Victoria – Gippsland and the Great Alpine Road

A lunch stop in Mallacoota

When you’ve been away for a while, the days start to run together and become confused in your memory. We’ve been in Victoria now for a few weeks, in East Gippsland, on the eastern coast, in the Snowy River National Park, all the way down to Wilsons Promontory, and back up into the Yarra Ranges and Australian Alps.

The weather has been true to the Victorian “4 seasons in one day”, but it has been quickly getting hotter as we get closer to Christmas.

And in case you don’t finish reading to the end (because I can waffle on a bit), we hope you have a merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah and a fun and safe new year. See you in 2020!

2/12 – Cann River free camp

We left NSW and stopped across the border at Cann River which has a free camp that used to be a caravan park, so its better than most free camps with a toilet and shower block, albeit with only cold water, and a great location close to town and on the river. There’s an easy 45 min rainforest walk that starts and ends at the camp ground as well.

Cann River is a small town at the crossroads of the Monaro Highway and the Princes Highway, so there’s a lot of through traffic. This explains why there are 5 or 6 cafes, a grocery store, 2 bakeries and a decent pub, but not much else.

We paid back the town for providing such a nice free camp by buying a walnut bread from one bakery and a selection of cakes at the other bakery, and also having dinner at the pub.

3/12 – Mallacoota, Cann River free camp

After hearing that the Mallacoota area up the coast was pretty, we decided to backtrack  70kms to check it out for the day. There is a lake and river system that provides some beautiful scenery here. We stopped for lunch a bit out of town right next to one of the lakes.

4/12 – Point Hicks light station, Cann River free camp

We got some exercise walking the 8+km round trip from the Cape Conran free camp ground to the Point Hicks light station following the beaches. There was very wild surf, and saw a couple of wallabies, a small goanna and what we think was the behind of a large stag as it crashed through the undergrowth away from us.

5/12 – Snowy River free camp No. 2 on the Marlo Rd near Orbost

The Bemm River boat ramp has pelicans waiting for scraps at the fish scaling table.

We drove the Cape Conran to Marlo scenic route, stopping at Salmon Rocks for lunch. There is beautiful scenery down the coast with salmon coloured rocks and wild beach.

The Snowy River flows into the sea at Marlo. Marlo jetty has pelicans sitting on the tops of the poles and an anglers club on the bank of the Snowy River – the only building on the river – everything else is across the road.

We stopped for the night at a free camp a bit upstream next to the Snowy River, and tried some fishing with flies. No luck.

6/12 – Sandy Point free camp site in Snowy River National Park

We visited Orbost for a coffee and picked up a few groceries before driving into the Snowy River NP. We found the Sandy Point campsite after about 8km of good dirt road off the bitumen, then about 100m down what felt like almost vertical track at the end. Because we had done the 4WD course we were confident we could do it, otherwise we would probably have turned around.

We picked a flat spot with a picnic table and fire pit, and had a swim in the Snowy River with crystal clear fresh water, and fish. It’s so beautiful, and the river, wind and birds make a peaceful background noise that make you want to just sit and take it all in.

Two other groups of people turned up after us. One group had a couple of kayaks and we wished we had ours. It would be magical paddling up the river here in the wilderness.

8/12 – Lakes Entrance

We needed to wash the sheets and get back to civilisation for a little while, so headed towards Lakes Entrance. I’ve heard of it but didn’t know much more than it is a coastal tourist town, so expected it would be something like Port Macquarie in NSW.

The main beach that most people use is actually the river, and the ocean beach is very windy and too dangerous to swim. There were a few shops down the main road, but we didn’t see anything special. Perhaps because the weather wasn’t the best, and the caravan park we were staying in had no view, I got restless, and we left after 2 nights, after making full use of the facilities, and Mark managed to have a sauna at the Aquatic Centre.

10/12 – Free camp at Lake Wellington

We again headed to a free camp at Lake Wellington, a bit further down the Victorian east coast. It’s a very large mildly salty lake that you can only just see the land on the other side. After the first night, two Macedonian fisherman turned up early and set up about 8 rods along the water next to us. They did this by wading out about 30m with each of their rods, casting the line, then wading back in, setting the rod in a holder, and repeating this process, each time they landed a fish or lost it. After the best part of the day, they had about 12 good sized carp. 

