MAGNIFICENT VALLEYS - The stunning valleys of North East Victoria
Six of the state's best valleys
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.
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 (pictured above), 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 during 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 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, many 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.
Families such as Pizzini, Dal Zotto, Corsini, Sartori, Ciccone and Politini are known for their warm hospitality.
Along the Wangaratta to Whitfield Road are several 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, 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 resort and 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 is 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 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 must 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 is trucked 200 kilometres to a processing plant at Kyabram in Central Victoria.
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.
The Murray Valley
All these valleys culminate at the Murray Valley which consists of the central part of the Murray River where the waters coming from the slopes of the Victorian High Country enter an undulating plain near Wodonga.
The plain becomes increasingly flat as the river flows westwards and at Swan Hill it enters semi-desert Mallee plains.
The river’s fall may average as little as 14 cm per kilometre, which gives rise to numerous billabongs and anabranches, and the plain enables irrigation water to be gravitationally distributed with relative ease.
Between Wodonga and Swan Hill the Murray River is joined by several rivers from the Victorian side: the Kiewa, Ovens, Broken, Goulburn, Campaspe, Loddon and Avoca, all with headwaters in the dividing range that extends westwards across Victoria to the Pyrenees near Avoca.
The 663-kilometre long Murray Valley Highway (B400) follows the course of the Murray River from Corryong in the east to Euston in the north-west.