For those of you who’ve experienced travelling Victoria’s Great Alpine Road, you might have recognised the tiny hamlet of Porepunkah as an essential junction. This place grabs your attention, most certainly in Winter and early Spring, as it is a stepping off point, a launching pad of sorts, for all things alpine adventure.
It’s here where the three snow-capped peaks of Mount Feathertop (near Hotham Heights), Mount Buffalo and Victoria’s highest peak, Mount Bogong, can be seen. Also, where the Ovens and Buckland valleys and rivers intersect, views to the South West are dominated by the vast granite cliff faces of Mount Buffalo – commanding, enormous and graceful. Arriving at Porepunkah presents a gift to sightseers, as it’s here that the clear vision of mountain wilderness ignites sparks within the soul. For this very reason, stopping to take in the views and savour the moment is valuable.
For those in the know, Porepunkah is the central jumping-off point for a massive range of adventure activities. Just a stone’s throw from the pub is the Porepunka airfield, home to light aircraft and ultralight joy flights; Bright’s Mystic Hill is a popular launching site where paragliders traverse the skies; and even closer to the hotel, Mount Buffalo National Park is a virtual ‘island in the sky’ alpine plateau, offering short walks, more waterfalls and some of the region’s best road cycling uphill climbs and exhilarating peak-to-valley downhill sprints.
Ladies Bath and Eurobin Falls are two of the first places to visit on the way up Mount Buffalo, easily accessed via a short forested walking track from the main road parking sites. As the path drops into a small gorge known as Lady Bath Falls, carved by Eurobin Creek, the air becomes cooler. Mount Buffalo towers above; ahead, the sound of cascading water can be heard above the susurration of the breeze through the leaves. The rocks in the creek are round and smooth and are ringed by ferns and taller aromatic mountain pepper trees.
The Buffalo mountain plateau is unique, as it features 550 species of native plants, including some found nowhere else on Earth, such as the Buffalo Sallee tree. On the mountain, a list of hiking trails varies in grade, length and sightseeing opportunities. The Gorge Walk is perched at the edge of the 200-metre sheer granite cliffs; it commands fantastic views over the Alps. Here the air is crisp, and the eucalypts are home to families of Eastern Rosella parrots. As they fly overhead, they paint an idyllic native picture of a true mountain paradise. Adjacent to the gorge is the historic Mount Buffalo Chalet. Its terraced gardens provide unique photography backdrops for selfies; it is easily accessed from the Chalet parking area. The Horn climb (45 minutes return) takes hikers from the base of the far end of the plateau to the mountain’s highest point at 1723 metres. For the moderately fit, this is an easy and highly rewarding hike.
Starting at the valley floor, for mountain bikers looking for a unique long ride with a range of views, the 50km Mount Porepunkah Gravel Loop is one of the region’s most demanding and picturesque. But a word of warning, it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. With almost 1000 metres of climbing with a starting elevation of 272 metres, it rises to 1178 metres. 360 views over Porepunkah and the Buckland Valley are spied through native forest and stands of plantation pines. From its peak, the descent ride back into the valley floor, at speed, can produce an addictive adrenalin rush. A beer at the Punka Pub post-ride is a popular reward and considered a local law, must-do activity.
Winter and mid-Spring are some of the most exciting times to visit Porepunkah, with views of snow-capped peaks all around, roaring fires lit in mountain accommodation and often the best range in weather conditions with a decent number of ultra-sunny blue sky days paired with ice-cold mountain air, complimented with snowdrifts on cooler days.
Late Spring is for wildflower blooms, long rides and hikes and flyfishing, right from the snowmelt flows streaming below the Porepunkah road bridge. Thanks to an excellent community environmental program that has managed to clean up and divert wastewater runoff and protect the river from contaminants, the environment is again pristine. As a result, local platypus colonies have returned to the area.
Summer is for aviation, rock climbing, water activities with the kids, general fun in the sun. Autumn is for colour, food festivals and end of harvest celebrations, and it’s all focused around a tiny place that locals are proud to call home.
Porepunkah is 1 hour south of Wangaratta in North East Victoria or approx 2 hours from Bairnsdale along the Great Alpine Road.
Come for adventure, grand views, great food and drink and affordable family fun.
The Porepunkah Hotel (Punka Pub)
13 Nicholson Street, Porepunkah, Victoria
Tel 03 5756 2111
Ringer Reef Winery
6835 Great Alpine Road, Porepunkah, Victoria
Tel 03 5756 2805
Ride High Country