Driving the Great Alpine Road Victoria

Australia is known for being a land of breathtaking landscapes and natural wonders, allowing those with an adventurous spirit to embark on unforgettable road trips along its iconic highways.

Among them is the Great Alpine Road in Victoria, which boasts a unique blend of alpine grandeur, verdant valleys, and coastal charm in what, arguably, is the country’s best showcase of its diverse topography.

Stretching across the southeastern state of Victoria, this 339 km scenic highway takes adventurers on a captivating journey through some of Australia’s most picturesque regions.

In this article, we invite you to join us as we explore the wonders of the Great Alpine Road, uncovering the scenic highlights, exhilarating adventures and cultural treasures that await those wanting to traverse this scenic route.

Whether it’s your first road trip in Australia or the latest route on your half-completed bucket list, the Great Alpine Road promises an awe-inspiring adventure that will leave an indelible mark on your soul.

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What is the Distance Between Bairnsdale to Wangaratta?

The Great Alpine Road is one of the best drives in Victoria. It covers a distance of approximately 339 km from Bairnsdale on the southeast coast to the town of Wangaratta, located in the northeastern part of the state.

DriveDistanceEstimated Drive TimeWhere to Stay
Bairnsdale to Lakes Entrance41 kms (25 miles)40 minutesLakes Entrance
Lakes Entrance to Omeo130 kms (81 miles)1 hour 45 minutesOmeo
Omeo to Mount Hotham55 kms (34 miles)50 minutesMount Hotham
Mount Hotham to Bright54 kms (33 miles)1 hour Bright
Bright to Dinner Plain66 kms (41 miles)1 hour 15 minutesDinner Plain
Dinner Plain to Wangaratta147 kms (91 miles)2 hours 20 minutesWangaratta
Estimates only; times will vary based on traffic and road conditions

This picturesque route takes travellers on a captivating journey through the heart of southeastern Victoria, exposing them to the magnificent natural wonders and cultural gems that dot the landscape along the way.

How Long is the Drive on a Great Alpine Road Trip?

The Great Alpine Road Trip can be completed in about four and a half hours if it’s a clear run and you drive non-stop. However, to fully appreciate the beauty and attractions along this iconic route, allocating at least 2 to 3 days for the journey is recommended.

Doing this provides you with plenty of time to enjoy a proper road trip country Victoria-style. It enables you to savour the diverse landscapes, explore charming towns, engage in outdoor activities, and soak in the cultural experiences without feeling rushed.

That said, if you have more time at your disposal, extending your trip to 4 or 5 days will enable you to dive deeper into the region and perhaps even venture off the main road to discover hidden gems.

Ultimately, the duration of your Great Alpine Road trip depends on your preferences and the experiences you wish to enjoy along the way.

Best Time of Year to Drive on a Great Alpine Road Trip

The Great Alpine Road trip is one of the best drives in Victoria, and really, there is no ‘best’ time to do it – only the best time for you!

The different seasons offer different experiences. So, the scheduling of your visit will depend on what you are going there for.

  • For those seeking a winter wonderland with opportunities for skiing and snow-related activities, the period between June and September, when snow blankets the alpine regions, is ideal.
  • Alternatively, spring (October to November) and autumn (March to May) offer milder weather, making it a pleasant time to enjoy the changing colours of the landscape and outdoor adventures like hiking and cycling.
  • Should you prefer warmer temperatures and want to explore the coastal aspects of the route, the summer months (December to February) are perfect for swimming, beach outings, and water-based activities.

Ultimately, the Great Alpine Road provides a year-round playground, so the best time to drive depends on your personal preferences and the experiences you wish to have.

Before setting out on mountainous drives in Australia, such as the Great Alpine Road, it always worth checking road condition reports. We recommend you look for:

Best Stops on a Great Alpine Road Trip

The Great Alpine Road is not just a highway; it’s an invitation to embark on an odyssey that winds its way through the spectacular landscapes of Victoria. Along the way, you’ll encounter a number of fascinating places to visit.

Below are our recommendations of where you should prioritise checking out whilst driving the Great Alpine Road.

Bairnsdale

For most tourists, Bairnsdale is the first or last place you’ll visit on the Great Alpine Road drive in Victoria.

AU Driving the Great Alpine Road - Bairnsdale

This charming town is steeped in history and boasts a stunning collection of heritage-listed buildings that offer a glimpse into its prosperous past. The picturesque Mitchell River flows through the town, providing opportunities for gentle walks, fishing along its banks and scenic picnics in the adjacent parks – which also have good playground facilities for children to run around.

Meanwhile, Bairnsdale’s tranquil ambience and tree-lined streets create an inviting atmosphere for exploration, making it a pleasant place to explore boutique shops, quaint cafes, fascinating cultural centres and art galleries.

Lakes Entrance

Where the Gippsland Lakes system and the Southern Ocean meet, Lakes Entrance is a picturesque seaside town known for its pristine lakes, meandering rivers and expansive beaches. So if you enjoy spending time on the water or are travelling with children, it’s worth visiting here.

AU Driving the Great Alpine Road - Lakes Entrance

The Lakes Entrance Coastal Reserve offers many birdwatching, fishing, sailing and kayaking opportunities. Congruently, the town’s iconic footbridge affords panoramic views of the azure waters where the Gippsland Lakes blend into the ocean – making it a delightful spot for a leisurely stroll.

As you might expect, Lakes Entrance is an excellent place to enjoy fresh seafood and local cuisine, given its proximity to the waterway. Its waterfront precinct boasts several restaurants and cafes, offering delectable dishes that feature the region’s abundant seafood harvest.

