Six reasons to visit Merrijig


AS YOU read this, men and women are riding on horseback across the Victorian Alps, heading from Gippsland to Merrijig to take part in next weekend's annual Mountain Cattlemen's Festival & Get Together. Some will enter the Mountain Cattleman's Cup Bush Race - a twisting, turning, two-kilometre course of jumps and creek crossings. There's very little prizemoney but a first place catapults the winner into cattleman-legend status, with bragging rights in every pub from Mansfield to Omeo. The event is on the McCormack family farm, part of which has been transformed into a rodeo ring and campdrafting yard for the local community. ''There'll be bush poetry and whipcracking,'' owner Bruce McCormack says. ''Some of those blokes can make a bullwhip sing.'' Entry fee includes access to camping area.

Mountain Cattlemen's Association of Victoria annual festival, January 13-15, McCormacks Road, $80 for three-day pass,


BRUCE and Debbie McCormack have been taking people on horseback through the high country for more than 20 years. You can jump on a horse and ride up Buttercup Valley outside their Merrijig farm for a few hours or head out for a week to Wonnangatta Station and back, crossing the Howqua River 26 times - lovely on a hot day when the water comes up to your knees … when you're in the saddle! The overnight ride to Craig's Hut on Mount Stirling includes an evening meal of a camp-oven roast with potatoes and pumpkin followed by apple pie made by Mrs McCormack snr. Next morning, it's bacon and eggs and a steady ride down the Delatite Valley back to base.

McCormack's Mountain Valley Trail Rides, 0428 573 708,


THE view from Kinloch Wines' cellar door takes in Mount Timbertop, the Blue Ranges and the twin peaks cheekily named ''The Paps''. Here, Susan and Malcolm Kinloch, with the assistance of their car park attendant-cum-border collie, Ceileidh, pour tastings of their pinot meunier - a delicate red fermented in old French oak and aged again on three different types of French oak barrels. They grow the grape pinot meunier, along with chardonnay and pinot noir. On weekends, Susan makes great veal-and-pork terrine for her tasting plate.

221 Wairere Road, Booroolite, daily 10am-4pm, 5777 3447


IF YOU have never been to a country pub when it ''goes off'', you really should visit the Hunt Club Hotel. With the Tyrrell sisters, Carlie and Melissa, behind the bar pouring Boag's and the 1870s building full of cattlemen, locals, townies and four-wheel-drivers (skiers in winter), the bulldust levels hit 11 and the punters laugh like drains. The walls are covered in signatures of visiting celebrities, including Cherie Blair, who came for the famous 600-gram rib-eye steak - grain-fed in Queensland.

1870 Mount Buller Road, Mon-Thurs 2pm-1am, Fri-Sat 11am-1am, Sun 11am-11pm, 5777 5666


THE Delatite River makes a very soothing sound as it runs over its bed of rocks and pebbles, just a few metres from the verandah of the Mirimbah Store. It's a rather pleasant spot to breakfast on a warm summer's morning, perhaps with a black coffee and a fat slice of cinnamon-infused French toast topped with fresh berries and mascarpone. From here, it's a short walk to Mirimbah Park, where there's a kids' playground and access to the Delatite River for trout fishing.

Mount Buller Road, Mirimbah, Thurs-Sun 8am-4.30pm, 5777 5529,


STRAP your helmet on and hold on for dear life as you descend nearly 1800 metres from the top of Mount Buller to its base on unmade bike tracks. From Mount Buller Village there are two tracks. The picturesque Delatite River Trail is a 9.8-kilometre-long fire track with a dozen river crossings. The hell ride is 8.65 kilometres of steep and narrow track, with a 20-metre drop down one side, called the Klingsporn Bridle Track. Experienced riders recommend participants wear full-face helmets and knee pads. The good news is there is a bike shuttle running from the Mirimbah Store to Mount Buller on weekends.

Mirimbah Bike Shuttle, $13 one trip or $30 all-day pass,