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From marvellous Melbourne to beautiful Bright: via the direct way and the scenic route

Jessica Pilon-Summons

A Melbourne to Bright road trip will definitely be a case of all things bright and beautiful. Known for being the meeting place of rivers, putting on a riot of autumn leaf colour, and being the ideal base for snow-play trips to nearby mountains, Bright will be a highlight of your Victorian destinations.

There are two options for your Melbourne to Bright drive. We’ll give you the lowdown on the most direct route first then, for your return journey, a longer and more scenic route.

Step 1: Pick up your Uber Carshare

By making your Melbourne to Bright road trip in a Uber Carshare, you’re helping free our world from its ‘one person one car’ mentality. Melbourne was the second city to join in the Uber Carshare revolution so it’s a hot-spot for renting all sorts of vehicles. Here’s how to search for a car near you in Melbourne. Or, if you’re starting your trip in Bright or elsewhere in Victoria, this is the place for your search for an ideal car.

Step 2: Farewell to Melbourne as we head to Bright the direct way

Whether you live in Melbourne or are visiting Victoria’s capital city, you’ll know it’s a great city to explore. We’re not foolish enough to condense all Melbourne has to offer in a couple of paragraphs so, instead, we’ll simply wave goodbye to Melbourne and head out of town. The distance from Melbourne to Bright this way is 320 kilometres (assuming you’re leaving from the centre of Melbourne).

Head up the Hume: The Hume Freeway (M31) is not the most exciting drive but it’s a great option if you’re keen to get to Bright the most direct way. Allow 3-4 hours for driving to Bright if you’re leaving from the centre of Melbourne (less if you’re already in the northern suburbs). That’s a long enough drive to need a stop, so here are two options:

Benalla: A small town 2.5 hours from Melbourne offers all you need to refuel your car and yourself, plus two attractions to also refresh your soul. Take in some culture at the Benalla Art Gallery, then take time to stop and smell the roses during a stroll through the Benalla Botanical Gardens (which feature rare Australian rose varieties).

Glenrowan: You’re in Kelly country. Yep, that’s right, Ned Kelly, the bushranger whose famous ‘last stand’ and subsequent capture happened at Glenrowan in 1880. You’ll learn more with a wander along the town’s historic walk and a visit to the museum.

Turn onto the Snow Road: Once you turn off the freeway onto the Snow Road, you know you’re well on your way to Bright. There are great stop and side-trip options, including Milawa and Beechworth but we’ll leave those delights until the more leisurely return journey. So, enjoy the increasingly hilly and leafy scenery as you drive the hour-or-so from the turn-off to Brigh.

Step 3: Enjoy Bright

Nestled in the valley of Victoria’s High Country, Bright is a beautiful destination no matter which season you visit. During spring, the avenues of trees burst with blooms and birds and last of the snow on the mountains melts. Warm summer temperatures are ideal for cooling-off dips in the river. Autumn leaves are a highlight during the months around Easter and winter brings crisp days and snow on ‘them thar hills’.

Of course, you can browse the boutique stores and indulge in delicious local food, wine and beer at any time of year. Get active via the seasonally-appropriate walks, bike-rides or river-splashes.

While Bright is the biggest town in the valley, there are some other spots well worth visiting, all a short distance away:

Porepunkah: A cute name for a cute town! Porepunkah is a small town located on the junction of the Buckland and Ovens Rivers that’s ideal for lazy picnic and river paddle.

Mount Beauty: The name of this high-country mountain area says it all! Do a short hike or lace up your boots to summit Mount Bogong, which, at nearly 2000 metres, is Victoria’s highest mountain.

Mount Buffalo: For spring wildflowers, summer views and winter snow play, tobogganing and cross-country skiing, the Mount Buffalo National Park is a true highlight of the Bright area.

Step 4: Bright to Melbourne the scenic route

Let’s head back from Bright to Melbourne using as little of the Hume Freeway (M31) as possible. The distance from Bright to Melbourne this way is around 350 kilometres and, your travel speeds will, at times, be slower on the smaller roads.

