You’ve settled into the year, you’re working, your kids have been sick of school from day two, your wife is going insane and the dog has just eaten something it threw up five minutes ago. It’s time to pack up the family, hook up the van and escape the city for a few days.
I know what you’re thinking: “Let go to the beach!” Bad idea, because everyone else has already had it. Let’s face it, beaches are bad, I’m talking the movie and the place. The seaside is an overpriced, crowded, shark-riddled playground for large, hairy guys in Speedos. The caravan parks are all booked out years in advance. At best you can expect sand in your underpants. At worse you’ll get third-degree sunburn, get dumped by a giant wave and come up half drowned wearing an octopus as a hat.
More horrific than that is that drive. Sure, getting there is temptingly easy but the drive back is the killer, the Sunday afternoon nightmare. You know the one, where the hordes of people who have all been away are now returning, combining with the day trippers, weekenders, relative visitors, and holiday house dwellers, and they are all travelling home at exactly the same time as you.
You may as well get there and turn right around and head back home to beat the traffic. So let’s not get involved in that migration of madness. I have another option for you to consider. Take the high road!
I went to the beautiful Mt Buller. I know what you’re thinking: Tim, you are a fool, Mt Buller is famous for snow, skiing, fluffy-puffy coats, snow-chains, Schnapps by an open fire and words like skidoo and piste. It has nothing to offer me without snow. That is where you are wrong. There is a lot to do on the mountain in the very un-peakiest of the season.
It’s only three and a bit hours out of Melbourne and caravaners can stay there for free! That’s right, free. There is loads of free camping in the area (sadly not in the actual village) and my pick is Mirimbah on the main road at the base of Mt Buller just before the Mt Buller entry booths next to the swimming hole. For your more dirt road types, you are spoilt by choice as you head towards Mt Stirling. For those of you who love your amenities and are willing to pay for them, there is a good park in Mansfield, but trust me you are going to love that swimming hole (a five-minute stroll to the Mirimbah Store). Set up your base camp and start exploring.
First up, you will want to bring your bikes. If you don’t have any, you can rent them up there (in the Mt Buller village itself). This is a cyclist paradise. You can do the 16km ride up the mountain main access road or if you are like me, a little cruisier, you can load yourself and your bike onto a trailer and get dropped off at the top. You are now in the middle of the Mt Buller Bike Park. There are trails for every level of bike rider, from hard core thrill seekers to me, the fally-offy sightseeing guy.
They also fire up a couple of the chairlifts so you can grab some air down some hard core gravity-assisted trails (apparently they do this on purpose) or as I prefer, meander down the more sedate cross country trails to the base of the chairlift where you load on you and your bike, ride it back up and try another trail down.
The Mt Buller village itself is quiet, almost deserted, with only a few things open: the bike hire place of course, the tourist centre, which has maps and brochures, The ski club offers the Coffee Garage Café, a bar and accommodation, as does the Abom Chalet across the road (where I had one of the nicest roast dinners I’ve ever eaten — sorry, wife) and the Buller grocer is open a bit most days.
Near the end of the day, it’s a leisurely peddle-free glide back down the 16km Mt Buller road. Make sure your bike brakes are in peak condition. This takes you through the Alpine forest, past amazing views, spring-water waterfalls and the famous Gnome tree house, all right on the main road. Then it’s a plunge into the fresh-water swimming hole, a towel off, quick spruce up and into the car and back up the mountain for sunset drinks. And maybe get a roast dinner at the Abom, or back to the caravan for a local red by the fire.
STUFF TO DO
- Stop at the Merrijig pub for a frothy.
- The Mansfield Sunday market is good, as are the Ned Kelly pies from the Mansfield Bakery.
- Bookings are essential for shuttles between Mirimbah and Mt Buller. Phone (03) 5777 5529.
- Visit www.bike.mtbuller.com.au for information about cycling around Mt Buller.