Afloat in the Sky – The Land Locked Island of Mt Buffalo

Last Updated on March 10, 2017 by Red Nomad OZ

Mt Buffalo, Victoria
Mt Buffalo, Victoria

Approach south eastern Victoria’s magical Bright region Victoria from any direction, spot Mt Buffalo’s impossibly scenic bulk dominating the skyline and you’ll swear you’re not in Australia!

VMt Buffalo from the Myrtleford-Bright Road, Victoria
Mt Buffalo from the Myrtleford-Bright Road, Victoria

It’s difficult to believe the soaring granite cliffs and outcrops leading to the extensive plateau more than 1200 metres above sea level were once much higher. Right at the end of the Aussie Alps that cross three state borders, Mt Buffalo is both a microcosm of Alpine natural attractions; and a unique collection of scenery, flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth.

Its relative isolation and height means Mt Buffalo’s ecosystem has developed independently – and operates just like an island!!

And an island that seems to have become Melbourne’s personal pleasure dome. A short-ish 325 km drive mostly up the freeway from Melbourne, it’s easy to get to Mt Buffalo – and a taste of the marvellous Victorian Alpine high country.

Mt Buffalo from Lake Buffalo, Victoria
Mt Buffalo from Lake Buffalo, Victoria

But however you get there, its amazingly varied range of activities means your first visit to this marvellous mountain National Park will almost certainly not be your last!

So what makes the ‘island’ of Mt Buffalo so unique?

The History

Although proclaimed in 1898 as one of Victoria’s first National Parks after pressure from the Bright Alpine Club, Mt Buffalo has been on the tourist trail since the 1850’s, when Baron Ferdinand von Mueller promoted its unique environment and botany; and the Manfield family started conducting hiking tours from the Buffalo Falls Temperance Hotel at Mt Buffalo’s base.

Guide Alice, tourism pioneer, naturalist and poster girl for the delights of the region in her distinctive uniform lived and breathed Mt Buffalo.

One of the pioneering Manfields, she managed the family’s basic chalet on the plateau. Her daughter recalls spending the night in a hollow log so Alice could observe the lyrebirds at dawn while researching her book, The Lyre-birds of Mt Buffalo.

With the Chalet (see below) the first resort of its kind in the Alpine region, Mt Buffalo’s all year round appeal ensured it became a premier tourist destination for sightseeing, cross-country skiing (and the first ski-tow in Australia), hiking, rock-climbing – and, I dare say, languishing in the Chalet …

The Chalet

The Chalet, Mt Buffalo National Park, Victoria
The Chalet, Mt Buffalo National Park, Victoria

Although the Chalet, a temporary structure built in 1910, is of significant historic, architectural and cultural value, successive state governments have failed to ensure its preservation.

The Chalet Ballroom, Mt Buffalo National Park
The Chalet Ballroom, Mt Buffalo National Park

And while debate rages about why there aren’t enough funds for BOTH historic preservation and health care; despite the Mt Buffalo Community Enterprise proposal to restore and reopen it; and despite visitor and community support, the chalet remains closed to the public.

Unless there’s say, a mining magnate with a spare $50-odd million around somewhere??

Clive Palmer*, this is your big chance to buy my vote!!

Fortuitous timing during our April visit meant we got to tour the marvellous chalet, view the memorabilia and historic displays – and put me several steps further down the RSI-of-the-shutter-finger path … What a shame it would be to close it up forever. Clive? CLIVE?? Are you there????

The Scenery

Mt Kosciuszko is out there somewhere ...
Mt Kosciuszko is out there somewhere …

From Bents Lookout at around 1300 metres above sea level and just below the Chalet, you can almost see Mt Kosciuszko – Australia’s highest mountain.

But only if other visitors GET OUT OF YOUR WAY!!!!

The staggering 360ºviews from several viewpoints show the Alps at their finest.

There’s also rocks like The Monolith, sadly no longer able to be climbed; waterfalls like Rollason’s and Eurobin falls; and many other scenic spots on the 90 km of walking trails in the park.

The Horn, Mt Buffalo National Park
The Horn, Mt Buffalo National Park

Zoom in on the plants to be one of the few people in the world to see the Mt Buffalo endemics.

