A Day in the Life of a Country Town
January 1, 1970
by Dani Richards
Here I am, sitting in sunny Bairnsdale on a perfect day. 24 degrees and sunny, nary a cloud in the sky. You tell anyone you’re from Bairnsdale and you just get a blank look. Am I speaking a different language here? You know, Bairnsdale? East Gippsland? Still nothing? Oh okay. Well for those that don’t know, which is apparently the majority of people outside of Gippsland, we’re in Eastern Victoria, Australia. Population: under 12,000. Very much the small, country town, and here I am to tell you all about this place that I call home.
Points of Interest
- 90-Mile Beach
- Lakes Entrance
- East Gippsland Rail Trail
- Mitchell River National Park
- Mitchell River Silt Jetties
- Raymond Island
90-Mile Beach & Lakes Entrance
I guess the most popular place nearby would be the 90-Mile Beach, situated in the Gippsland Lakes. Technically 94 miles, it is one of the longest beaches in the world, uninterrupted that is. It starts in Port Albert, located in the Wellington Shire, continues along to Lakes Entrance and out through the man-made channel. The sand dunes are soft and golden, the pristine water a welcome relief of crashing waves. Lakes Entrance is the tourist port of East Gippsland. Popular for fishermen, surfers and general beach-goers, this is the place to be during summer, and should be the first point of call for anyone looking to acquaint themselves with the area.
East Gippsland Rail Trail
For those looking for adventure on land, you should definitely consider hitting the East Gippsland Rail Trail. 96 kilometres long, it starts in Bairnsdale and ends in Orbost. You can walk, cycle or even ride a horse on it. It is open to everyone, and has many opportunities to stop and take in the beautiful surroundings.
Mitchell River National Park
Another popular place for those wanting to spend some time outside, this national park is home to many a walking track, the most used one being the Den of Nargun loop. A 5km return trek, this loop takes you deep into the rainforest and along Woolshed Creek. The tracks explore the local Aboriginal history – the Gunai/Kurnai – and eventually leads into the Den itself, which the legends said to have housed the dreaded Nargun. The Nargun, according to Aboriginal legend, would lure unwary travellers into its den. The Nargun was believed to be half-human and half-stone, and would target children. This served a cautionary purpose so as to keep children with their parents, and away from the water and sacred cave. Aside from the lure that the legend provides, it’s a stunning walk through more greenery than you could ask for.
Mitchell River Silt Jetties
Less than an hour’s drive from one of the longest beaches in the world, in a tucked away part of our area that is rarely visited, lie the Mitchell River Silt Jetties. A formation of silt banks that run for 7km, they are the second longest in the world and home to a range of native wildlife. The part-bitumen, part-gravel road runs all the way and provides many a fishing spot for the local or enthusiastic.
Known as the boating capital in Victoria, Paynesville proudly lives up to the name as it is surrounded on three sides by lakes. It is a town designed for the tourist; from the plethora of cafes to the variety of retail stores, there is truly something for everyone. The lakes are always full of kayaks and boats, but of course there is always room for more. If it’s a relaxing game of golf that you’re after, it won’t let you down. Just a few kilometres outside of Paynesville lies an 18-hole golf course – open to all and frequented by the locals. With so much at your doorstep, you may never feel the need to leave.
Just a short ferry ride from the mainland, Raymond Island is one of the best places in Australia to find our most beloved native animal – the koala. Cute and furry, these mammals live in the gumtrees and eat eucalyptus leaves. Koalas are typically sedentary, and are most often seen asleep, curled up in the crook of a branch. The locals of Raymond Island have a “Koala Trail” – a signposted 1.2 kilometre walk which will help with spotting the animals. Beware of the dreaded drop bear though!
Places to Eat
Although I don’t eat out regularly, there are still a few places that I would recommend, as these are the ones I frequent.
- OZ Mex
- Lindenow Café
- The Wooden Squirrel
Bairnsdale’s answer to a lack of Mexican food, Oz Mex is a popular local hang out for young adults wanting to have a good time. With a friendly, energetic atmosphere and a menu to suit, you won’t be able to get enough, and you will want to come back time after time. They have a well-stocked bar, including frozen margaritas and fishbowls – one litre of frozen margarita goodness.
For those wanting to eat somewhere out of town, but still having the comfort of the countryside, look no further than the Lindenow Café. A ten minute drive on the way out to the Den of Nargun, this quaint little café offers home baked goods to satisfy your palette. Ranging from focaccias to pies and sausage rolls, there is something for everyone.
The Wooden Squirrel
Opened in Bairnsdale on the 30th of September, 2013, The Wooden Squirrel belongs to head chef Jason Kaczkowski, who is just entering his 16th year as a chef. My personal favourite in a town full of restaurants and cafés, the Squirrel offers an Italian, Modern Australian fusion menu and serves between 100 and 150 customers a day, with Saturdays being the busiest day of the week. With less than 10 staff members, Jason runs the open kitchen with a smile, offering a relaxed environment to the patrons. It is a family friendly business, with seating both indoors and out, and umbrellas to shade the customers from the sun or rain.
They offer an all-day breakfast and kids menu, as well as staples like a garden salad or beer battered steak fries served with aioli – my go-to lunch. Framed comic books inundate the walls and a collection of antiques and old books make up the rest of the decorations. For an enjoyable night out or coffee with friends, this is the place to go.
There are plenty of accommodation options around time, ranging from campsites to a luxury suite at Riversleigh, as well as hosts for those interested in Couchsurfing or renting a room via Airbnb.
If you’re in need of a late bite but don’t want to resort to McDonald’s, Apco on the Main Street up near the hospital is open 24 hours, 7 days a week and offers a range of ready-to-eat meals.
Places to Visit Next
If you’re looking for somewhere to go next, why not try heading up the coast to Southern NSW? Merimbula and Eden are great little coastal towns with a thriving tourist population.
In search of the city scene? Go in the opposite direction towards Melbourne. There are trains daily, so you’re never going to be bored.
With all of the options in the surrounding area, why not visit Bairnsdale?