One of Australia’s best-named towns – the High Country hamlet of Bright – certainly enjoys a bright outlook thanks to its coveted location. Surrounded by picturesque mountain ranges and fertile valleys used by small-scale farmers to produce a bountiful harvest, Bright is blessed with oodles of small town charm. In many ways, Bright is all things to all people. Adventure sport fanatics love the prime paragliding and hang-gliding opportunities that Bright is well-known for, while cyclists can’t get enough of the winding mountain roads and scenic trails in the area. Foodies, wine lovers and craft beer aficionados are taken care of with cellar doors, wine bars, and cafés aplenty. In Bright, all visitors are taken care of by a band of local hotel, cottage and bed and breakfast owners, all keen to provide a memorable stay in their little slice of mountain paradise only 3.5 hour’s drive from Melbourne.
Supreme cycling scene
A cycler’s paradise, the alpine region of Bright and beyond provides ample roads and trails to satisfy cyclists of all abilities. The Murray to Mountains Rail Trail consists of more than 100km of sealed off-road trails from short, gentle rides to longer, more challenging journeys. Cafés, guesthouses and breweries ensure riders are taken care of along the way. Cyclists can Pedal to Produce from Bright to the small town of Porepunkah, where the trail combines scenic views with pit stops for coffee, beer, cakes and more at the farm gates and cafés along the way. For a cycling tour with a twist, the Sombrero Sunset Cycle adds Mexican fare (and a margarita of course) to an easy 35 minute electric bike ride to create a novel way to experience one of Bright’s most popular cycling trails.
Live like a locavore
Going hand-in-hand with expending energy in the outdoors, retreating to a cosy café, hip brunch spot or must-visit restaurant is a part of the Bright experience. Local favourite Coral Lee serves homemade cakes, slices, pies and coffee in a rustic-meets-retro setting. Healthy breakfast bowls, poached egg dishes and Persian pikelets make Coral Lee a brunch spot that is in hot demand. Food Wine Friends also serves up coffee and seasonal breakfast and lunch menus, as well as gourmet picnic baskets for day trippers keen to feast in the fields while out on an adventure in nature. After dark, Thirteen Steps is the ideal spot to relax with the best wine and produce of the region. An underground wine bar and intimate dining room, diners can choose from premium cuts of grass-fed beef, quail, duck, seasonal vegetables and other earthy, slow-cooked dishes.
Wine, gin, cider and craft beer
For some, Bright Brewery is a destination within itself. Located in the heart of Bright, this much-loved brewery does much more than create award-winning ales. The brewery also serves up hearty fare in a casual setting, offers guided tours and tastings, showcases local talent with Sunday live music sessions and provides hands-on brewing practice thanks to the popular ‘Brewer for a Day’ experience. Over at Feathertop Winery, the Boynton family have been producing red, white, rose, sparkling and fortified wines since the late-1980s. Offering free wine tasting seven days a week, the cellar door is complemented by a deli that stocks locally-cured meat, olives, trout, cheese and chocolate. Right in the centre of town, Grape and Grain Bar is a casual spot to sample the best wines, beers and ciders of Bright and its surrounds, including dry alpine cider made with pink lady apples from neighbouring orchards.
Breathing in the crisp, alpine air is easily done in an area like Bright. Surrounded by bushland, national parks and reserves, the walking tracks and trails of Bright are suitable for people of most ages and abilities. Following the Ovens River, the 4km Canyon Walk reveals wildflowers and a proliferation of birdlife, while the 6km Wandi Walk features hidden swimming holes and remnants of the town’s goldmining heritage. Further afield, Mount Buffalo National Park’s 90km of walking tracks gives walkers of varying fitness levels plenty of options. From shorter walks like the 1.7km Chalwell Galleries Track to more challenging hikes like the 13km Rocky Creek Track, the combination of large granite rocks and sub-alpine terrain make for beautiful bushwalking territory.
Low-cost to luxe stays
From cosy cabins to deluxe eco-retreats, secluded camping spots and romantic bed and breakfasts, Bright has accommodation options to suit visitors of all budgets and preferences. A favourite with families and groups, Big 4 Bright Holiday Park boasts a range of accommodation options from budget cabins to impressive villas complete with spa, Wi-Fi and full kitchen. Aalborg combines Scandinavian design with green building credentials to create a luxe getaway for couples, while Leader Reef provides a luxury environment for families or travelling groups to relax in comfort with a wood fire, swimming pool, deck, and stunning views of Mount Porepunkah. With a fully fenced yard, pet-friendly Mister Brightside is a modern holiday house that manages to combine an enviable central location with the ability to sleep eleven people. A property custom-made for indulgence, The Dacha’s idyllic surroundings, mountain views and inviting vibe make it a home-away-from-home for visitors.
Nothing beats enjoying fresh produce straight from the farm, and when it comes to welcoming visitors, the farm gates of Bright and surrounds are more than obliging. Depending on the season, at Wandiful Produce guests can pick chestnuts, forage for edible weeds or learn the art of natural cheese making. At Mt Buffalo Olives, visitors are welcome to enjoy a hands-on tour of the olive grove with an all-day Pick, Pickle, Wine & Dine experience proving popular during harvest season. Fresh blueberries, raspberries, loganberries, blackberries, blackcurrants and cherries can be found at Bright Berry Farms when in season (December – February) with the farm gate store providing berry ice cream, jam, pancakes and other treats all year-round.
Come autumn, a mellow glow is cast over Bright thanks to the changing colours of the foliage in surrounding forests and tree-lined streets. From rusty red to deep auburn, warm yellow and burnt orange tones, the trees of Bright and beyond turn the area into an oil painting that draws in visitors from near and far. To celebrate the beauty of life in the alpine region the Bright Autumn Festival (28 April – 7 May 2017) features a range of music, fashion and food events as well as parades and markets.
Sky high adventures
For adventure seekers who love to take to the skies, Bright is a haven for air sports of all sorts. From tandem paragliding flights for people new to the sport, to solo hang-gliding opportunities for experienced gliders, Bright’s Mystic Hill is a popular launching point for gliders of all abilities.
Taking things down a notch, Bright’s Ovens River and surrounding waterways rewards patient anglers with Murray cod, rainbow trout and redfin. Anglers must have a licence before fishing, however local companies like Southern Fly Fishing Adventures provide fly fishing packages that include licensing requirements, rods, transport, expert advice and more.
Home to some of Victoria’s most photogenic landscapes, Bright is sprinkled with a dash of mountain magic. Visitors wielding everything from iPhones to tripod-mounted digital SLRs use Bright’s many mountain lookouts to capture the perfect shot. Easily reached, the Apex Lookout affords views of Mount Bogong and Mount Feathertop while the Mystic Hill Lookout offers views of theBright township with the added bonus of getting to watch paragliders in take-off mode. Huggins Lookout is another easily reached vantage point to view Bright and the Ovens Valley.