First, retrace your steps along the scenic Snow Road for just under an hour. Then, it’s time for some fabulous foodie fun!

Bright to Milawa and the King Valley regions: An area just outside the rural city of Wangaratta, Milawa and the King Valley are rich in producers of wine, cheese, olives and other speciality foodie delights. Pop in to visit and taste, or allow more time for a fuller winery tour and meal to remember.

King Valley to Mansfield: From here, you have two options. You can head back along the Hume Freeway and turn south at the fabulously named Baddaginnie. Or, take a little more time by staying well off the main roads by continuing south of the King Valley in order to wind through the little communities of Whitfield and Cheshunt for the 1.5 hour drive to Mansfield, the base town for those visiting Mount Buller.

Mansfield to Bonnie Doon: How’s, the serenity?! If you’ve ever seen the iconic Australian movie ‘The Castle’ about an every-day man’s triumph over big players, you’ll find Bonnie Doon surprisingly familiar. Located on the banks of Lake Eildon and just a 15-minute drive from Mansfield, this is a place to sit back and take it all in.

Bonnie Doon to Yarra Valley: Did someone say wine? With over 80 cellar doors in the Yarra Valley covering wine cider and beer, you can look forward to finding your new favourite drop. If that’s not your thing, enjoy the stunning rolling vistas and seek out some special artist studios. You’ll see why the Yarra Valley is a popular wedding venue and an ideal location for sunrise hot-air balloon flights.

Optional detour to Healesville: If you’re simply not ready to return to the city, or if you’re keen on some Australian native animal adoration, the Healesville Sanctuary is the place to ponder a platypus, get excited with an emu or cackle along with a kookaburra.

Yarra Valley to Melbourne: Enjoy the picturesque roads of the Yarra Valley as you head back into the north-east suburbs of Melbourne. Yes, it’s time to return your Uber Carshare.

Step 5: Inspired to plan your next trip?

If Bright has got you bursting to see more of Victoria, check out our guides to the best day trips (including those we were hankering for during Covid lockdowns), the best weekend trips and getaways, as well as some epic drives.


Where is the stop between Melbourne and Bright?

You can drive straight from Melbourne to Bright in around 3.5 hours with optional stops at the art and gardens of Benalla or Ned Kelly’s Glenrowan. Or, if you’d prefer to take the winding scenic route, you can drive for 4.5 hours with stops in the Yarra Valley, Bonnie Doon, Mansfield and the foodie-regions of Milawa and the King Valley.

Which is nicer, Beechworth or Bright?

Both of these towns offer boutique accommodation, locally-sourced dining and the beauty of Victoria’s north-east. Beechworth also offers rich history and a world-famous bakery. Bright is nestled in the valley of the high country, offering stunning scenery in all seasons.

Is Bright worth visiting?

Absolutely! Bright is ideal to visit in all four seasons of the year. Spring offers ideal temperatures for hiking, summer is the best time to float down one of the town’s rivers, autumn sees the region shine with autumn colours and winter is the time to visit nearby Mount Beauty and Mount Buffalo for snow play or cross-country skiing.

How many nights does Bright have?

You could stay just one night in Bright but, if you’re making the trip from Melbourne, we  recommend you stay at least two nights. Or, for maximum relaxation and adventure, visiting for several nights will allow you to explore the surrounding towns and mountains as well as Bright itself.

How far is it from Melbourne to Bright?

Heading direct via the Hume Freeway (M31), the trip from Melbourne to Bright will take around 3.5 hours, with variation depending on which part of Melbourne you are leaving from and any peak-hour traffic while still in the city. A more winding route away from major roads, via the Yarra Valley and Mansfield, will take more like 4.5 hours of driving

Information included in this article is accurate as of (09-09-2022).The information published on this blog is of a general nature only and does not consider your personal objectives, financial situation or particular needs. The information published on this site/page should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional advice. Images used in this article are free to use images under the creative commons license.