Mount Buffalo is one of the oldest national parks in Australia and holds a special appeal for generations of families traveling with kids in Australia. The park sits on a high boulder-strewn plateau with dramatic granite cliff faces on each side. Over 90 kilometres of walking tracks criss-cross the park. Whilst there is ample scope for heroic, rock climbing adventures, the park’s easy access to dramatic scenery makes it popular for family adventure holidays with kids around Melbourne for those that love the great outdoors.
One of the more energising and kid-friendly destinations in Victoria, Australia is the Ovens Valley and Mount Buffalo area, about 3 hours easy freeway drive north east of Melbourne. If you are an active family that loves to get out and about in the fresh air this is a fantastic way to spend a few days in winter, summer or any time in-between for kids of all ages. Think hiking, beautiful bushland scenery and plenty of places to stop and take in a big blue sky and a vast and wondrous landscape.
Perhaps the greatest appeal of Mount Buffalo National Park is the range of options for kids of all ages. For parents travelling with infants or those travelling with toddlers there’s the pram-friendly, yet giddying views available from the 1000-metre drop at the Gorge Heritage Walk lookout. The views alone make the twisty drive up the mountain worthwhile. Older children will love boulder-scrambling climbs to evocatively named rocky peaks at the Monolith, the Hump and the Horn. Whilst these have steep sections, they are all short and provide school-aged kids a real sense of mountain climbing achievement.
For parents looking for a bit of adventure without the pram (or boulders!), the gentle stroll out to the edge of the plateau at Dickson’s Falls is recommended. It’s an easy 4-kilometre ramble across the snow plains to where a small creek tumbles over the edge – a perfect outing with the baby carrier and a small picnic.
After a summer day’s walk, nothing is better than a refreshing dip in Ladies Bath Falls at the bottom. It’s possible to sit in a small rock “bath” directly under the waterfall before sliding down the rocks into a shallow pool. Apart from needing to be careful around some of the more slippery rocks, it’s a refreshing spot for all and older kids will love this natural waterslide.
During winter, Mount Buffalo is covered with a thin, but beautiful, sheet of snow. Walking tracks become perfect beginner level cross country ski trails. Former downhill ski runs have also been turned over to wide and safe toboggan runs. Whilst the mountain lacks the facilities of nearby bigger ski resorts, it also misses their crowds and cost. It’s therefore a great place to introduce winter sports to kids without the expense and hassle of getting to and staying at the major resorts. In fact, there are no fees to toboggan at Mt Buffalo and ski trail fees and sled hire are just a nominal fee. To check the snow conditions at Mount Buffalo before you depart, visit the Mount Buffalo Ski School website. [For more travel tips on skiing with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Below Mount Buffalo sits the Ovens Valley. The valley itself offers a range of low key attractions perfect for kids. The fun Wandiligong hedge maze will be a hit and is surprisingly challenging (this 37-year-old suitcases&strollers correspondent took nearly two hours to get out so be warned!). Fortunately, the attached café serves an amazing iced chocolate.
Perhaps the valley’s best attraction is the High Country Rail Trail. An 80-kilometre long, completely off road path has been built along the route of a former railway line. Best yet, it’s almost flat! The path ends at the main holiday town of Bright, where bikes for all ages and abilities are available for rent at Cyclepath. They even rent bike-trailers for towing little toddlers, as well as “tag-alongs” for those not quite confident enough to ride on their own.
The small towns of Bright and Porepunkah, near the head of the valley, have a range of family-friendly accommodation options for all budgets. The BIG4 Holiday Park at Porepunkah is perhaps one of the best with options from camping spots through to comfortable family cabins. It’s right on the Rail Trail too. However, the real sealer is the HUGE kids jumping pillow – just like a trampoline but, well, HUGE!
At the luxury end of the market is The Kilns accommodation, located just out of Porepunkah, with some of the best views of Mount Buffalo. Located in a former tobacco drying kiln, it’s a fantastic piece of contemporary architecture. Whilst parents might appreciate the heated floors and high grade fittings, the kids will go bonkers for the games room complete with air hockey and half size snooker tables.
There’s enough to do around Mount Buffalo and the Ovens Valley for a week or more, so be sure to book ahead at Easter and over the Christmas/New Year/Australian summer holiday period. At other times, you’ll have the pick of accommodation and the main sights much to yourself. November and March to April are ideal shoulder periods to visit, with fewer crowds and ideal weather.
Hiking with kids can be a hot business, especially in the Australian summer. The UV rays are particularly harsh in Victoria so don’t go outside without proper sun protection and water for everyone, even in apparently cloudy weather.
For more information about facilities and amenities at Mount Buffalo, visit the official tourism website.
The closest major Australian city to Mount Buffalo is Melbourne. For more travel tips on things to do in Melbourne with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.
By Iain Lawrie; Images: Roberto Seba