Victorian High Country
The jewel in the crown of the Garden State is the perfect setting for your next 4WD adventure. Victoria's Alpine Crown has long rewarded those with the right tools for the job—whether they’re the picks and pans of the Australian Gold Rush or the 44kg of 6mm iron plate armour worn by local boy Ned Kelly. But when the job is taking on its web of 4WD trails and fabulous off-road locations, the only thing you need is your D-MAX or MU-X.
Covering over 1.2 million acres, the Victorian High Country saddles the peak of the Great Dividing Range. For millennia its highest plains have been an important meeting place for Indigenous people from all over south-eastern Australia for trade and ceremonies. The region was also important for the cattle farmers who fattened their herds on the plentiful feed. Now it has become a magnet for camping, four-wheel driving, fishing, bushwalking, horse riding and mountain biking.
Being able to base camp and then explore the surrounding region is a great way to experience the area, and even if you’re towing a van, bringing along a tent to experience a sensational night or two camping atop a secluded mountain is worth the effort. Whether you’re planning a weekend jaunt or a longer stay, there’s no better place to recharge your batteries.
There are plenty of forestry tracks to explore and some amazing campsites too. Just remember that conditions can change quickly in the High Country and what may be easy in the dry, can be dangerous in the wet. Here’s all you need to know.
The Circuit Road is a seasonal gravel road that winds its way around Mount Stirling. Accessed via the Mount Buller Road and Mount Stirling Road, it begins and ends at Telephone Box Junction, covering about 60km. We recommend adding a few more clicks to your adventure though, with a couple of detours to some iconic High Country huts and the lovely Bindaree Falls. Razorback Hut is a collection of huts popular with horse trail riders, evidenced by the nearby yards, and is located just off the Circuit Road near King Saddle. The most visited hut in the High Country, Craigs Hut, is accessed via Clear Hills Track. Built for The Man from Snowy River in 1981, the current version is number three thanks to bushfires and neglect. If you’re towing, there’s a good area nearby for camper trailers, so why not spend the night?
Back on the Circuit Road, at the junction with Monument Track and Bindaree Road, turn onto the latter down to the Bindaree Falls car park. The waterfalls are stunning, with ferns and moss enjoying the moisture. Next stop is Bindaree Hut, which looks like it was built for the dwarfs from Snow White. This is a nice, quiet spot for camping beside the Howqua River and, if you continue further along the track, you’ll reach Pikes Flat Hut, renowned as a great fly fishing spot. Returning to the Circuit Road, the final hut before Telephone Junction is Howqua Gap Hut, built in the late 1960s for logging operations.
DARGO TO MOUNT HOTHAM VIA BLUE RAG
If given the chance to camp for free behind a quintessential High Country pub, the Dargo Hotel is the one we’d choose. From here the Dargo High Plains Road leads you north. You’ll pass through a property where a local family, the Treasures, have grazed Hereford cattle on the Dargo High Plains since the 1880s. It won’t be long before you reach one of the High Country’s most iconic tracks —the loose, rocky Blue Rag Range.
While the track isn’t as gnarly as it used to be, having felt the cut of a grader’s blade, don’t let this fool you as the surface changes from season to season. The final climb delivers views (and an Insta snap or two) to die for. From here it’s an easy drive to Mount Hotham and the Great Alpine Road and onto great destinations such as Bright or Omeo.
Pitching up on the banks of the Crooked River in the Grant Historical Area is one of the best camping experiences you’ll find. The old townsite at Talbotville offers an open plain with loads of space to set up, good swimming options and places to try your hand at fly fishing. This was a busy gold mining area in the 1860s.
The Crooked River Track is a fun way of reaching the Dargo Hotel, with numerous water crossings of the Crooked and Wongungarra Rivers. Upon reaching the Kingwill Bridge, follow the Crooked River Road, winding and corrugated, to the Dargo Road before arriving at the pub.
By following the Crooked River Track upstream, you’ll discover the old town sites of Bulltown and then Stonewall before tackling a challenging climb up Bulltown Spur Track to McMillans Road. Turning right takes you back to Talbotville while a left turn leads towards the Grant township site and the Dargo Plains Road.
Stop by the historic Grant Cemetery and old township for an insight into how strong and determined these people were. Facing harsh temperatures and awful living standards, they worked the mines of a bygone era. In 1865, 15 pubs, a church, courthouse, police camp, medical centre, stores and town newspaper graced the township. By 1917 the place was empty.
This was one of the first regions settled in Victoria when, in 1835, pastoralist George McKillop arrived from Monaro in New South Wales in search of new pastures for his cattle. Another member of his party, James MacFarlane, settled the first cattle station in Victoria in nearby Benambra. Alluvial gold was discovered in and around Livingstone Creek in 1851, and by 1854 more than 200 men were digging for the precious metal.
There are camping options in and around Omeo that will allow you to set up base camp and explore the surrounding area. The Omeo Caravan Park is a beaut spot to stake a claim and enjoy all the facilities you need, or seek out the free campsite at the Victoria Falls Historic Area. The track continues to what’s left of the hydropower source for the King Cassilis mine. You can also see Victoria Falls —aim for the afternoon when the sun highlights the view.
Charlotte Spur Track is a great challenge. This steep and rocky track was used by the stagecoaches and supply carts that plied this route from Bairnsdale to Swifts Creek. The Strobridge Huts lie deserted at the end of the track. This is where the reclusive ‘Loony’ Lucy Strobridge, more politely known as the Maid of the Mountains, lived until she died over a decade ago at the age of 81.
Another brilliant loop trail follows the Benambra-Corryong before turning onto Tablelands Road, reaching the Taylors Crossing ford across the Mitta Mitta River. Here you’ll find a swing bridge across the river and Kennedys Hut before tackling backtracks to make your way onto the Omeo High Plains, past the historical Hinnomunjie Bridge, and return to Omeo.
SHEEPYARD FLAT/FRY’S HUT
The campgrounds at Sheepyard Flat and Fry’s Hut are serene, with the Howqua River flowing gently by. There are also some fantastic 4WD tracks and plenty of High Country huts to check out while you’re at it.Howqua Hills Track is a dry weather 4WD trail that climbs to Steiners Road. From there you can explore several tracks of varying difficulty to Jamieson or Howqua.
By following Brocks Road to the Bluff Link Track, you’ll pass a few private huts along the Howqua River before climbing. You’ll enjoy stunning vistas across High Country plains, before reaching Lovicks Hut, rebuilt in 2006 and now popular with horse riders. Before the end of Bluff Track is the King Billy Tree. The oldest-known snow gum in the Victorian High Country has been growing for over 500 years.
If you want to escape the crowds you can camp at Bluff Hut or Lovicks Hut where you’ll find some soft High Country grass to roll your swag out onto. Check the weather, though; you’re above 1500m and even summer can be bitterly cold.
Set on the banks of the Murray across open grassland is the Tom Groggin campground. Access is via the Alpine Way from Thredbo in the east or Khancoban to the north. Along with mountain biking, fishing and bushwalking, this is off-roading paradise.
For the intrepid, spending the evening on top of Victoria’s highest driveable mountain is the ultimate challenge. You’ll also get to ford the Murray River and follow the Tom Groggin Track, with a quick detour via Dogmans Hut, before following the trail up to Mount Pinnibar Track.
It’s an easy climb until you reach 1500m, then you’ll be grateful for four-wheeled traction over the final 3km to the 1772m summit. It’s a perfect spot to roll out your bedding, light a fire and watch the sunset across the High Country.