In Lakes Entrance itself, the information centre, located on the corner of Marine Parade and the Princes Highway, is a good starting point for an investigation of the town and the general area, tel: (03) 5155 1966 or free-call (1800) 637 060. It is open from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. daily. There are free tourist drive brochures, arts and crafts, maps, souvenirs and national park information. It also functions as a central booking service for accommodation, tours and cruises.
Along the promenade a local wood carver has taken the stumps of trees and carved them into images of Australia at war. It is a novel idea although the carver apparently copyrighted the work which means, at least in theory, that if you take a photograph you could possibly be sued. There are famous images from World War I including Simpson and his donkey and a nursing sister caring for wounded soldiers.
The Griffiths' Sea Shell Museum
The Griffiths' Sea Shell Museum offers much more than just shells. While it features nearly 100 000 shells it also has the head of the largest marlin ever caught (1358 lbs), some unusual corals, a gift shop, a large model railway and a large aquarium containing sea snakes, blue-ringed octopi and many unusual marine creatures. It is located at 125 Esplanade, tel: (03) 5155 1538.
Kinkuna Country Fun and Fauna Park
Located on the Princes Highway, this fun park has a wildlife park (including monkeys and hand-fed lions), a toboggan ride, two large waterslides, a toddlers' pool, mini-golf, a playground, a jumping castle, a cafeteria, licensed bar and souvenir shop, tel: (03) 5155 3000.
Wyanga Park Vineyards and Winery
Wine buffs may wish to visit the cosy and scenic tasting room of Wyanga Park Vineyards and Winery, the oldest commercial vineyard in Gippsland (established in 1970). Located in Baades Rd, it produces riesling, traminer, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, colombard, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, pinot noir and fortifieds. The cellar door is open from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. every day but Sunday when it opens at 10.00 a.m. There is a cafe adjoining the tasting room. Lunch and morning tea are served daily and dinners from Thursday to Sunday. The winery also has a playground, picnic and barbecue areas, pet pigs and a bird aviary, tel: (03) 5155 1508.
To get there, follow the signposts 10 km north from the footbridge which spans Cunninghame Arm, linking Lakes Entrance and Ninety Mile Beach (the bridge was built in 1937 using cables from Melbourne's trams). Lake cruises to the winery operate from Club Jetty at Lakes Entrance six days a week.
Jemmy Point Lookout
At Jemmy Point, 2 km west of the town on the Princes Highway, is an overhanging bluff which affords excellent views of the lakes and Bass Strait. According to Aboriginal legends, Nyols, small people reminiscent of the fairies of western folklore, lived here.
Nyerimilang Homestead and Nyerimilang Park
To reach historic Nyerimilang homestead at Nyerimilang Park take the Metung Road off the Princes Highway at Kalimna West School, to the north-west of Lakes Entrance. With its attractive ornamental gardens, featuring both native and exotic species, pastoral surrounds, pleasant views of Reeves Channel and the lakes, bellbirds, honeyeaters, water birds, Gippsland grey box and blue gums along the cliff tops, it makes a fine spot for a picnic or a walk along the circular path, which follows the cliff's edge and returns inland. Barbecue facilities are provided.
The origins of the homestead lie in the purchase of the land by Mr A. Murray in 1884. It was then transferred to Frank Stuart who erected a house in 1892 which he used as a base for fishing and shooting expeditions. In the 1920s his son moved into the house on a permanent basis, extending it and developing the gardens. In 1936 his widow donated the property to the Anglican diocese of Gippsland for use as a training farm for boys. The following decade it was purchased by millionaire, William Buckland, who used it as a holiday home until his death in 1964. In 1976 the Victorian Government bought the property, converting it to its present use as a tourist attraction.
Fishing around Lakes Entrance
The general popularity of fishing in the area is indicated by the angling contests held at Seaspray, Bairnsdale and Sale each year. Surf fishing is popular on Ninety Mile Beach (see entry on Sale), while at Lakes Entrance, dangling a line off the jetties or rock walls can be rewarding. In Bass Strait both Five Mile Reef and Seven Mile Reef, to the south-west of the entrance, are recommended spots. Fishing, from both shore and boat, is popular at Tambo, Nicholson and the Mitchell River. The cliffs upstream from the Swan Reach bridge on the Tambo River and along the banks of the Metung Road are also favourable locations.
Walking in the Area
One way to see the local flora and fauna is to take advantage of the walking tracks in the area, as outlined in a pamphlet from the information centre. The Lake Reeve nature walk is a circular track that runs between the lookout tower and the shore of the lake. Others depart from the information centre and head for Pelican Point, Oil Bore Landing and Emu Bight. At the eastern end of the park trails crisscross around Murphy Hill and Point Wilson. The 2.3-km Lakes Entrance scenic walk commences 100 metres to the right of the footbridge and leads to the ingress which gives the town its name. Another track heads west along the beach to Barrier Landing. The Lake Bunga nature trail, east of Lakes Entrance, is signposted by white arrows on a green background. A leaflet explains the plant and animal life at each of the nine designated stops. Safe swimming, surf fishing and picnic facilities can also be enjoyed at Lake Bunga Foreshore Reserve. A little further east are the cliff views and the surf beach of Red Bluff Reserve.
Lakes Entrance Paddle Boats and Catamaran Hire
Paddleboats, catamarans, aquabikes, paddleskis, canoes and body boards are for hire over the footbridge, tel: (0419) 552 753.
The Malcolm Cameron Studio Gallery
At the Malcolm Cameron Studio Gallery visitors are asked to allow 45 minutes for demonstrations by the artist who also runs weekend and four-day workshops. Muffins and tea are available and there is accommodation for six. The gallery is open Sundays and public holidays from 1.00 p.m. to 5.00 p.m. and, on Fridays and Saturdays from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. During the school holidays it is open every day but Tuesday from 1.00 p.m. to 5.00 p.m. and it is closed entirely during July. To get there head north-west along the Princes Highway for 16 km then turn right onto the Swan Reach-Mossiface Rd, tel: (03) 5156 4477.
21 km north-east via the Princes Highway is Nowa Nowa. Flame Trees Gallery is situated in a water-garden setting in Boarding House Lane. Fine art is for sale and there are special exhibitions and art classes all year round. They are open weekends and public holidays from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. or by appointment, tel: (03) 5155 7477.
Also at Nowa Nowa is a 45-metre radio and repeater tower which has a fire-spotting cabin, located about halfway up the structure, which is used in summer. Panoramic views of the forest and ocean can also be obtained from a smaller timber tower which is no longer used as a lookout for bushfires.
North at Nowa Nowa, where the Princes Highweay meets the road to Bruthen Road, is Ramsdell's sawmill which features an excellent display of gems, petrified wood, a 100-year old log buggy formerly pulled by eighteen beasts of burden and still used up to 1945, an 11-acre garden of native trees, shrubs and creepers and wooden sculptures formed from interesting root formations, tree ferns and other sources.
Tours and Cruises
There are many tour operators in the area. These include Eastour which explores the Errinundra and Snowy River National Parks by 4WD, tel: (03) 5154 2969. For a full list see the information centre.
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 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 they 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. The Mitchell River delta, for example, is an eroded digitate delta which is considered a site of international geological significance. It extends southwards from the area around Bairnsdale along the western shore of Lake King to Eagle Point Bluff. From this point it takes the form of a series of long, narrow, winding jetties of silted sediment which extend eastwards out into Lake King for 8 km (see entry on Paynesville).
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, 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, in Lakes Entrance, from Peel's Tourist and Ferry Service, tel: (03) 5155 1246. Small fishing boats can also be hired from the jetties on Marine Parade. 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.