Updated April 2017
Anyone who has visited Bright, in north eastern Victoria, will tell you it lives up to it’s rep and then some – it really is such a beautiful place.
Nestled in between spectacular mountains – Mt Buffalo, Mt Beauty, Mt Feathertop – the scenery really is breathtaking, all year round, sunshine or rain.
We’ve visited twice in recent years and had a ball with our three boys, now aged 10, 8 and 5.
Both times, we had a combination of weather (from pouring rain through to sunny, warm days), but we still found plenty of activities to do and places to visit with our children.
What follows is by no means a comprehensive list of things to do and places to visit in Bright and surrounds. This will depend on when you visit, what your interests are and how long you stay. However, I do hope it provides some useful tips for things to do and places to visit with a young family.
1. Play at Howitt Park, Bright
Howitt Park is sandwiched between the river and Ginger Baker, the Bright Brewery and The Information Centre. This is a terrific park for kids of all ages with a huge basket swing, a flying fox and a rope pyramid.
There’s plenty of space to play here and paths for the kids to scoot or ride their bikes on. With a seat in the courtyard at The Bright Brewery, this is a great spot for everyone.
When it’s warm, there’s the river to swim in as well as the newish Splash Park. There’s also a water slide into the river opposite the Splash Park.
2. Go For a Bike Ride
Bike riders are everywhere in Bright. There are loads of bike paths and trails to follow, from the flat trails to the hill climbs for the super committed.
The Rail Trail, above, is super popular with the Rail Trail Cafe at the end for a pit stop.
If you don’t have space in your car for bikes or have a tow bar, there are a few bike hire places in town to choose from.
3. Take a Hike
There are loads of walks around Bright and surrounds from short, easy courses through to more challenging, longer options. There are brochures and helpful people to talk you through the options at The Information Centre.
We did two walks with our kids which were highlights of our stay.
The first was the Canyon Walk, which begins at Howitt Park and follows the river towards Porepunkah. You cross a couple of swing bridges and see the changes in the terrain, while staying close to the Ovens River. There are shorter or longer loops to choose from too, so if things go pear shaped or the kids are little, you can do the shorter, half and hour loop. Instead of doing the full loop, we took the Rail Trail back to Bright and all up, it took us 1.5 hours.
4. Pick a Mountain, any Mountain
Bright is surrounded by mountains – in the Winter, there’s the snow and all the ski-ing, tobogganing and snow play that comes with that. Other times, there are walks, drives and look outs to do.
When we visited recently in Autumn, we decided to find a spot to do a walk. A friend who grew up in the area recommended the walk around Lake Catani in the Buffalo National Park.
After a good 45 minute ascent in the car (so, so high but the views!), we reached Late Catani where we did the Lakeside Walk. We took a wrong turn and did part of the Gorge walk as well, and all up we walked for about 1.5 hours – a little long for our 5 year old who was piggy backed the last part of the walk.
This is an easy course with beautiful views across the lake. Keep an eye out for signs though (we were distracted by the kids and the landscape) and take great care on the short section where you walk close to the road.
Before you decide to go though, it’s well worth checking the local weather warnings and with the Information Centre. The day we’d planned to drive up to Mount Buffalo – it had been raining and the clouds were low – we found out the visibility was very low and parts of the road were closed, so we waited for a better day. The drive was steep and scary enough with excellent visibility so I’m glad we held off.
5. Red Stag Deer & Emu Farm
With free entry, The Red Stag Deer & Emu Farm is a great place for the family.
For $5, you can buy a bucket of feed (it’s $2.50 for half a bucket) for the animals and feed whomever you chance upon (all the animals will eat this food).
We found baby goats, emus, ostriches, chickens, roosters, sheep and goats. Of all the animals, our kids loved the deer the most. We were also fortunate to see three baby goats too.
Once we finished feeding the animals, our children had a play on the playground. There is also a cafe (with a deck and a most spectacular view) and a little shop as well as small Mini Golf area ($10 per player). This activity was one of our favourites and was great value.
