OH! Magazine - Australian Version August 2016 - Page 25

GET BACK TO NATURE IN EAST GIPPSLAND East Gippsland in Victoria caters to the needs of adventurers from all walks of life, be they young, old, elite and beginners. Read on to learn estled in the eastern corner of Australia’s state of Victoria, East Gippsland is a region that covers more than 21,000 square kilometres from Bairnsdale to the NSW border. It boasts a mild climate and stunning natural environment with high-country grandeur, isolated beaches, rugged coastal outcrops and Australia's largest inland water system, the Gippsland Lakes. N A popular destination along the Sydney to Melbourne Coastal Drive, East Gippsland boasts nine national parks and two marine parks, from the remote wilderness of the UNESCO-recognised Croajingolong National Park in the east, to the wild glory of the Snowy River and Alpine national parks and the vast expanse of the Lakes National Park fringed by lakes and dunes. It’s not surprising that an area so rich in natural attractions draws in more than 1.2 million visitors a year. With its colourful fishing and boating villages, tranquil lakes, pristine beaches and the rugged beauty of the high country, East Gippsland is a naturally magical corner of Victoria perfect for those who enjoy the great outdoors. You can fish for trout in a mountain stream, go horse riding in the high country, walk in coastal wilderness, marvel at the underground splendour of stalactites and stalagmites at the Buchan Caves, or kayak or sail on the Gippsland Lakes. Native wildlife can be observed in its natural habitat by bird watching in the hides of Macleod Morass boardwalk, or you can explore the Mitchell River silt jetties, take a boat to the Rotamah Island Bird Observatory or spot koalas on Raymond Island – a popular adventure is to hire a two or four-seater Surrey bike from Ride the Koalas, so you can pedal around the island and see the furry locals nestled among the eucalypts. East Gippsland is also home to the annual Australian Adventure Festival, which offers competitive events for mountain bikers, trail runners and kayakers of all abilities. There are also an exciting range of activities for those who are noncompetitive but outdoor inclined. You can take a short walk down a long jetty or a long walk in remote bushland; in fact, the Wilderness Coast Walk is 100km long and includes a magnificent trail along an isolated stretch of Croajingolong National Park. For those seeking an easier amble, there are walks of less than 10km starting from Lakes Entrance, taking in Ninety Mile Beach and following the edge of the lake. And there are dozens of other walks and trails to suit every fitness level and ability. Take a guided hike with Gippsland High Country Tours through some of the most spectacular wilderness in Australia and discover the adventure, legend and romance of the Snowy River country, along the river’s edge and in the rugged landscape around McKillops Bridge. Enjoy the hospitality along the famous Victorian touring route, the Great Alpine Road. Bring your bike – or hire one locally – and cycle through quaint villages, verdant farmland, towering forests and coastal lands. Snowy River Cycling offer supported or self-guided tours through some of the region’s most stunning scenery, including along the East Gippsland Rail Trail, a 96km recreational and conservation reserve on the former Bairnsdale to Orbost railway line. A track connects the trail with the 65km Gippsland Lakes Discovery Trail, which retraces the route of an historic tramway between Bairnsdale and Lakes Entrance. Marlo-based Wilderness Coast Adventures also offers ‘Fat Bike’ tours along the beaches and trails of the wilderness coast, while Venture Out in Lakes Entrance provide all the equipment and skills training you need to hit the local mountain bike trails or try your hand at stand up paddleboarding with confidence. Alternatively, you can take a boat on the Gippsland Lakes, looking out for sea eagles, seals and the Burrunan dolphin, before digging your toes into the golden sand of Ninety Mile Beach, the long sandy dune that separates the lakes from Bass Strait between Port Albert and Lakes Entrance. Learn about the history and ecological significance of the lakes by joining Skipper Pete, of Sea Safari Eco Tours, on a tour. ( OH! MAGAZINE ) AUGUST 2016 25