Take a self-imposed snow day or three: we've scouted the best things to do, eat and see around Mount Hotham and Dinner Plain, Falls Creek, Bright and Mount Beauty. It's a region that is as obsessed with coffee, furry friends, and hot chocolate as we are. All of the marshmallows, please!
1. You Can Pretend You're Just About Anywhere In The World
The highest brewery in the nation takes Colorado-style cues from its Rocky Mountaineer founder—and at Blizzard Brewing Company, in the heart of the Dinner Plain Village, there's an open fireplace, exceptional chipotle salsa (chopped fresh while you wait) and vivid Western frontier paintings to set the scene. All this plus tasty brews crafted only from alpine waters! Try their new Summit stout or their contentiously lavender-spiked lager.
Dreaming of winter in Toyko? Pop into the Onsen Retreat and Spa, situated a short drive away from Blizzard Brewing Company. Their Japanese-inspired outdoor pool is set to a toasty 39 degrees, which should quickly banish the chill from a day out on the slopes.
For a ski chalet vibe, try Skafferi in Mount Beauty, right at the foot of Falls Creek. Sip glogg, schnapps and hot chocolates alongside Swedish-tinged cafe fare. Don't forget to pick up a packet of Scandinavian biscuits or lollies from Skafferi's produce store to add to your road-tripping stockpile. You can even imagine that you're in the wilds of Alaska, as you'll discover next...
2. You Can Create Your Very Own Disney Moment
Now we know why Disney is obsessed with making movies about sled dogs. A dozen, seriously huggable, huskies vocally vying for your attention (and as many belly rubs as they can wrangle) is pretty fantastic all by itself—but then you get the thrill of a fast-paced sled-ride during the Howling Husky experience, situated at Dinner Plain. We especially love that most of the adorable hounds are rescue dogs and that they seem to get as excited about the trek as their human passengers.
3. There's Even Incentive To Exercise
The Murray to Mountains Rail Trail spans over 100 kilometres of diverse alpine country landscape. We picked up the route in Bright and biked the shorter, pretty (and pretty easy) path to Porepunkah. Check out Cycle Path Cycles conveniently located near the trail.
An excellent rest stop is Boynton's Winery, situated on the eastern side of Mount Buffalo (you’ll see where the incentive part comes in here). Aside from offering a really great bottle of blanc de blanc, they let you DIY your ultimate platter: simply grab a basket and choose from the local goodies like trout, cheese and rustic dips in the deli. Feathertop's chefs will style up an Instagramable spread for you, winning!
Bike back to Bright and you'll definitely deserve a reward of the chocolate variety for all that "hard work". Revive your energy by sampling single origins at Bright Chocolate’s bean to bar factory. Find your favourite block and score a batch of cacao tea, made from the husk of the bean, for later. It's not far at all to peddle back to the bike return on a full stomach.
4. You Will Never Go Thirsty
It's important to stay hydrated, even in winter. Come wine o'clock, head to the charming Ginger Baker Wine Bar and Cafe in Bright (we'd be happy here any time of day though—they make a mean corn fritter). Crackling open fires, a classic soundtrack and rustic furniture will have you feeling fuzzy in no time, with or without that second glass of vino.
If you've worked up a hard-earned thirst, stop in at the nearby Bright Brewery. There's paddle tastings if you're undecided, or go straight for the Brewer's Choice, typically a hearty stout in winter. You can also try your hand at being a brewer for a day here! And for a post-ski tipple, Stingray Bar in Falls Creek is the go-to for cocktails in a quasi-1950's chalet setting. Espresso martinis all round!
5. It's So Easy To Get A Taste Of The Local Life
Eat where the locals eat: Mountain Kitchen in Dinner Plain looks like a country cottage with a home-style menu of comforting favourites to match. Think pies, savoury pastries and homemade biscuits to put your nanna to shame.
Meanwhile, The General or "Genny" is something of a mountain-top social hub. Situated on Mount Hotham, right next to the alpine resort hub, it's a burgers, parmas and pool kind of joint, and they also do a mean spiked coffee (opt for the Galliano to warm frostbitten cheeks). Plus, if you're all too reluctant to venture back into the snow outside, there's the advantage of new apartment accommodation just upstairs.
Stockpot in Mount Beauty (well, technically it's in Tawonga South but still, it's near our fave alpine hot-spot!) has something for everyone from pizza to hot wings to globe-trotting tapas and street food! All of the design elements in this relaxed eatery mean something personal to the owners; ask them for the scoop.
6. You Can Swap Your Beanie For Another Type Of Hat
A hatted restaurant that is. Bright restaurant Simone's chef Anthony Simone is inspired by his strong Italian foodie heritage (his mum, well-known chef and cookbook author Patrizia can still be spotted working the floor). Now that you've come this far, you may as well order the eight course degustation... Consider it fuel for the slopes! Fingers crossed the giant, cheesy, truffled raviolo is on the menu of this homely restaurant that's situated on the main strip.
7. You Don't Need To Visit A Tropical Island To Truly Escape
If your favourite part of any ski trip is snuggling in front of the fire with a steaming mug of mulled wine at the end of the day, you're in luck. There's a range of accommodation options throughout the mountains. Among the fanciest is the expansive private residence of Leader Reef, Bright. It's got a bit of a Hollywood-movie-star-on-vacay vibe—and there's even a pool if you're feeling exceedingly brave. We swear they've somehow trained the neighbour's cat to greet you with "hello" on arrival like your very own feline concierge.
Dreamers in Mount Beauty is also a true retreat with a meditative atmosphere, in-room spas and idyllic surrounds. The penthouse is very luxe but our pick is one of the cosy Spa Chalets.
If you want to be in the midst of the powder action in Falls Creek, Altezza is fitted out with hot colours, Indigenous art and a handy lift for your gear plus enough room to squeeze in all of your closest friends. Otherwise, QT offers light-filled apartments with on-trend styling.
8. You Do Wanna Build A Snowman
Of course you can't leave without experiencing the white stuff at Falls Creek or Mount Hotham at least once. If you're not a hard-core skier or snowboarder there's still varyingly lazy levels of snow-shoeing, tobogganing, tubing, scenic chair-lift rides, snowmobiling, snow bocce a.k.a. "snocce" and snow biking to be done!
Looking for a wintry escape that takes a different direction? Don't forget Mount Baw Baw and Walhalla in Gippsland, and Lake Mountain and Marysville in the Yarra Ranges. Roll on Winter!
Melbourne’s an incredible city, but sometimes we all need to get out of town for a weekend. The Urban List has partnered with Visit Victoria to bring you our Get Out Of Town! series — the ultimate guide to Victoria’s regional gems. For more ideas about where to wander in the Alpine region, click here.
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Image credit: Jenna Fahey White for The Urban List, Howling Husky