If you’re looking for somewhere in Victoria to take the kids this long weekend or perhaps somewhere to go for an extended stay in the school holidays then Mansfield is definitely one of those places that ticks all the boxes.
We happen to have two high maintenance girls (2.5 and 5) who get car sick when they draw, read, play iPad, puzzles, games or anything that requires them to look down while driving in a car! This means three hours driving time is our absolute limit at this stage of our lives (not to mention the fact they are in a competitive phase whereby the claws come out the minute they spend too much time with each other in a confined space).
This is why Mansfield, which is approx 200km from the Mornington Peninsula (roughly 3 hours) is the perfect spot for us to enjoy a little family getaway. North-east of Melbourne and situated in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, Mansfeild is only a 20 minute drive from Mount Buller, Mount Stirling, Merrijig, Jamieson and not too far from Lake Eildon.
It is a gorgeous little town surrounded by grazing land and mountain forests and is well-known for its stunning scenery. The town is quaint, peaceful and has many boutique shops, bakeries and cafes. The Mansfield Bakery, The Mansfield Coffee Merchant, The Mansfield Sweets Lolly Shop and The Produce Store are just a few that we recommend visiting.
It also has several historical buildings, dating back to its days as a stock route camp in the 1940s and its gold mining service centre beginning in the 1850s. High Street and Highett Street form tree-lined boulevards with gardens along their wide central strip as they meet in the town centre. At their junction is a marble monument which was erected in 1880 as a tribute to a group of constables killed by infamous bushranger Ned Kelly.
There are a lot of accommodation options in Mansfield, whether you’re right in the heart of the town or a couple of minutes out. We camped with friends in our trusty 1980s pop top Viscount Camper Van at the Mansfield Holiday Park. There was heaps of space at each site, it was powered, the toilets were relatively clean, the showers were hot (always a bonus with me) and there was a pool if you happen to visit in the warmer months.
We had a big open space beside our sites which allowed the kids to run around. Fires are permitted at this camping ground and each night a staff member would drive around providing fire wood. There was a paddock with horses next to the park which was a plus for the kids.
On our first full day in Mansfield we headed to “Craig’s Hut” which was originally built as a replica bushman’s hut, created as a film set in 1981 for the movie The Man From Snowy River. It was then opened to the public in 1983, but destroyed in a bushfire in 2006. The hut was then rebuilt, thankfully, in 2008 as part of a State Government Bushfire Recovery Program.
To get there you either have to ride a horse, hike or 4WD. We opted for the latter, which was a super fun (kind of scary) albeit everyone getting car sick (a bit of vomit in a bread bag never hurt anyone!). The whole time we were driving there (with the Navara very nearly toppling over on several occasions!) I was thinking; “this better be bloody be good”. And it was.
It did not disappoint. In fact, it was one of the most fantastic tourist places I have ever visited, and the best bit… it was free.
The kids ran around the house and explored inside while we read the history of Craig’s Hut on the information posters. Dozens of trail riders also visited the house, which the kids were excited about. There were also a few picnic tables around so bringing some lunch and a picnic blanket is a fab idea. Although it was a replica hut, there was just something majestic about it. I am sixth generation Australian so it could be that I felt a little connection to my ancestors perhaps? Or maybe I just really like the movie The Man from Snowy River!
During our stay in Mansfield we also visited Jamieson where we stopped in at the Jamieson Brewery. It was a little deserted and a very old fashioned country pub but it was cute and had a playground for the kids, pub grub, a great view, good beer and lot’s of space for the kids to run around. We did a bit of bird watching too which was fun.
We only had a couple of full days in Mansfield so there were a lot of places we missed out on visiting such as the Mansfield Zoo. We drove past it a couple of times though and it looked pretty cool with lions, deers, kangaroos, monkeys and more.
On our way home we stopped at the super popular, crazy busy Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery. Even though it was swarming with tourists, it was still worth checking out. Hubby wasn’t a fan of the crowds inside the place (although I don’t know how he even noticed the crowds when there was SOOOOOOOO much chocolate to admire!) but once we got outside on the lawns, it turned out to be a lovely place to see. We ate ice-cream and chocolate and played ball games on the lush green open grassland, it was the perfect family day.