Afloat in the Sky – The Land Locked Island of Mt Buffalo
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!
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.
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?
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 …
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.
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????
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.
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 …
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.
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 …
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 …
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??
At 1723 metres above sea level, Mt Buffalo’s Horn is its highest point.
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!!
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!
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?!?!?!
- Mt Buffalo National Park
- Bright, Victoria
- 7 Random Alpine Adventures with Red Nomad OZ
- Flickr Photos