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Published June 5th 2016
A Holiday Destination for the Whole Family
7 Things to do on a Gippsland Lakes Weekend Getaway The Gippsland Lakes System is surely a jewel in Victoria's Crown. This picturesque area of around 400 square kilometres of inland waterways is a holiday mecca. Roughly 300 kilometres and less than four hours from Melbourne and framed by a bushland coastline the Lakes area has something for everyone.
The Serenity of the Gippsland Lakes Area (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Here you will find beach and bush, fishing and boating, fine wine and food, heritage homesteads, limestone caves, wilderness reserves, wildlife including dolphins, seals, koalas and echidnas, an historic trestle bridge, art galleries, nature walks, day spas or just wonderful relaxation. The Gippsland Lakes area is perfect for a long weekend.
Boat Trip on the Lakes
The Gippsland Lakes - Lake Victoria, Lake Wellington, Lake King, Lake Tyers, Lake Reeve, Lake Coleman and Bancroft Bay - make up an area of around 400 square kilometres of scenic waterways. The Lakes are fed by a number of rivers and streams and run along a picturesque strip of coastline from Lakes Entrance to Paradise Beach and what better way to see them than on one of the relaxing boat cruises running in the area.
The Thunderbird Ready to Cruise the Gippsland Lakes (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Peels Cruises offer scenic, winery and luncheon cruises. The company has three cruise boats operating from Lakes Entrance. Peels Cruises can be contacted on (03) 5155 1246 or 0409 946 292.
Lonsdale Eco Cruises offers three hour cruises from Lakes Entrance seeking out the flora and fauna of the area. Sightings can include dolphins, wallabies, seals, pelicans, swans and other sea birds. Lonsdale Eco Cruises can be contacted on 0413 666 638.
***Wildlife on the banks*** Sea Safari Lakes Explorer offers a one and a quarter hour cruise from Lakes Entrance which includes Fishing Boat Harbour, Ocean Entrance and Rigby Island sea-birds. Sea Safari can be contacted on 045 851 1438.
Enterprise Cruises offers one, two, three or four hour tours for groups of 10 or more from Paynesville. Tours can be tailored to your requirements. Enterprise Cruises can be contacted on (03) 5155 1246.
Boating on the Gippsland Lakes (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
The Gippsland Lakes must truly be a fisherman's paradise. No matter your passion, be it fishing from shore, pier or boat, you will not be disappointed. Amongst the common catches in the lakes are bream, tailor, luderick, perch, flathead, garfish, jewfish, snapper, salmon, trevally and mullet.
Casting a Line at Metung on the Gippsland Lakes (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
In the Paynesville canals there are tailor and bream. At Ocean Grange cast a line for whiting and mullet. In Bancroft Bay at Metung as well as tailor and bream, there is flathead and snapper. In Lake Tyers fish for bream and flathead from Burnt Bridge, Long Point, Crystal Bay and Cherry Tree. Even the place names sound exciting.
Fishing at the Gippsland Lakes (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
The Buchan Caves Reserve is home to some spectacular limestone caves including the Royal Cave and the Fairy Cave. The caves are thought to date back 300 to 400 million years and have been a tourist attraction since the 1920's.
Guided tours are run in Fairy Cave where an abundance of beautiful stalactites and stalagmites can be viewed and in Royal Cave where visitors will marvel at the calcite rimmed pools. Royal Cave is the easier of the two at 500 metres and includes the spectacular Font of the Gods and Princess Royal Chambers. Fairy Cave has a spiral staircase entrance and is also 500 metres. It includes the Ivory Palace, Kings Chamber and Blackwood Chamber. These caves border on the magical, they are indeed a fairyland.
Stalagmites in Fairy Cave (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
A variety of walking tracks within the reserve offer views of waterfalls, ferns, rocks and majestic trees. Lyrebirds might be spotted here along with kookaburras, king parrots, water dragons and ringtail possums. The Granite Pools walk offers sweeping views of the Buchan Valley.
There are cabins and a camping ground at the reserve with good facilities including camp kitchen, toilets, showers, BBQ's and picnic tables. For those wanting to get back to nature there is also a wilderness retreat.
When: Cave tours run daily except Christmas Day. Between the September school holidays and Easter there are five tours each day and at other times of the year there are three tours each day. Click here for times.
Where: Buchan Caves Reserve, is around 55 kms and 45 mins north east of Lakes Entrance via Nowa Nowa on Caves Road, Buchan.
Cost: (June 2016) Tours of a single cave are Adult $21.50, Child $12.60, Senior $18.50 and Family $59.40. Tours of both caves are Adult $32.50, Child $18.60, Senior $26.40 and Family $88.70. Contact Parks Victoria on 13 19 63 for details of camping costs.
