Paynesville

Paynesville (including Raymond Island and Rotomah Island)
Resort and holiday destination on the Gippsland Lakes
Paynesville is a seaside resort situated between Lake King and Lake Victoria. It is located 298 km east of Melbourne via the Princes Highway. The town was formerly a shipbuilding centre and a vital port in the district's shipping. Historically large vessels could reach Lake King via the McMillan Straits.

In 1908 the largest passenger ship to ply the lakes, the Gippsland, was constructed at Paynesville. It operated as a ferry on Sydney Harbour from 1937 and later became part of a fishing fleet off the Queensland coast.

Today the town is a pleasant holiday destination easily accessible from Melbourne and popular with holiday makers during the summer months because of its variety of aquatic activities.

Things to see:

Aquatic Activities
Paynesville is now a popular boating, swimming, fishing and tourist centre. Swimming can be enjoyed on Lake King, waterskiing at Newlands Arm and surfing at Ninety Mile Beach to the south. A range of boats can be hired to explore the waterways, including yachts, which can be supplied by Gippsland Riviera Yacht Charter at 59 Slip Rd, tel: (1800) 656 874 or (03) 6224 3195.

Cruises are offered by Crystal Cruisers at 7 King St (tel: 03 5156 6971), Waterway Tours (tel: 03 5156 6395) and Manica Skippered Cruises, tel: (03) 9512 4500. The Gippsland Lakes Yacht Club offers excellent yachting facilities, with championships being held each Easter and Christmas. Fishing for bream, mullet, garfish and tailor can be carried out from the jetties or a hired boat. At nearby Eagle Point there is both a wildlife reserve and a point of access to the Mitchell River Silt Jetties (see entry on Bairnsdale).

St Peter-by-the-Lake, an Anglican Church featuring boating motifs

St Peter-by-the-Lake
St Peter-by-the-Lake is an Anglican Church featuring boating motifs, inspired by the Church of St Leonards-on-sea in Surrey, England. Built of Gippsland limestone bricks, with furnishings made of local light-toned wood, the spire resembles a lighthouse tower with a cross that can be seen at night by fishermen on the lakes, the pulpit, built by Joe Bull, a well-known Metung boat-builder , is shaped like the prow of a fishing vessel (if you look carefully you will note it has copper nails), the sanctuary lamp is fashioned from a ship's riding light, and the font is in the shape of a ship's bollard and holds the upturned bell of the Dargo: the last trading steamer to operate on the Gippsland Lakes, it arrived from Sydney in 1883 and was destroyed by fire while it was moored on the Mitchell River at Eagle Point. The large windows behind the altar provide a panoramic view over Lake Victoria. On the exterior of the church is a mosaic in the form of a fish to recall the occupation of St Peter. Its position on a slope has enabled the construction of a crypt underneath the building which serves as a Sunday school and meeting room. It was completed at a cost of 11,000 pounds and dedicated on 25 March, 1961.

Raymond Island
A ferry transports people and cars, free of charge, to nearby Raymond Island. The island was home for between 10 000 and 30 000 years to the Tatungalung clan of the Kurnai tribe. A few canoe trees are testimony to the island's Aboriginal past. Today it is noted for its koala colony and its wider range of flora and fauna, including rainbow lorikeets, honey eaters, parrots, black swans, white egrets, sea-eagles, wallabies, echidnas, blue-tongued lizards, manna gum, southern mahogany, banksia, wildflowers and some orchids. Swan Cove, a picturesque Tudor-style home on the water's edge at the north-east corner of the island, offers accommodation to visitors.

Silt Jetties on the Mitchell River and MacLeod Morass
The Mitchell River delta is an eroded digitate delta. Geologists have nominated it a site of international significance. It extends southwards from the area around Bairnsdale along the western shore of Lake King to Eagle Point Bluff which is about 6 km north-east of Paynesville, on the western shore of Lake King. From this point it takes the form of a series of long, narrow, winding silt jetties which extend eastwards out into the lake for 8 km. The silt was deposited over millions of years as the Mitchell River slows at the point of its entry into the lake. The quantity of sediment is particularly high during floods. The silt is thought to have filled in MacLeod Morass - an extensive freshwater marsh, now partly drained, which was probably once a part of Lake King. It supports an extensive range of waterbirds, including migratory waders and is used for education and interpretation purposes.

These 'jetties' are the second-largest of their type in the world, next to those of the Mississippi River at the Gulf of Mexico. Sadly erosion has shortened and narrowed them since they were first mapped in the 1840s and it is thought that they will soon be reduced to a series of islets if no preventative action is taken. This erosion began when Lakes Entrance was created in 1889, causing a salinity increase in the lakes which has slowly killed off the vegetation that once bound the jetties. Other factors involved in the destruction of the reeds are trampling by cattle grazing on the river banks, access by anglers, and scouring by boat wash.

There are good views from Eagle Point Bluff and a vehicle track which provides a closer view and leads to some fine fishing spots. The jetties are also home to a range of native animals and birds.

Rotamah Island
Rotamah Island can be reached by boat from Trapper Point or sea taxi from Paynesville. It is noted for its bird observatory, which is situated in an old farmhouse on the shores of Lake Victoria and run by the Royal Australian Ornithologists' Union. With accommodation for twenty people it functions as a field study centre and offers courses in bird identification and behaviour, mammals, plants, nature photography and art. In environments ranging from swamps to sand dunes, heath and woodland can be found swans, pelicans, ducks and other waterbirds, as well as kangaroos and emus. Sheltered areas on the island are good for canoeing. Birdwatchers will also find 140 species of native birds in Lakes National Park (see entry on Sale). Camping on Rotamah Island (and accommodation in the farmhouse) is restricted to groups who book in advance. For further information ring Parks Victoria on 131 963.

