Having been in Mansfield for three days already, soaking up the quiet atmosphere and stunning countryside, we decided it was about time to venture outside and explore the Snowy River country. Our one and only goal for the day: to finally see Craig’s Hut in person.
Having been warned by the Manager of Mansfield Caravan Park that we would need a full day to truly appreciate the scenery, we duly packed our sandwiches, mini frittatas, hot drinks and thermos, and were on the road bright and early. Unlike the past three days, the weather decided it wasn’t going to be our friend, and for the first time in quite a while we pulled out our warm jackets (Susie wore her snow coat!) as we stopped to take a photo of the first sign indicating we were heading in the right direction – straight ahead for Mt. Buller or left for Mt. Stirling. So we went left.
Straight away we crossed a beautiful little creek that was flowing very well under the road bridge. The drop in temperature from Mansfield was immediate, and as we drove the winding road ever higher and higher, we kept an eye on the temperature gauge in the car as it slowly dropped. As we climbed, there were many places where it felt like we were just surrounded by bush (which you are, of course), but when the clearings came and you could peer through the tall trees and see the mountains in the distance, it was just breathtaking. Following our trusty Hema Map, we continued on our way past various school groups and campers, all of whom were covered from head to toe in beanies, scarves and other winter gear. Some campers had merely campbeds under an open tarpaulin, but their fires were well lit and the views from their sites would be enough (for most anyway) to compensate for the cool.
We stopped at one empty campsite where there were still embers glowing and managed to warm ourselves by the fire and left it going for the next travellers after us. There was something just magical about sitting around an open fire in the Man from Snowy River country.
Further down the track there was evidence of fallen trees that had now been cleared, but overall the track to Craig’s Hut is in great condition and we never even put our vehicle into 4WD, though there were spots when it probably could have helped a little. Our excitement grew as the trees slowly cleared and when we finally rounded a corner to see Craig’s Hut up in the distance, it was a moment we won’t forget. A few other travellers chose to park their vehicles and take the small trek up to the hut, however we decided to drive all the way and picnic at the top, making the most of the views.
There is quite a bit of parking right near Craig’s Hut itself, with toilets and picnic tables, but first – just standing in the clearing to take in the views. It’s extremely difficult to describe the feeling of finally being in a place that you have longed to see for so long, and that renders you completely speechless from the sheer magnificence of the outlook when you finally do get there. You can see for miles and miles, and it is just tree-covered mountains and open sky in front of you. It brought home a real sense of being an Australian, standing where so many others must have stood years and years ago before this wild country was somewhat tamed. We spent a good hour just admiring the scenery, exploring Craig’s Hut itself and reading about the history behind the hut and the film itself. The hut is no longer the original from the film, though it is replicated in great detail, following a bushfire back in 2006. There was great controversy in 2008 when the new hut was built, with some saying it looked nothing like the original and lacked character. Personally, we feel it is impossible to exactly replicate such an icon but if you didn’t know about the original fire it would be nigh on impossible to tell the difference, and it takes nothing away from the experience of being there.
On our continued travels around to Mt. Buller and the skifields, we decided to take what we thought would be the best route, however no idea about the condition of the road. It was extremely slow-going, covered in rocks and very, very rough, with many a tight bend – and a few cows along the way! However, it was fantastic to really put our Amarok through it’s paces and the views again were simply spectacular. By the time we arrived at Mt. Buller, with it’s village and skifields virtually abandoned at this time of year, we thought we had seen the best of the views that the High Country had to offer. But if you think Mt. Buller is a place to only visit during winter when the fields are covered under metres of snow, then think again! It has been over 6 years since we visited Mt. Buller in the middle of August, and it was incredible to drive up the hillside along ski slopes that are, at the moment anyway, open grassy plains. We recall a freezing cold day, with wind and low visibility, and white and grey everywhere we looked. Now, it was a beautiful place for mountain bike riding, bushwalking, or simply stopping to enjoy the change in scenery. If you do get the chance to visit Mt. Buller during the warmer months, we would highly recommend it, as it offers just as much to see and experience as it does during winter.
By the time we returned back to our van at Mansfield, it was late in the afternoon and we were tired but exhilarated from an incredible day. It is an absolute must-see for any bucket list!