From Lakes Entrance we travelled to Traralgon – which, we discovered, actually means “next to highway and under flight path”. Note to self: when a caravan park advertises an inordinate number of kids activities (cue mini golf, tree climbing, swimming pools, laser tag, indoor play space)…that’s because there are no other redeeming features of that location. Never mind, lesson learnt and all was not lost because the kids had a ball and mum & dad got some work and washing done. Although, I should add that just south of Traralgon is the Loy Yang coalmine and adjacent power station. The huge open cut mine can be viewed from a lookout, which has some fantastic railings for your kids to swing on whilst they badger you to return to the jumping pillow.
Having spent all our one-dollar coins on dryers and games of air hockey, we hit the road again. Making our way through South Gippsland, we passed beautiful farmland. Lots of dairy farming and silage – which before I was educated by a local, I would have called haymaking.
Our final destination was the quiet seaside town of Waratah Bay. For those of you with young kids, think of the cartoon on ABC3 of the ‘Thong Family’ of Whale Bay comprising the very ocker inhabitants of Trevor, Brenda, Narelle & Holden. Well lets just say that I’m sure Tony Martin had Waratah Bay in mind when he was working on that cartoon.
Waratah Bay has a small caravan park at the end of the road, set just above the beach. The park is filled with Melbournites, visiting their beloved weekend seaside vans; old rigs, long since mobile and extended in every conceivable way with outdoor decks, kitchens and someone’s old lounge suite. This is where shabby chic and distressed timber got its start. Then…settled in to decay with just the right amount of salt and sand, before completing the look (Tonia Todman style), with a carefully placed fishing net and half a surfboard.
All jokes aside, the caravan park was small and friendly, although not exactly purpose built for 22 foot vans. Nevertheless, Trevor negotiated Zizi through any number of gum trees, poles, bins and fire hydrants to settle in for the night on a lovely piece of slopey ground. Getting Zizi somewhere near level led to the creation of our 'van on stilts'. Fortunately, we didn’t care because 10 steps away was a 22km, unspoilt beach – which the kids promptly raced up and down to discover crabs, shells and skimming rocks. The other great find of the area was a nearby vineyard, Waratah Hills Winery. I’d love to tell you more, but I can’t remember…zzz.
Next morning we packed up, farewelled our friendly neighbours (a couple who had been travelling for seven years around Australia!), and headed out to Wilsons Promontory. Wow – what scenery. Picture enormous rust coloured granite boulders framing either end of white sandy beaches with a pounding blue surf. We’ve had lots of people tell us about the beauty of this area and we were still blown away. The scenery is very similar to Freycinet in Tasmania and it also reminded us of Kangaroo Island. I guess that all lines up roughly with where it all began back in the age of Pangaea.
The national park at Tidal River was packed, but fortunately Anthony had booked, so we were able to dump the rig quickly and head off to explore. We spent to afternoon stopping at lookouts and clambering on rocks on Squeaky Beach (so named because of the noisy sand) and Whisky beach (not sure of the origin of that one?). The kids had a ball and we let out a sigh of relief when Thomas said “even better than the jumping pillow at Traralgon.” Compliments don’t come more highly from a 6 year old.
We spent the next day exploring the National Park. We went on a bush walk to Millers Landing to see, amongst other things, the most southerly mangroves in Australia. After lunch we headed to Derby River and the nearby beach, which saw Sienna and Thomas scale and then slide down huge sand dunes. The kids then played in Tidal River, climbing the boulders on the riverbank and chasing each other up and down the beach. Suffice to say, everyone slept well that night.
We had a great time in Wilsons Promontory and reluctantly headed off this morning, under beautiful clear and warm skies, towards Melbourne and our next adventure…
Traralgon & Waratah Bay