If you’re looking for a weekend trip from Melbourne that isn’t the Great Ocean Road or one of the other usual suspects (lovely as they are, sometimes you just want something different, right?)… consider heading up to Mt. Buffalo.
This national park is about a 3.5 hour drive northeast from Melbourne and sits in the High Country region which, if you didn’t already know, is a fabulous little pocket of Australia full of quaint villages, vineyards, and rolling countryside landscapes.
And then there’s Mount Buffalo, which hovers in the distance as you make your way towards Bright. There’s just one road that leads all through the park and up to the summit, with numerous viewpoints and hiking trails to stop off at along the way. This brochure maps them all out nicely.
Though the park is open year-round, summer and winter are probably the best times of year to visit Mt. Buffalo. During snow season, it’s very popular for cross country skiing and tobogganing, and in summer you can go canoeing and swimming and also ogle all the wildflowers.
I visited in May during peak foliage time in the High Country, though interestingly there wasn’t any fall foliage in the park. The best thing about being here at this time was how refreshingly uncrowded it was – I probably only saw a handful of cars the entire day.
This is by no means an exhaustive account of all the hikes and views to hit at Mt. Buffalo, but here are the things I did in a day at this park that I think you might enjoy as well:
Ladies Bath Falls & Eurobin Falls
The first stop along the road is for the Eurobin Falls Track, which passes by both Ladies Bath Falls and Eurobin Falls. This is a quick and easy walk (1.5km return), though the hike up to Eurobin at the very end is steep and a wee bit tiring (albeit still very doable).
Ladies Bath Falls is a beautiful little spot. I can see this making for a lovely secluded swimming hole during summer. Definitely too cold during autumn though, so instead of dipping my toes in the water I dropped my polarizing lens in it. Ah well!
Eurobin Falls sits at the end of the trail and is one of those waterfalls you glimpse from down below and behind a fence (y’know, look but don’t touch). I was fascinated by the smooth striped rock more than the waterfall itself – can you blame me?
Lake Catani – Chalwell Galleries Track
I just had to pit stop at Lake Catani when I glimpsed some picnic tables on the water. Good excuse for my second coffee of the day, I’d say.
The lake is small but beautiful, particularly when the surrounding yellow grass is lit up by direct sunlight. And how cool are those massive granite boulders just chillin’ out on the surrounding hills?
I’m here to tell you that the Chalwell Galleries Track takes you all up in them and is an absolute must-do if a rock playground is your idea of fun. It’s an easy 1.7km loop that winds up the hill, around the rocks, and then through a couple of very narrow passageways between them. One of them is even rigged with hand grips (or foot holds?) to aid in climbing down. Seriously, if the thought or look of this worries you, try to put mind over matter and give it a go anyway. It really is so much fun!
To get to the trailhead, drive down the dirt road towards the Lake Catani campground and it’ll be on your right before you reach the campsites or day use area.
Speaking of camping, the campground here is only open from November through April and then during snow season (early June through August). It was closed during my May jaunt, but looked like the most gorgeous setting to pitch your tent. During warmer months, you can hire a kayak and paddle the lake. Take me baaaaack!
If you’re jonesing for a good hike that isn’t too terribly long or difficult, but still packs a punch or two, the Cathedral-Hump Track (LOL at that name) fits that bill.
It’s only 2km return, but will probably take you longer than you think since you’re walking uphill for half of it. And if you’re me, maybe you’ll get a little lost at the end of it while trying to rock hop your way from The Hump back to the trail and it’ll take even more time to complete the walk (oops).
Anyhow, I especially loved the views of the winding road from above on the trail. The Cathedral (approx halfway point) I felt wasn’t anything special, but the end of the trail at The Hump made it well worth the trek up. From here, you’ve got 360-degree views of the surrounding valley and mountains, and a nice view looking down at The Cathedral.
Because I happened to be hiking late in the day with plenty of cloud cover, I got to enjoy some killer light beam action happening pre-sunset. So pretty!
Sunset at The Horn
I was told by numerous sources (both online and in the flesh) that the best place to watch the sunset in Mt. Buffalo NP is at The Horn. Given that The Horn is the highest point in the park (1723m) and yields 360-degree views of the surrounding alps and plateaus, it’s hardly debatable.
To get there, drive to the very end of the road and park in the small car park. You’ll see a walking trail leading up a bit further to the lookout, which is said to take 30 minutes one-way. Definitely bring a flashlight or headlamp so you can make your way back safely after the sun goes down.
I was super lucky to have this sunset spot all to myself when I visited, but maybe not so lucky to be blasted with freezing winds when I got out of the car. My tolerance for cold has never been great, but after 3.5 years of living in Australia it’s virtually nonexistent now. Sooooooo I basically ran out to snap a few photos of the setting sun, then ran back to the car to thaw out, and repeated this process a few times until sunset ended. I know, I’m such a pansy – I didn’t even make it up to the summit! What can I say, I don’t fare well against the elements.
I can report, though, that the sunset view from the car park is stellar and you won’t miss a thing by skipping the summit hike. Well, I guess the one thing you won’t get to see is the view behind the summit, but it was completely cloudy and colorless on that side when I was there so I regret nothing. If the sky opposite from where the sun is setting looks pretty, I’d say it’s worth hiking up to the top for those 360-views.