With our second lockdown in place in Australia, our trip to Tasmania had to be postponed. No sweat for us overlanders though, we moved our dates months ahead and replanned our route. Something that has become quite often these strange times we are traveling in. So off we were to explore the rest of Victoria, something that we had originally planned for after Tasmania anyway.
If there is one thing that even till this day gets us excited is this, the freedom to change plans and adapt to the situation no matter the circumstances, even now, in the most difficult period to travel.
Anyway, luckily the lockdown lasted only a week and beside the change of plans we had to do, it didn’t affect us any further. With restrictions removed, we stocked up in Greek products and left Melbourne behind heading east. Isolated Ninety Mile Beach was our first stop. This narrow strip of sand is packed with dunes while stretching out till the channels’ entrance in Lakes Entrance. The beach itself most of the time is raged with cold, non swimmable waters but rather pretty, as it makes its way parallel with the ocean. Although the main access road to Ninety Mile Beach was from Sale, turning off before Seaspray brought us to a wild camp area, just west of Golden Beach and Loch Sport. After a couple of days of free camping along the coast, we moved to Metung, a small town that is curling around Bancroft Bay and is one of the prettiest in the Lakes District. The spot we had picked to camp unfortunately was too busy, so we decided not to stay and move on.
As we rolled into Lakes Entrance, with its shallow waterway separating the town from the crashing ocean beaches, we were won over. The whole town is set in an undeniably pretty location with bobbing fishing boats, fresh seafood and endless beach, enough to keep us busy for a day or two. So much so that after an overnight in a small winery on the edge of the town, we repositioned ourselves in a caravan park in town and settled in. Although we hadn’t planned to move further east, a last minute’s decision to take the road to the small town of Mallacoota proved to be one of Gippsland’s little gem. Mallacoota is the state’s most easterly town, snuggled on the vast Mallacoota Inlet and surrounded by the tumbling hills and beachside dunes of beautiful Croajingolong National Park. This National Park is one of Australia’s finest coastal wilderness national parks, stretching for about 100km from the town to the NSW border. Magnificent, unspoiled beaches, inlets, scenic bike routes and forests make it an ideal park for camping, walking, swimming and biking. Just to keep you in the loop onto the historic part of it all, Point Hicks was the first point of Australia to be spotted by Captain Cook in 1770.
With the eastern part of the state completed, it was time to turn inland and head for Victoria’s high country, with first stop the sleepy town of Buchan, in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains. This place is famous for the spectacular limestone cave system at the Buchan Caves Reserve. An underground river system that is cutting through ancient limestone rock, forming caves and caverns that provided shelter for Aboriginal people at least as far back as 18,000 years ago. Although we had planned to visit the caves, the mandatory guide and the price tag that came along with it put us off. But when we sought alternative options from the information center, we were directed to a 4×4 track that led us to one of the most magnificent camping spots we had in Australia. The name of the track was Jacksons Crossing and as the name indicates, there was a river crossing involved in order to get there. That on its own had me excited! To cut the story short, we picked (as we always do) a rather demanding 4×4 track to get there and after a stressful three-hour of all types of technical off roading, Voukefalas reached the shore of the Snowy River. As the track forced us to pass through private land, we had no other option than to cross it, since we were not allowed to camp on that side of the river. With Rochelle going ahead on foot, checking the riverbed and me stressing back, while driving Voukefalas through the river, we crossed to the other side. This total epic four hours of adventure brought us to a superb grassy camping area next to the river, with a fire pit and a camping table as the only sign of human interference. What a night that was! Rochelle called it “the second best camp we had in Australia” and that on its own would be very hard to beat. The next day, after packing up our camp, we felt a bit like “the man from Snowy River” leaving it behind as we drove away.
High in the hills, historic Omeo, our next stop, was a pretty town that we reached after a rather winding drive through the mountains. This is the southern access route to Mt Hotham and Falls Creek, and the main town on the eastern section of the Great Alpine Road.
After a quick overnight in one of the lookouts overlooking the highest mountain in Australia, Mt Cosciuszko at 2228 meters high, we continued the Great Alpine Road towards Victoria’s fashion-conscious resort town of Falls Creek that combines a picturesque alpine setting with impressive skiing. We had no intention to sleep here in our tent though, as even this time of the year (autumn), temperatures can drop as low as five degrees during the night, a bit cold for our standards. Instead we picked to drive a bit further down in the valley below and in the town of Bright that is famous for its glorious autumn colours.
This town is a popular year-round destination in the foothills of the Alps and a gateway to Mt Hotham. During the winter months when it is covered in snow, skiers make it here using it as a base for exploring the Alpine National Park. We ended up staying here for almost a week, as we tuned in the towns vibes and made ourselves feel homie, something that might seem weird to you but for us it is mandatory from time to time, as the constant movement gets us and a break is well received.
On our way further north we called in Beechworth, with its historic honey-coloured granite buildings and wonderful gourmet offerings, and in the Milawa/Oxley gourmet region a place to sample wine, cheese, olives, mustards and marinades. Here we spent the night in the best-known winery of Brown Brothers that except an RV overnight area, also offers a tasting room, the superb Epicurean Centre restaurant and a gorgeous garden with picnic and barbecue facilities. Next we paid a visit to the country’s famous outlaws last stand in Glenrow, where Ned Kelly was ambushed and captured before we picked up Voukefalas’ bumper part (that we lost on the Jacksons River crossing while off roading) and ended up in Rutherglen that combines marvelous gold-rush-era buildings and winemaking tradition. The town itself has all the essential ingredients that make it a great stopover, among them a pie shop, antique dealers (for Rochelle to spend as many hours as she can) and a good base for exploring the Murray River’s Victorian hinterland. If you add to all that the wine festival that happened to start the day we arrived, you can understand why we picked to spend four days in the area, free camping among the shore of Murray River and visiting four or five wineries during the day.
On our way back to Melbourne, we spent one night in Benalla and checked out the Silo Art that the area was famous for. Back in Melbourne, we caught up with old friends, received our new stickers and spent some quality time with Rochelle’s brother, his lovely wife and Luna, their exceptionally quiet dog, before we headed north again with direction the Victoria-New South Wales border. A couple of more stops before the Murray River brought us in Echuca, one of the loveliest towns in rural Victoria and the state’s paddle-steamer capital among the Murray River towns. The city’s Aboriginal name translates as “meeting of the waters”, as it is here that three great rivers meet – the Goulburn, Campaspe and Murray. The highlight of our stay was unquestionably the historic port area and the rivers themselves that we got to enjoy on a riverboat cruise.
With that ticked out of our to-do list, we completed our time in Victoria (for the time being) but for our NSW adventures you will have to wait till our next month’s diary. So long for now!!!