An aerial shot of a vast system of waterways surrounding sandy inlets, small coastal townships and the ocean.
Photograph: Supplied/Lakes Entrance

Things you can only do in Gippsland

Welcome to Victoria’s vast eastern corner, a place of wonder brimming with natural beauty, gastronomic delights and a fierce creative spirit

By Time Out in association with Visit Victoria

Picture Gippsland and you probably envisage quiet boat harbours, alpine roads, fields and fields of fertile farmland, snaking waterways and long stretches of pristine shoreline. And you’re certainly not wrong – there’s a complex diversity to the landscape that is unmatched anywhere else in the state. But there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to Gippsland, so if you’re eager to uncover another side to this region – one of incredible experiences, feasts and accommodation – you’ve come to the right place.

Think you know everything there is to see and do in Gippsland? We've teamed up with Visit Gippsland and Visit Victoria for their 'Stay close, go further' campaign to bring you a fresh take on what makes this region so special. Here are the experiences that drive visitors to return year after year, and have cemented Gippsland as a must-visit destination.

Natural wonders

As the traditional custodians of Gippsland, the Gunaikurnai, Monero and Bidawel people have a strong connection with the land, and one location that is considered especially significant is Cape Conran. Evidence of ancient tools and sacred meeting spots still remain at this coastal park, and the East Cape Boardwalk is a great way to explore the site respectfully. You can make a splash – quite literally – at Gippsland Lakes. Comprising a network of marshes, lagoons and lakes, it’s a playground for anyone who loves boating, fishing, swimming, kayaking, sailing and pretty much any other water-based activity*. Make sure you also visit the Mitchell River silt jetties, and look out for the pod of endangered Burrunan dolphins that frolic in the waves. And for an adventure that will take you far, far away from the region's watery delights, head to Buchan Caves. Victoria’s largest cave system is a sight to behold – lurking within its cavernous depths are glassy calcite-rich pools and razor-sharp stalactites and stalagmites. Guided tours run daily, and tickets must be purchased in advance.

*For the latest information regarding the water conditions in Gippsland, visit the DELWP website.

Signature dishes

Lovers of seafood, this one's for you! Gippsland has a plentiful bounty of briny delights to feast upon, starting with the signature dish at Sardine Dining. It’s – you guessed it – sardines, served whole with smoked garlic, grapes and sour onion. This Paynesville restaurant is renowned for its ever-changing menu, so be sure to book early to avoid missing out. Location-wise, it doesn’t get much better than Sodafish – you’ll find it floating in Lakes Entrance’s Middle Boat Harbour. If you order just one thing, make it the classic sourdough-battered fish and chips with tartare and lemon – we promise you will not be disappointed. For a change of scenery, head inland to the fertile valley of Lindenow. This small town is home to the Long Paddock, an unassuming eatery with a strong farm-to-table ethos. The pan-fried gnocchi (usually paired with seasonal ingredients) is the highlight of a menu laden with feats of culinary greatness.

Boutique shops

Whether you’re a bona fide bargain hunter or serious shopaholic, there’s no shortage of speciality stores in Gippsland where you can let the credit card loose. First stop on the retail therapy tour should be Foundry, an artist collective in Bairnsdale. It stocks a broad range of handmade goods, like natural fibre clothing, homewares, stationery and toys. With outlets in both Bairnsdale and Metung, Seven Sundays is a must-shop lifestyle store if you’re after a highly curated selection of clothing, shoes and accessories. The Saltwater Creative Co is a renovated gallery space in Lakes Entrance that also houses a treasure trove of goodies. We’re talking candles, all-natural beauty products, jewellery and ceramics. You can even commission your very own bespoke artwork.

One-of-a-kind experiences

For a region that spans waterways, mountains, farmland and cute coastal townships, it should come as no surprise to discover Gippsland is the site of many one-of-a-kind experiences. Take Raymond Island, for example. Wedged between Lake King and Lake Victoria, it’s a natural wonderland where you can go walking, biking and wildlife spotting (the thriving koala population is a major drawcard). Best of all, it’s just a five-minute ferry from Paynesville and free for pedestrians and cyclists. Another isle worth touring is Gabo Island. You can stay in the assistant lightkeeper’s residence, explore WWII ruins and watch the little penguins come ashore. And you can’t visit Gippsland without journeying to the Den of Nargun. Located in Mitchell River National Park, this cave is a place of great Aboriginal significance and is supposedly inhabited by a fierce creature that would snatch children who wandered too close. Nowadays, it’s a popular spot for hikers and picnickers.

Museums and galleries

Celebrate the creative side of Gippsland by checking out some of the region’s best galleries. The Great Alpine Gallery is a non-profit organisation situated in the stunning Tambo Valley, and it aims to promote the talents of local artists and foster imagination within the community. Housed within are paintings and sculptures, plus an impressive collection of photographs, woodwork and fibre arts. Established in 1993, East Gippsland Art Gallery in Bairnsdale is considered the region’s main creative hub. The gallery is all about championing bold ideas and inspiring the next generation of artists via a dynamic line-up of rotating exhibitions. Want to take your love of art on the road? Hit up the Phoenix Trail. It’s a remarkable route designed to showcase all the galleries and studios – from Omeo to Orbost and Mallacoota –  impacted by the summer bushfires of 2019/2020.

Memorable accommodation

A good night’s rest makes all the difference when you’re on holiday, so whether you’re an early riser or love a cheeky sleep in, Gippsland has an abode to suit your snoozing style. Jetty Road Retreat is located between Lakes Entrance and Metung, and boasts four self-contained cabins with breathtaking waterfront views. Suitable for couples, families or friends, this secluded haven is the ideal spot to relax and reconnect with nature. At Eight Acres in Lakes Entrance you can choose between farmhouse-style cottages or fancy glamping tents – both will give you access to the outdoor pool, barbeque area and playground. And then there’s the Ocean Grange Homestead. This historic nine-bedroom mansion (complete with four-storey tower, of course) is hidden away on a strip of land between Ninety Mile Beach and the Gippsland Lakes, and is accessible only by boat. Talk about the ultimate beach house.

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