Autumn colours, great local produce, and room to stretch your legs . . . there's no better time to visit Mount Beauty. By Paul Edwards.

WHY GO NOW?

The annual Mount Beauty Music Muster is one of the region's highlights, and will be held next Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It will feature more than 100 local and international artists, including some from Samoa, New Zealand and Scotland. Other splendid reasons: the magnificent autumn colours and the rich produce just harvested.

WHERE IS IT?

In the Kiewa Valley, at the foot of Mount Bogong, Victoria's highest mountain. It's just over the Tawonga Gap from the Ovens Valley and the popular tourist town of Bright. Mount Beauty is the Big Smoke for Falls Creek alpine resort.

ARE WE THERE YET?

Follow the Hume Highway to Glenrowan, take the Snow Road to Myrtleford, then branch left near Happy Valley or continue to Bright. Distance is around 320 kilometres from Melbourne. Allow a little over four hours.

ON THE WAY

Divert to see new developments at Glenrowan, where they're preparing for the 125th anniversary of Ned Kelly's last stand. In the same area, check out Milawa and Oxley, firmly established as great Australian food centres. The Brown Brothers winery is an outstanding attraction, with lovely grounds, excellent food and wine tasting facilities.

WHAT'S THERE?

A high country sun trap, Mount Beauty and the Kiewa Valley are the green bases of the soaring mountains. Many roads spear off from here - take the opportunity of visiting Falls Creek, drive along the Rocky Valley Dam, perhaps even venture over the edge to Angler's Rest and the Blue Duck. Bustling Mount Beauty has plenty of accommodation, and places to eat and drink. A little-visited place is Bogong Village, often glimpsed by skiers on their way to Falls Creek. Take time out to visit this little lakeside jewel.

COME FLY

This region provides great flying conditions for hang-gliding and gliders, and hosts the Bogong Cup hang-gliding festival and the Mount Beauty gliding festival. Contact the Mount Beauty Gliding Club (5754 1719). You can also view the mountains via helicopter. Contact Bright Helicopters (5755 1560).

COME FISH

The Kiewa and West Kiewa rivers are popular destinations for anglers. Contact Angling Expeditions Victoria (5754 1466). There are many unspoilt swimming holes and excellent picnic spots.

START WALKING

This is challenging country for bushwalkers, with one of the toughest routes the Staircase up Mount Bogong. If you're looking for something gentler, join Jill Dawson on an ecotour of the Alpine High Country - Alpine Nature Rambles (5754 3492).

ON YOUR BIKE

This is the place to be for mountain-bike enthusiasts and hosts the Boomerang Cup - a 200-kilometre classic fiercely contested by more than 1000 riders. If your legs are complaining, try four-wheel-driving along mountain trails, perhaps calling in at Wallace's hut, the oldest mountain cattlemen's hut in Australia.

COMING UP

Other events during the year include the Mount Beauty half marathon in May (1800 808277) and the Mitta Mitta mountain bike challenge in October.

CELLAR STOCKING

The Kiewa Valley is home to some little known wineries. Visit the cellar doors of Annapurna Wines (5754 4517), Bogong Estate (5754 4347) and Ceccanti Wines (5754 5236).

I'M TIRED

Mount Beauty plays a double role in the region's hospitality industry, as a stand-alone destination and as support to the seams-bursting winter accommodation at Falls Creek.

Places to stay include the award-winning Breaview B&B (5754 4746), Stirling Country House (5754 1524) for secluded luxury, Mount Beauty Holiday Centre (5754 4396) and the Tawonga Caravan Park (5754 4428). Self-contained options include the unique style of Dreamers Mountain Accommodation (5754 1222) and comfortable Alpenhorn Holiday Units (5754 4133). Motel suggestions: Snow Gum Motel (5754 4508), Allamar Motor Inn (5754 4365) and Mountain Creek Motel (5754 4247). If you fancy a stay in cute little Bogong Village, contact Bogong Village Accommodation (5754 1131).

I'M HUNGRY

The bakery is popular for breakfast or lunch, while Baenschy's and Treats are also hot breakfast spots. The town's wineries all provide lunch and wine. There are a variety of options for dinner. Perhaps the Mount Beauty Country Club (5754 4010), Tuscany on Kiewa (5754 4084) or Recline (5754 1878). The Bogong Hotel (5754 4482) and Settler Tavern (5754 4888) provide great pub meals, while sophisticates speak well of Roi's Diner at Tawonga (5754 4495).

Call 1800 111 885 for more information on the region and to receive a free information kit, or visit http://www.visitalpine.com and www.mtbeauty.com