Melbourne to Sydney on the Princes Highway
Ditch the Hume Highway dash for Gippsland and the Sapphire Coast.
It’s Friday night at the Marlo Hotel in East Gippsland and everyone, it seems, is in on the joke. The sprawling pub set on a small hill is chockers, pots bouncing across the bar, raffle tickets flying, a line jostling to the bistro counter and the whole joint alight with end-of-working-week cheer.
We wander onto the wide wooden deck laden with punters and find what they might be smiling about. Kids are rolling down the lawn out front, the sun is setting silver, orange, pink then purple over the dunes opposite. And between the two, the storied Snowy River is flowing backwards.
Marlo is where the Snowy meets the sea, and David from the anglers club explains that high tide has temporarily messed with the natural order of things, sending the river back towards the mountains from which it came.
“You were pretty lucky really,” he says. A month earlier the river mouth was almost closed but recent rain has gifted us this little quirk of time and tide.
Day one of our three-day road trip from Melbourne to Sydney via (mostly) the Princes Highway is in the bag. We’ve forgone the nine-hour dash up the Hume and taken the low road instead, setting out from St Kilda for the easy green folds of South Gippsland with its fat cows and glossy nags and postcard-prosperous towns. The arc of the South Gippsland Highway takes us up to Sale via Koonwarra and Port Albert, on to the Princes and through Lakes Entrance, paddocks yellowing with drought.
If a road trip is car plus road plus company I’m well provisioned. We’ve been loaned a smashing Mercedes convertible, my companion is a favourite colleague, and the road is rich and mostly new territory that we have to ourselves far more often than not. Except for wallabies, echidnas, a kookaburra, a hen near Sydney and the two tortoises that Lisa swears she sees while I’m looking the other way.
We also have a map, plastered with sticky-note pit-stop recommendations from anyone with something to say.