12/12 – Wilsons Promontory National Park

With the weather failing us again, getting windier, we packed up and decided to make a big jump down to Wilsons Promontory before the weekend when it was likely to be busy.

They have maybe 200 unpowered campsites, and 20 powered ones that are always booked out. The unpowered ones are first come first served, so we drove around the whole area before picking one close to the beach side, where the schoolies would likely be, in preference to the river side, where the families with young children would be. At least the older kids will sleep in.

The weather was still windy and cloudy, so going for a swim was out. There are several great walking trails to choose from that start at the camp ground, and we took the Tidal Overlook Circuit that has spectacular views over the campground, the river, Norman Beach, Squeaky Beach and Pillar Point, and takes about 1.5 hours, although we had lunch on a massive granite rock formation while we were out, so it took us about 2.5 hours.

14/12 – Free camp north of Glenmaggie by the Macalister River

On Saturday morning, although the weather still wasn’t great, we thought we’d try for one more walk at Wilsons Prom and stay one more night. We went to the Visitors Centre to book the extra night, but as I had feared they were booked out and unless they received a cancellation they couldn’t take our money. Many people were turning up despite the weather, and people who had decided not to turn up were unlikely to be bothered cancelling because it was too late to get a refund anyway. So we packed up, and I thought it would be best to get back up into the mountains to escape the foul coastal weather.

We stopped for lunch at a great little café in Foster that had mostly vegetarian food,  and then ended up at a free camp called Cheynes Bridge Camp Area, north of Glenmaggie at the base of the Yarra Ranges. There were already 3 other camp groups there, including Michael and Susie, who we hope to catch up with again in February. There was plenty of space for us and we parked near a table and fire pit. It was already getting late, as we’d driven most of the day, so I made a pot of chicken soup and we settled in for a few episodes of Silicon Valley.

Next day, we took out the fishing rods and the prawn bait we had bought back in Foster and sat by the river for a couple of hours, but no fish. We know they were there because they would jump occasionally. Three other fishermen also had no luck. These Victorian fish must be really fussy. We’ve found a dead dragonfly and a horse fly and will give those a go on the end of the hook next time.

16/12 Free camp before Mount Buller

We took the mostly dirt road north over the Australian Alps to Jamieson. Along the way we stopped to take photos of the incredible views and some alpine wild flowers. We found a free camp in a spot a few kilometres from Mt Buller right next to a little stream, surrounded by bush, across the road from a park where cyclists seem to congregate. The sound of the stream lulled us to sleep.

17/12 Mount Buller and Wangaratta

We did the summit walk at Mount Buller. It was about 5.5km round trip and warm despite the altitude, but well worth the effort to get the amazing views of the surrounding mountains and say hi to the guy who mans the fire watch tower at the top.

Then, since we hadn’t had a decent shower in over a week, we went to Wangaratta and stayed at the caravan park closest to the town. It was stinking hot, so after a walk around town to pick up some Christmas presents and cards, we spent a few hours in the park’s pool cooling off, and got some laundry done as well. Wangaratta is probably an OK city, but it was too hot for us to appreciate it.

19/12 Free camp south of Bright

Bright is a beautiful little town which serves the ski fields in winter. It has lovely tree-lined streets, plenty of cafes and gift shops, and a clear fresh river called Ovens running through it with a fantastic free area in a fork of the river created for everyone to splash in with fountains, a water slide, springboard and plenty of swimming space for kids and adults. It was an oasis on a 38⁰C day and plenty of people were taking advantage. It would be the best country town we’ve been to so far, at least in Victoria anyway. We will be back.

Merry Christmas, Peaceful Hanukkah, Happy Holidays and safe New Year!

2 thoughts on “Victoria – Gippsland and the Great Alpine Road

  1. Loved it. Right up until I read “we hadn’t had a decent shower in over a week” 🤢

    I thought your camper had a shower?

    Anyway, Merry Christmas, Peaceful Hanukkah, Happy Holidays and safe New Year to you both.

    Like

    1. We do have a shower but when you’re trying to make 110 litres of water stretch for a week of free camping, you tend not to languish for a long time in the bathroom! Consequently, since we are doing our bit for saving water, we make the most of the caravan park showers when we can.

      Liked by 1 person

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