After a very busy Christmas, I took a couple of days break in South Gippsland. Even though I grew up in West Gippsland and have lived in Victoria all my life, I’ve never really explored south-east of Western Port Bay before.
I took the South Gippsland Highway and turned off onto the Bass Highway on the eastern coast of Western Port, stopping first at the hamlet of Grantville, originally a supply port for the early timber industry.
I continued down the Bass Highway to the tiny town of Kilcunda, looking out over Bass Strait.
By the time I reached Wonthaggi, I was desperate for my morning coffee. It was a bit disappointing to find the town was still asleep, at which stage I remembered New Year’s Day is a public holiday and I might be pushing it to get a coffee anywhere.
Wonthaggi was the site of a large coal mine from 1910 until 1968. Over 17 million tonnes of black coal was mined during that time. Wonthaggi is now investing in renewables, with a wind farm and a salination plant.
The State Coal Mine Historic Reserve is now a tourist site, with a heritage walk around the whole mine area. I’ll be back another time for that. I love exploring mines.
In the centre of town is the old Poppet Head, containing the whistle that blew every time a shift changed. It still blows every day at midday.
It was a different story at Inverloch, a family holiday spot. The town was absolutely pumping and I found some coffee at last.
Replenished, I took a side road and landed in a cute little town called Fish Creek.
It reminded me of the little town I grew up in, where you could pass a horse in a paddock just behind the shops – or a goat.
I found my way from Fish Creek back to the South Gippsland Highway at Foster, heading for Yarram where I was booked in for the night, dropping down to coastal villages on the way through.
Port Welshpool is a fishing village. Many commercial fisherman use the port and locate their colourful trawlers at the wharf.
Port Albert was Gippsland’s major port from the 1840s to the 1860s, due to the opening up of the region to farming, and then the ensuing gold rush. Many of the town’s buildings of the time are still in use.
Port Albert is situated within the Nooramunga Marine and Coastal Park, which stretches eastwards from Port Welshpool and covers an area of 30,000 hectares. The park consists of shallow marine waters, isolated granite islands, mudflats and and over 40 sand barrier islands, havens for parrots, sea eagles, migratory birds and other fauna.
Yarram is only 12 kilometres from Port Albert but by the time I got there, all I wanted was to drop in front of the television with something alcoholic and sparkling – which is what I did.