Boardwalk empire

In Gippsland, Jane Reddy dips her toe into Australia's largest network of inland waterways.

Beneath the wedding tree - a giant gum with shady limbs - the bride looks ethereal in a strapless gown. Her father looks on, distinguished in his tartan kilt.

At sunset the night before, a lone bagpiper was belting out a tune at McMillans of Metung.

The groom's broad smile is visible even from our distant balcony, ideal for a viewing of the nuptials. With formalities complete, the sound of popping corks and the tinkle of laughter drift up the hill.

We are some of the few non-wedding party guests at the resort, a manicured property with enviable green lawns overlooking Bancroft Bay.

In such a place - with Australia's largest network of inland waterways and 145-kilometre beach close by - it seems sacrilegious to stay on land the entire time.

But with two little non-swimmers, a look at the property's private marina and the saltwater pool is as close as we will get to water.

The sprawling property has a tennis court, lake and day spa; on this wedding weekend, a marquee has been erected by the lake.

Earlier that morning we had landed the

table in the sun at the busy Bancroft Bites run by Jennifer Kendall and her daughters Alisha and Lauren, who have lived in the area for

20 years.

Across the road, stallholders at the farmers' market are setting up while I tackle a large vegetarian breakfast (poached eggs, tomato, mushroom, spinach, hash brown and avocado).

It's one of two standout breakfast menus in the street; the other - the Metung Galley restaurant's Middle Eastern eggs, topped with dukkah, fetta and lemon zest - is fresh and on the menu the next day.

At the market, the child's pram soon serves another purpose as a vessel to house raspberry jam, raspberry punnets, bags of fuji apples, bunches of waratah and free-range eggs.

At Swan Reach, a short drive from town, Christiane Philip takes me back to basics in her herb and kitchen garden, Max the Staffordshire trailing behind.

Her garden is heavy with lemons, limes, grapefruit and their associated aromas.

"There's so much convenience food out there," she says as she fills a bag of home-grown lemons for me to take home.

In the kitchen of Culinaire Cooking School Philip talks me through her classes, where she teaches pasta making and other dishes including goulash with six tablespoons of paprika thrown in, and tiger prawns with verjuice.

"You have to be hands-on to learn and I'm happy to pass on knowledge and recipes," says the qualified chef, who trained at the Hotel Zurserhof in Zurs, Austria, and managed a Dinner Plain property for a decade.

The most popular course, seafood cookery, helps participants develop an eye for the choice fish and crustaceans from the markets and finishes with batter preparation.

Once class is over, the Culinaire shop has Swedish linen, French toys, Ligurian olives and rows of handmade preserves for sale.

We've missed the traditional midday feeding of the pelicans at the front of the Metung Hotel and opt instead for sundowners on the boardwalk. We are dining outside also after assuming - naively - that this country pub won't be fully booked.

We rug up for salmon and vegetable pasta and watch the sunset's purple haze.

Rounding the bend on the drive home, our headlights fall on the wedding party on the boardwalk, led by the bagpiper.

He's leading them to the yacht club for the next stage of the wedding party.

We, meanwhile, won't wait up.

Jane Reddy stayed courtesy of Metung Tourism.


Getting there

Metung is about four hours' drive, or 315 kilometres, from Melbourne near Lakes Entrance, off the Princes Highway from Swan Reach. See

Staying and eating there

McMillans of Metung has one-bedroom villas from $195 a night. One-bedroom cottages cost from $155 a night. Accommodation has linen, equipped kitchens, TV/DVD, laundry and spa baths. See

The Metung Hotel, Kurnai Avenue, Metung. Phone (03) 5156 2206; see

Bancroft Bites, 2/57 Metung Road, Metung. Phone (03) 5156 2854; see

Four-hour cooking classes at Culinaire Cooking School cost from $98 a person. 51 Cunningham Court, Swan Reach. Phone (03) 5156 4091; see

Metung Farmers Market is held on the second Saturday of the month. Village Green, Metung Road, Metung.