Roadtrips for Relief: East Gippsland

Published on 28 February 2020

Photo: Metung Hotel (photo: courtesy Visit Victoria)

Gippsland is open for business and needs your support. Food writer Richard Cornish, a regular visitor to the region over many years, shares his favourite places to eat, drink and relax in Victoria’s east.

Where to Eat

The yachts bob and sway on the gentle swell outside Sardine, a Paynesville restaurant run by former Vue de Monde chef Mark Briggs. He makes the most of the seafood from nearby Lakes Entrance in delicious dishes like sardine Niçoise, scallop tortellini or steamed school prawns with smoked-garlic aïoli. 3/65-69A Esplanade, Paynesville, (03) 5156 7135, sardineeaterybar.com

Lucy Wood’s har gau dumplings are smooth and supple, the filling rich and juicy: in short, they’re a textbook example of the dish. Wood came from China 17 years ago, and since then she and her team have made noodles for Lucy’s each day in a room off the dining room. Round out your order with the local squid served in home-made sauce. 64 Maurice Ave, Mallacoota, (03) 5158 0666

Who better to run a seafood restaurant than a fishing family? The Mahlooks of Lakes Entrance are proprietors of Miriam’s, an art-filled dining room on Princes Highway that’s big on country hospitality and Gippsland wines. Start with mackerel tacos and tangy pico de gallo then progress to a seafood platter laden with bugs, prawns, white fish, oysters and mussels. Book ahead – Miriam’s is popular with tourists from all parts of the world – and don’t miss oyster hour, which kicks off at 4pm each day. Upstairs, cnr Bulmer St & The Esplanade, Lakes Entrance, (03) 5155 3999, miriamsrestaurant.com.au

Apples at Picnic Point Farm (photo: Richard Cornish)

Where to Fill your Esky

It’s always apple season at Picnic Point Farm, a beautiful little orchard on the edge of Bairnsdale by the banks of the Mitchell River. Owned by the Baldwin family, the orchard delivers fruit year-round, including Cox’s Orange Pippins, Gala and Golden Delicious, thanks to a temperature-controlled atmosphere. Happy days. 174 Dreverman St, Bairnsdale, (03) 5152 6206, picnicpointfarm.com.au

The Lakes Entrance fishing fleet docks in the heart of town and unloads its wild catch at the Lakes Entrance Fishermen’s Co-operative. Watch the day’s spoils coming off the boats then take your pick from whiting, flathead, boarfish, prawns and other seafood at the fish shop, Off the Wharf, at very, very reasonable prices. 51 Bullock Island Rd, Lakes Entrance, (03) 5155 1688, leftrade.com.au

Chris and Gabby Moore from Sailors Grave Brewing tell stories of the land and sea of East Gippsland through beers brewed with wild rosehips, pine needles, karkalla, fruit from old orchards and even sea urchin. They make the beers in Orbost’s old butter factory, all concrete and blue tiles, overlooking the Snowy River, which beer aficionados (that’s you) are welcome to tour by appointment. Buy Sailors Grave locally at Orbost Foodworks or the Marlo Hotel. 7 Forest Rd, Orbost, 0466 331 936, sailorsgravebrewing.com

Where to Picnic

In 1894 wealthy Melbourne businessman Frank Stuart built an impressive weatherboard farmhouse on a cliff overlooking the Gippsland Lakes. His family used it for hunting and fishing trips; today Nyerimilang is managed by Parks Victoria. Not far from Lakes Entrance, the grounds are a pleasant place for a stroll, with tracks meandering through the bush to the lakeshore. Spread out a blanket, take the bottle of Lightfoot and Sons Home Block chardonnay off the ice and shell a few prawns as you watch the sea eagles soar above. 3909, 20 Cliff Rd, Nyerimilang, nyerimilang.com.au


Sailors Grave Brewing (photo: Richard Cornish)

Where to Drink

You can literally touch the yachts moored in Bancroft Bay from the beer garden of the Metung Hotel. In late summer and autumn, you’ll share the sought-after outside tables with farmers and yachties as the warm breeze rolls in and pelicans land on the still water. Kurnai Ave, Metung, (03) 5156 2206, metunghotel.com.au

Where to Stay

Come late afternoon, the bar of the 120-year-old white weatherboard Marlo Hotel is the place to catch the sun setting over the Snowy River. The pub’s rooms are basic but comfortable (and a steal at $50), the menu offers good country fare including excellent snags and mash, and you’re only 15 minutes from some of the most beautiful beaches in the nation. 19 Argyle Pde, Marlo, (03) 5154 8201, marlohotel.com.au

Where to Ride

Throw your bike in the back of a Bairnsdale-bound VLine train, ride to the last stop, and then cycle the East Gippsland Rail Trail 100 kilometres east to Orbost. The trail crosses broad rivers, old timber trestle bridges and the Colquhoun forest. Thankfully only a few kilometres of this great ride were touched by the fires. Along the way there are pubs, cafes, B&Bs and riverside picnic spots plus transport services from Snowy River Cycling. More information at eastgippslandrailtrail.com.au

Sardine chef Mark Briggs (photo: Richard Cornish)

The Word on the Street

“We’re a tight-knit sustainable fishing community,” says Jodie York, director of Wild Harvest Seafood Festival and a proud Mallacoota resident.

Situated on the largest inland waterway in Victoria, it’s no wonder that in Mallacoota fishing is both business and pleasure. The town possesses 23 abalone licenses and has 17 divers working off the coast, fishing for both abalone and sea urchins. During the bushfires the abalone processing plant was lost in a blow to the livelihood of many commercial fishers, but work is already underway on a temporary facility.

“We decided to go ahead with the 2020 Wild Harvest Seafood Festival in April because it means so much to the community and people who want to visit and help us out.”
3-5 April, 1 Develling Dr, Mallacoota, free entry, wildharvestseafoodfestival.com

Along the Way

Butchers on George in Moe stocks excellent dry-aged, grass-fed British breed beef (and occasionally wagyu) from Gippsland farms. The prices represent incredibly good value for the quality – well worth the detour. 26C George St, Moe, (03) 5127 2018