Friday 1 January 2021. During our recent New Year’s break in Eldorado, a small town near Wangaratta in Victoria’s north-east, we drove along the spectacular Great Alpine Road from Everton near Eldorado to Dinner Plain, high up in the Victorian Alps. To begin with, the scenery was relatively dull – wide, flat fields, even though we could see the mountains on the horizon. Then, almost imperceptibly, the landscape began to change: the mountains grew larger, the land began to ripple and rise, and exotic trees began to number among the eucalypts. After passing through the handsome town of Myrtleford, with its lovely trees and famous hop gardens (look out for the little tin sheds: they are hop kilns), we entered the beautiful Ovens Valley, where the road and the Ovens River become companions on a shared journey.
Soon we arrived at the splendid town of Bright, whose avenues of European deciduous trees – oaks, elms, poplars and others – are magnificent and beautiful. They do rather put Myrtleford’s in the shade, as it were. Bright is to the Great Alpine Road what Lorne is to the Great Ocean Road, a super-crowded tourist hub. After Bright the valley narrowed and our excitement grew. We were nearly at the mountains. We passed through the pretty village of Harrietville, at the end of the Ovens Valley, and started our ascent – just as rain began to fall. After 40 minutes or so of driving – twisting, thrilling, occasionally through driving rain – we reached Hotham Heights (at an altitude of 1,750 metres), where we stopped briefly at Danny’s Lookout to take in the wonderful, expansive views. Then, after 15 more minutes or so, we arrived at the village of Dinner Plain, our destination.
Dinner Plain sits at an altitude of 1,570 metres. The village was built on land that was originally known as Rundell’s Paddock. When a weekly coach service between Bright and Omeo (on the eastern side of the mountains) began in the early 1900s it stopped for a midday meal at a spot in Rundell’s Paddock that would henceforth become known as Dinner Plain. We too ate our lunch here – in view of the rain, which had started again, under cover at Dinner Plain’s visitor information centre. After lunch, we consulted the ‘what to do’ brochures on hand (of which there was a wide selection) and decided to undertake the four-kilometre Room with a View circuit, rated easy–moderate. Perfect.
From the visitor centre we walked the 500 metres or so to a trailhead on the other side of the Great Alpine Road and set off into the beautiful sub-alpine bush – a fairly open woodland, typified by the white-barked, wind-bent eucalypts that we supposed were snow gums, interspersed with pockets of lush grassland. Growing here and there were clumps of yellow flowers and white flowers. Everything was damp from the rain and smelt lovely and fresh.
The Room with a View Walking Track was originally a bridle path and leads, as its name suggests, to an open hillside with sweeping views of Mt. Hotham, Mt. Feathertop and the Bogong High Plains. It is truly a magnificent spectacle.
We spent five minutes or so taking in the superb vista, then continued along the track as it wound its way through the woodland back towards the trailhead. Before gaining the trailhead, however, we came across another track, the Montane Loop, and decided to take it. We wanted to prolong our deeply pleasant ramble. The Montane Loop carried us for a further 900 metres through the sublime landscape, before we emerged at the trailhead in a state of sub-alpine bliss.
From the trailhead we walked the half-kilometre back to the visitor information centre, fetched our Thermos from the car and enjoyed a well-earned afternoon tea. It was then time to go. We drove back down the mountain, through the Ovens Valley, through Bright and Myrtleford and out into the flat country. At Everton we left the Great Alpine Road and headed north to Eldorado. We arrived at our house in the late afternoon – just in time for coffee and cake. Splendid.