East Gippsland is a large area in Victoria approximately 3.5-4 hours from Melbourne and it rewards visitors with stunning beaches, nature play, artistic experiences and great food.
We are invited by East Gippsland Marketing Inc to spend a week in East Gippsland around the Gippsland Lakes, basing ourselves at Lakes Entrance and Bairnsdale. It is our first time in the area and five days of scenic wonders, play opportunities and delicious food mean that we’ll be back to make more happy memories!
Here are my Top 25 things to do in East Gippsland with kids.
Things to do in East Gippsland
1. Lake Tyers Beach
Lake Tyers Beach is an uninterrupted sandy stretch of sand which is great for visiting with kids. We dip our feet into the (freezing) water, play frisbee, make sandcastles and read books.
If you’re feeling energetic you can hire a kayak from the Lake Tyers General store or take a walk along the Red Bluff cliff walk to the Red Bluff lookout. Red Bluff is East Gippsland’s renowned surfing spot and between May and October you might even be able to spot whales.
The end of Lake Tyers Road (across the road from the Lake Tyers Beach Tavern)
Cliff top walk loop 2.1km
2. Ninety Mile Beach
It looks like the Bahamas but it’s just across the bridge from the main road of Lakes Entrance. Ninety Mile Beach is a stretch of golden sand running for 151 kilometres (94 miles) between Port Albert and Lakes Entrance. It is renowned as one of the longest beaches in the world and the beach faces Bass Strait and backs the Gippsland Lakes. While the temperature of the water is not tropical, the stunning stretch of sand and sea will definitely transport you into a holiday mode. We are so lucky to have this clean, unspoit and uncrowded beach right on our doorstep.
It’s almost mandatory that you get on the water if you’re visiting Lakes Entrance. If you don’t have a boat of your own then board a cruise with Skipper Pete for a short tour of Australias biggest inland lake system.
We spend an hour seeing seals, looking out for seabirds and even spot dolphins while Pete tells us about some of the history of Lakes Entrance and the surrounding area.
Lakes Explorer Sea Safari, 287 Esplanade (Post Office Jetty) Lakes Entrance VIC 3909
Small country towns seem to always be a hotbed of curiosity collectors and at Lakes Entrance you’ll find the Griffiths Sea Shell Museum. You can’t miss the giant squid on top of the roof!
It’s a little big daggy, very dated, but the few aquariums, many shell displays, giant clams and even miniature railway at the back of the museum make it a kitsch outing with kids.
They won’t be able to resist the huge gift shop!
Griffiths Sea Shell Museum, 125 Esplanade, Lakes Entrance VIC 3909
5. Metung Beach (Lake)
The Metung back beach is a gentle sandy beach with a picnic area overlooking the Metung Lake. It is a perfect swimming beach for families due to its calmness and proximity to the Metung Hotel and Patterson Park adventure playground and splash water park.
Metung Beach (Lake), Metung (across the road from the Metung Hotel)
6. Patterson Park
Patterson Park is a nature-based play space with a large log and rope climbing structure and tree house, sandpit, birds nest swing and cubby houses. It’s small but there’s enough to do for an hour or so.
In summer the water jets open for free water play. There is a water tap and toilets and nearby BBQ.
Patterson Park, 63 Metung Road, Metung, Victoria
Huge fenced playground on the main street of Bairnsdale with based around the theme ‘From the Mountains to the Sea’ which celebrates the area’s shipping and marine life to the timber mills.
There are picnic tables, public toilets, shade sails over some areas and lots of different equipment for children of all ages and abilities, including a Liberty Swing and accessible toilet.
East Gippsland All Abilities Playground, Davison Oval, Park Street Bairnsdale, (between Princes Highway and McLeod Street) Entry to the playground car park is via Macleod Street.
High on the hill next to the serene Mitchell River is Howitt Reserve. Look out for the huge yellow slide on the hillside as well as the flying fox with magnificent views!
There are toilets, gazebo and BBQ in the reserve.
