Home to one of the longest uninterrupted beaches in the world, 90 Mile Beach runs for 151km (or technically 94 miles), and the Central Gippsland region offers so many vibrant villages and remarkable natural attractions, it’s the perfect stop for those doing the ‘big lap’.
“Central Gippsland really appeals to the RV and caravanning market as it offers up such a diverse experience along the popular Sydney to Melbourne Coastal Drive,” says Terry Robinson, CEO at Destination Gippsland.
Starting from a spit near Port Albert all the way to Lakes Entrance, the incredible 90 Mile Beach stretches as far as the eye can see. It is one of the world’s most natural and unspoilt beaches and a must-stop location on your travel plan.
There’s no rocky headlands, platforms or high-rise apartments; just miles and miles of glorious sand and surf beach. And at the eastern end of the beach, a thin line of sand dunes separates the surf from the largest inland water system in the Southern Hemisphere — the Gippsland Lakes.
Robinson says it’s an area that swells over the school holidays and long weekends, bringing families and weekenders from all over the state. So, to get the very best of the region he says, it’s worth visiting outside these peak times. With less people, fewer crowds and quieter campsites, visitors get more time to kick back and relax and enjoy everything Central Gippsland has to offer.
“If you have the flexibility, we suggest that you avoid school holidays and long weekends as these can be quite busy. Gippsland’s climate really celebrates four distinct seasons, with stunning autumn colour, crisp frosty fields during the winter and an abundance of spring blossom, wattle and roadside daffodils, there’s something to delight visitors year-round.”
EVENTS FOR YOUR CALENDAR
Special events really kick off during the spring season, such as the Heyfield Food and Wine Festival which takes place in late October and the Glenmaggie Country Rock Festival which happens in early November.
The Heyfield Food and Wine Fest showcases the best of local produce from the region (think the best from local vineyards, breweries and local producers) at the Heyfield Wetlands. The day is also filled with plenty of entertainment, kids’ activities and live music. The Glenmaggie Country Rock Festival also celebrates the best of the region with a full day of music and plenty of food and drinks on offer. BYO lawn chair and be prepared to settle in for the day.
Looking further ahead, the Tinamba Food and Wine Festival, held on the weekend after Easter each year, is one of the most famous and one of the longest running food and wine festivals in Gippsland.
Many RV and caravan visitors also take the opportunity to explore Central Gippsland’s magnificent high country region surrounding Licola and Dargo. Stop into the iconic Dargo Pub for a beer with the locals, seek out a network of rustic cattleman’s huts, drop a line in one of the cool mountain streams or simply set up camp and wait for nature’s light show, under a night sky that is miles from the city lights.
The Central Gippsland region is peppered with quaint villages, each one with their own unique charm. Make a stop in the historic maritime village of Port Albert, Victoria’s first established port town. From the mid-1800s, the village supplied Gippsland’s residents with goods, berthed ships from America and Europe and welcomed the Chinese during the gold mining boom. Today, many historic houses still line the streets and its reputation among recreational fishermen sees the town thrive during the summer months.
The Port Albert Maritime Museum is a favourite among history buffs as is the Old Port Walking Trail, while nearby Robertson Beach is a hotspot for birdwatching and fishing. The area also offers much for the art lover.
“There’s a thriving network of galleries across the region showcasing local art, along with the impressive new Gippsland Gallery at the Port of Sale which celebrates local artists but also attracts some high-profile travelling exhibitions,” says Robinson.
He adds that other nearby areas such as the wide tree-lined streets and cafes of Maffra, and the artistic hubs of Stratford and Briagolong should certainly be on your itinerary. Briagolong in particular, is an ideal stop along the way to Dargo and affectionately known as the town that’s ‘easy to find and hard to leave’.
Here you’ll find something for everyone with shops selling everything from collectibles and antiques to fashion boutiques, jewellery and art as well as cafes, groceries, fuel and more. The art galleries and studio are always exhibiting something new and the music is always on at the local pub!
HOME IS WHERE YOU PARK IT
There’s plenty to keep you busy on an RV or caravan holiday to Central Gippsland with some enviable offshore and surf fishing, along with endless rivers and lakes in which to try your luck. For the more active traveller Central Gippsland is traversed by the Central Gippsland Rail Trail which has you rolling within cooee of several award-winning wineries and the iconic Tinamba Hotel.
And bushwalkers jump at the opportunity to explore the cool-temperate rainforest of Tarra Bulga National Park, with its towering mountain ash, waterfalls and Corrigan’s Suspension Bridge above a gully of tree ferns.
Also popular with campers and caravanners is the Quarry Reserve, near Blue Pool, where in the warmer months there’s ample spots for picnics and swimming along Freestone Creek and at the impressive Blue Pool swimming hole.
The region has made significant investments into making the area even more accessible to the RV and caravanning market with highlighted brochures and guides on www.centralgippsland.com.au with listings of free camps and dump points (now more suitable for longer vehicles) along with additional information on commercial caravan parks.
There is signage in free camping areas to make them easier to find and numerous towns in the Shire are RV Friendly Towns (RVFT) and are promoted as such via signs as you enter.
And for the gourmet traveller, visitors might be surprised to discover the availability of exceptional food and wine experiences in the region.
“There are several wineries, with four boutique cellar doors, all within a driving distance that just begs for a self-guided winery tour," says Robinson.
"These wineries really pitch above their weight — kick off with breakfast at Vines on Avon, soak up live music and sample 95-point wines at Blue Gables, a glass of sparkling at Glenmaggie Wines and finish up with a fine dining experience at Toms Cap.
"The advantage of these smaller cellar doors is that you can meet the winemaker and learn more about the award-winning cool climate wines grown here.”
Several of Central Gippsland’s historic pubs have been lovingly restored to offer world-class dining in the most surprising of places, including the Tinamba Hotel and the Criterion Hotel in Sale.
A growing number of the region’s cafes and provedores are proud to celebrate quality local produce, really bringing the paddock (and ocean) to the plate for the visitor.
Some of the best spots in the region to call home, are both free and paid spots, says Robinson with one favourite being the Paradise Valley Camping Ground in Glenmaggie, a spot that’s not just camper friendly but pet-friendly too.
Paradise Valley is set in picturesque, hilly country on the Macalister River a short distance from Heyfield, the Gateway to the Alpine National Park. It’s ideal for tent or caravan camping and amenities include toilets, showers, baby bath, laundry, clothesline, barbecues along with some powered sites.
The Macalister River flows through Paradise Valley providing campers with plenty of opportunity to swim, take out a canoe or grab their fishing rod.
It’s not uncommon to spot platypus or goanna in the river and kangaroos, possums, emus, water dragons and wombats call this area home. Bird lovers will enjoy the sounds of the currawong, the laughter of kookaburras and the abundant blue wrens and willie wagtails that pop in for a visit.
Also pet-friendly and in Tarra Valley, the Best Friend Holiday Retreat camping ground is incredibly pet friendly with self-contained cabins (with satellite free-to-air television) which are fully-fenced so dogs can go both inside and out. There’s also fully-fenced caravan sites and camping sites, and off-leash dog exercise areas, a hydrobath for your pooch and, luxury day-use dog kennels at $15 for up to three hours or $30 per day.
Facilities for campers include amenities block and camp kitchen with both BBQs and cook-top, microwave, refrigerator, hot and cold water.
No matter who you’re travelling with, families or your four-legged friend, the welcoming atmosphere of the region will almost certainly tempt you to stay just that extra bit longer.