Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published June 7th 2012
Mount Donna Buang is a popular hiking, trail biking and family outing spot. It's also only 80km away from Melbourne, what more could you want? Going to the snow is usually a significant outing, both in time and money, if you're going to a resort like Falls Creek, Mount Hotham, or even Mount Stirling. Mount Donna Buang is a much easier and cheaper alternative.
You won't have to freeze your fingers off or waste money on fitting chains, since the road to the summit is always kept clear. The entrance fee is only $7, too: nothing compared to other mountains in Victoria. If you get there early enough, before the gates open, you won't have to pay at all. Bear in mind that the food vans and toboggan rental won't be open if you do this, although the toilets will be open. If you have a toboggan of your own you should bring it. Rental can be quite expensive, especially if there's more than one of you.
Those into healthy food might want to bring their own lunch, as the food van offers such nutritious staples as buckets of chips and doughnuts. On the other hand, nothing soothes cold fingers, or cold children, like warm, greasy food. Mount Donna Buang is a perfect mountain for children: the slopes are wide and gentle, and there are guaranteed to be plenty of other kids around. It's a great place to experience snow for the first time, build a snowman, throw snowballs, and fall over a lot, all important life experiences.
There are three toboggan runs, all less than a hundred meters from the parking lot, so the only walking you'll have to do is back up the runs so you can go down again. For the more adventurous there's a short but steep walk to the summit, offering decent views and the chance to spot a lyrebird. You can ski, too, although the runs are hardly resort quality, and you can cycle during the warmer months. The main bike track is steep and technical, averaging a climb of 6.2% over 16.6km: a perfect training ride for endurance cyclists or budding triathletes, but quite challenging for those of us without that level of fitness.
The only problem with Mount Donna Buang is a big one: the mountain gets very crowded very fast. If you show up late, prepare to wait on the road for thirty minutes to an hour while the rangers wait for people to leave the slopes. This can be a good time to grab some lunch. Near the end of the day the snow on the toboggan runs gets compacted and slippery, which can lead to scrapes and bruises. It's best to plan your snow sports early and take a walk up to the summit or lookout point later on in the day. You'll have a better time and find yourself with a new appreciation for the hot chocolate in the evening before you go home. Isn't that what a day at the snow is all about?