Ultimate cycling destination in Australia – Big call I know, but Bright’s location to big hills, tight trails and supported by improving town services are continuing to put Bright high on the list of one of Australia’s best cycling destinations – both road and mtb.
I have often wondered why a town like Bright in North East Victoria has not embraced a sport like mountain biking earlier. It has the characteristics of a perfect mountain town, nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains, pine plantations, bushland with a river running through the town and well appointed shops, restaurants and services.
A recent visit to take part in the Gravity 12 hour endurance race had totally changed my outlook on how this town and trails have changed considerably in the last 18 months. Local trail builders and council support have been busy implementing a number of new trails and opened up new networks that will cement this town as a standout mountain bike destination in the coming months and years. The calibre of trails is high, where you can expect tight, technical trails that weave in and out of natural bush and pine plantation, utilising the natural terrain.
So what has Bright got that other great mtb destinations don’t? Why would you bother? Well if you asked me 18 months ago, I would have said don’t bother, but now I say strap your bikes to the roof racks and get going.
Bright as a mountain bike destination have a number of positive elements going on including, but not limited to:
– Technical challenging trails
– A multitude of accommodation options
– Quality restaurants and cafe’s
– A brewery
– Idyllic setting
– Non-riding options for the family
Technical Challenging Trails
As with the Forrest trails, the network in Bright starts from the town, where you can roll from a number of cafes straight onto the Cherry Walk trail or Morses Creek trails that meander along. From these trails there are a number of options to take. The Gravity 12 hour course is a perfect introduction into the diversity of the trails on offer in Bright. Picking your way through river stones and a pump track style trail up to the roots and short sharp uphills in the area know n as the ‘Twisites’ or a lovely piece of fast flowing singletrack in ‘The Gully’ section.
The local trail builders have been busy in the hills creating some interesting lines and flowing trails. I have ridden in Bright on a number of occasions, yet the bulk of the trails ridden during the gravity 12 hour were new to me and highlights the continued potential that this town and region has as a standout mountain biker destination.
Bright trails offers a real wilderness experience. Once you head down the valley and see the mountains rise up either side of the town, you definitely get that mountain town vibe. Once the playground of families and pensioners in the summer and powderhounds in the winter, Bright has steadily increased its tourism marketing activity towards the powerful and lucrative cycling fraternity, with a number of marquee road and mountain bike events becoming a key fixture for Bright’s tourism calendar.
With a long history of being a holiday town, the accommodations options are endless from hotels, Boutique accommodation, holiday rental and caravan parks – you are certainly covered. On recent occasions, given the family travel requirements, a rented home for 2-3 days has been ideal. Local real estate operator – Dickens Real Estate run a holiday home booking service which is pain free and has a wide variety of options within walking distance of the town.
For choices in the boutique style accommodation there are increasing a variety of choices. The Bright Bliss offers luxury accommodation and is a short walk to the town centre. Very convenient for ride in / ride out convenience.
The Odd Frog apartments and the Buckland Studio also provide riders with an ideal location to base themselves for a couple of days with well appointed and serviced apartments. If you are looking for a hotel provider, the recently revamped and award winning Ovens Valley Motor Inn is a great choice, with small details addressed to ensure your stay is hassle free.
New restaurants and cafe’s have ensured that visitors get quality food and coffee when visiting Bright. Where previously the offering was hit and miss, a number of new establishments have earned a reputation quickly of providing exceptional meals and coffee.
On the recent visit we came across Ginger Baker which really is a breath of fresh air for the town. A fantastic location on the edge of Centenary park with an expansive back garden area, quality food and coffee and great staff.
Another gem, just around the corner is Coral Lee, a cafe serving up excellent coffee and small meals, ideal for a mid-morning ride stop.
For high end dining options, you cannot go past Simone’s a 3 hat restaurant in Bright or if do not mind a short drive – Villa Gusto a 1 hat restaurant offering a degustation menu 4 nights a week.
The correlation between great ride locations and craft breweries continues, with Bright featuring a well appointed brewery in the centre of town that can be used as a trail head, as a number of loops can be started from the Brewery courtyard. The Bright Brewery has a wide range of beer styles from Dubbel and Porter through to Pale Ale and lager. Food options are reasonable and hearty . At the end of the day they serve good beer cold and is worth looking forward too when you are grinding on the last climb, before heading back into town. Do yourself a favour and buy a six pack and enjoy back home, long after the leg cramps have faded.
Mountain Town Setting
There is no doubt that the alpine valley is one of the more beautiful spots in Australia, stunning natural beauty, surrounded by Mount Buffalo and Mount Feathertop with a holiday town in the middle, supported by an infrastructure that lends itself perfectly to the new cycling tourist. As has been evident in the past 1-2 years, the increase in the popularity of cycling and the support of local government, trail advocates and tourism operators are helping to carve a niche for Bright and generate new income streams for the local community.
While it is great to think that a family that rides together, stays together the reality is you often have to wrestle with a multitude of opposing forces ie. Kids – which may not be on the same ride and sleep program as the rest of family, requiring plenty of distraction and activities.
In Bright, especially in the summer period, your child friendly options are well covered with impressive playgrounds, swimming options and food locations within supervising distance from cafes and the Brewery.
Other alternatives include spa retreats in Falls Creek and Mt Hotham, approx. 1 hour drive in addition to winery’s and food trail of the Alpine Valley’s.
For the trail/all mountain rider, the many trails throughout Bright will keep you challenged, push your fitness level and reward you for your efforts. The town’s additional services of very good café’s restaurants and the brewery only enhance Bright’s desirability. As the trails continue to be built, a dedicated guide and map in addition to clear trail markers – taking learning’s from the Forrest trail network and UK trail centre’s – will ensure that cyclists will continue to roll into town for years to come.
Bright is approximately 4 hours north east of Melbourne. Head north from Melbourne on the Hume Hwy and take the Alpine Hwy exit, near Wangaratta and follow the signs to Bright. The closet airport is Albury approx 120Km from Bright.
Bright has trails for all abilities, but majority cater to the beginner to intermediate riders.
There is approx 30-40Km of purpose built mountain bike trails, which is ever expanding.
There are also a high number of road cycling events based in Bright – the Alpine Cycling Club have a comprehensive site with various information on local road and mtb events.
food & drink:
127 Great Alpine Rd,
A new edition to the eating establishments in Bright worth it for the coffee and location alone.
Blue Wren Close,
0407 614 232
Excellent boutique accommodation that offers ride in/ ride out – close to the town centre.
Ovens Valley Motor Inn
Cnr Great Alpine Road & Ashwood Ave
03 5755 2022
local bike shop:
74 Gavan St,
03 5750 1442
For in depth knowledge of local rides, trails and events – this should be your first port of call.