Travel Thru’ The Lens: Gippsland, Victoria, Australia

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I have heard of Gippsland when I was in Monash. It was one of the far-flung campuses where you heard and read on Monash’s communication but never really have a care. Only until Monash decided to give up on that campus that it created some curiosity.

So here I was planning for a trip to Tasmania to capture the Southern Lights that I was given by the opportunity to check out the Southeast area of Victoria-Gippsland!

If you have never heard of Gippsland before, I can’t really blame you. With so many places to visit in Victoria from Yarra Valley, the Dandenongs, the 12 Apostles, Philip Island and Mornington Penisular you might have thought you have your hands and days full.

Perhaps it is this reason, Gippsland is left relatively untouched and is known more by the locals rather than overseas visitors. So I do have the motivation to check out this part of the Victoria that even in my years in Melbourne, did not visit.

A short introduction

Gippsland is located to the eastern region of victoria and consists of Warragul, Wonthaggi, Leongatha, Morewell, Taralgon, Moe, Sale, Barinsdale, and Orbost. The alpine region demarcate the area’s Northern border and the Bass South to the East. The region is home to 250,000 residents and is rich in natural resources.

If you are into being one with nature, the region’s vast forest, mountains, national parks, coastlines and lakes is a great playground to be in.

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Lakes Entrance (Metung)

One of Australia’s, if not THE, largest inland waterway network. Located at the border of the Ninety Mile beach where the Gippsland Lake and the Tasman Ocean meets, this is a perfect place to go fishing.

The drive from Melbourne took more than half a day to reach Metung which is just outide the Lakes area. Because the lakes are protected by the strip of land from the sea, the Lake waters can be calm if there’s not much wind.

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I arrived and settled down at The Moorings, located just off the tip of the Metung peninsular. The seaside accommodation is particularly luxurious with full sized beds and kitchenette. The proprietors gave me an accommodation family unit with a gorgeous view of the pier, overlooking Bancroft Bay.

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Lake King sunset.

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Bancroft Bay sunrise

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The area has really nice coastal walks to indulge.

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The Australian Pied Cormorant drying its wings perhaps after some diving expedition to get some breakfast or condensation from the cold frigid night.

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Metung The Moorings

Two views of the same place shot with Insta360 and made with Plotagraph.

Because of the location, boats and yachts are berthed here creating a beautiful and romantic backdrop to the awesome nature. There are even ducks and black swans swimming off the piers along with seagulls and the occasionally Pelican. Boy I wish I brought along my long telephoto lens for this trip.

There’s really not many choices when it comes to food especially during the winter months. However I am blessed to be fed by the good people at Bancroft Bites. Sourced from the growers, farmers and fishermen of the region, the fresh ingredients used by the eatery certainly add many crucial points when it comes to taste. I thoroughly enjoy the food.  Heck I think you should just come here for the fresh seafood.

Metung will be very popular during the summer months, with cool breeze and calm waters it is really a great place to relax.

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Nella and Scott of Bancroft Bites

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Thai influenced Ghicken, ginger, coriander, and corn spring rolls served with Asian (decidedly Thai) salad and house-made chilli & lime dipping sauce.

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The Chicken

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Gummy Shark sourced from Lakes Entrance with coconut, chilli, giner, lime, and coriander sauced with with spring onion risotto and steamed greens.

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Beef eater favourite! Gippsland Eye Fillet with creamy mash, Persian Feta chesse stuffed field mushroom  and steamed greens topped with house-made red wine jus. This is highly recommended!

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That medium rare!

Wilson Promontory

This is not the first time I have been to Wilson Promontory. I visited here during my last year in Monash so have some memory of the place. After a decade Tidal River has turned into a full fledged holiday destination for the locals frombunk beds for the budget constrained to fully furnished cabins for couples, and luxurious Glamping (Glamourous Camping tents). There are also camping sites around Tidal River so if you have a camper van, you can save some money.

A tip though. If you are staying inside Wilsons Promontory, then it will be prudent to get some food supplies before driving into the Nature Reserve as there are no . There are a few villages you can visit or go to the big supermarkets such as Coles, Woolworths and Aldi around the area

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The cabin is really modern and welcoming.

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After a long day’s of driving this is really a welcome sight

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If you do have a bit more budget, you can try Glamping. Really nice. Not recommended during winter months though because of the cold.

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Took a walk along the beach and the surroundings. Things has improved drastically over the years and now it can support tourist visits properly.

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All around the treks are the coastal shurbbery. Can be quite creepy at night when walking back from Pillar Point.

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Pillar Point Sunset. I was perched on the largest boulder at the end of the trek overlooking this. Biting cold wind good thing I had a very good down feather jacket from Decathlon at a mere $99.

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Squeaky Beach because it squeaks when you walk the beach.

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This is the Tidal River that the area got its name from. Behind is Mount Oberon. 

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After about an hour’s climb to the top of Mount Oberon, you’d feel at the top of the world. Not the first time here and I am glad I can still make the climb after all these years.