Gippsland Lakes
The Gippsland Lakes are a group of coastal lagoons which were formed when the ocean's sand deposits created lengthy sandspits, low-lying sand islands and dunes which eventually formed a barrier (Ninety Mile Beach) separating Bass Strait from the calmer waters they enclosed. The rivers which flow into the area deposited silt and clay which divided the inland water into a series of lakes and swamps. In the 19th century graziers took up land in the area, destroying much natural bushland. By that time there was no reliable point of access to the ocean. Thus an artificial entrance had been created by 1889 (see entry on Lakes Entrance) to allow permanent navigable entry. This new mouth both lowered and stabilised water levels in the lakes which are fed by a number of river systems - the Latrobe and the Avon (which flow into Lake Wellington), and the Mitchell, Nicholson and Tambo (which flow into Lake King).

Taken together the lakes constitute the largest navigable inland waterway in Australia. The major bodies of water - Wellington, Victoria and King - cover 320 km of shoreline and encompass 340 square kilometres. They are the centrepiece of a distinctive and environmentally significant regional landscape of wetlands and flat coastal plains with its own unique landforms, vegetation and fauna.

The Gippsland Lakes possess features of international, national and state significance, particularly the silt 'jetties' of the Mitchell River delta (see previous entry). Also of geomorphological interest are Cunninghame Arm (south-east of Lakes Entrance) which is a relict of a narrow channel that connected the Lakes to the ocean before the creation of the artificial entrance in 1889; the unique ecology and geomorphology of Lake Reeve with its extensive saltmarsh areas; the Tambo River delta which extends 2.5 km south-west into Lake King (although it is rapidly eroding); the Latrobe delta, protruding over 2 km into Lake Wellington, which is formed by silt trapped in reedswamp; McLennans Isthmus (a long, broad sandy promontory that separates Lake Victoria and Lake Wellington) and McLennans Strait (a deep narrow residual channel that connects these two lakes).

Owing to the permanence of the main lakes and the reasonably regular flooding of the adjacent wetlands, the ecosystem is an important habitat for over 40 000 ducks, swans, coots and other waterbirds, particularly in periods of drought. Lakes Wellington, Victoria and King are permanent deep saline wetlands supporting populations of migratory seabirds, including the little and fairy terns. Lake Reeve is an extensive intermittent saline wetland of international zoological significance which provides a highly significant habitat for up to 12 000 migratory wading birds, making it one of the five most important areas for waders in Victoria. Other noted bird populations exist at MacLeod Morass, Sale Common, Clydebank Morass, Dowd Morass, Jones Bay and Lake Bunga. The latter is a relatively small coastal wetland that is fresh to brackish, supporting waterfowl, little tern, hooded plover and the white-bellied sea-eagle. Other good birdwatching sites to the north are Blond Bay State Game Reserve, located behind Lake Victoria, and Colquhoun Forest. Vegetation around the lakes is varied, including swamp paperbark, reed and salt-marsh vegetation such as glasswort, shore rush, sawsedge and salt grass.

Parts of the Lakes system are heavily used for commercial and recreational fisheries and for other water-based recreation, while the immediate hinterland has been developed for agricultural uses and limited residential and tourism purposes. Almost all of the lakes are accessible by boat and boat-launching facilities are available at Hollands Landing, Loch Sport (see entry on Sale), Paynesville, Eagle Point, Toorloo Arm, Mill Point, Seacombe, Goon Nure, Lakes Entrance, Nowa Nowa (see entry on Lakes Entrance), Lake Tyers, Nungurner, Metung, Nicholson and Johnsonville. For those without a boat, fishing trips and boating tours of the lakes and rivers are available from Paynesville and Lakes Entrance. Black bream are especially plentiful in the waters of the Gippsland Lakes.

At the present time salinity (caused chiefly by the alteration of the ocean outlet) is destroying shoreline vegetation which, in turn, is causing shoreline erosion and thus accelerated deposition in the lakes. Vegetation changes are also depleting the wetland fauna, including some endangered bird species and the breeding habitats for some fish species - some also rare. Moreover, wind-borne salt is affecting vegetation near the shoreline and destructive algal blooms have become a recurrent problem. Industrial and domestic waste disposal, run-off and a sewage treatment works are also affecting the waterways.

The lakes contain many archaeological sites, including shell middens, scarred trees, occupation sites, burials and axe-grinding grooves.

Mariners Cove Resort
The Esplanade
Paynesville VIC 3880
Telephone: (03) 5156 7444
Rating: ***

Paynesville Hotel
The Esplanade
Paynesville VIC 3880
Telephone: (03) 5156 6442

Maddisons Holiday Apartments
2 Fort King Place
Paynesville VIC 3880
Telephone: (03) 5156 0432
Facsimile: (03) 5156 0436
Rating: ***

Mariners Cove Motel & Apartments
The Esplanade
Paynesville VIC 3880
Telephone: (03) 5156 7444
Facsimile: (03) 5156 7069
Rating: ***

Sunlake Gardens Holiday Apartments
Toonalook Pde
Paynesville VIC 3880
Telephone: (03) 5156 6261
Rating: ***

Allawah Caravan Park
79 Slip Rd
Paynesville VIC 3880
Telephone: (03) 5156 7777
Rating: ***

Resthaven Caravan Park
2 Gilsenan St
Paynesville VIC 3880
Telephone: (03) 5156 6342
Rating: ***

Bull's Cruisers
64 Slip Rd
Paynesville VIC 3880
Telephone: (03) 5156 1200

Fishermans Wharf Pavilion
The Esplanade
Paynesville VIC 3880
Telephone: (03) 5156 0366

Tham Dynasty Chinese Restaurant
The Esplanade
Paynesville VIC 3880
Telephone: (03) 5156 7188

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