The far east of Victoria's high country is the remotest area of the Victorian Alps and offers fabulous scenery, history and challenging tracks.
Omeo is located 420km east of Melbourne and about 130km north of Bairnsdale. Accommodation and campgrounds are located in this pleasant and historic mountain township. Supplies and fuel are readily available.
There are a large number of bush camping areas to be enjoyed in this region of Victoria. These include The Poplars on the Murray River where Limestone Creek Track meets the river and Limestone Creek Camping Area just north of the Limestone-Black Mountain Road.
Other camping areas include McFarlane Flat, small campsites at the creek crossing along the Cobberas Track, and Nunniong Plain and Bentley Plain east of Omeo.
For more info on the park and camping visit parkweb.vic.gov.au.
Victorian High Country
Looking north from the south side of Cowombat Flat in the remote eastern High Country of the Victorian Alps, into New South Wales, the border is marked by a narrow stream which is widely known as the Murray, but here the locals know it as the Indi.
The area was declared a ‘wilderness area’ and closed off to vehicle traffic in 1989. With the removal of cattle, the amount of people visiting this wild place dropped even more. Mind you, the day we were there, Parks Victoria staff had been joined by Museum Victoria researchers in a biological survey of the region and Cowombat Flat was throbbing with activity for two weeks. For some lucky members of 4WD Victoria, who were supplying the transport requirements of the researchers, it too meant they had access to an area long denied to four-wheelers. It was a ‘win-win’ situation for all concerned.
While Aboriginal people made use of these rich snow plains during the summer months of prehistory, European pioneers pushing south in the late 1830s from the Monaro Tablelands, in what is now the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales, discovered the rich grazing lands of the Victorian High Country, including Cowombat Flat. So began the rich heritage of Victoria’s mountain cattlemen.
On the New South Wales side of the Indi, which is easily stepped across at Cowombat, the remnants of a stone hut built by one of these pioneers can be found. While little remains, sadly even less is known about the hut’s origins.
Most people who visit this remote spot in the Australian Alps do so by walking, or riding, along the easy going of McFarlane Flat Track west of its junction with the Cobberas Track. The Cobberas is a most definite 4WD trail that heads north from the good dirt surface of the Limestone-Black Mountain Road, some 42km east of Benambra. The Cowombat Flat Track, which also leaves the Limestone-Black Mountain Road but further west, is a longer walking (or cycling) route into the Flat.
A short distance away, and east of Cowombat, is McFarlane Flat, reached via the aforementioned Cobberas and McFarlane Flat Tracks.
There’s some good camping at McFarlane Flat while the McFarlane Flat Track continues east, meeting with the Ingeegoodbee Track through the wild craggy country bordering the Ingeegoodbee River to finally meet with the Snowy River Road, south of the Victoria and New South Wales border at Willis. It’s not a route for the faint hearted!
Not wanting to retrace our steps back to Benambra and then Omeo, where our mountain sojourn had begun a few days previously, we took the relatively good Nunniong Road, heading south. This route passes through an extensive area of country that was burnt out six or so years ago. The road is lined with the tall grey trunks and the limbs of dead trees of ‘The Grey Forest’. Not surprisingly, we had to sneak around a few fallen giants, and it’s strongly advisable to take a chain saw with you if travelling this route.
For most of the way, the road acts as a somewhat artificial boundary between the Tambo State Forest and the Alpine National Park and then the Buchan Headwaters Wilderness Zone. A number of tracks drop off the ridgeline west, into the valley of the Tambo River but we stayed on the easy going of the Nunniong Road until we passed through and then stopped to check out the large Nunniong Plain. This wide snow plain offers some excellent camping along its western edge and is popular with horse riders.
From Nunniong Plain, we pushed on south through delightful forest country to the Washington Winch, which lies to the east of the small hamlet of Swift Creek, but sadly the road westward to the town was cut and closed. After checking out the steam driven winch, which was once used to haul timber from the nearby steep valley – you needed to be someone very special to work here going by the pictures on the info board – we turned south towards Moscow Villa and the Bentley Plain. This is another delightful spot to camp and the huts here are well kept. A number of walking trails should entice you to get out and stretch your legs.
From Bentley Plain we pushed on south along a long high ridge, which offered extensive views before dropping down to the Little River, where the road improved as we passed the Ensay pub to meet with the main highway, 45km south of Omeo. With our time in the mountains coming to a close we turned onto the bitumen and headed home, but this trip wasn’t the first and it certainly won’t be the last to these hills and valleys in the far east of Victoria’s magical High Country.