5. Mountain Fresh Trout and Salmon Farm
We didn’t know what to expect from our visit to the Mountain Fresh Trout and Salmon farm in Harrietville, given we have not fished before and our children are relatively young. However, we had a great time the afternoon we visited.
Entry to the farm is free but you pay for your catches. We were pretty confident this would be a relatively inexpensive outing on that basis! With fishing rods, bait and a club provided (all free of charge), our host gave us a quick lesson in how to “finish the job” using the club on any unlucky fish and we were on our way.
With several ponds with different breeds and sizes of fish, we were directed to the first pond which was full of small trout. Surprisingly, we had instant success (literally within 5 seconds) and our city boys learned how to unhook and club a fish to death, with the club/stick provided. It was a bit gruesome but they coped and I guess that’s part of fishing and the circle of life. Well sort of.
After each of our big boys caught a fish, we moved on to the bigger ponds where the big fish reside. It took a while longer but we managed to catch two large brooke trout. We were thrilled but mentally calculating how much fish we could possibly eat, how we would take it home to Melbourne and how much those big babies would cost!
Inside the small shop, a very helpful and competent 15 year old gutted and cleaned our fish and gave our boys an eye opening lesson in fish anatomy. They were riveted. In the end, all up we paid $41 for our catch, which was almost 4 kilograms – a lot cheaper and fresher than the local fishmonger. A box and ice to transport our fish was provided for an extra $5. The boys loved our fishing experience and surprisingly, so did I.
After our successful foray into fishing, we drove up the road to nearby Harrietville where we bought house made ice creams and gelato from Morries Ice Creamery & Cafe. This is a popular place and you can read reviews about it here.
We then took the short walk over the bridge to the lovely little playground (Tavare Park) right next to the river. There was a pedestrian bridge over the river but this is no longer in use, having been damaged in recent floods.
This is a much smaller playground than Howitt Park in Bright but it is a pretty little spot and has picnic tables as well.
7. Boynton’s Feathertop Winery
On the Great Alpine Rd as you drive towards Bright and set back from the road on the hill, is Boynton’s Feathertop Winery. This is a smart winery that knows how to draw in the families. With a fenced playground, wine tasting is actually possible.
With our three children within eyesight in an enclosed playground (see above, middle), we sampled their wines at the Cellar Door and then put together a platter from the well stocked fridge (think olives, Milawa cheeses, small goods, smoked trout).
We then sat outside next to the playground with spectacular views over to Mt Buffalo while the kids played and ate, played and ate. Why can’t all wineries provide playgrounds?
8. Wandiligong Maze & Cafe
In the pretty heritage listed village of Wandiligong, a few kilometres out of Bright, we visited the Wandiligong Maze and Cafe. The kids loved wandering through the maze and finding various look outs and wooden doors on the way.
The morning we visited was the first dry morning after heavy rainfall so the grass and hedges were wet and it was a bit chilly. On a sunny, warmer day, we would have made use of the gardens and large rotunda and spent more time in the Maze. Instead, we retreated inside for a hot drink and some scones in the cafe.
Overall, we enjoyed our visit but it was not an inexpensive exercise. It was close to $30 entry for our family of 5 and then we ended up staying for morning tea. It would represent better value on a day where you could stay for longer and make better use of the grounds. There’s also a mini-golf course on site.
Things to do when it is raining/boiling hot
Our dear friends who spent a wet week in Bright told us the Bright Library was brilliant and kept their children occupied for hours.
There’s also the cinema next to the Information Centre too. It’s small and super popular during school holidays so do book online or early if you can.
If you are going stir crazy inside, a milkshake or arvo tea at one of Bright’s many cafes may be just the thing too.
Also check out the toy shop Bang and the Bright’s Old Fashioned Lolly Shop for supplies.
In the meantime, what have you and your kids loved doing in Bright? Are there any great activities or spots you would recommend? If you have visited at the height of summer, how did you cope with the heat?