Review: Learn the legend of the high country huts on a four-day Victorian Alps walking tour inner banner

Review: Learn the legend of the high country huts on a four-day Victorian Alps walking tour

Exploring Victoria's Alpine National Park on this walking holiday is a sublime experience, and you'll learn the intriguing history of the high country cattlemen's huts along the way.
Victorian Alps walking tour
Victorian Alps walking tour: See the historic cattlemen’s huts of the high country.
Review: Four-Day Victorian Alps Walking Tour

Historic buildings are the object of endless fascination for tourists the world over.

Who hasn’t travelled to Europe or the United Kingdom and been wowed by the grand museums and palaces, the opulent churches, the ornate theatres and great railway stations. They’re extraordinary monuments to human endeavour that have stood the test of time. However, it’s all relative, right? Historic buildings come in all shapes and sizes — and sometimes in the most unlikely of places — as I recently discovered on a Victorian Alps walking tour with Park Trek Walking Holidays.

Home base on this tour is the popular ski resort village of Falls Creek — about six hours’ drive north-east of Melbourne. It’s early April, so there’s no snow — which is fine by me, as I’m not great at balancing on two feet — let alone a set of skis. Once the annual winter snow and ice melts away, what is revealed underneath is a network of the finest alpine walking trails anywhere in the country. We’ll be accommodated for three nights at the comfortable Viking Ski Lodge, and will head out each day to walk a different section of the Alpine National Park.

Watch our video of this experience:

Tips for Walking the Victorian Alps, Regional Victoria – Tour the World TV

Looking for ideas on walking in the Victorian Alps? In this segment from the Tour the World travel TV series, we join Park Trek Walking Holidays on a four-day short-break hiking through the spectacular Victorian Alps.

From the outset, the landscapes you get to explore on this Victorian Alps walking tour are absolutely stunning — with bushy Snow Gums, hardy tundra-like grasses and wildflowers galore. The high plains are crisscrossed by small streams. The landscape is punctuated by ubiquitous snow polls, which lead the way to various landmarks and points of interest, no matter what the season. It’s a beautiful place.

Victorian Alps walking tour
Victorian Alps walking tour. Image: Adam Ford

I mentioned historic buildings earlier, and for me, one of the most interesting aspects of this trip turns out to be the high country cattlemen’s huts. From the early 1800s right up to the 1990s, cattle farmers would bring their herds up from the low country to graze the alpine grasslands in the national park, resting their grazing land below in the process. The practice was eventually banned, although a controversial trial approved by the Federal Government to reintroduce cattle grazing is currently underway.

What remains from the original era are many of the cattlemen’s huts, which were built around the turn of the 20th century. Several are heritage-listed and hikers in the area find the huts endlessly fascinating. They’re the original ‘man cave’; remote shelters built high in the hills, where the cattlemen would seek refuge from the treacherously harsh and extraordinarily changeable conditions. Today the huts are a fascinating look back at a largely bygone era. Most are maintained by Parks Victoria and made available to hikers in need of shelter.

Victorian Alps walking tour
Victorian Alps walking tour: Craig’s Hut

The destination on our first day of trekking is Kelly Hut — which you reach on a four-kilometre walk that departs via the Big River Fire Track near the Rocky Valley Dam wall. There’s not a lot of information available on the history of this hut. It certainly looks old. It’s a black wood affair with a red corrugated iron roof. Inside it’s far from palatial but certainly enough to keep you warm and dry if needed. There’s a fireplace, two bed frames with rusty mesh springs and an emergency food locker where hikers have left non-perishable supplies. The larder currently contains canned spaghetti sauce, custard power and even sachets of hot chocolate.

Our next stop is Fitzgerald Hut. The original hut was built in 1903, but destroyed by fire in the early 1990s. The replica you visit today is a snazzy stone and timber building that looks warm and inviting. The style however is still very much in keeping with the era.

The following day we hike about four kilometres from the Pretty Valley Dam across the Bogong High Plains to visit the Tawonga Huts. A variety of huts have stood on this site over the years — the first built by cattleman John Ryder. All the originals have been replaced with newer structures over the last half century, but the site is recognised as historically significant by the National Trust.

The setting is incredibly picturesque; the walk pleasant and reasonably gentle. This is a popular spot with campers. There are several in residence when we arrive. Our walk continues to the top of a nearby peak for fabulous views across the plains and Mount Feathertop.

Victorian Alps walking tour
Victorian Alps walking tour: Wallace Hut. Image: Adam Ford

On the final day of the tour, we pay a visit to Wallace Hut — the oldest hut in the Alpine National Park and probably the most intriguing. It was built in the late 1880s by the Wallace brothers — Arthur, William and  Stuart — members of an early pioneering family from Ireland. Not all of what you see today is original. The corrugated iron roof covering the original shingles, and the side lean-to are add-ons.

What’s very interesting is the multitude of inscriptions that have been left inside the hut by cattlemen (and various tourists) over the years. There are initials and dates carved into the walls, fireplace mantle and roof beams. Apparently it’s possible to see the names and initials of the three Wallace brothers, but sadly I have no luck finding them.

Victorian Alps walking tour
Victorian Alps walking tour: Wallace Hut. Image: Adam Ford

So, just like the great palaces and cathedrals of Europe, I commend to you the humble high country huts of Australia. They are monuments to the tough pioneering spirit of our colonial forbears, and no less impressive.

The writer travelled as a guest of Park Trek Walking Holidays.

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Additional images: Bigstock

This segment of Tour the World was produced by Late Night Media Productions, under a co-production agreement with Peppercorn Productions, publisher of The Big Bus tour and travel guide. Copyright © Late Night Media Productions

Adam Ford

About the writer

Adam Ford is editor of Top Oz Tours, and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.



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