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Train Travel to Bairnsdale

Home > Melbourne > Accommodation | Food and Wine | Free | Long Weekend | Trains
by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt (subscribe)
Freelance writer exploring Melbourne and beyond. If you enjoy the following article click on the Like button, Facebook it to your friends or subscribe. I'll update you with yummy and often free events. Like my photos? I instagram @redbagwilltravel
Published September 25th 2015
And what to do when you get there
Photo Credit Brian Cresswell.Walk besides the Mitchell River near the Riversleigh

Country train journeys are a joy. The adventure starts at Southern Cross Station -- one of the best places in Melbourne for people watching. There is everything from people dressed to the nines for work in the nearby law district, to people dressed for a fiver and making there way to some of the highest unemployed areas in the state.

I'm here for a train trip to Bairnsdale. The advantage over driving is the four hours you have to yourself to read, write or catch up on some sleep.

Photo credit: Brian Cresswell

If you are travelling on your own, or even as a couple, you are likely to meet people on the train. Four hours is a long time to remain silent and people generally start talking. I once got on with a woman who knew how to make the journey fly. She started talking to me from the moment we boarded the train at Southern Cross and didn't stop until we reach Bairnsdale. Before we parted I knew her life story and fortunately it was an interesting one.

The journey passes through Gippsland's emerald green fields. I saw so many calves gamboling in the green fields and playing chasey that by the time we arrived veal was off the menu, for me, forever.

Without a car chances are you will also get more exercise. We stayed at the Riversleigh on the Mitchell River. It was also on the edge of town but that was only ten minutes walk. As it was cold we walked briskly, dragging our wheelie suitcases behind us.

But the brisk walks continued as it was back into town so we could get some dinner and then back to the hotel again.

The Riversleigh Manor has heritage rooms with high ceilings, good linen and excellent mattresses. It has a deservedly high rating on TripAdvisor.

As I write this my window looks out on the Riversleigh's ornate cast iron balconies. It tickles my literary fancy to think that this is supposedly the Victorian house that Hal Porter named his 1963 memoir after -- The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony.

The Riversleigh does a more than passable continental breakfast with locally made muesli (available for purchase in all the tourist spots in town) and various breads and crumpets with luscious local jams.

Admittedly the quaint hotel was a bit Fawlty Towers which added to the fun. When I asked the barman for the internet password he remarked something along the lines of " I don't know I only work here". Although admittedly he did go and find it out for me. And the owner while charming if you can pin her down for two seconds is a bit of a Sybil, with her darting all over the place and her refined voice. Unfortunately we did not encounter a hen-pecked Basil Fawlty to complete the trio.

If you have a car and can explore the surrounding district then I am sure there is a lot to do around Bairnsdale. But without wheels we were restricted to where we could walk.

Luckily for me there are 13 opshops in Bairnsdale. I managed to get to only four and that meant a lot of Millers labels to wade through but I still came away with a Country Road jacket and a leather handbag at prices much lower than in the city.

There is also a Sun Cinema. This is related to the famous Sun Cinema in Yarraville. While nothing in appearance like its Art Deco namesake it still shows the same great selection of popular and arthouse movies. Holidays are a good time to go to the cinema, as like most people with iView and Netflix at home heading out to the cinema is not as frequent as it once was.

Bairnsdale has some surprising lovely architecture. The cathedral is well known and in the back streets you will find some surprising gems. And all the photos of nature in this article are of the Mitchell River which is just behind the Riversleigh (hence its name I suppose).

Lots of gorgeous old buildings

We dine at the Tower Hotel, opposite the water tower. It has changed owners but has kept the same chef so the food is just as good as when I reviewed it last time. For a full review click here.

Tower Hotel

Tower Hotel

The second night we dine at the River Grill, which is next door to the Riversleigh Hotel. The food is brilliant. I eat standard fare which is lamb and potatoes but the seasonings and freshness of the ingredients makes for the perfect dish.

It may come as a surprise but the best place to eat lunch is at Mitre Hardware. And when I did manage to pin the owner of the Riversleigh down for a few minutes she did give me this tip.

The hardware giant has a coffee shop in their gardening section called the New Leaf. The coffee is very Melbourne and the cooking very CWA with gorgeous cakes and freshly made rolls and salads. It can be hard to get a seat at lunchtime so try to get there a bit earlier. Parents may be pleased to learn that there is an outside eating area with a kid's playground.

Photo Credit Brian Cresswell.Walk besides the Mitchell River near the Riversleigh

It was only a two day break but those two days disappeared quickly. It can be hard going somewhere without a car and the inability to travel out further afield but the rewards of spending a few days based in Bairnsdale were well worth it.

If you are a senior or on certain concession cards you receive a return free country train journey each year. If you don't have this card traveling by train can still often be cheaper than buying petrol and you will be guaranteed to get more exercise and really get to experience the town you visit.

Other great train trips include those to Ballarat, Warrnambool and even a day's outing in Geelong is fun.

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Why? A scenic change with new things to do
Where: Bairnsdale
Cost: If you have a voucher your train travel is free. Riversleigh has some good specials.
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