taylor once stole the takings.

 

The Towong Turf Club schedules one race meeting a year - the Towong Cup - which is attended by hundreds of racegoers.

 

Towong is the western gateway to the Kosciusko National Park.

 

From Towong the Murray Valley Highway takes you to Corryong, the heart of The Man from Snowy River country.

 

The Murray River Road is sealed for its entire length, does become narrow in parts, and is caravan friendly.

11 - Murray Valley Highway

 

ROUTE B400, the Murray Valley Highway, once ran from the South Australian border with Victoria to Corryong located at the head of the Upper Murray.

 

Today the highway ends at the Murray River Bridge at Robinvale.

 

For most of its length from the tourist playground of Yarrawonga-Mulwala to Albury-Wodonga, the highway follows the route of the Murray River and, to a certain extent, does the same to Corryong, running almost parallel with the Murray River Road.

 

Most of the highway is fairly straight and flat on its easterly run through the village of Bundalong and the famous wine growing region of Rutherglen to Wodonga.

 

It remains flat running through Bandiana, Bonegilla, Ebden and Tallangatta, but becomes hillier and more winding once you pass the site of Old Tallangatta.

 

From there to Colac Colac the highway climbs through Bullioh, Koetong, Shelley and Wabba, before flattening out on its run into Corryong.

 

The landscape changes dramatically once you leave Tallangatta, with wide open plains and a flat road skirting the Mitta arm of Lake Hume, suddenly merging with the lower slopes of the Alpine National Park.

 

The views along the entire length are also spectacular, especially those of the many vineyards around the Rutherglen region and those of distant snow-capped peaks in winter.

 

But there is more than just views to be had on this great drive.

 

Bundalong on the shores of Lake Mulwala near the confluence of the Murray and Ovens Rivers, is a great camping and fishing spot, while Rutherglen is a historic town built on the back of the gold rush era but has since made a name for itself as one of Australia’s – and indeed the world’s – great fortified wine growing regions.

 

Barnawartha North is home to the Northern Victorian Livestock Exchange and a major distribution centre for Woolworths.

 

The Rural City of Wodonga, with the City of Albury, combine as Australia’s greatest inland city.

 

Once a major rail and stock head, Wodonga is now a major educational and industrial centre and also owes its economy to the sprawling Army base at Bandiana.

 

Before swinging towards the mountains, the highway passes through historic Bonegilla which has existed since 1878.

 

From 1889 until 1981, a railway line ran through the village, transporting stock and goods for the Upper Murray region and also transporting goods to the end of the line at Cudgewa for the building of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

 

Bonegilla though is better known as Australia’s first post war migrant reception and training centre which opened in 1951 and closed in 1971.

 

The highway passes through Ebden and across a causeway at Sandy Creek where you get a wonderful view of pylons which once supported the railway line. They now support a rail trail bridge across this section of Lake Hume.

 

Tallangatta, the town that moved in the 1950s, is bypassed by the highway,  and a little further east the old town’s layout can still be seen when the level of the lake drops.

 

Koetong boasts a very popular pub, while the timber town of Shelley laid claim to having Victoria’s highest railway station, at 781 metres.

 

The highway finishes at Corryong, a picturesque town located at the base of the Australian Alps.

 

This is Jack Riley country, the legendary Man from Snowy River.

12 - Olympic Highway

 

FORMERLY known as the Olympic Way, the Olympic Highway connects two of Australia’s largest inland cities – Albury-Wodonga and Wagga.

 

It continues north east from Wagga to Cowra.

 

The distance between these two major centres is 128 kilometres, with the stretch from Albury-Wodonga to just north of Table Top being traversed via the Hume Freeway.

 

Identified as route A41, the highway passes along relatively flat terrain through the Southern Riverina towns of Table Top, Gerogery, Culcairn, Henty, Yerong Creek, The Rock and Uranquinty, and past the Army Recruit Training Centre of Kapooka.

 

And it is at Kapooka where extreme care must be taken as the highway features two right angle bends where it crosses the Kapooka Bridge which spans the main Melbourne-Sydney railway line.

 

The bridge has been the scene of many serious accidents but it is currently being realigned.

 

The highway was named the Olympic Way in 1956 as it was the path the Olympic torch took on its journey to Melbourne.

 

Previous to that it was a series of interconnecting rural roads and recently the name was converted from Olympic Way to Olympic Highway.

