Legends of the fall

Sue Wallace discovers autumn in alpine country is golden.

Deep ruby reds, browns of every hue, rich yellows and vivid pinks dazzle me everywhere I look. The blazing colours of autumn are in full force and it's a perfect time to take a drive through picturesque north-east Victoria.

Bright is renowned for its striking autumn leaves with a magnificent show of colours that takes centre stage at this time of the year. Cars line up in Delaney Avenue with sightseers marvelling at the spectacle.

Close to the Alpine National Park and within a short drive of the snowfields of Falls Creek, Mount Hotham and Mount Buffalo, Bright offers a range of outdoor activities to entertain visitors all year.

It's also an adrenalin junkie's paradise with tandem microlighting, scenic flights, helicopter rides and abseiling on offer at Mount Buffalo National Park.

The wealth of food and wine in the alpine valleys is also fast becoming one of the town's most popular attractions, with world-class wineries, great fresh produce, award-winning restaurants including The Age Good Food Guide chef hat winner Simone's of Bright and a casual cafe culture.

Follow the many walking and bicycle paths around the town and view its natural setting from lookouts over the valley and mountains.

Nestled at the base of Victoria's highest mountain, Mount Bogong, is the township of Mount Beauty where the autumn colours are also ablaze. Mount Beauty claims to be the mountain bike capital of Victoria and is home to the Big Hill mountain bike track.

Living up to its name, Mount Beauty has many scenic highlights and is a popular base for outdoor activities, from horse riding on the High Plains and bushwalking in the Alpine National Park to mountain biking along bush tracks and fishing in the Kiewa River.

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Take in the magnificent views of Mount Bogong and the Mount Beauty township from Tawonga Gap and save time to sample the premium vintages at some of the region's wineries.

Myrtleford is another town in this area, known for its timber, walnuts, beef and grapes. It's also home to a new festival, La Fiera (see festival.org.au), which celebrates all things Italian and is on this weekend.

Thousands of tourists visit Myrtleford when they cycle the 98-kilometre Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, from Wangaratta to Bright, and sample the fine food, wine and produce on offer.

North East Valleys Food and Wine and Murray to Mountains Cycling has created Pedal to Produce, a tasty initiative that involves cycling through this beautiful countryside and enjoying the region's gourmet delights.

You can visit cellar doors, local breweries or drop into a cafe for a coffee.

For more information about Pedal to Produce contact the Wangaratta Visitor Information Centre on 1800 801 065 or see www.murraytomountains.com.au.

Beechworth, one of Victoria's best-preserved gold rush towns, attracts many tourists throughout the year. Four million ounces of gold were officially mined in 1852, when thousands of hopefuls rushed to the goldfields in search of their fortunes.

The prosperity generated by Beechworth gold has left a legacy for today's visitors.

With more than 30 buildings listed by the National Trust, Beechworth has a remarkable architectural heritage, from hotels, churches and government offices to miners' cottages and the jail where bushranger Ned Kelly was imprisoned.

Take the time to explore the 19th-century streetscapes, antique stores, cafes and restaurants, craft shops and tearooms.

Take a walking tour of the Beechworth Historic and Cultural Precinct and the buildings of historical significance in central Beechworth, many of which are made of local granite.

You can also walk through the courthouse, where Ned Kelly stood trial in 1880 after the siege at Glenrowan.

Burke Museum traces local Aboriginal heritage, gold fever and the history of the town and region and you can see Ned Kelly's death mask. The museum is named after Robert O'Hara Burke, the Beechworth police superintendent who became a famous and ill-fated explorer.

Visit the local cemetery, where a large section is dedicated to the graves of the many Chinese who came in search of gold, and see the twin ceremonial Chinese burning towers built in 1883.

FAST FACTS

Bright

Sleep: Centenary Peak Apartments, 57501433, see cpbright.com.au; The Odd Frog, 0418362791, theoddfrog.com; The Kilns, 0408553332, kilnhouse.com.au.

Eat: Simone's of Bright, 57552266.

Mount Beauty

Sleep: Svarmisk Resort and Spa, 57544544, svarmisk.com.au.

Eat: Roi's Diner Tawonga, 57544495.

Myrtleford

Sleep: Motel on Alpine, 57521438, motelonalpine.com. Eat: Range at Motel on Alpine, 57522885; Plump Harvest, 57522257; Myrtleford Butter Factory, 57522300.

Beechworth

Sleep: 1860 Luxury Accommodation, 0408273783; Finches of Beechworth Country Guesthouse, 57282655; Provenance Luxury Suites, 57281786.

Eat: Provenance Restaurant, 57281786, Wardens Food & Wine, 57281377; Gigi's of Beechworth, 57282575.

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