The Goulburn River might not have the PR team of the mighty Murray but as Victoria’s longest river it has long been a part of peoples’ daily lives. It is the region’s lifeline of agriculture, a cultural and historic touchstone as well as a magnet for outdoor activities.
Your road trip offers so many waterways to choose from, including one of Victoria’s largest man-made lakes, enchanting waterfalls and secluded fishing spots. No matter the season, you’ll be greeted with breathtaking scenery, pretty little towns and down to earth hospitality as you wind your way through this special part of central Victoria – all within a short, easy drive out of Melbourne.
Central Victoria was sometimes seen as a drive-through rather than a drive-to area; a place where you’d stop to use the restroom facilities, grab a coffee or fuel up the car. Our Goulburn River and Ranges Road Trip proves otherwise.
It is a place that is filled with a rich history, both recent and more ancient. A place of sweeping landscapes, enchanting waterways and stunning scenic drives, all within an easy drive out of Melbourne.
Head north-east from Melbourne firstly to Marysville and Eildon then on to Yea. From Yea it’s over to Trawool and Tallarook before heading north to Seymour, Avenel then Nagambie and finally arriving at Euroa.
On the edge of the Yarra Valley is the (in)famous Black Spur Drive. Marvel as the road twists and turns beneath towering eucalypts and movie-worthy mist. Soon enough you arrive in Marysville, a pretty little town with a big heart. It is also a convenient jumping-off point to visit Lake Mountain, with plenty for adventure seekers no matter the time of year.
If you want to stretch the legs a little further, Steavenson Falls (Victoria’s tallest with a drop of 84m) is just the ticket. Be well-rewarded for an easy 250m walk from the carpark with sensational views of one of the region’s most iconic waterfalls.
Next up is the town of Eildon and one of Victoria’s largest man-made lakes, with a whopping 500km coastline. Lake Eildon was created in the 1950s with the damming of the Goulburn River for supply of drinking water, hydro-electricity generation and irrigation.
Naturally this makes it a popular spot for all the water recreational activities you can think of: boating, fishing, kayaking, waterskiing, sailing and house boat hire. It’s also an ideal place to just kick back and watch the changing reflections of the clouds and hills on the water.
Our next stop is Yea – yay! A perennially popular stopping-off point to refuel both the car and the driver, Yea easily recalls the grandeur of the area’s gold mining past with historic buildings and graceful wide streets. It is also where the Goulburn River meets the Yea River and the Yea Wetlands, a treasure trove of flora and fauna.
Yea’s historic Gothic-styled railway station is beautifully preserved with its red brick façade. It’s a great place to pick up The Great Victorian Rail Trail or allow the kids to let off some steam at the playground.
A short drive and it’s on to the district of Trawool, for there is no township as such. It is here that the Goulburn Valley Hwy plays cat and mouse with the Goulburn River and its lagoons. Holiday makers have been visiting Trawool Valley from the early 1900s to take in the area’s scenic charms and it’s easy to see why. A visit to the iconic Trawool Estate will not disappoint.
Next stop is Tallarook and the start of the 134 km Great Victorian Rail Trail connecting Tallarook to Mansfield. Whether you choose to explore the trail by foot, by bike or by horse it certainly offers a unique way to take in some fresh air. Like so many townships along this great drive, a weekend trip to the farmers’ market is a great way to sample local produce and stock up at the same time. Since 2009, locals and visitors have been filling up their baskets and supporting producers and makers alike at Tallarook Farmers’ Market on the first Sunday of the month.
A short drive from Tallarook is Seymour, located on the banks of the beautiful Goulburn River. Very much the platonic ideal of a country town with its wide, welcoming streets and riverside parks, Seymour has always been a major stop on the Melbourne-Sydney route. The area has also had strong military connections since the establishment of a nearby training camp prior to WW1 and then later Puckapunyal Army Base.
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting during blueberry season (summer) a stop-off at Blue Tongue Berries needs to be top of the list. The Brewer’s Table is your best bet for quality local food, craft beer and cider. While your wine needs are all taken care of with a visit to Wines By Sam, Sam Plunkett’s cellar door in the expertly refitted old Seymour dye works building.
The historic township of Avenel was established in 1849 as a stop-over point between Melbourne and Albury. It is also known as the place where Ned Kelly’s family lived in the 1806s. Ned is now known as a bushranger and outlaw, but he was once hailed a hero after rescuing a young boy from drowning in a local creek. Fowles Wines is the perfect lunch spot; after all who can resist a wine with the name Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch?
Nagambie calls and it’s our next stop. It is little wonder wineries are a great drawcard of Nagambie and surrounds. The cool climate (influenced by the Goulburn River and Lake Nagambie) combined with the area’s red sandy loam soil adds up to a distinctive wine region.
Look no further than the historic Tahbilk Winery and Mitchelton wineries for evidence. Situated within the Mitchelton estate in a disused underground wine cellars you’ll find the Mitchelton Gallery of Aboriginal Art, regional Victoria’s largest indigenous art gallery, celebrating the art of Australia’s First People, including local Taungurung people.
Our last stop is Euroa at the foothills of the Strathbogie Ranges. You’re definitely in Kelly country now – Ned Kelly and his gang bank robbed a local bank here in 1878. These days the town is a good base to explore the nearby Strathbogies, take a scenic drive to the Gooram waterfalls or perhaps take a quick dip in one of the popular swimming holes if weather allows.
