Here’s three exciting ways to explore the beguiling Gippsland Lakes region.
Soak up the sights, wildlife and history of the Gippsland Lakes on a breezy three-hour trip with Lonsdale Eco Cruises. Operating out of Lakes Entrance, the boat was built in the 1970s as a ferry running between Sorrento and Queenscliff. It now departs from Cunningham Quay daily at 1pm (except on Wednesdays), cruising past and around Rigby and Flannagans Islands, Metung, Lake King and more. While spotting abundant birdlife, kangaroos, seals and sometimes dolphins, you’ll be treated to a dose of East Gippsland history, not to mention freshly baked scones. Owned and operated by fourth-generation seaman, and a qualified marine biologist and diving instructor, it’s a professional and polished outfit. It costs $50 per adult, $25 for kids up to 16 (under fives are free) or $120 for families.
Sticking to the wildlife theme, Raymond Island in East Gippsland is one of the best spots in Australia to spot koalas, with an estimated 250 of the adorable marsupials currently residing there. It’s a couple of minutes from Paynesville via a ferry that’s free for those on foot. As you disembark you’ll see arrows directing you to the start of the Koala Trail, an easy 1.2-kilometre walk. All you have to do is follow the signs and remember to look up. For a $2 donation you can grab an endearing souvenir brochure that supports the maintenance of the track and care of the wildlife. Just beyond the first sign is a company called Ride the Koalas, which offers pedal-powered shaded carts for $25 (seating two people) or $35 per hour (for four). Stroll along the boardwalk in the opposite direction to the ferry for a memorable sunset view.
To fully explore the East Gippsland Rail Trail, sign up for the Great East Rail Trail bike ride – a 100-kilometre three-day adventure that’s suitable for families and beginners. If you don’t have the time, Snowy River Cycling, which runs the ride each October, can set you up with wheels and a helmet in Orbost (some bikes are also available in Bairnsdale) for $45 for a day ($30 for kids’ bikes) or $30 if you only need a couple of hours. The team there will help plot your ride and provide a map, but for a simple, eight-kilometre return jaunt starting in Orbost, head out on the rail trail past the Snowy River Rail Bridge and along Old Coach Road to Grandview Lookout for vast views over the river, verdant farmland and, if on a clear day, to the mountains in the distance.
While you're there
Since receiving a Chef’s Hat in the 2019 Good Food Guide, Sardine Eatery + Bar has put Paynesville on the map. Chef-owner Mark Briggs, formerly head chef at Vue de Monde, champions local, seasonal and sustainable seafood. It’s walkable from the ferry, so book to eat after the Raymond Island Koala Trail.