Omeo to Metung
120 km/75 miles, about 1 hour and 40 minutes
Depart Omeo, and follow the Great Alpine Road south past Bairnsdale, East Gippsland's only city, and on to Metung, starting point for exploring the spectacular Gippsland Lakes.
First stops: Swifts Creek and Ensay, small towns with a long history of mining, grazing and timber milling and a modern-day passion for freshly baked goods, just-picked fruit, and local wines. Next is Bruthen, a rustic village overlooking the Tambo River with its very own brewery. Be tempted by a pot of refreshing ale before you explore the township's many heritage buildings.
Your last stop before Metung and the seemingly endless expanses of the Gippsland Lakes is Bairnsdale, on the banks of the Mitchell River and originally settled as an inland port. Bairnsdale is now a major gateway to Victoria's east, with everything you need and all the cafes and restaurants to sustain you for some time.
Pay a visit to St Mary's Roman Catholic Church, the interior of which was painted in the 1930s by Francesco Floreani. Attend an annual musical and sporting event or explore the Mitchell River silt jetties that extend 8 kilometres into nearby Lake King. Whet your appetite at local cafes and restaurants, to ready yourself for exploration of the Gippsland Lakes.
Life on the Lakes
With five main lakes, fed by the waters of four major rivers, and fringed by the Ninety Mile Beach, the Gippsland Lakes system is the biggest expanse of inland waterways in the southern hemisphere. Over 400 square kilometres of lakes, rivers and lagoons make this region an ideal location for all forms of water-based fun, sport and exceptional fishing.
Carry on to Metung, where the Great Alpine Road touring route ends. Life assumes a relaxed pace in this picture-book village, on the shores of Bancroft Bay and Lake King. Follow your nose to the harbourside restaurants to indulge in quality local seafood and wine, spend a day floating around in a boat and stroll along the water's edge at sunset, cooking up your next adventure.
Buchan Caves Reserve
From Bruthen take the C620 for a scenic 20 minute drive to Buchan. Just past the town centre lies the picturesque gateway to the Buchan Caves Reserve where you can enjoy camping, bushwalking and wildlife spotting. Inside the ancient caves lies a honeycomb of spectacular limestone formations. Guided tours take you for an easy walk through these ancient caverns, exploring beautiful calcite-rimmed pools. On a hot day, take the plunge in the Buchan Caves Reserve pool, which is spring fed from an underground stream, providing the pool with the purest water imaginable.
Wine and Gold Drive
An alternative route from Omeo to Bairnsdale is through Cassillis, a small town that was once a thriving mining community. Explore the picturesque valley on foot and see relics of the gold-mining era, including the unmissable Oriental Claims walking trails, the Cassilis Cemetery and the old goldmine. Call into a local winery and sample some of the area's fruit and berry wines and mead, and snack on renowned baked goods in the township of Swifts Creek.
Gippsland Lakes Drive
Departing Bruthen, take the C620 to Nowa Nowa and the A1 to Lakes Entrance to watch the daily catch being unloaded or to cast a line yourself. Continue along the A1 and Nungurner Road to Metung and stop for a stroll along lakeshore. Then take the C606 to Swan Reach, the A1 to Bairnsdale and the C604 to Paynesville, a great place to base yourself to explore the Gippsland Lakes and walk Ninety Mile Beach.