The Great Gippsland Gallivant

27 November 2015 / Bob Judd and Bricet Klören

When putting together the calendar for 2015, I bravely volunteered to organise a longer run for those seeking a tour rather than a speedy day’s outing. I know a little about the Victoria’s Gippsland region, but had never really had the opportunity to explore the region as a tourist. It seemed like an opportunity to visit the area and take some time to check it out.

In June, Bricet and I jumped in the mighty SAAB with a bucket load of maps and a very raw plan as to where we might visit. Nothing was booked; we would just turn up and see what looked good. We returned a week later with an outline that we thought was worthy of putting to our fellow members.

On Saturday, 24 October, our gallant band of Gallivanters departed from Hume for nine day, eight night, 2,200 km trip around the Gippsland region of Victoria. Five cars travelled to Lakes Entrance. We stopped for morning tea at Nimmitabel Bakery, had lunch at Cann River and stopped briefly at Marlo. Marlo is the township where the Snowy River meets the sea. We also detoured to visit the Stoney Creek Rail Trestle Bridge, near Nowa Nowa, built in 1914/15, which greatly impressed the very civil engineers amongst us. Whilst we thought this was to be our only bit of dirt road for the trip, it proved, more accurately, to be our first bit of dirt.

Dinner at the Lakes Entrance RSL proved to be convenient, enjoyable and entertaining. Instead of the customary meat raffle, the local sewing group supplied all the prizes for the fund-raising raffle. We all bought tickets, but somehow completely missed out on winning any prizes. We were delighted by the generosity of the locals who gave each of our ladies a small embroidered keepsake to take home to make up for missing out in the raffle. Things were starting to look good.

Lakes Entrance laid on perfect weather for top-down driving for the two days we spent there. Day 2 took in a short drive of 20-odd km to Bruthen through some most scenic back-roads to the Bullant Boutique Brewery for a cleansing ale, cider, or the inevitable cup of tea, Fortunately, they also served a well-received coffee for the previous night’s red-wine-over‑imbibers amongst us. More back-roads led to the Metung Hotel at Bancroft Bay for lunch overlooking the magnificent lakes. Great and very fresh seafood was the order of the day. Dinner that night at the Ferryman’s Seafood Café proved to be the best seafood we could imagine and all enjoyed the relaxed company and fine fare.

Day 3 saw farewell to Jill and Dennis Wicklander who had to head home to Canberra whilst the remainder of the group headed south to Sale for an overnight stop. We avoided the highways and travelled through magnificent pastoral land that provides much of the milk that comes to our Canberra supermarkets. We detoured to Maffra to visit the Gippsland Vehicle Collection Motor Museum, where everybody was able to find an old vehicle that took their fancy.

Shopping in the afternoon for some – the Swing Bridge and Nature Walk for others meant that there was something in Sale for everyone. We stayed at, and can thoroughly recommend, the King Avenue Comfort Inn motel for their quality food and their hospitality.

A little overnight rain didn’t affect us and it was tops-down for a long days drive to Phillip Island. No highways for us on Day 4 as we visited, firstly the petro-chemical gas works near Longford, then the Customs House Inn at Port Albert for pre-arranged scones and coffee. Our hostess enjoyed a short top-down drive in Tony and Iris McDonald’s copper NC. We enjoyed a sandwich lunch then at Wilsons Promontory, followed by a wander along the sands at Squeaky Beach, before finally reaching our destination at the Seahorse Motel at Cowes on Phillip Island.

Warm and clear skies welcomed us for Day 5, which was a free day to do as you pleased. From what I can tell, four cars went in four different directions because there is plenty to do and see on Phillip Island. Whilst some visited chocolate factories and art galleries, three of us visited the GP Track for the walking tour of the facility. We were pleasantly surprised to witness 12 new Lamborghinis being put through their paces by their new owners. It’s not often you see 12 Lambos showing off!

Of course, you can’t go to Phillip Island and not go and see the penguins! What a great experience it is to witness, seemingly on cue, 20,000 little fellows all coming ashore at sunset and then hurrying off to find their own burrows to feed their chicks. An absolute highlight!

Day 6 saw the group head to the Balgownie Estate Resort in the Yarra Valley, via some, eh, interesting roads between Cockatoo and Emerald. Amanda, Ms Navman, insisted on taking us via 6 km of dirt road that definitely wasn’t in the plan! We discussed this and other weighty matters over spectacular coffee at The General Food Store in Emerald. Following lunch and a little shopping in Yarra Glen, Diana and Ken Keeling joined us at Balgownie Estate resort and stayed with us for the remainder of the tour. The resort’s accommodation was disappointing from booking to check-out, and I cannot recommend it to others. The wines and the food were terrific, except for a small mix up in whose steak was whose.

Good weather was still with us for Day 7 as Rosemary and Michael Dunning left our group to travel home – something about tickets to see Burt Bacharach!  The rest of us took the 280 km drive from Balgownie to Beechworth in northern Victoria.  We travelled through the absolutely stunning Yarra Ranges National Park from Healesville to Marysville – you MUST do this road sometime in your life! Sensational! We refreshed with a lovely morning tea at Made in Marysville & Surrounds Café, Gallery and Provedore, before driving on to the Mansfield Regional Produce Store for a gorgeous lunch. Then it was on to Beechworth via Whitlands and the King Valley. 

We arrived at the Linaker Art Deco Hotel in Beechworth in the late afternoon and were joined by Canberra member Patrick McBride, who joined us for the last few days of the trip. The rooms at the Linaker used to be the Nurses Quarters of the old mental asylum, but have been thoroughly refurbished and modernised. Well worth a stay!  The hotel includes a quality French restaurant where we dined exquisitely on Breton gallettes, a savoury filled buckwheat crepe that really hit the spot.

Day 8 was another free day to explore the Beechworth area. The rain tumbled down and encouraged shopping and coffee drinking, which was actually a very good result for most.  Others sought excitement further afield by heading to the Gapsted Winery near Myrtleford.  We all did a good job of boosting the local economy by emptying our wallets.

Our final day, Day 9, saw us heading home by dodging showers as we travelled home via Granya, Jinjellic, Tumbarumba, Tumut and Jugiong.  Somehow, we managed to stay basically dry on a day when incredible storms seemed to be all around us.

Apart from a blown catalytic converter on my little NA on the final leg home, we all travelled safely and incident free. Tony and Iris McDonald and Kerrie and Matt Shepherdson joined us for the full 2,200 km trip. We thank everyone who joined us for their great company and their good humour (especially when we got to the dirt roads!).

By the way, if you want to read Canberra Chapter’s witter on twitter, why not follow us @mx5canberra?