Welcome to the heart of the backwoods, in the stunning Australian Alps
. North East Victoria is home to some of the prettiest landscapes I have seen in Australia. Rolling green vibrant hills, perfectly manicured grasses as far as the eye can see, thousands of the natural lawnmowers we all so love to consume, perfectly spaced trees which have been left by the farmers almost as a gesture to the beauty of their lands. It is truly the last thing I was expecting when travelling to the Land Down Undah. Amongst the ‘Windows screensaver’-esque landscape with dotted clouds sits the small country town of Merrijig, conveniently engulfed at the base of Mt. Sterling and Mt. Buller.
I was lucky to happen upon Merrijig at the invitation of a friend to go skiing at Mt. Buller during a mild and sunny Australian winter (that is from Canadian standards at least). Lesley said, “come on down to Buller and get some turns”. Sure thing, I thought, but where to stay? Looking at the map, she conveniently lived right at the base of this Aussie snow field on a place that was literally represented by a mere dot. Merrijig. Sounds interesting, no? A town surrounded by forest, rivers, gullies, mountains, and what others might explain as nothingness. Time to hit the road and check out Merrijig!
Merrijig hosts a constant population of maybe 1,000 at most, who are the heart of this quaint city. The people you meet here are like the cast of A Man From Snowy River. It is an awe-inspiring kick back into the everyday country life. Mend to the horses, survey your lands, access the cattle, and finish it all off with a cold brew at the local grog shop. A portion of Australian culture which is somewhat lost upon those who forget or are unaware it was once what fuelled the country, the old Drovers poem, the melody of the cattleman’s song.
The best access to Merrijig is from Melbourne, via Mansfield. You’re looking at a 2 and a half hour drive depending on traffic. The last hour is stunning! The best part is you get to drive through Bonnie Doon!! Watch ‘The Castle’ (classic Aussie movie) for the reference to Bonnie Doon.
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The Merrijig Lodge
is where I stayed – and the place I would highly recommend based on my experience there. They have affordable accommodation with options for all of the amazing day and multi day trips available in the area. There is also a great common area with ping pong and pool. Awesome. Check their website for the most up-to-date information on rates. I would say, from what I saw in the area, this is you best bet for secure accommodation with great guides and tourist information available.
The best time of year to visit is during the Australian summer (between Nov-Feb), as the bike riding, hiking, and horseback are in full swing and the mountain air never smelled fresher! That being said, if you are a skier consider visiting in winter (May-Aug) to crush some corduroy and get a few turns under the sticks.
Merrijig is very safe! There’s no real worries on that front. Of course have caution wherever you go! The reality of Merrijig is that the people are SO friendly, you could pass out drunk on the street with your wallet in your hand* and someone would wake you up to ask if you’re okay before even thinking about stealing your stuff… ermm not that this happened to me, of course.
*This is not suggested nor endorsed by Where Sidewalks End – do so at your own discretion.
Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.
Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.
Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).
It is fairly common knowledge that Australia is expensive as a whole. Generally, the big cities tend to be more expensive than in smaller towns. I think it’s safe to say this happens in most places in the world. Getting into the backcountry couldn’t be more enticing, if not for this reason alone. Merrijig seemed like a perfect medium. Wherever you go here, you’ll still want to bring a bit of pocket money. There’s not many ATMs, and the nearest I used was in the Merrijig Motor Inn.
The height of activities includes a lot of walking and riding. If these aren’t your cup of tea, turn around now. If they are however, the area provides an incredible array of awesome activities. From the obvious skiing and boarding over the winter months to the year round horseback riding (some trips up to 7 or 8 days of awesome trails and stunning landscapes), to the trekking along the ridge lines of the two adjacent peaks, to hiking along the beauty (often un marked trails) surrounding the area. It is also a hot spot for mountain biking, trail running, and hopefully one day soon, paragliding. This is definitely an outdoors lovers destination! I had an incredible time, and if you’re of the same mindset, then I can almost certainly guarantee you will too!
This sounds like quite the adventure, right? We thought so too! Though we realize it can be pretty intimidating to get out there into the world on your own, especially when travelling to some of these off the beaten path locations. We love it when our readers give it a shot and try it for themselves! In fact, please leave us feedback if you do!! If trying something ‘this’ adventurous on your own is just a bit outside of your comfort zone, WSE Travel is here to help!
Click on this link for our ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Tours – packages that are highly personalized and tailored at your request.