Natural Wonders

Things to do in Gippsland: The road less travelled

When it comes to planning things to do in Gippsland, our advice is to make the ultimate roadtrip spanning Kilcuna, Loch, Koonwarra and more.

Of all the things to do in Gippsland, here’s our guide to taking the road less travelled.

The wind flowing through your air, sun baking the dashboard, tunes blasting through your speakers, green pastures and open road ahead of you.

Whether your chariot’s a Jeep Wrangler or an ‘87 Toyota Corolla, it’s definitely time to plan a roadtrip. After a long, lonely winter, regional Victoria is bursting back to life and awaiting you with open arms.

Keep up with the latest travel destinations, plus all the Victorian travel news and tips here

There’s no better place to see this for yourself than the Gippsland region. It’s a microcosm of nearly every natural wonder the world has to offer. The air is fresher, water cleaner, grass greener, trees taller… so it’s no surprise that the food is pure, unadulterated dreamery as well. During the day, nothing but blue sky arches across the horizon without an apartment block in sight and at night, the entire solar system gently glimmers above you. If you’ve never seen a shooting star, head to Gippsland, they’re practically guaranteed.

From snorkelling across the state’s largest marine park, to trekking the awe-inspiring Mount Oberon, to gazing across the implausible desert landscape at the Big Drift, a roadtrip to Wilsons Prom is a rite of passage – every Melburnian does it sooner or later – and it’s easy to see why.

But that’s not what we’re here for today. We’re going to uncover some of Gippsland’s hidden gems – a local’s guide – to help you plan the roadtrip of a lifetime.

Destination One: Kilcunda

Any roadtrip has to start with a route, and the Bunurong Coastal Drive, between Phillip Island and Inverloch, is one of the most beautiful and underrated drives you can take in Victoria.

The reason why it’s the road less travelled is because if you trust Google Maps to plot your road trip destinations – especially if you’re heading towards the Prom – it likes to plonk you straight on the South Gippy highway and you’ll miss the gorgeous coastal routes that take you through Kilcunda. Our advice is to take the coastal route one way and the Highway on your return, that way you get to see the best that this particular slice of Gippsland has to offer.

Kilcunda’s an idyllic beachside town in the Bass Coast Shire that boasts some of the most beautiful golden beaches – three to be exact – plus an array of intertidal rock pools that attract fisherman, marine lovers and curious children alike.

Kilcunda Trestle Bridge

Gippsland Photoshoot | April 2019

Like most small towns in Gippsland, the natural wonders are punctuated by a strong heritage tradition, which now effortlessly interweaves with the coastal surroundings. As you can watch above, we visited the Kilcunda Trestle Bridge a few years back heading to UNIFY and it was one of our favourite, quaint attractions in the gorgeous region.

Over 100 years old and 12 metres high, it’s hefty heritage-listed wooden structure stretches over grassy dunes, sandy knolls and the narrow passage of water it was built to cross back in 1911, when it was part of the Woolamai-Wonthaggi railway (it was transitioned to a popular walking and bicycle route in 1978).

The view from this bridge across the rocky outcrops and out towards the ocean is an absolute treat.

Udder & Hoe, Kilcunda

One of the gems needing to be uncovered is the tiny Udder & Hoe delicatessen, which epitomises Gippsland’s stranglehold on Victoria’s culinary delights. Packed with local farm produce – fruit and vegetables grown within a hop, skip and a jump of the premises – it’s front proudly displays the sign ‘Slow Food Slow Living’. If you’re already beginning to feel a little caught up in the rat race with Melbourne reopening, they’ve got the cure to what ails ya.

Kilcunda General Store

But the town itself has a lot brimming within a small package. Again, as is the case nearly everywhere in Gippsland, the stores and delicatessens are full of locally grown produce, brandishing some of the best dairy products in the world. The Kilcunda General Store epitomises the seaside feel, tripling as a café and a post office, making its own chutneys and relishes from scratch, and dishing up a breakfast and lunch menu with sumptuous vegan options.

Kilcunda Ocean View Hotel

The Kilcunda Ocean View Hotel, better known as The Killy Pub, is the heart and soul of the town, bringing the live music vibes on a weekend to match their ocean views and incredible vantage point to catch a sunset over the Bass Strait.

