Little Stevie Wright and the Easy beats had it right when it comes to weekend trips away. Days before such a trip, I find it hard to concentrate; I just can't wait to hitch up the camper trailer and hit the road.
The next trip I have in mind is about three hours from Melbourne up to the Victorian High Country.
DAY ONE - MELBOURNE TO SHEEPYARD FLAT
Make some flimsy excuse for having to slip out of the office early on Friday afternoon, then head out to Melbourne's sprawling eastern suburbs.
The recommended route is along the Maroondah Highway, turning off onto the Melba Highway all the way to Yea. If you are a dad, be sure to shout "Yea!" so that your wife will roll her eyes and the children will sigh a collective groan. It will take you about two hours to arrive at this point, which makes it a great place to stop and grab a bite at one of the cafes or pubs. Yea!
You continue through Bonnie Doon - ahem, "How's the serenity?" -and then through the charming high country town of Mansfield, just in time to top up the petrol tank and grab any last-minute supplies.
It's only a short drive from here to the tiny township of Merrijig. From here, watch out for the sign to turn off towards Sheepyard Flat, about 3km down the road. Sheep yard Flat is a wide open camping area that offers a great base for camping, walking,fishing and mountain bike riding. Open fires are allowed but be sure to bring your own dry firewood as it gets pretty scarce.
You can take yourself on the self-guided Howqua Hills Historic Walk, which take a couple of hours and follows the picturesque Howqua River.
DAY TWO - SHEEPYARD FLAT TO FRYS FLAT
Mornings can be chilly all year round, so be sure to bring plenty of warm clothing. From Sheepyard Flat you can head off in to the hills and explore the many 4WD tracks along the Howqua River.Try a spot of fly fishing for some brown trout and then continue onto Frys Flat, a great camping area named after cattleman Fred Fry,whose Hut still stands there.
If you still have the energy after setting up camp, join one of the many horse riding treks that take you right up into the mountains and back down through the Howqua River. Unless your esemble the Man from Snowy River, you'll need a stiff drink and an even stiffer massage after this adventure.
Light a big open fire and enjoy an evening under the towering eucalypts and a billion stars.
DAY THREE - TO CRAIG'S HUT AND HOME
The final day of this weekend escape warrants a hearty breakfas ton the open fire, provided you can be bothered stoking it up again.
From here, it's off to the famous Craig's Hut, which featured in the film The Man from Snowy River. The hut is perched high on a hill behind Mt Stirling, so the 4WD track there can be quite a challenge, especially if the rain has created some wash-aways.
To get there, head back to the main road, turn right towards Mt Buller Alpine Village, and turn off to the left before the ticket office, towards Mt Stirling. This takes you to the Telephone Box Junction at the entrance to the Circuit Road. Drive along the Circuit Road for about 20km and then follow the Clear Hills Track,which is definitely 4WD-only. You can actually walk the last kilometre if you don't want to drive. Make sure to take your camera- it's a classic.
From here, the drive back to Melbourne will take around 3-4 hours. To ease the pain of the weekend's end I recommend stopping at the Mansfield Hotel for a hearty country pub
- The Howqua Hills Historic Area is three hours north of Melbourne, via the Maroondah and Melba highways. Visit parkweb.vic.gov.au for more information.
- Visit www.parkweb.vic.gov.au or tour operators conducting horse riding treks close to Howqua Hills Historic Area.
Originally published in Camper Trailer #59, November 2012