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At the northern end of the region, and just off the main highway, is a collection of small towns such as Yackandandah, Beechworth and Glenrowan. Like much of Victoria, most of these towns trace their history back to the Victorian Gold Rush which started in the 1850’s. However unlike some of their western Victorian counterparts, after the gold left, the miners did too. Gradually the towns dwindled to small service towns for farmers, and some disappeared altogether. However a renaissance is taking place here. Drawn by the alpine scenery, preserved historic buildings and abundance of fresh local food and wines, tourism is giving this region a second life. With eight wine regions, fresh cheeses, meat, fish and plentiful olives, all amongst gorgeous seasonal wildflowers, you’ll be in culinary heaven.
History and heritage lovers’ first stop will be just before Wangaratta in the small town of Glenrowan. This town was home to perhaps one of Australia’s most notorious names, Ned Kelly. Glenrowan was the site of his historic last stand, and a six metre high statue complete with that helmet watches over the town today. More recently the town has become a centre for pip fruit growing and has a handful of vineyards.
Perhaps the most well-preserved town is Beechworth. Many of the historic old buildings have been restored to their former glory and today are home to small family run restaurants and shops. You’ll undoubtedly get the community feel of this region with many places advertising the use of locally grown produce.
After exploring the charming towns, head up into the mountains on the Great Alpine Highway. In the winter, this is the only part of Australia that receives a decent snowfall - the country’s only ski resorts such as Mt Buller, Falls Creek and Jindabyne can be found in these mountains. If skiing is probably not on your Australian itinerary, do visit this region for the spectacular scenery as the road winds its way up the mountains and drops back into deep valleys across the mountain range. The entire journey should take you around five hours, but breaking it up over a couple of days ensures you have time to do some of the excellent hiking tracks along the way.
Eventually you’ll come to the end of the road at Bairnsdale in the Gippsland Lakes region. The lakes are one of Victoria’s most popular destinations and the small marina towns dotted along their shores are perfect for a few days relaxing in the sun and sand before travelling back to Melbourne. Click here for Melbourne and Beyond HOT deals ending 30 June. Click here for HOT year round Victoria deals.
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