Steve’s Looong Weekend at Lakes Entrance

26 March 2024 / Words by Steve & Cecelia Wakeling, Photos by Rod Nicholas, Steve & Cecelia Wakeling, Mike Lawless, Jo Blackburn

Sometimes, a change is needed. We had organised a 4-day run to Bermagui for four years in a row, so we thought it was a time to mix things up. Not that, there is anything wrong with Bermagui—it is a great spot for a long weekend—but we’d been there and done that. So, we decided on Lakes Entrance in North-eastern Victoria, about a six-hour drive from Canberra including meal stops. Cecelia had been there before but not me, so we did a reconnaissance run mid last year, and decided it was a great destination.

We booked accommodation and other venues for the early March 2024, expecting a run limit of 10 cars—20 people. We underestimated the demand—the 10 rooms we booked went within a few days of the event being listed on the website. By run date, we had 17 cars and 32 people!

Friday 1 March saw us making our way from Canberra to Nimmitabel for morning tea and then through Bombala and on to Cann River for lunch, where two cars joined our run as planned. After a long lunch we headed south to Lakes Entrance arriving about 3:30pm and met up with our 17th car. Everybody was accounted for. It was a beautiful day for a drive with reasonably good roads and light traffic.

That night we invaded the busy Central Hotel for dinner, exhausted by the 50 metre walk from the motel rooms. Dinner was excellent, although some were surprised by the small serving of even smaller flathead tails, which didn’t seem quite value for money (on the other hand, the lamb back strap must have some from a very big lamb).

Saturday morning was free time and an early lunch at the Sodafish floating restaurant. I had struggled with this booking as I needed to book for 30+ for 12 noon and be finished by 1:30pm so we could get to our next engagement. Several conversations later we had it all sorted, and we were seated on an upper open balcony with excellent food, service and lake views.

Directly after lunch I had arranged to join a local lake cruse leaving at 2pm. Both the SodaFish and the lake cruise boat were across the road from the motel, so well within walking distance. The ‘Thunderbird’ took us on a 2.5 hour cruse around the Gippsland Lakes, 350 square kilometres of coastal lakes, marshes and lagoons. The boat holds 190 people and there were about 110 on board. The cruise is well worth the $54 fee as we saw lazy seals and many dolphins, and even a private island that a group of up to 40 can rent. The captain also took us into the canal estates at Paynesville—the boating capital of Victoria—where there are many very expensive ‘holiday’ homes. I don’t think running aground on a sand bar was planned but a quick throw into reverse soon had us on our way again.

During the cruise I happened to mention to the captain our plans for the following day, which was a visit to Paynesville and a short ferry ride over to Raymond Island for some koala spotting. He mentioned in passing that it was likely to be very crowded as there was an old wooden boat festival the next day on and also another car club of 60 cars would be there.

So, a change of start time for Sunday saw a 9am start rather than 10am to beat the other car club to Paynesville. We ended up trying to beat ourselves. A conversation with a local on Raymond Island during our reccy run turned my run of 16 cars into 60! Our group split up, with some choosing to partake in the Festival while the rest of us went on a koala walk.

Lunch that day was a short trip to the Metung Hotel overlooking the marina where some very expensive boats/cruisers are moored. Our group had a private room with its own balcony. The hotel is well worth a visit as the food is excellent, but best to book as it was very busy.

Dinner that night was going to be take-away under the trees on the lake shore. A repeat of Saturday night but Mother Nature intervened and supplied gale force winds.  So, we struggled against the wind to the RSL for Chinese.

Monday morning saw scattered departures for home. Some of the members had never been to Lakes Entrance before. Most of it was new to us also. All commented that they had an excellent time. The roads from Canberra to Lakes Entrance and around Paynesville and Metung are just a delight to drive an MX5 on, except for Paul’s vicious pothole at location 37°49’22.5’S x 147°47’50.9’E. Knowing the exact location allowed us to miss the pothole.

There is so much there we did not get a chance to see so we will definitely be back next year.

There are more photos right here!