 

From the Hume Freeway-Olympic Highway interchange, the highway follows the railway line (almost) to Wagga. It is sealed its entire length and despite being only two lanes, it is relatively wide.

 

On its journey north it passes through the village of Gerogery, the township of Culcairn, home of triple Olympic equestrian gold medallist Andrew Hoy, and Henty, home of the inventor of the header harvester Headlie Taylor, and of the Henty Machinery Field Days, one of the country’s largest annual outdoor agribusiness supermarkets.

 

Yerong Creek, which boasts a winery and large grain silos, is another town that sprang up with the arrival of the railway, as did The Rock which is named after a massive rocky outcrop that looms large behind the town.

 

Further towards Wagga is another railway town – Uranquinty – a village chosen in 1940 as the base for  No 5 Service Flying Training School RAAF.

 

On April 7, 1942, a Wirraway aircraft from the base crashed during an instrument training flight, killing both crew members.

 

The base closed in September, 1946.

 

Following the end of the Second World War, the Uranquinty Migrant Centre was established as a result of the Displaced Persons Immigration Scheme. It closed in 1959.

 

Wagga is a further 16 kilometres north of Uranquinty.

 

Take extreme care at the junction of the Olympic Highway and the Sturt Highway as the Sturt Highway is a major route for transports travelling from Sydney to Adelaide.

13 - Riverina Highway

 

IF flat open spaces are your driving preference, then the Riverina Highway between Albury and Berrigan is the perfect drive.

 

State route B58 between the Murray River city and the small Riverina township, traverses 123 kilometres of virtually flat plain which stretches north from the Murray River to the Murrumbidgee River.

 

The two-lane highway continues on to Deniliquin, home of the famous Deni Ute Muster.

 

The area between Deniliquin and Berrigan is known as the Berriquin Irrigation Area and the highway crosses a number of irrigation channels.

 

The only climb of any significance on the highway is just out of Albury at Splitters Creek.

 

From there it is flat running all the way, making this particular route easy for those towing larger caravans.

 

From Albury the highway passes through the township of Howlong which sits on the northern side of the Murray River.

 

This bustling town has become a satellite of Albury-Wodonga owing to its close proximity.

 

The road then continues to just east of Corowa, another river town, where it crosses the disused Culcairn to Corowa railway line.

 

It turns north towards Lowesdale, passing through the farming community of Buraja along the way.

 

A left hand turn and you are heading straight to Berrigan, but not before passing through the village of Savernake, the centre of an agricultural area that includes sheep, beef cattle, dryland cropping, olives and pig production.

 

Berrigan dates back to the late 1800s and because of its close proximity to the border of Victoria, the town was one of the pioneers in the push for an Australian Federation.

 

Talks on Federation were held in nearby Corowa.

 

Berrigan thrives on the farming income generated in the district and the main shopping centre bustles during business hours.

 

It is also the birthplace of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

 

Over a century ago the residents of the town and surrounding areas banded together as firefighters to protect their community against the ever-present threat of bushfires.

 

They were Australia’s first official bush fire brigade.

 

Towns within an easy drive of Berrigan are Jerilderie, Finley and Tocumwal.

14 - Bushranger Trail

 

NORTH East Victoria and the southern Riverina Region of New South Wales did not have many bushrangers, but the ones that did operate in the region became part of Australian folklore.

The three most famous were Ned Kelly - and indeed the whole Kelly Gang - Dan 'Mad Dog' Morgan, and Harry Power who terrorised the countryside between 1854 and 1880.

 

Morgan was on the run from 1854 to 1865, Power between 1858 and 1870, and Kelly and his cohorts from 1869 to 1880.

 

Only Power survived being shot or hanged. He died a free man in November 1891 when he fell into the Murray River and drowned at Swan Hill while

fishing.

 

The paths each bushranger took zig-zag across the region, but they are easy to follow.

 

Dan Morgan (real name John Fuller) Morgan’s criminal record began in 1854 when he was sentenced to 12 year’s hard labour for highway robbery in Castlemaine, Victoria.

 

After release he wandered the countryside, ending up in the Riverina area. In 1863 he and a companion known as German Bill were involved in a shootout with police and, in order to divert their attention, Morgan shot German Bill dead and he escaped.

 

In 1864 Morgan called at the Round Hill Station at Morven near Culcairn.

 

He rounded up all the station hands and their families and held them captive. He shot and wounded John Heriot and Sam Watson and sent a young station hand named John McLean to fetch a doctor who lived at Walla Walla Station.