Whether you are seeking a nature-lovers paradise, a taste of the region’s best restaurants and wineries or a relaxing getaway full of country hospitality, a Goulburn River and Ranges Road Trip has it all. Murrindindi, Mitchell and Strathbogie regions are an easy drive out of Melbourne with no end of things to experience whatever the season.
We suggest you plan to stay a while.
DOWNLOAD GOULBURN RIVER & RANGES ROADTRIP MAP
Discover the huge variety of attractions across the region with this printable map. Download here.
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We wish to acknowledge the Taungurung people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.
It’s the anticipation of the spectacle that I love most about waterfalls. It’s that hissing roar as tonnes of water hurtle out over a rocky ledge, to float seemingly slowly down through the air, only to thunder once more as it hits the rocks below. Sometimes, often in summer, the flow is reduced to a thin veil that showers down, the warm breeze picking up the spray, covering your face and arms with a cooling mist. A lot of Victoria’s waterfalls are known sacred sites to the indigenous people and sometimes there will be a sign asking visitors to act respectfully. Some are set up for tourists with concrete paths and lights at night. In this list, however, I have chosen some falls that might not be as popular or as dramatic as the glossy tourist brochure showstoppers, but they have a special feeling and offer something unique.
Kings Falls – Mornington Peninsula
Crimson rosellas fly in broad arcs across the narrow gorge. Silver banksias and black wattles cloak the steep slopes. Spring rains see the summer trickle turn into a small torrent as water pours over dark boulders tumbling down into this small, tight and almost secret valley hidden in a crease of Arthurs Seat. This is Kings Falls, a small but quite dramatic waterfall that offers a rare glimpse into what this part of the Mornington Peninsula would have looked like when home only to the Boonwurrung. They named the 330m-high peak nearby Wonga, but Edinburgh-born Lieutenant John Murray renamed it Arthurs Seat after the volcanic outcrop in his hometown in 1802. The beauty of this waterfall is the solitude it offers to walkers, so close to Melbourne. It has easy access to parking just under 1km away and links to a network of tracks starting in the manicured gardens of Seawinds nearby. Consider lunch at Heronswood, an 1864 homestead in magnificent grounds and home to Diggers Seeds, which offers a true seasonal menu.
Back in the 1800s these falls, a short horse ride from Daylesford, were a popular picnic spot. On the banks of a broad pond under the shade of candlebark trees locals and visitors would dip their toes into the cool clear waters of the Loddon River downstream of the 20m-high cascade of water gushing over hexagonal columns of 2.5-million-year-old basalt. Access can be difficult and the walk down the gorge is for the more adventurous and sure-footed walker. Look out for reptiles, swamp wallabies, the local eastern grey kangaroos and the resident wedge-tailed eagles that soar on the summer thermal currents. The Glenlyon General Store is only 1km away and offers outdoor casual dining, good burgers and has an excellent gin list.
Agnes Falls – South Gippsland
Out on Victoria’s perennially green coast near Toora, on South Gippsland’s Prom Coast, the Agnes River falls 59m over a cascade of boulders, creating a roaring spectacle, particularly after heavy rain. The river is surrounded by a ribbon of remnant bush, where fantails dart and play, flying up to catch termites on the wing. Meanwhile, kookaburras sit in the towering blue gums, watching for prey. This is a beautiful place and equipped with picnic area and toilets near the car park. The falls are a short 200m walk. Nearby is the historic town of Toora with a pub and cafe that serves excellent strudel, and access to the Great Southern Rail Trail.
Den of Nargun – East Gippsland
The Mitchell River National Park contains some of Victoria’s most beautiful and intriguing landscapes. At the Den of Nargun the Mitchell River cuts a deep gorge through the hard rock, creating dramatic escarpments. Down by the confluence of Woolshed Creek and the Mitchell River there is a clear pool of water surrounded by callistemon trees, some with massive gnarled trunks, that must be hundreds of years old. Upstream is the eerily beautiful Den of Nargun, a site sacred to the Gunai/Kurnai Aboriginal women, where the Woolshed Creek has created a waterfall, cave and rock pool. The walk is 5km return and quite steep in places, but the scenery is dramatically beautiful. Nearby in the town of Lindenow has a good Irish pub and the Long Paddock, a cafe in an old bakery offering classic country meals cooked by Michelin-star chefs. Great corned beef and excellent tarts.
The Wannon River rises in the Grampians, flows through Dunkeld, northwest to Cavendish then west to the Glenelg. This is redgum country. Beautiful, rich grazing country, with the spectacular ancient Grampians/Gariwerd to the north and the dormant cones of volcanoes to the south. Just south of Cavendish the Wannon drops a dramatic 30m over a half-moon shelf of volcanic rock into a broad pool of water. There is more flow in winter; in summer the flow can reduce to a thin sheet but Tunda beean, as the falls are known to the Gunditjmara people, is still a magnificent and magnetic site that has a powerful sense of place. This beauty was captured by colonial artist Thomas Clark, whose 1860s paintings of the falls, both from a distance and inside the falls themselves, are prized possessions of the National Gallery of Victoria. A short drive away is Nigretta Falls. Book into the Bunyip Pub, Cavendish, for western-district classic cuisine with a modern bent cooked by former Movida chef James Campbell (17-25 Scott Street, Cavendish, 03 5574 2205).