And you might even spot an Alpine Silver Xenica – a butterfly only found on this plateau and rating a special mention here for no other reason than its ultra-cool name …

The Lakes

Lake Catani, Mt Buffalo, Victoria
Lake Catani, Mt Buffalo, Victoria

A symphony of muted colours, Lake Catani’s rocky surrounds, reeds and clear waters make it the perfect spot to eat the lunch you had the foresight to purchase from the magnificent Edelweiss Bakery in Bright. And those with even more foresight, and a carload of bakery sustenance, could stay in the campground! Those not obsessed with bakery food (if there are any such fools) could go canoeing – but it’d have to be quite a few degrees warmer with a bit less of the cold wind for swimming to be a viable option.

Lake Buffalo, Victoria
Lake Buffalo, Victoria

But take a day off from driving up Mt Buffalo’s winding access road and head past the fine Myrtleford bakery (if, like us, you can handle more than one bakery experience in a day) along the Buffalo River road to Lake Buffalo for stunning Alpine scenery from the excellent picnic grounds.

With their own scenic public amenities block.

Learn from the graffiti – I was surprised to learn that we are all apparently reptilians and aliens are stealing our souls …

The Adventure

Finding out you’re a reptilian isn’t the only adventure to be had at Mt Buffalo!

If you thought the scare factor of my previous post about Alpine sky diving was high, then look away now …

Bent's Lookout, Mt Buffalo National Park, Victoria
Bent’s Lookout, Mt Buffalo National Park, Victoria


Rocky Cliffs on Mt Buffalo
Rocky Cliffs on Mt Buffalo

Still here?? At around 1300 metres above sea level, the Gorge lookout and picnic area shows the depths of insanity to which some thrillseekers will leap.

Yes, that flattish incline on the very edge of the right hand side rock stack above really IS another sky-diving ramp.

If leaping off the mountain isn’t your thing, walk to the bottom, rock-climb or abseil, hike or go caving.

There’s also 4WD touring, tobogganing, cross-country skiing, boating and just plain old sightseeing!

For me? I was all adventured out after climbing the Horn!!

Anyway, those cyclists pedalling up the 4.8% gradient on a 20+ km climb to the Chalet aren’t REALLY having fun, are they??

The Horn

View from the Horn Lookout, Mt Buffalo, Victoria
View from the Horn Lookout, Mt Buffalo, Victoria

At 1723 metres above sea level, Mt Buffalo’s Horn is its highest point.

Descent from the Horn, Mt Buffalo, Victoria
Descent from the Horn, Mt Buffalo, Victoria

If you can stand upright in the wind, you’ll be rewarded with staggering views in every direction – and photos to die for if your hands don’t seize up from the cold! Railings, steps and safety fences mean the 1.5 km track is suitable even for those like me who suffer from vertigo.

But you can probably make your photos look like it’s a LOT more dangerous …

Whatever the weather down below in Bright, nearest town to Mt Buffalo, it’s most likely different up here!!

The Surrounds

Down below and only 319 metres above sea level, the small town of Bright and its surrounds form an excellent backdrop from which to explore the Mt Buffalo ‘Island’. Of course the fact of its two bakeries is completely irrelevant …

A visit timed to coincide with the ‘Autumn Leaves’ festival as we had in April 2012 (read about it HERE!) will challenge organisational, time management, visual and gastronomic skills to the point of collapse. There’s so much to see and do, you could easily spend a week in Bright without even venturing up to the Mt Buffalo summit!

Bright in the valley, Victoria
Bright in the valley, Victoria

But don’t let Bright’s delights stop you from visiting the Landlocked Island of Mt Buffalo! All those Melbournians can’t be wrong, right?!?!?!

Want MORE?


*Clive Palmer = Australian mining magnate
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  1. @MJWC – Haha! You’ll just have to wait and see!! But I promise you – it’ll be spectacular!!
    @Lorac – Welcome, and come back ANYTIME with comments like that!! Look forward to catching up more often!!
    @Al – Awesome! You live higher than Australia’s highest mountain (~2228m)!!! Would you believe on this trip I saw snow for only the 3rd or 4th time in my life ever!
    @Diane – AWWW! You’re just saying that because it looks WAY different to downtown Alberta, right??!!
    @PDP – Thank you!! The first person I had to sell the Outback to was ME! Now I love it!!!

  2. @diane b – The aftermath of the fires is still obvious, although I find the stark white of the trees strangely attractive. No part of the chalet is open now – the tours are infrequent too. Look forward to seeing the Snowies thru you!
    @Annie – Ha! Cold?? I didn’t know the meaning until I stood on the Horn – and the wind blew right through me, large tho I am!! Diversity is what I LOVE about OZ!
    @eileeninmd – Thank you!! I loved being there – and I hope that shows!! Happy Skywatch to you too!
    @chubskulit – Any minute now!!!