 

Fearing McLean would return with troopers, he rode after him and shot him in the back. A historic marker on the Culcairn to Holbrook Road indicates

McLean’s grave site.

 

Morgan then ventured to the Tumbarumba region where he murdered Sergeant David Maginnity, then at Pleasant Hills near Henty he shot Sergeant

Thomas Smyth who later died of his wounds in Albury.

 

With one thousand pounds on his head, Morgan returned to Victoria and on April 8, 1865, he held up the McPherson family at Peechelba Station.

 

After a tip-off, police were waiting for Morgan as he rode from the property.

 

He was shot once in the back by John Windlaw and Morgan died later that day.

 

Morgan is buried in the Wangaratta Cemetery.

 

To follow in Morgan’s footsteps, start at Morven, follow the road to Culcairn, then the Olympic Highway to Albury-Wodonga, the Hume Freeway to

Wangaratta and then north along the Wangaratta-Yarrawonga Road to Peechelba.

 

Harry Power (real name Henry Johnson)

 

After escaping from Melbourne’s Pentridge Prison in 1869, 50-year-old Power turned to highway robbery and became known as a bushranger, something he excelled at.

 

He operated mainly in the North East of Victoria and had a youthful assistant – one Ned Kelly.

 

Power though mainly operated alone and had a 500 pound reward on his head. He watched for police from a lookout high above the King Valley near Whitfield.

He was captured there in 1870.

 

The Powers Lookout State Reserve is accessed off the Mansfield-Whitfield Road between Tolmie and Whitfield.

 

From the car park there’s a challenging 10-minute walk to the lookout.

 

Ned Kelly and the Kelly Gang

 

The story of Ned Kelly and his gang – Joe Byrne, Dan Kelly and Steve Hart – is known (almost) by all and it would be too long winded to repeat it here.

 

From the shooting of three policeman at Stringybark Creek in the Wombat Ranges north of Mansfield, to the siege at Glenrowan two years later, the public followed the gang’s every footstep, some seeing them as a modern day Robin Hood and his Merry Men, the majority nothing but a band of thugs and murderers.

 

Following by car in their footsteps is relatively easy as the gang were known to use well-travelled roads.

 

After moving to North East Victoria from Ned’s birthplace of Beveridge, the Kelly’s settled at Greta where the remains of the homestead can still be seen today.

 

Our Bushranger touring route does not include the gang's visit to Euroa in 1878 where they robbed the town's National Bank of 2000 pounds,  or of the foray the gang made into NSW, and in particular to Jerilderie, where they held up the town’s bank there and also relieved it of 2000 pounds.

 

Our Kelly touring route starts at Stringybark Creek which is accessed via the Tatong-Tolmie Road, either from Mansfield or Benalla.

 

The road to the site is unsealed but there is toilet and camping facilities and you can walk around the shoot-out area and visit the Kelly Tree.

 

Ned Kelly visited Beechworth on more than one occasion and he was committed to stand trial in the Beechworth Gaol which is one of the town’s tourist attractions.

 

The remains of the homestead (chimney stack and collapsed barn) are located on the Kelly Gap Road between Glenrowan West and Greta West.

 

Kelly’s remains were exhumed and buried in an unmarked grave at Greta Cemetery  in 2013.

 

The site of Kelly’s Last Stand is located just off the Hume Freeway at Glenrowan and is one of Australia’s most popular tourist attractions.

 

The Glenrowan Heritage Precinct was included in the National Heritage list in 2005.

 

It is an eight-hectare site that includes the original railway platform, the siege site and the location of Anne Jones’s Glenrowan Inn.

 

A six-metre-high statue which stands guard over the township portrays Ned Kelly in his metal armour.

 

He only wore it once and it was at the shootout with police that it failed him, as even though his head and upper body was protected, he was shot in the legs and groin which brought him to ground.

 

The hotel was burnt to the ground with Dan Kelly and Steve Hart still inside.

 

The Glenrowan Tourist Centre includes an interactive, theatrical production of the siege.

 

You can pick up a siege site walking guide from the centre and discover for yourself the actual spots where each person was during the shoot-out.

15 - Our test track

FOR most of the 52 weeks of the year thecountrydriver.com uses a 153-kilometre loop to put our review car of the week through its paces.

It is not just a great drive for that particular purpose, but it takes in two of North-East Victoria's most visited historic gold-mining towns - Beechworth and Yackandandah.

And scenery.

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 on 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.

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 rest of the route is mainly through undulating countryside.

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