The Gippsland Lakes are home to around 50 of the rare Burrunan dolphins, a species of bottlenose dolphin only found in the Lakes and in Port Phillip Bay. The dolphins are permanent residents and I have spotted them a number of times. One came particularly close as I was walking along the lake's edge at Metung. My husband spotted them swimming in the crystal clear waters by a pier where he was trying to fish. They are a spectacular sight and sometimes jump from the water, a delight for children and adults alike.
A Burrunan Dolphin (Photo By Charlton-Robb K, Gershwin LA, Thompson R, Austin J, Owen K, McKechnie S. CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons)
Wild koalas in residential streets, who would have imagined but in the unique environment of Raymond Island, that's exactly how it is.
Why not leave the car in Paynesville and take the short 200 metre ferry ride across to the Island. Pedestrians and cyclists travel for free. The ferry is a chain drawn punt and a great experience for the children.
A Koala in the Tree Tops in a Raymond Island Street (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Disembark at Ferry Park where you will find BBQ's, a shaded picnic area,a children's playground and public toilets. A large information board covered in interesting koala facts, details the 1.2 kilometre koala trail.
Scan the treetops for koalas which are in sufficient numbers to guarantee sightings. The koalas were introduced to Raymond Island in 1953 as a safeguard against extinction when 32 of them were sent from Phillip Island. There are more than 200 there now.
The Raymond Island Ferry (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Native birds are also here in abundance. You might see rainbow lorikeets, eastern rosellas, crimson rosellas and kookaburras. Keep an eye out for kangaroos and echidnas.
Round off your visit with a stroll along the boardwalk. Boats and yachts are moored at the jetty and water birds are plentiful. There are walking and cycling trails and tracks, safe swimming beaches and plenty of fishing spots.
When: The ferry operates at regular intervals throughout the day. See the boards at the departure and arrival points for times or click here for timetables.
Where: Raymond Island, 200 metres across the Mitchell Strait from Paynesville..
Cost: There is no cost for the Raymond Island Koala Trail. On the ferry pedestrians and cyclists ride for free. There is a charge for vehicles. Click here for rates.
Nyerimilang Homestead and Heritage Park
Nyerimalang Homestead is a large historic house perched on a hilltop above the Gippsland Lakes and surrounded by lovely gardens in the Nyerimilang Heritage Park. Deep verandahs frame the house on two sides. It is not hard to imagine a warm summer's evening spent relaxing in the shade here watching boats pass by on the lake.
Even the Bathroom is Beautiful at Nyerimalang Homestead (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
As you walk through the homestead your footsteps will echo on the solid wooden floors and your eye will be caught by sunlight rippling through stained glass windows. In the lounge an imposing mantle sits above a brick fireplace. In the bathroom a claw foot bath takes pride of place. The kitchen is displayed as it might have been had you dropped in for afternoon tea all those years ago.
An Echidna at Nyerimalang Heritage Park (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
There are five walking tracks around the park ranging from ten to thirty minutes one way. Wander beneath the blue gums, past swamp and marsh lands, or take in the panoramic views from the cliff top walk. Keep an eye out for wildlife. We spotted an echidna by the path leading to the homestead. You might also see whistling kites soaring above or currawongs in the trees. At lakes edge pelicans and black swans are frequently sighted. For the avid birdwatcher there are three bird hides in the park.
Stepping into the Past at Nyerimalang Homestead (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Cost: Entry is free but donations are gratefully accepted.
Stony Creek Trestle Bridge
Only a short detour from the highway is one of Victoria's impressive and historic trestle bridges. At 274 metres long and 18.6 metres high, the Stony Creek Trestle Bridge in the Colquhoun State Forest is claimed to be the largest remaining wooden bridge in Australia. It was built in 1916 from locally sourced red iron bark and grey box timber.
The Stony Creek Historic Trestle Bridge (Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Unfortunately this bridge is not well maintained and cannot be traversed. It has been barricaded for safety. Stony Creek Bridge is part of the East Gippsland Rail Trail, a 96km cycling, walking and horse riding route running from Bairnsdale to Orbost along the route of the old Orbost Railway Line. An information board at the site gives some interesting history.
The bridge is majestic when viewed from below and an excellent subject for photographers.
Where: The bridge is 22kms north-east of Lakes Entrance, just off the Princes Highway within the Colquhoun State Forest. The turnoff from the Nowa Nowa Road is not easy to spot although it is signposted. The road into the forest is unmade. It was a little bumpy when we visited it was fine for a two wheel drive. There are no tourist facilities at the site.
Telephone: Lakes Entrance Visitor Information Centre (03) 5155 1966