Destination Two: Koonwarra

From Kilcunda you can continue along the coastal road through Inverloch, which will present you two options. You can either continue straight along the coast towards Venus Bay, which also offers the option of Walkerville Road, a beautiful winding passage down towards an enchanting coastal town, with walking tracks and heritage buildings hidden along the ridge.

Or, you can turn inland to head into Koonwarra, a beautiful forested area hugging the highway between the relatively large town of Leongatha, and the smaller, more bucolic Meeniyan.

Koonwarra trades the beach for gorgeous forests and valleys, but maintains the focus on strong local produce and providore delights. In fact, it’s quite famous for them.

Koonwarra Farmers Market

You can find it all at the Koonwarra Farmers Market on the first Saturday of each month at Koonwarra’s Memorial Park, which slightly separates itself from the homogenous farmer’s markets across greater Melbourne due to its long, storied pioneering history and its notable authenticity; pastured free range eggs and chemical free vegetables, berry sorbets and fresh saffron. If you miss it, you can find many of the same goods at local landmarks Paddlewheel and Milly & Romeo’s.

It’s smack bang in the middle of a prolific wine growing region, which visitors from across Victoria flock to experience the ‘South Gippsland Drink Trail’. Grapes, spirits, breweries and cider. Once again, check the video above for our gin tasting experiences (bloody fantastic). You’ll see signs for many of the wineries as you drive along the Highway, and you can also sample their goods in many of the region’s pubs, from Kilcunda to Fish Creek’s stunning, pearly white Art Deco hub.

If you’re a little more active than foodie, this same stretch, which begins in Leongatha and continues through Meeniyan, Fish Creek and Foster, all the way down to Port Welshpool, is the route of The Great Southern Rail Trail.

The Great Southern Rail Trail

72 kilometres open to walking, cycling and horse riding, which begins in a horticultural park in Leongatha and takes you down to Koonwarra through a mixture of farmland, forest and wetlands. You’ll often see horses and others taking the trail as it weaves closer to the Highway through Meeniyan, and it will eventually take you all the way down to the coast at Port Welshpool, via Foster, one of the other larger towns in the Gippsland area. While the trail itself is flat and easy going, along the way you’ll be enchanted by the scenery. Gippsland is famous for its rugged rolling hills, with huge shifts in elevation making for eye-catching views across the horizon.

Destination Three: Loch

If you are heading back along the highway, ensure you stop at our third destination, this time only slightly off-the-beaten track, Loch. You’ll see the signs pointing off to Loch as you head towards Korumburra, roughly halfway between Melbourne and The Prom. The signs themselves are fairly non-descript, you could be forgiven for wondering why you’d leave the highway, but you can actually take Victoria Road as a detour and link back onto the Highway after passing through, and there’s a lot there to discover.

It’s set among the hills of the Strzelecki Ranges and it definitely has the sleepy mountain town feel you’d otherwise find in areas like the Yarra Ranges, with beautiful old buildings that bring authenticity to the hipster aesthetic.

The Loch Village Lions Market (second Sunday of each month) is one of the larger, with more than 70 stalls, and the town itself is filled with antique and boutique stores, encompassing a large range of handmade artisan products and bric-a-brac.

Loch Brewery & Distillery

Image: Phoebe Honey

If you really want to enjoy this little slice of paradise, head to the Loch Brewery & Distillery; traditional ales, single malt whisky, gin and fine spirits to wet your whistle. Closely followed by a trip to rural bakery Olive at Loch for lunch.

You really can’t miss the Brewery, it’s the standout structure of Loch and one of the finest architectural gems in Gippsland, a huge pitched-roof red-brick building that’s over a century old and once upon a time housed a grand old bank and an adjacent butchers shop. Now it’s put to much better use brewing beers and distilling whiskeys and gins with authentic Alembic Copper Pot Stills, a design that dates back over 700 years.

The Loch Grocer, Loch

Floor to ceiling windows on a pitched roof with a dark wooden panelled interior and a stunning rustic vibe. The Loch Grocer is the perfect coffee and curry spot, take us there, will you?

Honestly, we haven’t even scratched the surface of what South Gippsland has to offer, let alone the broader region.

However, part of the fun is letting your mind and body wander, because every narrow coastal or inland offshoot as you drive towards the Prom and back promises another sensational experience that many others miss. We’ll see you there this summer.

For a fully comprehensive guide to Gippsland to help plan your trip, head to Visit Gippsland here.

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