There are plenty of opportunities to go fishing in the Gippsland Lakes. Metung offers beginners the opportunity to grab some fishing supplies from store behind the Metung pub and to drop a line from the jetty in front of the village green.
10. Koala Trail on Raymond Island
Raymond Island is a tiny island just 200m across the water from Paynesville and is only accessible via the free ferry!
Raymond Island is otherwise known as Koala Island. When you get off the ferry you’ll spot the signs to walk the koala trail and spot these sleepy Australian icons in the wild. We also see echidnas, kangaroos and a multitude of birdlife on our visit.
Raymond Island Ferry, Esplanade, Paynesville
East Gippsland Art Gallery is the centre for visual arts in East Gippsland, with a rotating schedule of temporary exhibitions that celebrate the diverse artistic spirit of the region. During the school holidays they run reasonably priced art workshops for children. We spend a few hours designing and building our own miniature tree house with artist Julia.
East Gippsland Art Gallery Crystal Stubbs, 2 Nicholson Street, Bairnsdale Victoria 3875
The tiny town of Buchan is most famous for a honeycomb network of limestone caves. You will need to take a guided tour to visit Royal Cave or Fairy Cave and the spectacular limetone formations make for great photos. Full review.
Buchan Caves, 98 Caves Road, Buchan
Where to eat in East Gippsland
Lake Tyers Beach General Store offers kayak hire, general store goods as well as take home meals. It’s not open every day so unfortunately we’re not able to go inside to see the photography display by store owner Scott Kingman (who is also a musician from The Screaming Jets!)
Lake Tyers Beach General Store, 575 Lake Tyers Beach Road, Lake Tyers Beach
The Waterwheel Beach Tavern is a relaxed hotel situated on the beachfront at Lakes Tyers Beach. You can watch the sunset on the deck or cosy up inside the bistro dining room by the fireplace.
The menu is a bit more exciting than your standard pub grub – we try Korean style tacos and Japanese tonkatsu. But don’t miss the local fish and chips, as fresh as can be. Kids menu starts at $11.
The Waterwheel Beach Tavern, 577 Lake Tyers Beach Road, Lake Tyers Beach, Victoria, 3909
Funkey Monkey Cafe is in the centre of Lakes Entrance’s shopping area. It’s regularly voted as having the best coffee in town and the breakfast menu is extensive with artfully presented dishes such as the smashed avo and French toast.
They are also famous for their fresh bakery treats. For families, you’ll find high chairs and a kids menu.
Funkey Monkey Cafe, 26 Myer Street, Lakes Entrance
Albert & Co is a stylish upmarket cafe housed within the Bellevue Hotel complex.
The bright room has a glamorous beach house feel, with whitewashed wood, fresh flowers and a deep cobalt banquette seat along the walls.
The kitchen produces delicious cafe fare favouring locally sourced produce. We like their waffles, both the sweet and savoury versions!
Albert & Co, 201 Esplanade, Lakes Entrance. (03) 5155 1209
Every country town needs a Chinese restaurant and Lakes Entrance has one that floats on water! Floating Dragon is 80s kitsch on floating restaurant and the Cantonese-based menu offers familiar classics like Mongolian Beef, Sweet and Sour Chicken and Fried Rice.
Floating Dragon Dockside Restaurant, 160 Western Boat Harbour, Gippsland Lakes, Lakes Entrance
The classic and perennially popular Metung Hotel overlooks the Gippsland Lakes in the sleepy village of Metung. The great pub food is proudly locally sourced and you can pair it with local beer from Orbost brewery Sailors Grave.
There’s a children’s menu and lakeside lawn to play in, plus it’s just across the road from Patterson Park’s playground with water play.
Metung Hotel, Kurnai Ave, Metung (03) 5156 2206
The Grand Terminus Hotel is a classic corner pub in Bairnsdale and one of the oldest, established in 1889. The dining room is heaving on a weeknight and for good reason – the meals are huge and hearty with enough choice on the menu to suit all tastes, from burgers to Buddha bowls.
Make room for dessert! Kids meals are $8-$10 and include a scoop of ice cream.
