I am an academic and writer living in Melbourne. I love to travel and I also love writing about all the things Melbourne, regional Victoria and other parts of Australia have to offer.
Published January 29th 2020
Even though the recent bushfires had a devastating effect on many areas of East Gippsland, the good news is much of this area is now back to normal and open for business. And they want visitors to come back! There are many excellent reasons to visit this part of Victoria, sparkling waterways, peaceful surroundings, local seafood and produce, friendly locals and so much more.
Paynesville is about 3 1/2 - 4 hours from Melbourne and if you take the more scenic road closer to the coast, it will take you about 5 hours. So the best is to stay 2 or 3 nights or longer if you want to take advantage of all that the Gippsland Lakes has to offer. Paynesville has not been directly affected by the fires but it has suffered a decrease in visitors because of some of the areas of East Gippsland being directly affected.
There are numerous accommodation possibilities, the luxury, waterfront Captain's Cove apartments are all on the water and each apartment accommodates up to 6 people. The apartments are well equipped with a kitchen, barbecue and even your own jetty and are very reasonably priced especially when sharing with a couple or another family. If you are lucky the visiting pelicans will keep you company. It's a 10-minute walk to the centre of town which has a pub, shops, a wine bar, cafes and a very good restaurant specialising in local seafood and produce. Another option, right near the foreshore, is the Mariner's Cove Motel and Apartments. There are also Airbnb and other holiday letting options of renting private holiday houses.
With so many waterways, inlets, and rivers the possibilities for boating are immense. Kayaks, sailing boats, motorboats and organised cruises, they are very accessible. It's important to know where to launch and refuel your boat so all information about boating can be found here. To hire a boat check out Bulls Cruisers boat hire who specialise in boating holidays, romantic getaways, family holidays and group boating adventures. There is a boat for everyone with 15 fully self-contained cruisers offering budget to luxury accommodation for 2-10 people. If you have a boat why not enjoy some great fishing in this area so check out the fishing report to see which places are best and which fish are biting.
Birds galore, kangaroos, koalas, the occasional wombat, they are all here in the vicinity of Paynesville. Your stay will be punctuated with the loud screeches of the cockatoos and corellas (who snuggle together in the trees on the foreshore), the graceful gliding of the majestic black swans, usually in pairs and the low-flying pelicans who, if you are lucky, will land near your balcony. If you are even luckier you can even spot the rarely sighted tawny frogmouth and the wedge-tail eagle. The wildlife on Raymond Island is even more special.
This island, right across from Paynesville is a very short ferry ride ($13 return for cars, free for passengers) and it's worthwhile exploring the island by car or bike. You can start with the koala trail which is a 20 minute, self-guided trail, and see how many koalas you can spot.Raymond Island is home to many koalas which coexist very happily among the houses very near the ferry terminal. Close to the nature reserve, where the trees are lower you can see koalas very close up, even if they do spend most of their day sleeping in the forks of trees. If you have a car or bike you can explore the island from top to bottom, only 6km long, so make sure you go right to the top where the visitors are few and far between, the scenery is wonderful and the kangaroos and other wildlife will look at you inquisitively.
For a small place, Paynesville has a very good range of eating and drinking possibilities. The Paynesville Hotel has good pub food and specials such as steak nights and you can stay overnight as well. Fig Cafe provides good breakfast and lunches and the Wine Bar is perfect for that pre-dinner or after-dinner drink and also has music entertainment on select nights and Pier 70 has modern Australian cuisine and a perfect view for breakfast lunch and dinner. One of the best restaurants in the area is Sardine Eatery and Bar , a one-hatted restaurant focused on locally sourced and seasonal produce, with local sardines and local fish being a major part of their lunch and dinner menu. The dishes, service and ambience were all exemplary on the night our group visited but please book as it is a very popular restaurant.
Further afield, a short distance from Bairnsdale, Lightfoot & Sons Winery offers a cellar door with fantastic views, great wines, a tasting platter and maybe a chance to meet Tom Lightfoot, the world adventurer and now wine-maker.
A great article Olga. It is so important that visitors return to Gippsland. My husband and I stayed at Paynesville at few years ago at Captain's Cove and visited the beutiful Raymond Island while we were there.