In Driving & Caravanning on Thursday 31st Oct, 2019

48 hours in Gippsland: The best of Victoria’s countryside

This rural lane near Bairnsdale is one of the many backroads to be explored in Gippsland’s countryside.

The Great Ocean Road, Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley are often the first to spring to mind for a weekend away from Melbourne. However, just 3 hours east of the city lies a hidden gem: Gippsland. Boasting an unparalleled variety of beautiful locales – unspoilt beaches, lush bushland, snowy rivers and rolling sand dunes – Gippsland has something for everyone, making it the perfect destination for a weekend escape.

Gippsland spans over 41,500km2 and offers an abundance of activities from hiking trails and historical museums to scenic wineries and quaint villages nestled in the countryside. It’s no wonder that this incredible destination is a favourite with road trip lovers and grey nomads alike.

With so much to choose from, it can be difficult to decide where to start. We’ve put together this guide that takes you through the best of Gippsland in 48 hours.

Day 1

Start in historic Sale

The picturesque town of Sale, a gateway to the vast Gippsland lakes and beyond, is a great starting point for your adventures. Explore freshwater marshes and redgum woodlands while admiring the early morning birdlife at the Sale Common wetlands. You can walk or ride from the historic Port of Sale, which opened to shipping in 1890, to Sale’s historic Swing Bridge which was the first movable bridge in Victoria. The best way to experience the canal is on a two-hour heritage cruise on Victoria’s oldest boat, the 1912 Rubeena, from the Port of Sale to the Swing Bridge and back with Port of Sale Heritage Cruises.

Stop for lunch at the elegant Mister Raymond café and indulge in the famous short-but-sweet menu selection. If you’re an art enthusiast, visit the renowned free-entry Gippsland Art Gallery with works by internationally-acclaimed artist, Annemieke Mein. Alternatively, for only $4 per person, learn about Gippsland’s military heritage at Gippsland Armed Forces Museum and the role Gippslanders played in war and peace with the Australian Defence Force.

KEY TIP: If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Sale, check out The Criterion Hotel. Recently restored to its original beauty, this heritage hotel offers modern en suite rooms and a bustling bistro showcasing the best local produce.

Go back in time in Maffra

Named after the Portuguese city of Mafra, this rural town is lined with beautiful towering trees and 19th century buildings. Maffra is home to the Gippsland Vehicle Collection, where you can enjoy a rotating display of cars, motor-bikes, machinery, historic vehicles and auto memorabilia. Staged inside a World War II vegetable dehydrating plant and housing a collection of 3,400 unspoiled model cars, this exhibition will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. This attraction is open from Friday to Monday and throughout the Victorian school holidays.

Sample award-winning wines

Gippsland is fast becoming a renowned wine region and its varied microclimates produce a distinct range of aromatic flavours. After an active morning, spend a slow-paced afternoon sampling the region’s award-winning red and sparkling wines at the nearby vineyards.

Drive along the Maffra-Stratford Road and start your wine tasting journey at The Vines on Avon. This vineyard has a reputation for romance as one of Victoria’s most popular wedding venues, and it’s no wonder why: the scenery, overlooking the Avon River Valley, blends whimsy with serenity and the wine is award-winning. The Vines on Avon specialises in Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

Another notable vineyard is Blue Gables Vineyard. Owned and run by a local family of five, it is named after the family’s colourful farmhouse. The vineyard specialises in Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Shiraz, all of which are available to experience at the cellar door. Blue Gables is situated high on a hill, providing remarkable views of the surrounding landscape. Indulge in wine-paired woodfired pizzas whilst listening to live music and watching the sun set over the Gippsland hills.

Stop for a bite in Tinamba

Winner of various awards including Pub of the Year and Best Regional Restaurant and voted one of 2018’s Top 50 Restaurants in Australia, Tinamba Hotel is a not-to-be-missed gourmet haven in central Gippsland.

It caters for all palates with exquisite dishes full of flavour and homegrown ingredients, ranging from freshly shucked oysters and pressed lamb shoulder to an Australian favourite; chicken parmigiana. The fresh herbs and vegetables used are grown within the hotel garden and honey is sourced straight from the family farm. Tinamba Hotel can get quite busy, so book ahead to ensure you don’t miss out.

Day 2

Take a dip in the Briagolong Blue Pool

Wake early the next morning and continue to Briagolong for a refreshing dip in the cool Briagolong Blue Pool or Quarry Reserve. Relive childhood memories as you swim through the natural pools and explore the untouched woodland.

Head into the charming town of Briagolong that was founded on the back of Australia’s 1850s gold rush. Browse the many shops for antiques, collectables, jewellery and art steeped in Australian history and replenish in one of the attractive cafes or restaurants.

If travelling in early December, the unique market stalls at Briagolong Christmas Festival present a great opportunity to get a head start on your Christmas shopping.

Enjoy the remote beauty of Mitchell River National Park

Approximately 40km east from Briagolong, Mitchell River National Park leads you to the exciting adventures in the great outdoors. With magnificent river gorges, serene forestry, flowing waterfalls and turbulent rapids, Mitchell River is a dream location for nature lovers. Explore the park on one of the forestry walking tracks or horse-riding trails.

KEY TIP: Overlooking the plains of the Mitchell River, the Long Paddock in Lindenow is a great lunch location. Established inside a historic bakery, its two talented chefs have designed a divine menu that celebrates fresh food full of flavour.

Finish in bustling Bairnsdale

Conclude your tour in the bustling country town of Bairnsdale, where history and culture buffs will love St Mary’s Romanesque church and stand in awe at the murals painted by Italian artist Francesco Floreani.

Bairnsdale is on the doorstep of the largest inland lakes system in the southern hemisphere, the iconic Gippsland Lakes. Here you can stroll luxurious beaches and feel the warm sand scrunching between your toes, or grab your fishing rods and head to one of Bairnsdale’s nearby fishing spots to catch a variety of bass, eels, blackfish, flathead gudgeon and the occasional silver trevally and tailor. The Mitchell River entrance near Bairnsdale is one of the most iconic bream fisheries in Victoria.

KEY TIP: Stay an extra day in Bairnsdale to unwind in the coastal sea breeze and rest up before the long drive home. Rich in Victorian heritage, The Riversleigh is a tranquil and personalised haven.

Got time to spare? Continue on the Great Alpine Road

If you have more than a weekend to spend and don’t need to rush home, Bairnsdale is the doorway to the iconic Great Alpine Road. Head north and discover the delights of Tambo Crossing, Ensay, Swifts Creek and Omeo before reaching the Alps.

Plan your next getaway to the stunning Gippsland region

Just beyond Melbourne’s eastern fringe, Gippsland is a region of rolling farmland, majestic high country and seemingly endless lakes and beaches. A region whose boutique wineries offer up world class wines, along with jaw dropping views.

Plan your trip

What are your must-see destinations for a Gippsland road trip?

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