The Grand Terminus Hotel. 98 Macleod Street, Bairnsdale (03) 5152 4040
Chef Rob Turner is originally from Yorkshire UK and has brought some of his English influences to Northern Ground, a cafe on the main street of Bairnsdale. For kids, there’s a small hamper of books and colouring to keep them amused.
Rob is a strong advocate for promoting East Gippsland regional produce and the presentation of our breakfast is stunning.
Don’t miss the pies and cakes!
Northern Ground, 144 Main Street, Bairnsdale Vic 3875. 0426 290 910
East Gippsland has so much abundant and fresh seafood on offer that I can easily eat seafood morning, noon and night. However, if you’re in the mood for something else then Earth and Soul Pizza offers woodfired pizza (and pasta) with modern Australian flavours and fresh local ingredients.
They do a roaring takeaway and delivery trade but if you want to eat in there are a few high tables and stools for guests.
Earth and Soul Pizza, 122 Main Street 035153 0555
In the central township of Bruthen (halfway between Bairnsdale and Buchan Caves) you’ll find the Bullant Brewery, East Gippsland’s first microbrewery.
Sample one of their beers and pair it with a hearty lunch featuring the best regionally sourced ingredients. The food influences span the globe from tacos to curries to pizza so you’re sure to find something you like!
Bullant Brewery 46 Main street Bruthen (Great Alpine Road)
On a dusty country track you’ll find The Long Paddock, a homely cafe serving exquisite country-style food for breakfast and lunch.
Go for their daily pie special, amazing seafood and stay for one of their delicious cakes.
There are high chairs available and no particular kids menu.
The Long Paddock 93-95 Main Rd, Lindenow (03) 5157 1638
The highlight of our week’s dining in East Gippsland is the one-hat Sardine Eatery & Bar. It’s fine dining without the fine dining prices or stiffness and remarkably family friendly. During our visit, there is a child in a high chair and our own kids in the small and casually furnished dining room.
The Former Head Chef of Waterfront Southgate and Vue De Monde, Mark Briggs, produces a menu focused on fresh, local produce every day, accompanied by a wine and beer list that highlights the best of Gippsland.
Given its name and its location, I order everything seafood, from tartare to scallops with njuda to the must-try sardines that even Baby 2.0 loves, bones and all. The flavours, the unexpected combination of ingredients to highlight the hero ingredident, the stunning Japanese crockery – I’m in heaven with every mouthful.
Their weekday lunch special is unbelievable value with two courses for $25 – T opts for a bowl of gorgeous thick pea soup and melting beef cheek, both of which are hearty and flavourful without being overwhelming and heavy.
EVERYTHING we try is so obviously carefully and lovingly prepared and beautifully presented. There are no bum notes at all (other than possibly my children’s behaviour) and if it wasn’t 4 hours from Melbourne I can imagine myself visiting regularly. Lucky Gippslanders!
I reiterate – you must try the sardines!
Sardine Eatery & Bar, 3/65-69A Esplanade, Paynesville. (03) 5156 7135
Where to stay in East Gippsland
Lakes Entrance is a popular holiday destination so there are lots of accommodation options to suit every budget. We stay in a spacious two bedroom apartment (Queen size bed in one bedroom, two single beds in the second bedroom) at The Esplanade Resort, a large multi-storey hotel complex at the entrance to the town.
As well as beautiful views there is an indoor and outdoor pool, barbecue areas, a small playground by the carpark and even spa treatments!
The Esplanade Resort, 1 Esplanade, Lakes Entrance VIC 3909
The Riversleigh is a stunning boutique hotel located on a quiet street in Bairnsdale overlooking the Mitchell River. It’s just a short walk away from the town’s central business district and across the road from the East Gippsland Art Gallery.
For families, The Riversleigh has the Executive Suite which is a family room with a king size bed and an interconnecting room with a pull out double sofa bed and kitchenette with bar fridge and microwave.
Continental breakfast is included in your stay and can be taken in the back garden or the elegant dining room overlooking the front garden.
The Riversleigh, 1 Nicholson Street, Bairnsdale Vic 3875 (03) 5152 696