We’re Going to Bonnie Doon

Tucked away in Victoria’s magnificent High Country lies an underrated jewel in Australia’s jam-packed crown of touring destinations. Lake Eildon is a stunning sight from its bushy shores or the deck of a houseboat, but from the sky this beautiful lake becomes absolutely jaw-dropping. It’s not all about rolling hills and glassy lakes though, there’s so much more that makes Lake Eildon and Mansfield the perfect weekender for the adventurous pilot.

Twisting and turning through valleys of rolling green hills, Lake Eildon is an adventurer’s dream. There are countless coves, inlets and bays to discover, with something new quite literally around every corner. Only 100km from Melbourne and a comfortable half-day’s flight from Sydney or Adelaide, this is one you’ll want to add to your must-see list.

As pilots, we can sometimes take for granted our unique ability to survey the land from above, but I can promise that a flyover of Lake Eildon will flood you with a sense of wonder and awe. Looking down on the complex shoreline and thriving bushland that rolls down to meet it, you’ll want to follow the lake’s winding sprawl down every nook and cranny. It can be hard to take it all in at once, so best plan for an extra pass or two!

When you’ve picked your jaw up off your lap and are ready to touch ground, landing at the nearby Mansfield Airport (YMFD) is a cinch. The beautifully maintained 15/33 grass strip is 1.3km long, giving plenty of room to touch down. From here, a 10-minute taxi ride will get you into Mansfield.

This area is ripe for exploring both on the ground and in the air. If filling your days with scenic flights sounds like your thing, Mansfield makes for the perfect base to explore the Victorian High Country in detail. Spend a day heading east from Mansfield, deeper in the Victorian Alps where you’ll get the best taste of mountain flying you’ll find in Australia. At the right time of year, you’ll be looking down over snow-capped mountains and taking in the sheer beauty of Australia’s alpine region. It’s worth noting that there’s no fuel at Mansfield Airport, so a short leg to nearby Benalla (YBLA) may be on the cards.

Being a ski town, there are accommodation options aplenty within walking distance of the town centre, giving you the ability to explore Mansfield’s leafy main street when you’re not in the air. If you’re looking for more of a quiet country getaway, there are multiple spots within a few minutes of town that will give you that secluded escape you’re craving. Perhaps the best of both worlds is the All Seasons Mansfield resort, located on a beautifully landscaped 5-acre property within walking distance of Merchant Coffee Roasters café, Ros Ritchie Wines Cellar Door and Buller Road Brewery, famous for their delicious wood-fired pizzas. Craig at All Seasons is always happy to pick up pilots flying in, so just call ahead and let him know when you plan to land.

When you get hungry, be sure to check out the brand-new Honcho restaurant, serving up modern Mexican cuisine including fresh tacos, tequila, and more. If burgers are more your style, George & Al Roy will satisfy your cravings with deliciously overloaded American-style burgers. There are a range of other options, from casual eating to fine dining, so be sure to do your own exploring too!

For those looking for a more grounded adventure, pick up a car from Mansfield Tyre Service + Rent a Car and make your way to the lake. Enjoy a lunch at the iconic Bonnie Doon Hotel and make sure to get all your obligatory The Castle quotes in while soaking up the serenity. From here, wind your way down to the south end of the lake and visit the township of Eildon. Take in some of the best views of the lake you’ll get from the shoreline, surrounded by the deep green of thick bushland. By now you’ll surely be itching to see what’s around that next point, so be sure to hire a boat and head out onto the lake, exploring at your own pace.

Of course, Lake Eildon is famous for its houseboats, perhaps the very best way to take in the scenery and completely relax. If spending the weekend on the water sounds like you, make a beeline down to Eildon and pick up a houseboat. Eild Marina is your go-to spot, with a range of comfortable houseboats for hire and the fantastic El Lago restaurant and café to keep you warm with hot coffee and an open fire.

Before heading back to the airport, make sure you check out Foggs Lookout just outside of Eildon. From here you’ll get some of the best views of the lake and the spillway, that is at least before you jump back in the cockpit.

Over the weekend, you’ll no doubt have familiarised yourself with this incredible lake. On departure, make sure you fly back over your favourite coves and inlets, soaking in the beauty one last time before heading home with incredible memories and a camera full of breathtaking photos.