The lakes and lifestyle of Victoria’s Gippsland have been under wraps for years. We’re here to let you in on the secret of their beauty. Once restrictions in Vicco ease, Gippsland will be the place to be.
Escape to Gippsland
London? Paris? New York? No thanks, 2020, I don’t want your packed restaurants and crowded streets. I’m looking for open spaces, quiet cafes and a taste of the simple life.
Luckily, Gippsland and the Gippsland Lakes region ticks all of those boxes and they’re only a hop, skip and a jump from Melbourne. (At 319km, East Gippsland is 53 times closer than London!)
The horrific bushfires over summer reminded us of the incredible places we have so close to home and the special spot they hold in our hearts. Our regional communities – the landscapes and the wildlife that make them unique – are such an important part of Victoria, and they were dealt a heavy blow.
Now that we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and restrictions ease, it’s time to get back out there and Explore Your Backyard.
We’ve put together a little guide to help you plan your weekend, your week, or hell, even your relocation, to Gippsland.
First up on the itinerary is Lakes Entrance. This gateway to Gippsland Lakes is complemented by gorgeous beaches, rivers and forests – the region could keep you occupied for a lifetime, let alone a weekend.
If cycling is your jam you need to hit up the Colquhoun Forest. It’s got plenty of walking tracks, but personally, I’d be making a beeline for the Mountain Bike Park. Find your own way, or for a sure-fire adventure get a local to show you the best trails. Local tour operator Venture Out run learn to mountain bike and guided trips.
For those looking to go the extra distance, Snowy River Cycling will have you pedalling ‘til your hearts content on one of their multi-day, self-guided bike tours.
If you’re still not satisfied after all that riding, the East Gippsland Rail Trail is the icing on the cake. It’s 94km of pure cycling (or horseback-riding) goodness that takes you from Bairnsdale to Orbost. You’ll pass through a plethora of little towns along the way with no shortage of good food, good vibes and great wine.
Yeah that’s right, you get in a helicopter and get some stunning views over the Gippsland Lakes before being dropped on an empty beach to follow the tides back to Lakes Entrance on a SUP.
Venture Out also offer kayaking and SUP experiences on the lakes (without the need for a heli), and while it might be a little nippier in winter, the dolphins and seals are still out and about, so you should be too!
Just a short drive from Lakes Entrance, Lake Tyers Beach squeezes in so much of what makes the East Gippsland Region special. There’s pumping winter waves at Red Bluff just begging for a shred, a 90 Mile Beach to practise your social distancing and plenty of boat ramps to launch your flotilla.
Lake Tyers is also a popular local fishing spot with prawns, crabs, flathead and bream. But if you don’t have any luck casting your rod, word on the grapevine is that there’s always some fresh catch waiting for you down at The Waterwheel Tav.
If you still haven’t had enough isolation and want somewhere to escape for the weekend, Metung is right up your alley.
Situated smack bang in between Lakes Entrance and Paynesville, it’s the perfect jumping-off point for all your adventures. Head to the Metung Hotel for a waterfront brewski and fish and chips to refuel after your drive.
Jetty Road Retreat, just out of Metung, will have you sipping pinot at sunset as you look over the lake, and you’ll probably refuse to leave in the morning. If the hills are more your vibe, you’ll be right at home among the gumtrees at Down to Earth Farm Retreat.
Honestly, there are so many good options it’s almost like asking someone to pick between hummus and guac. It’s a hard choice to make, but either way, you’re going to leave fulfilled, yet wanting more.
Paynesville and Raymond Island
Calling all captains, Paynesville has the admirable (see what I did there?) title of being Victoria’s boating capital. So whether it’s windsurfing or waterskiing, they’ve got you covered.
Once you’ve tired yourself out practising your barefoot skiing or human pyramids, you can fill up on some local produce and wine at local hatted restaurant SARDINE Eatery & Bar before skipping over to explore Raymond Island.
Raymond Island is only a short ferry ride away, and for foot passengers, it doesn’t even cost a cent! Once you’re there, you’ll be inundated with koalas, and in the primo place to spend a night winter stargazing in the perfect glamping tents.
After a devastating bushfire season, Australia’s koalas are under more threat than ever before. However, Raymond Island has a large population of koalas, so much so that in the past, koalas from Raymond Island have been relocated to other regions for repopulation.
It’s no surprise that Raymond Island is home to the Koala Trail, a 1.2km walk around the island which gives you a pretty solid chance of spotting one of our dopey friends. You can also peddle you way around the island with Ride the Koalas two or four-seater Surry Bike.
Having just been graced with the winter solstice, we’re at a time when the days are short and the nights are long. So what better place to spend some of the longest nights of the year than a Sky Tent on Raymond Island.
The best way to describe a Sky Tent a big igloo-shaped tent that’s completely transparent, and over at Raymond Island they’ve had the audacity to plonk a bunch of them in the middle of the wilderness under the sprawling Milky Way.
Thankfully for Sky Tent fans, there are currently no known drop bears, the aggressive cousin of the koala, active on Raymond Island.
What are you waiting for?
Winter can be a time of hibernation, bingeing Netflix and too many packets of Oreos, but I’d bet that most of us have already had our fair share of that this year. So as we come out of our lockdown cocoons, why not escape the city and treat yourself to a cosy weekend down the coast?
Gippsland is at the top of our list for Melbournians and Victorians and honey, you deserve it.
Photos thanks to Visit Victoria