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Take sometime to enjoy the night skies here free from light pollution. Too bad the moon is pretty bright during my visit.

I got a small cabin and it has a room for 2, a small living room and a kitchenette. During the summer months, you can sit idly by the balcony over looking the valley

Around the area, there are nice trekking trails to various parts of Wilson Promontory. I stayed for 2 nights, doing a night trek around Tidal River using the raised platform, did a sunrise climb up Mount Oberon (about an hour’s trek up) and Sunset at Pillar Point.

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Mount Oberon Sunrise. Cloud cover and wrong time of the year. The sun would rise from the sea during the summer months.

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One last look towards Tidal River.

There’s a small secret though. If you are in Wilson Promontory, take half a day to visit the Big Drift. This is the site where tons of sand piled up to create sand dunes. If you have been to Western Australia’s Pinnacles and the desert, then here will give you a feel of the Middle East without the associated heat.

Needless to say, because of the lack of light pollution this is a great place to do a bit of Milkyway. Alas because of rain I put that plan aside and visited it during the day on my way to Walhalla.

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A bit of arty-farty shot of Big Drift and this got on EyeEm Premium Collection + Getty Images

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We are definitely not the only visitors here.

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Walhalla

The last destination to end my visit to the East is Walhalla. I thought the spelling was a bit off because in Norse Mythology, Valhalla is a sort of a ‘heaven’ for slain warriors in Asgard (if you know Thor, you get some idea already). Made up of two words, Valr or ‘the slain’ and ‘holl’ or hall, it is the Hall of the Slain. Wahalla is actually the German equivalent of Valhalla and there is such a hall in Germany.

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The centerpieces of Walhalla, The Star Hotel (Rebuilt) & The Band Stand (Original). 

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The Band Stand.

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Pretty homely and the door opens out to the balcony. 

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I can just stay here and read. It is so comfortable.

To say that Walhalla is heavenly is not exactly false. Nestled between the mounts of Baw Baw (another favourite snow fields during Winter) and Gwinear in the Stringers Creek Valley, Walhalla is a very very quaint place. I always like such nooks and crannies because it is such places that history and culture comes alive.

In Walhalla, it is more of history and nature. Everywhere was green in this place and thanks to the gold rush in the 1860s, this place grew into a small town of 4000 residents with the mining operations just next to the town centre.  Because of the lower gold yields the mines gradually close and the residents moved out and the town literally became a ghost town with a handful of residents (or make that 4 handfuls).

The Town expectedly didn’t get much attention even to the point of not having its own electricity until 1998. Really. I was quite shocked with that revelation.

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The one way to really know about the history of the place is the cemetery. There are graves of young ones and whole family being wiped out because of sickness and disease. Medical care is scarce and so is safe drinking water.

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There are also those who survived to ripe old age. To carve such a beautiful headstone and have them transported all the way to Walhalla takes considerable sums of money to do so and that shows how rich one can be mining gold here.

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The depths that one goes to get the gold. Opened in 1863 by the Hercules United Gold Company, it took in 13695KG of gold before it close in 1911. It becomes the 5th largest gold mind during the colonial era. Measuring 8.5km to a depth of 923metres below the machinery chamber or 150 meters below natural surface. In short, very very deep.

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The town’s so rich it has its own bank. Here’s the remnant of the vault with the rest of the building being shipped to other location. The amount of money it held is equivalent to 1.4Billion AUD now.

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There’s actually a Chinese Garden! Started by the Chinese (duh), it is a market garden that produced much of the local population’s food source.

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Walhalla today. The post office is just off the frame to the right.

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Use this trek and you’ll get to Canberra eventually.

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The train station was built in 1910 to support the mining operations but the mines closed in 1914. Soon the population decreased and the line was subsequently abandoned until it was rebuilt by the town’s people led by Michael Leaney. Now tourists can take a ride along the train track from Walhalla to Thomson and back. Although Puffing Billy is much more accessible, this place is definitely more magical.

I was glad, however, that this place survives. Unlike Sovereign Hill of Bendigo, this is a REAL place with REAL history and REAL houses. You can check out the Post Office, the rebuilt Star Hotel, the old shops, Fire Station and the ORIGINAL Bandstand. Take a small tour of the gold mines and the old cemetery with its rich history to know the struggles of those who came in search of gold. Imagine the only source of safe drinking water is actually beer (I know some blokes will be happy with that).

This is a place I would be happy to stay a night if you arrive very early or even two if coming in from Melbourne town. You can even make it the base camp if you are visiting Mount Baw Baw and Mount St Gwinear. Take the Walhalla Goldfields Railway experience if there’s a chance and enjoy the nature. If you are a history buff, nothing excites more than having the whole village as a museum of sorts.

And this concludes my visit to the Gippsland and there are more places to go, most notably Northern parts of Lakes Entrance and perhaps up the mountains too if there’s a chance.

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