Why you should drive Victoria’s Great Alpine Road
Victoria’s Great Alpine Road is much more than a path to the skifields.
Try saying Milawa-Bobinawarrah Road three times in a row and fast. Sat-nav Lady just has and it’s tempting to take another detour around Milawa’s Cabernet Court and Chardonnay Drive just to hear her tackle nine syllables again with such aplomb.
We’ve taken a wrong turn after tasting 16 cheeses, from delicate goats’ curd to aged blue, at the Milawa Cheese Company, making a beeline to the tasting bench just before a busload of retirees swamp the cheese room.
It’s a sunny Tuesday afternoon in mid-May, and this is stop one on a drive tracing the Great Alpine Road, 366 kilometres from Wangaratta to Bairnsdale in a leisurely two-and-a-half days, with News and Lifestyle art director Lisa Luscombe behind the wheel and camera.
Milawa-Bobinawarrah Road is home to Brown Brothers’ impressive cellar door and, once we find it, we add a tempranillo and Patricia Noble Riesling to the three-cheese stash that’s already gently perfuming the cavernous BMW X5 we’ve borrowed for our trip.
Milawa is a short detour from the B500 but we’re back on track in time to take in the stately corrugated-iron tobacco kilns that define the Myrtleford area. Local growers produced four million kilograms of tobacco a year until the industry folded in 2006. Much of that land now produces wine, and the kilns are being repurposed, too – some into accommodation or, in the case of Lupo’s on the edge of Myrtleford, a kiln-themed cafe. To our right, the hop trellises set in front of Mount Buffalo’s foothills round out a trio of locally grown pleasures, or vices, depending on your point of view.
Small trees blaze in shades of red in the paddocks and poplars stud the roadside until we reach peak autumn at Bright, where we’re booked to stay the night. It’s cycling central here, with the gentle Murray to Mountains Rail Trail running through town, quiet roads leading to a choice of summits for the climb-inclined, and a calendar bursting with two-wheeled races and events.