To Gippsland

After thirteen years I’ve still to visit much of Victoria but with travel to other states, let alone overseas, being fraught with risk, now is a good time to check out some new places nearer home.

Lakes Entrance in Gippsland, about 320km/200 miles SE of Melbourne is somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit. When I mentioned this at a Men’s Shed meeting, one of the members suggested that I went to nearby Paynesville which he thought the better place. I followed his advice and wasn’t disappointed, spending two comfortable nights at the Mariners Cove motel.

To complete my travels on V/Line tracks I could have got a train to Bairnsdale and then a bus to Paynesville but decided to drive so that I wasn’t tied to one place – I wanted to take a look at Lakes Entrance (which I did) even if not staying there. After driving nowhere of consequence all year, it was a long drive, not helped by my GPS’s bizarre choice of route.

Raymond Island ferry

Raymond Island ferry

Paynesville is a pleasant small town, population about 3,500, with water on three sides. Best of all though, Raymond Island is just 200m away, reached by a free (to pedestrians) ferry that operates more frequently than some Melbourne trains.

The ferry service dates back to 1889. The current ferry came into service in 1997 and has a capacity of up to 21 vehicles and 150 foot passengers. It’s a chain ferry, driven by two diesel engines. Refuelling? – a tanker drives aboard and discharges its load. Past proposals to replace the ferry with a bridge have been strongly resisted by many islanders who feel that bridge access would change their way of life.

Raymond Island koala

Raymond Island koala

As for the island itself, named for W.O. Raymond, an early Gippsland grazier, it’s around 6km x 2km at its widest points. Several hundred people now live there (thus the need for such a substantial ferry) but mostly nature still prevails and it’s a haven for wildlife. I made four trips to the island and each time saw koalas In their natural setting – a consignment of 32 koalas was sent from Phillip Island to Raymond Island on 25 September 1953 and they’ve since thrived to an extent that there are now more koalas than food. An after-dark visit gave me a chance to see the kangaroos close up.

Day three arrived all too quickly. A good breakfast and one more ferry trip and short walk round the koala trail and it was time for the long drive home. A welcome break: next time I’ll probably travel by train and bus to Paynesville and just enjoy extended visits to the island.

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