If you time your visit with the annual Lakes Entrance Fishing Festival in March, you’ll also get a taste of the town’s community feel and maritime culture. 

Omeo

A visit to Omeo takes you on a captivating journey to Australia’s gold rush era.

AU Driving the Great Alpine Road - Omeo

Steeped in history and surrounded by stunning alpine landscapes, the town’s well-preserved buildings, including the grand Oriental Claims Historic Area, provide a glimpse into the region’s golden heritage. 

Visitors can explore the Oriental Claims Interpretation Centre to delve deeper into the gold rush history and learn about the lives of those who once sought their fortunes in this rugged terrain.

Aside from its historical allure, Omeo offers plenty of outdoor adventures, with the nearby Snowy River being a haven for anglers, hikers, campers and nature lovers to explore its pristine beauty. In addition, scenic drives lead to lookout points with panoramic vistas of the high country, providing ample opportunities for sightseeing and photography.

Mount Hotham

Nestled in the heart of Victoria’s breathtaking High Country, Mount Hotham is renowned for its world-class skiing and snowboarding during the winter months, attracting visitors from all over Australia. However, its charm extends far beyond the snowy season.

AU Driving the Great Alpine Road - Mount Hotham

In summer, the alpine landscape transforms into a paradise for hikers and mountain bikers. Miles of pristine trails wind through lush forests and meadows, offering opportunities for exploration and adventure. A panoramic vista of rugged peaks and deep valleys awaits at its summit, making it an ideal spot for hikers and photographers.

Families visiting Mount Hotham will find an array of kid-friendly activities, from snow-play areas with toboggan runs in winter to adventure parks with trampolines and ziplines in summer. The alpine village also offers a charming atmosphere with restaurants, cafes, and shops, making it a delightful place to unwind after a day of fun and exploration.

Bright

The quaint town of Bright is a picturesque destination that captivates visitors with its vibrant natural beauty.

Known for its breathtaking autumn foliage, Bright transforms into a mesmerising kaleidoscope of fiery reds and golden hues during this season – which aptly gives the town its name.

AU Driving the Great Alpine Road - Alpine National Park

Bright is also a popular destination in summer when tourists and locals take a refreshing dip in the Ovens River or try canoeing, fishing or tubing along its flowing waters. At the same time, cyclists of all levels can explore the exhilarating trails at the nearby Mystic Mountain Bike Park.

Both spring and summer bring an explosion of colourful blooms to the many gardens and parks, making it an ideal spot for nature lovers and photographers.

Around Victoria, the town is also known as a foodie hotspot, boasting a vibrant dining scene and an excellent range of craft beers and fine wines. Bright also serves as a gateway to the Alpine National Park, where hiking, camping, and wildlife watching are popular activities.

Dinner Plain

Dinner Plain is a serene alpine village tucked away in the heart of the Victorian Alps that is the perfect destination for those seeking peace and natural beauty. 

AU Driving the Great Alpine Road - Victorian Alps

Although it’s a destination you can visit all year round, the village is a snow-covered wonderland during the winter that invites visitors to partake in various activities, including cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. 

The village square, adorned with charming alpine architecture, features an excellent selection of boutique shops, upscale cafes and restaurants where you can savour warm beverages and delicious meals after a day of outdoor adventures.

As the snow melts, Dinner Plain unveils a different kind of beauty. Summer brings lush greenery, wildflowers, and a multitude of hiking and mountain biking trails that crisscross the surrounding alpine landscape. Families can enjoy picnics, explore the high country, or enjoy a digital detox within the crisp mountain air. 

Wangaratta

If you start driving the Great Alpine Road from Bairnsdale, your final port of call will likely be Wangaratta.

This captivating town is famed for its stunning parklands, including the magnificent King George V Gardens, where visitors can marvel at the colourful floral displays and tranquil water features.

The town centre exudes a friendly and welcoming ambience, with a vibrant café scene, boutique shops and local markets where you can enjoy artisanal products and fresh regional produce.

Wangaratta is also a gateway to the surrounding natural wonders of the nearby Warby-Ovens National Park, which offers hiking trails perfect for photography, wildlife, and birdwatching. Additionally, it provides excellent access to the Ovens and King Rivers, popular with anglers and kayakers.

Although a little further afield, Wangaratta provides a terrific base to explore the King Valley or the Rutherglen wine regions, where you can sample world-class wines and enjoy cellar-door experiences. The town is also known for its annual festivals and events, including the renowned Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival, which draws music lovers from across the country to its soulful rhythms.

Essential Tips When Driving the Great Alpine Road

  • Carry essential items with you like a first-aid kit, maps, a GPS device, a flashlight and a fully charged mobile phone. Having a physical map in case of GPS signal loss is also a good idea.
  • The section between Omeo and Harrietville is not considered suitable for towing caravans.
  • If you start your road trip in Victoria in winter, hiring an SUV or 4WD is worthwhile. Snow chains are compulsory during the VicRoads declared snow season; (these can be hired one-way at either end of the drive from companies such as Hoys Skis, Rays Ski Shop or Ski Plus; pre-booking during weekends of ski season highly advisable)
  • Check out the SnowSafe website for driving safety tips and tips for how to install your snow chains for yourself.
  • See more winter driving safety tips if you’ll be tackling this journey in the colder months June to August.

More Victorian Driving Inspiration

If you’ll be spending more time in Victoria and Australia’s southeast, we recommend you read next:

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