I need to be honest straight up here – the snow has never been a strong attraction for me, but the road trip to get to the snow is another matter altogether. I love the drive up – beautiful scenery and great food & wine. What’s not to love.
We leave the house at 9am. This allows us to be at Fowles Winery at Avenal (https://www.fowleswine.com) by 11am for a much needed coffee stop. The coffee is not bad, and the food is good if you are so inclined at this hour (we save ourselves for the King Valley, but stopping off here for a late lunch on the way back is always an option). We also usually stock up on wines to drink whilst at the ski lodge, so this is a win win stop over all round.
Back on the road again for another hour ( give or take) and you’re in the delightful King Valley. The townships cluster along the Snow Road in a welcoming guard of honour – Oxley, Milawa, Myrtleford, Porepunkah, Bright, Harrietville. And each and every one of them has somewhere good to eat ( and often several choices of venue – oh, the decisions). We stop first in Harrietville to check out the Vintage Goat vintage shop, alas only to find that it has closed down. Back in the car and on to Feathertop Winery to purchase a bottle of their aptly named Lush (for pre or post dinner enjoyment).
By now hunger is getting the better of us so we finally decide on lunch at Ginger Baker in Bright (www.gingerbakerwinebarcafe.com.au). Sitting in the garden overlooking the river on a sunny day, sharing a couple of small tapas, is certainly a pleasant way to spend an hour or two before heading up the mountain. We shared a calamari & chorizo dish, and an orange & fennel salad.
From Bright you wend your way further up the valley, past exotically named Freeburgh and Smoko and on to Harrietville, nestling at the bottom of Mt Hotham. I’ve heard good reports about the food at The Snowline Hotel but for us it’s onwards and more specifically upwards as we head up the windy mountain road. Thankfully, it was a clear & sunny day – visibility perfect and the road clear of ice and snow. It’s then three nights at AAC Dinner Plain lodge before turning around and heading back to Melbourne.
The return trip is trickier to plan – what time to leave in order to hit the coffee and lunch stops at the right time? Where will we be when hunger strikes? As once you leave the Valley the only option, at least on the Hume Freeway itself, is Fowles Winery again – but this is often well beyond the starving hungry point. We end up leaving about 9.30am, with our first stop being the trout farm at Harrietville to purchase one of their succulent smoked trouts. Then on to Bright for coffee.
Bright is awash with cafe options but we have recently learnt about Dumu Balcony Cafe, a social enterprise cafe that is being used to train indigenous youth from a remote aboriginal community in the Northern Territory. The menu is simple but tasty and I highly recommend you stop in there to support this not for profit enterprise. ( Dumu Balcony cafe, 4 Ireland Street, Bright). A yummy blue cheese, spinach & caramilsed onion toasted sandwich for Pete and a shared raspberry muffin for Marzi & I. The coffee wasn’t great though – being forced into soy by my lactose intolerance I have become a soy milk snob and try to only drink Bonsoy made soy lattes. So I ended up with a take away soy latte from Cafe Velo around the corner, which more than satisfied my coffee needs.
Back in the car and now the dilemma of where to stop for lunch – Fowles was too far away, but having snacked at Dumu we weren’t all that hungry for a stop somewhere in the Valley. The solution came via The Oxley Store, a small take away come sit in cafe/general store in the tiny township of Oxley ( opposite the King River cafe, another one of our favourite spots). Marzi & I had a toasted ham, cheese & tomato sandwich on Milawa corn bread, Pete had scrambled eggs ( which were sunflower yellow in colour, obviously from happy free range chooks). Quick, value for money, tasty and served by an extremely cheery lady – perfect. An added bonus was a chat with an elderly local lady who told us all about the days they had to walk into the ski fields, carrying their provisions. Although her skiing days are well behind her, she still has her wooden skis – definitely a collector’s item today.
From there it was in the car and homeward bound.