Harry Hook Is Real
Harry Hook Is Real (the artist formerly known as Harry Hookey) is a Gippsland folk legend. He grew up on a farm in the tiny township of Cowwarr, nestled in the green valley between the Strzelecki Ranges and the Great Dividing Range. Over his career, he’s been nominated for an Aria, toured around Australia, Europe and America, opened for The Eagles, and taken out the prestigious International Songwriting Competition.
After playing in session bands alongside the likes of Paul Kelly, Kasey Chambers and Bernard Fanning, Harry Hook Is Real left Nashville in 2018 to return to his roots. He settled in Gippsland and began working on a new solo project. In 2020, he dropped no snake in the tree, his first self-produced album.
“I made no snake in the tree during the first year of the pandemic in 2020,” he says. “I moved back to Gippsland from Nashville and went into a period of solitude. In 2019, by chance at a bush doof in the mountains, I met my now wife Mim. All the songs relate to that time in my life in some way.”
Here are Harry’s top spots to check out in Gippsland, plus the best music on the local scene.
1. Tarra Bulga National Park
As my kids describe it, Tarra Bulga is our very own Jurassic park. It’s an ancient rainforest, lush all year round, and home to the consummate lyrebird who can (and will) mimic near any sound. Be sure to stop in at the Tarra-Bulga Guest House in Balook for a great feast by firelight and some terrific cocktails, fuelled by local Gippsland liquor.
It’s no coincidence that this place was named after Viking heaven. I’d be quite happy to wind up here. In 1860, Walhalla’s population was 4000, thanks to gold fever. Now the permanent population is about 20. I’m talking Australia’s most picturesque cemetery, spooky ghost tours, and a trip that will take you 200 metres into the belly of a mountain. Be sure to bring your footy and have a kick at Australia’s highest altitude oval, too.
3. The Gippsland Lakes
There’s something unique about the water in the Gippsland Lakes. The colours, especially at dawn or twilight, would blow Monet’s mind. Just ask Brendan Sims – he’s an artist friend of mine and has painted the lakes exclusively for the last 40 years. The lake system is expansive and you can’t really go wrong anywhere, but the views around Paynesville and Raymond Island at twilight are particularly enchanting. Also try Marley point or Lake Tyers at dawn. Why not hire a Bulls cruiser and just explore them afloat?
4. Live Music
If you’re in Gippsland on a Saturday night, you need to check out one of our great live music venues. Headed east? The Waterwheel Beach Tavern is an iconic venue, right on the edge of Lake Tyers. In the heartland? Live at the Bundy is an old country hall just outside Sale, which has been decked out with state-of-the-art PA. Down south? Archies Creek Hotel is a great music venue with an eclectic roster.
5. Gippsland Art Gallery
Behind the heritage listed brutalist exterior of the Port of Sale building on Sale’s main drag, you’ll find the visionary Gippsland Art Gallery. It’s got Gippsland’s greatest paintings, sculptures, textiles and prints, as well as some of the nation’s best touring exhibitions. Make sure to come back regularly, because the exhibitions are always changing!