There is something about Bright, in North Eastern Victoria, that lures visitors, including us, back time and time again. Situated in the Ovens Valley around 3.5 hours drive from Melbourne and surrounded by the peaks of Mount Buffalo National Park and Alpine National Park, Bright and its surrounding villages including Porepunkah, are almost Mediterranean in climate and known for their spectacular fall foliage.
But every season in Bright is a drawcard. Winter is cosy, with charming streetscapes, roaring fires in the pubs, cafes and beer gardens in town, and of course, access to the nearby ski fields. In summer and spring, the rolling fields of the valley are lush with greenery and the gardens come alive, as do the famous bike trails. And throughout the year local wineries and artisan producers do a great trade with people who come to the area specifically for the food and wine.
We most recently paid a visit in the late spring, when the European trees were flush with new greenery, the sun sparkled on the Ovens River through the town and both locals and visitors were enjoying being outdoors again, particularly in the grounds of Feathertop Winery.
Literally opposite our accommodation at the BIG4 Porepunkah Holiday Park, Feathertop Winery, named after Victoria’s second-tallest mountain in Victoria and located in nearby Alpine National Park, is a boutique winery known for its cool-climate varietals and a destination for visitors to spend the day not only tasting hand-crafted wines, but enjoying the restaurant, deli and café, cellar door, alfresco wine garden, and even a playground – recognising that parents like to enjoy good wine too.
It is also situated along the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, over 100km’s of sealed bike trails linking popular destinations in North Eastern Victoria, including Bright and Porepunkah. Cyclists drop in throughout the day for both a long lunch, or a quick bite along with a drink – the perfect place for a rest, to soak in those views and pick up a few goodies to take away with them.
Back at our accommodation, it was easy to simply sit back and relish in the stillness of Porepunkah. With a population of not even 1000 people, the town boasts its own lively and recently refurbished pub, a general store, handful of cafes and of course, a few wineries. But the main hero is the scenery – the sounds of the Ovens River trickling past, the mountains in the distance, and the calls of nature from the pristine environment around you.
Kids were enjoying the jumping pillow, go karts, pool and mini golf that were all on-site, while their parents could simply enjoy just letting them be free.
But it’s hard to stay still here for long and just 6km away in Bright, we were meeting Bright Adventure Company for just that – an adventure. Tim, one of the company owners, was waiting by the Ovens River with some kayaks and it was time to hit the water and see the valley from a different perspective.
The river accommodates both beginner and advanced paddlers, offering a leisurely cruise along the water with a few small rapids thrown in for excitement. We paddled out of town and into the valley, passing some fishermen throwing a line in, and hearing nothing but nature around us. Setting up a picnic on a pretty bank of the river about half-way along our route, Tim talks about the many adventure and nature-based activities on offer in this region – from cliff top picnics, to rock climbing, stand up paddleboarding and of course, kayaking. All are brilliant ways to experience the area for all ages and abilities, with some, like our own float down the river today, even being super relaxing.
One of the other most popular activities in and around town is of course, a bike ride along the Rail Trail and the locals certainly know how to make the most of it. We dropped into Bright Electric Bikes which not only rents out a range of bikes from electric bikes to cruisers, kids bikes and trailers, but also stocks most of the local wines – effectively becoming a regional cellar door. We loved the idea of renting a bike and picking up some local wine at the same time.
We hit the pedals and, surprised at how easy an electric bike makes a leisurely ride, we could concentrate on the stunning scenery around us as we began our route back towards Porepunkah. Because the trail follows the route of an old train line, there are no hills, so the trail is perfect for everybody.
We cruised over historic bridges, through open fields and past glorious maple and oak trees and an easy 6km later, found ourselves back in Porepunkah and pulling into the Rail Trail Café.
One of the popular stops along the trail, the café is owned by locals Jesse and Lucy, and thanks to Jesse’s Mexican background, serves up some of the best breakfast burritos you are likely to find! Coupled with a great coffee, it was the perfect place to break the journey, soak up some sunshine at an outdoor table and boost our energy levels.
Jumping back on the bikes after our leisurely brunch, we passed the BIG4 Holiday Park and Feathertop Winery on route to our final destination on the trail, Ringer Reef Winery. A small winery and cellar door with big views over the Buckland Valley and Mount Buffalo, Ringer Reef is a family owned winery with a range of red, white and sparkling wines hand-made and bottled on site.
A glass of the local bubbly with our eyes on the picture-postcard view was the perfect way to end our cycling adventure (not forgetting to tuck a few bottles away in the bicycle pack rack for later!).
Other experiences we love in Bright and the surrounding region:
- Bright Brewery – sample the local craft beers with a beer flight and some live music!
- Mount Buffalo Olives
- Milawa Cheese
- Pizzini Wines
Have you been to Bright and the surrounding region? We’d love to know about your experience – drop us a comment below!