Bright is a small town in Victoria and is in my opinion the best place to cycle in Australia. This is a big call. I’d concede that areas around Launceston and Adelaide come a close second. However i’m sticking to my guns, and i’m naming Bright as Australia’s number one.
Here are 5 reasons why:
Long climbs and alpine vistas
Bright is settled in a valley at the base of the Victorian Alps. Close to the township is Mount Buffalo National Park and the Mount Hotham and Falls Creek ski fields. This alpine region is as close as Australia is going to get to mimicking the climbs of Europe. They may not be quite as long or high, and you may not have quite as many dairy cows watching you pedal by, but they are not too far off.
Mount Buffalo has to be my favourite climb in Australia. At 18kms long it is a pleasure to climb. The 6% average gradient is steady for most of the climb so you can get into a perfect rhythm and simply spin your way up. You will see more cyclists than cars on the climb, and it is mostly covered by forest so stays relatively cool. The view is not bad at the top either (although the coffee could do with some work…)
Mount Hotham and Falls Creek are two more “must-do” climbs. Hotham is a beast at 30kms long. It’s an interesting climb as it has a 10km stretch of flat in the middle, then some kicker pinches at the end. The last 2kms are simply grueling. Falls Creek is another 30km climb, however the first half is rolly making you wonder if you are doing a climb at all. The last half ramps up and is steadier making it easy to get into a rhythm. Both these climbs finish at a ski resort, so there are many options for coffee or the odd scone.
To top if off, just 14km out of town is Tawonga Gap, a 6km climb that is perfect for a morning where you need to get home early. Round trip to the top and back is 40km, and the descent is just magical!
What goes up must come down right? Well as there is so much up around Bright, there is a hell of a lot of down too! This is great news for mountain bikers, and there are some fantastic trails in the area. Bright actually hosted the 2015 National Mountain Biking Championships, and the Mystic MTB Park is a network of downhill and XC single track trails built by the local community. There are also plenty of cross country trails to tackle too. The high alpine location means a cool(ish) summer climate making Bright a brilliant location for biking. It is impossible to drive through the town without seeing a few mountain bikers kitted up. So if off road riding is your thing, then head on down to Bright.
Murray to Mountains Rail Trail
If mountains aren’t your thing, then Bright still has you covered as it is the starting point for the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail. The trail is approximately 100kms long, and follows the rail line all the way to Wangaratta. This is the perfect way to see the countryside and experience some of the interesting history of the area along the way. Not to mention delicious cheese shops and wineries. If you are on holiday with your family, but still want to get some cycling in, then the rail trail is the perfect way to spend time with your family on two wheels.
There are some great stops on the trail only a stones-throw from Bright. The Rail Trail Cafe in Porepunkah is a great spot for a coffee and a scone. Across the road is the newly renovated Punka Pub which is perfect for a quiet beer or lunch. A bit further out of town are the Ringer Reef and Feathertop wineries which are great for wine tasting or a relaxed long lunch. On your way home stop in at the Bright berry farm for an ice-cream or piece of pie. Just don't throw up on your way home!
A foodie haven
So it’s a given that cycling and wineries go hand in hand right? Even if you don’t like wine, who can resist the photo opportunities of cycling down vine shrouded laneways? If you are really anti-vineyard, then can you resist a local brewery? Or a cheese shop? Or a berry farm? Or a trout farm? Come on…surely not? Bright is a haven for foodies. Surrounded by local wineries...a brewery right in town on the river bank… and local produce galore. There is no need to go to Woolworths in Bright as there is too much fresh goodness on hand (ok, maybe you need to pop in to get your vegemite).
My favourite spot to quench my foodie cravings is Ringer Reef. Check out the review here.
A mecca for cycling events
You know an area is good for cycling when it hosts some of the most popular and most challenging cycling events in the yearly calendar. For example:
January - Audax Alpine Classic
March - 3 Peaks Challenge
March - Audax Hotham Challenge
December - Tour of Bright
You can find out more about these events at http://www.visitbright.com.au/road-cycling
This year the Herald Sun Tour went through the area. This is a major international race with some big names in the pro-circuit participating. Clearly if the pro's come all the way to Bright to cycle it must be pretty good!
Image credit: Brandon Heng
Wandiligong Hedge Maze
Ok, so if you've read this far down you must be thinking Bright is a pretty cool place to visit right? Well this just tops it all off. Wait for it...
Bright has a hedge maze!
Ok, so this has nothing to do with cycling, other than the fact you can cycle the 5km out of Bright to it. I doubt they would let you cycle in the actual maze...but it never occurred to me to ask.
The maze is in Wandiligong, a little historic township on the edge of Bright. The maze is Australia's largest hedge maze with 2km of pathways to get lost in. It's a great place to calm your mind...unless you get claustrophobic. If you are of the claustrophobic variety, then you can chill in the cafe that serves surprisingly good coffee. You can even order the "cyclists lunch" which has all sorts of healthy, carby things in it. Or you can just go for the pie and chips.
Phil and I finished the maze in 30 minutes...so it's not too stressful. Just keep turning left.
Learn more about what Bright has to offer here: www.brightvictoria.com.au