  3. Excellent post Red, if anyone can sell the outback it’s you. Your first image has a ‘Eutopian’ feel to it, beyond beautiful.

  4. Hi Red! First time visit. You have an amazing blog and the information is wonderful. As I have never had the opportunity to visit your wonderful country it is great to see all your lovely photos and your informative write ups.

  5. This is my kind of scenery – I love mountains of any type and these photos are glorious to my eyes. Our house is at 2286 meters above sea level!

  6. That first picture is amazing, great job on it by the way.

    Through your camera, You have showed me what a beautiful country you live in. So where are we off to next?

  7. What a beautiful place to visit, the views are just gorgeous. MY hubby would love to see these mountain scenes. What a climb. Great shots, happy skywatching!

  8. I got involved in your flickr photos and nearly forgot this post. It is a magic part of our country. The opposite to the Kimberley but beautiful too. You need to be congratulated climbing up The Horn. When we were there everything was burnt black just after the bushfires but the chalet was open and we had lunch there. It is a crying shame that funds can’t be found to refurbish it back to its glory days. The views are spectacular. We are going to NSW Snowies in October but I hope the snow has gone for easy driving and walking.

  9. @Beach Bum – So why plan to leave? If you’re here, then you’re here to stay, right??!!
    @River – you got that right!! I’ve never been more grateful for a surgically attached camera with a monster SD card …
    @Saucy Kod – Haha, how did you know I had a white-knuckle grip on the railing??!! It’ll be interesting to compare some of our OZ delights with what you get at home!
    @FruitCake – We were VERY lucky to get a tour – I’ll do another whole post on the Chalet one day, so many treasures that rarely see the light of day. Meet you there for a murder mystery night once CP comes to the party, eh??!!
    @Sallie – I can see how that name would take hold!! It’s weird to think of islands being in the sky, but that’s truly the best way to describe them!
    @Cycling Tours Australia – Well … it’s a bit steep for MY lack of cycling prowess, but for hard core cyclists it’d be a great challenge!

  10. @TMWH – Haha, I guess the upside of not being historic is that you’re not old??!!
    @SFlaGuy – Oh, you’re WAY too kind!! But if you’re getting a plane ticket, then my work is done!
    @Andrew – Aha, you’ve uncovered my photography secret – just hang out at impossibly scenic places, and the pix will take care of themselves!! VicRail owned/ran the Chalet at one stage, apparently!
    @Indrani – The pictures are for when you don’t feel like reading!!!
    @Nikki – Thank you!! It’s hard NOT to portray this place in a good light though – what’s not to love??!!

  11. Wow! What a stunning view! especially the mountain and blue sky. These places are best choice for the picnic. These pictures reminds me about my own tour to Australia.

  12. Yes, I do believe it was a Vic Rail treasure, Andrew. Remember all those stunning lithographs in the red rattler compartments with scenic B&W views of the chalet?

    Last time I was there a small part of the chalet was open – from the way the floor moved under my feet it was in serious need of re-stumping. I’m really, really jealous that you had a chance to check out the whole place inside, you lucky peeps youse.

    Can’t you just imagine it restored to its former glory, and the setting for a Poirot mystery?

  13. Really great photos Red – what spectacular views. I can only imagine walking up that ravine and holding the railing tightly, eh. This time I looked at all the photos and then read the post. I am amazed by this beauty and is definately on my bucket list. Great post and very well written Red – a delight to read.

  14. I love the photos and the lookouts look amazing. You have a great way of sharing a place. I really get a sense of the area from your posts. Thanks

  15. Fantastic photos. How could you go wrong with such a subject. We’ve stayed at nearby Porepunkah a couple of times when a friend owned an onsite caravan there. It was snow atop Mount Buffalo when we visited and the chalet was open. While the chalet remains empty, I worry that it will go up in smoke. I seem to recall it was once owned or built by Victorian Railways.

  16. This is the most amazing post you have ever posted. Did I say that before? Well I think this is the one that’s finally going to make me buy that plane ticket.

  17. Here in these parts, most historic sites get specific tax breaks to encourage donations by those MMs, to sweeten the pot. I can’t seem to get myself designated as historic, however!

  18. @John – I suspect it’s just getting better with age … like all of us!!
    @Mark – Me too!! Maybe the mining superprofits tax or the Carbon tax could help preserve our heritage – but then again pigs might fly!!

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