If your city-bound winter has left you pining for natural adventures and fire-lit evenings, venture east for a weekend of rural respite. In partnership with Destination Gippsland, here’s our guide on where to eat, drink and stay in Central Gippsland.
Central Gippsland in Victoria’s east is a vast expanse. Commencing at Newborough and Traralgon, it stretches east into the hidden bushland gorge of Briagolong. There the Great Dividing Range looms over broad stretches of flat pastoral terrain that form the Latrobe Valley floor, making for a striking silhouette at every turn.
To the south, the quiet forests of Balook and Tarra Valley lead to the coast and the sleepy maritime town of Port Albert. It’s a huge territory, so there’s plenty to explore.
It’s also easy to find a tranquil corner where you can tap out of civilisation for a few days. That’s helped by recent momentum on the food front, with several new openings joining long-standing favourites. Meals straddle the space between home-style comfort and city-led trends, while the drinks scene is predominantly driven by small-batch makers.
The region is just shy of two hours’ drive to your jumping-off point at Newborough. Take the M1 all the way before darting north or south in search of solitude and adventure.
Welcome to Central Gippsland
From authentic country pies to contemporary gastropub fare, and acai bowls in between, Central Gippsland has all tastes covered.
Badger and Hare
Stop for a coffee without leaving the highway.
An unassuming destination pub with its own market garden.
A traditional country bakery set along the rail trail.
Port Albert Cafe and Wine Bar
Start with proper fish and chips and end with a monstrous slice of cake.
Start your day with a Willy Wonka-esque hot chocolate, before tasting your way through the region’s cellar doors.
Wine and Italian eats in a bucolic “place of flowers”.
Vault Kitchen and Bar
Inventive hot chocolates and all-day food in an historic bank.
Avon Ridge Winery
Taste the goods, then stay for a produce-driven lunch.
Upbeat Asian fusion, with city sensibilities. Book in advance.
Experience the region’s natural beauty with walks, swims and rides through rainforests, gorges and pastoral plains.
Tarra-Bulga National Park
This 2000-hectare national park is on the land of the Brataualung clan of the Gunaikurnai peoples. “Tarra” comes from the Tarra River, which was named after Indigenous guide Charlie Tarra. And bulga is a local word meaning “high place” or “mountain”. The cool-climate temperate rainforest is a small remnant of ancient Gippsland vegetation. Towering mountain ash trees coexist with sassafras, myrtle beech, silver wattle and 33 varieties of ferns. The lyrebird is among 130 species of bird that live in the park. Six walking tracks wind through the forest from the visitor centre, including some that cross the impressive Corrigan Suspension Bridge, and you can chase two waterfalls a short drive down the road.
Blue Pool is a popular spot with locals on hot summer days. This deep swimming hole sits in a basalt gorge along Freestone Creek, 20 kilometres north of Maffra. There’s a rope swing suspended over the water and multiple spots for camping and picnicking in the Briagolong State Forest. You can do the walking trails (which range from five minutes to three days in duration) through bush that varies from moist rainforest to dry native scrub. The park is on the land of the Braiakaulung clan of the Gunaikurnai peoples; grinding grooves (from sharpening tools) and scar trees (from the removal of bark to make canoes) are still visible today.
Gippsland Plains Rail Trail
This 67-kilometre trail follows the former Gippsland Plains railway line, meandering from Traralgon to Stratford. You can pick two towns to travel between, or complete the entire track, perhaps staying overnight at one end before making the return journey. The rail trail passes restored bridges, scenic farmland and red gum forest, and offers views towards the Great Dividing Range. If you start at Traralgon you can cycle to Glengarry for a cuppa and a pie at Bushies Bakery. Otherwise, start at Maffra and make the journey to the Tinamba Hotel for lunch.
Some people come to Lake Glenmaggie to boat, fish or swim. Others come to rent a spot at the caravan park, pull out a folding chair and situate themselves among the gumtrees with a beer, ankle deep in water. After months of winter rainfall, the lake’s levels are high, allowing the water to infiltrate the surrounding tree line, and so creating a shady, cooler resting place. If your idea of spending time by the water means being a little more active, you might come away with a trout (brown or rainbow), Australian bass, eel, carp or redfin for dinner.
Catch fog-cloaked sunrises and technicolor sunsets at these secluded country residences.
Enjoy a loaf of sourdough by the fire.
A remote farmstay with a prime sunset-watching position.
A Road Trip through Central Gippsland
Enjoy freshly caught fish by the seaside and paddock-to-plate gastropub meals between cool-climate wine tastings and nature walks.
(03) 5127 2656
Wake to a fog cloaking your private cottage and its surrounding 15 acres. Keep the log fire roaring through a breakfast of locally baked Oak and Swan sourdough and warming cup of coffee before putting on a few layers to investigate the crisp day ahead.
Port Albert Cafe and Wine Bar
Port Albert VIC
(03) 5183 2126
Port Albert Cafe and Wine Bar
Head south to the seaside to enjoy the kitchen wizardry of Port Albert’s proprietor, Kim Wherret. Opt for hyper-local fish and chips and a hearty helping of cream-filled carrot cake, accompanied by a tall glass of local wine. The portions here are generous.
Glengarry North VIC
(03) 5192 4257
Make your way back north for a tasting at this bucolic winery. Enjoy a glass (or two) on the deck as the sun sets behind the Strzelecki Ranges, perhaps splitting a pizza (made with Tarago River Cheese’s silky blue) to tide you over until dinner.