Gayle Beveridge is a past winner of the Boroondara Literary Awards and her work has appeared in Award Winning Australian Writing. Gayle is passionate about family, writing, photography, and with Victoria’s beautiful Bass Coast which she now calls home.
Published April 11th 2021
Quaint, quirky and surprisingly wonderful
My husband and I have been discovering Gippsland over lunch, one town at a time. We are constantly being surprised at what these wonderful places have to offer. Many of them have proven to be hidden gems and Poowong is no exception. At only around an hour and a half's drive or just over 100kms from the Melbourne CBD, this small Gippsland town is an easy day trip. There is so much to see here if you take the time to look and all of it accessible in just an easy stroll.
1. We arrived, as is our habit, for morning tea. At the Poowong Café and Takeaway, which is housed in a quaint old weatherboard building, the staff were cheerful and friendly and the muffins scrumptious. But the surprise here is the painted mural on the wall, a tranquil lake scene with distant mountains and on the power box, a rural scene. The café offers fish and chips, pies, pasties, hamburgers, coffee, cakes, and ice-creams. You will find it at 6 Ranceby Road. They can be contacted on (03) 5659 2486 and are open 7am to 8pm Tuesday to Friday and 8am to 8pm on weekends.
2. There were ample parking places in Ranceby Road and when we got out of the car, we spied the first of the many interesting gardens we would spot throughout the day. A private home with a driveway lined with flowering pot plants, a significant kangaroo paw plant in a garden fronting the garage. The garage itself is decorated with colourful metal parrots perched atop the roof and is adorned with wall sculptures of lizards, butterflies, birds and trees.
3. A little further along the street and our attention was drawn to a federation house with a vintage truck in the front yard. The truck was interesting enough in itself, but on closer inspection, the owner's sense of humour is revealed as in the driver's seat we find a skeleton wearing a pirate's hat.
4. Continue on and you'll come to the school but don't stop there as the children have a real treat for you around the corner in Gardiner Lane. It is a colourful treat as every paling on the fence, which runs the full length of the property, has been individually painted, as has the water tank inside the fence. What an amazing effort.
5. Cast an eye across the road as you turn back and pause a moment to take in the view of the rolling hills of Gippsland. Poowong is a dairying town, so you will no doubt see cows in the paddocks. The district has a long history with the first settler arriving in April 1874.
6. Glance up on the corner of Ranceby Road and Brisbane Street and you'll see a motorbike hanging from a pole. The people of Poowong are an imaginative lot. Don't hurry past the Connell Engineering building on the corner, the cement building with the art déco look about it. Notice the bowser in front, rusted and ancient, and beside that a relic of a motorbike - informal museum pieces. When we visited, there was also an old spoke-wheeled tractor parked by the fence with what appeared to be some interesting modifications.
7. Don't walk past the Poowong Library at 18 Ranceby Road. Alright, I know you didn't come here to read books, but take a look on the front wall. The Poowong Township six-panel mosaic was placed on the wall in 2004. A nice little piece of art indeed but don't move on yet. In 2000, the inaugural South Gippsland Dairy Expo was held by the Lions Club of Strzelecki at the Poowong Recreation Reserve. The event is commemorated with a painted cow sculpture in the garden beside the library.
8. In the centre-of-the-road park in Ranceby Road, you will spy the Pioneer Packhorse Sculpture by Rosedale artist Rod Sheehan. The sculpture was unveiled in 1999 during the town's 125th-anniversary celebrations and commemorates James and Elizabeth Scott, the first settlers of Poowong. The pack horse is surrounded by panels describing the history of Poowong.
9. We'd had our morning tea and been for a leisurely stroll, taking in the wonderful and the quirky and it was time for lunch. We headed to the Poowong Hotel, where we had a lovely meal and a great chat with the staff. Although this characterful hotel appears to be quite old, it was rebuilt in 1997/98 after its predecessor was burnt down. The hotel is on the corner at 1 Ranceby Road. They have a dining room, public bar with a pool table, darts board, jukebox and a beer garden. They can be contacted on (03) 5659 2351. Opening times when we were there were Wednesday to Sunday 12pm to 2.30pm for lunch and 5.30pm to 8.30pm Wednesday to Saturday for dinner. I recommend you give them a call to check the current opening times.
10. If you have the family in tow and a pub meal is not in the budget, there is a public BBQ and picnic area in the side street opposite the hotel, just behind the Poowong Public Hall. There are public toilets in the brick building to the rear of the picnic area and a large lawn area for the kids to stretch their legs. You will find information boards by the BBQ with a pictorial town map clearly showing the location of key buildings and places in town. On the back of that, there is an informative history board spanning the area from 1840 to 2008.
11. With lunch out of the way, we set off to see the town to the east side of the pub. In front of the pub in the middle-of-the-road park, some beautiful roses caught my attention. These surrounded a sundial which is a memorial to the pioneers of the area. The sundial was unveiled in 1974 as part of the town's centenary celebrations.
12. Across the street at the junction of Nyora Road and Loch-Poowong Road stands the stepped cenotaph, its backdrop a beautiful oak tree. This memorial was unveiled on 4th March 1922 and remembers the local soldiers who fell in the service of Australia in times of war.
13. A short meander along Nyora Road and we came to a larger-than-life wood carving of a magpie heralding the 'Home of the Magpies,' the Poowong Football and Netball Club. I wandered down the lane towards the recreation reserve. Directly behind the main street front is rural land, a pretty vista of tall hills, gum trees and hay bales.
14. We crossed the road a little further on and were surprised to find a café running at the Uniting Church on Main Street. Called the Mya Mya Café, when it is open it serves coffee, tea and locally baked cakes and biscuits. The café can be contacted on (03) 5659 2286 and a board is placed out the front when it is open.
15. We got back in the car for our final stop of the day and headed to the Sculpture Park and Scenic Lookout on Nyora Road (Lang-Lang Poowong Road) about a kilometre from the main area in town. Heading away from town, the lookout is a small wayside stop to your left. Set either side of a picnic table and seats, there is a small selection of wooden sculptures reflecting the settlement of the area and the importance of livestock to the economy. The sculptures have been created from cypress trees that once grew at the site. The lookout presents an expansive vista of Gippsland's beautiful rolling hills. Sit at the picnic table for a time and take in the serenity and beauty. An information board at the site recounts a bit of history and maps out a couple of scenic drives.
Poowong is 113kms or about a one and a half hour's drive from the Melbourne CBD (47kms from Cranbourne) on the South Gippsland Highway. It is a tranquil dairying town surrounded by a beautiful rural environment.