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Wine and High Country
Mount Beauty, NE Victoria This lovely part of Victoria encompasses a kaleidoscope of landscapes. From the bright promise of spring flowers to rich autumnal leaf displays, from the wide expanse of the Murray to chattering trout streams in the mountains, from the elegantly cultivated vineyards in the wine-growing areas to the wild beauty of Alpine National Park, there is something to admire or photograph at every turn. It is a region steeped in history, with Aboriginal heritage, bushrangers and its own goldrush and it is a haven for fishing enthusiasts and boaties. There really is something for everyone in this region.
Climate
Summers are warm to hot and winters are cool in this part of Victoria. In the high country, temperatures are generally several degrees cooler than the lower slopes and bushwalkers should take wet and cold weather gear at all times of the year.
How do I get there?
Getting to the Wine and High Country region of Victoria is very easy. The Hume Freeway heads north out of Melbourne and passes several of the region's major towns, including Benalla, Wangaratta and Wodonga. Side roads that will take you up into the high country include the Great Alpine Road, the Midland Highway and the Goulburn Valley Highway.
What are the main towns?
The main towns in the region include Wangaratta, Wodonga, Benalla, Bright, Beechworth and Mansfield.
What's there to do in the region?
Let's start our tour of this part of Victoria at Benalla. Once the haunt of the notorious Kelly gang, the town is also the home town of Edward "Weary" Dunlop, who is commemorated in the magnificent Rose Gardens. Lake Benalla, formed in Broken River, is a haven for waterbirds and the Art Gallery standing on the shore houses the important Ledger Collection. The Pioneer Museum boasts a sash once worn by Ned Kelly himself. Benalla is a centre for gliding and gliding joy flights are available.

Glenrowan, between Benalla and Wangaratta, was the place where the Kelly gang finally met their end. You can't miss the "Big Ned Kelly" in the main street and you'll want to see the Ned Kelly Museum, the Cobb and Co Museum (also highlighting the Ned Kelly story), not to mention "Kellyland" - an animatronic show about the notorious bushranger. The town also promotes the Historic Ned Kelly Trail, with leaflets available. There are wineries in the area with cellar door tastings and sales.

Just when you think you've had enough of bushrangers, head to Wangaratta where you can inspect the grave of Mad Dog Morgan, another local bully. His body's buried here, but his head was taken to Melbourne for scientists to work out what made him tick. The fertile agricultural area surrounding the town produces wool, wheat, grapes, wine, tobacco and cheeses, fuelling the town's reputation as a centre for gourmet foods. The town becomes a mecca for music lovers when it hosts the annual Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival each November.

From Wangaratta, the Great Alpine Road heads towards the Alpine National Park and on to Bairnsdale in East Gippsland. After passing through the wine district around the village of Milawa, home of celebrated winemakes, Brown Brothers, the road takes you to Myrtleford, situated in a gourmet's paradise producing both foods and wines. Mount Buffalo, in Mount Buffalo National Park, is popular in winter for skiing and in summer for high country walking. The mountain resort town of Bright has a dark past in its goldmining days but today the town, lying beside the Ovens River, is especially pretty in autumn when the English trees put on a spectacular display. Not far away, Mount Beauty sits at the base of Victoria's highest peak, Mt Bogong. The fishing up here is excellent, there are walks for all abilities and in spring the wildflowers transform the landscape.

Back in the valley, Chiltern is a historic former goldmining town just off the freeway between Wangaratta and Wodonga, with a well-preserved main street. The National Trust-owned Dow's Pharmacy is a chemist's shop dating from the 1860's, while the Athenaeum Museum highlights the area's gold mining past. Check out the Famous Grapevine, home of Australia's largest grapevine, planted in 1867! The park at Lake Anderson is a great spot for a picnic and there are some lovely bushwalks in nearby Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park which protects box-ironbark forest that once covered much of north-east Victoria and contains several historic goldmining sites.

Northeast of Chiltern lies Rutherglen, the centre of an old-established and important wine producing district, especially for fortified wines. Many of the wineries have cellar doors for tasting and sales. The town itself is well-preserved and there is a heritage walk which will take you past the most significant buildings.

Wodonga is the Victorian half of the twin towns of Albury-Wodonga which straddle the Murray River and the NSW-Victorian border. The river and Lake Hume are popular spots for watersports and fishing. There is a self-guided Aboriginal heritage walk along the riverbank, where you can see canoe trees and animal carvings.

From here, we leave the freeway behind and head into the high country. Tallangatta was moved out of the way of the rising waters of the Hume Dam in the 1950's, and it now lies beside the Mitta River in the middle of dairy country. Fishing is a popular pastime in the surrounding rivers and streams. Tucked away at the end of the Murray Valley Highway near the source of the mighty river lies the town of Corryong. It was the birthplace of Jack Riley, a legendary high country stockman who, it is said, was Banjo Patterson's inspiration for "The Man from Snowy River". The town is surrounded by mountain peaks and ridges covered with Murray pines - and the local streams will reward the keen angler.

South of Wodonga you will find historic Yackandandah. The entire former goldmining town is listed by the National Trust for its wealth of colonial buildings and elegant avenues of English trees. The Bank of Victoria now houses a museum, while there are plenty of tearooms and craft shops for tourists. Not far away is pretty Beechworth, which encapsulates many of the region's highlights - historic buildings, a goldrush past, bushrangers (see the cell where Ned Kelly was imprisoned as a teenager), gourmet foods and wineries.

South of Benalla is the town of Mansfield, where there is a memorial to three policemen killed by Ned Kelly and his gang. The town is a popular destination year-round: in summer, the attractions include bushwalking, fishing and watersports, while in winter the town is a convenient jumping off point for skiing at Mount Buller. On the other side of Lake Eildon, Victoria's largest dam, lies Eildon, where the waters of the lake are the main attraction for fishing and boating. Close by, Alexandra has some grand buildings which date from its prosperous goldmining past. The McKenzie Flora Reserve is alive with colour in springtime. Finally, we head to the town of Yea, surrounded by forests where fern glades and waterfalls provide vistas at every turn.


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