Destination: Lakes Entrance

By: Ben Keys, Photography by: Supplied

There’s a reason why Lakes Entrance in East Gippsland was the setting for Australia’s Greatest Boats 2015.

Moored boats at dawn in Lakes Entrance

When it comes to organising the annual Australia’s Greatest Boats shootout, the first seeds are planted about two weeks after the culmination of the previous event. At the top of the list is one very important question: what destination will host the next event?

Our scouts painstakingly scour the coast for that rare combination of scenic beaches, a variety of conditions in which to conduct boat reviews, and the perfect angle of sunlight hitting water. It also helps if there’s a bar nearby to really sort the pretenders from the contenders (a bar crossing, that is…).



Lakes Entrance marina

The Australia’s Greatest Boats 2015 showdown took place on the gentle waters of Lakes Entrance in Gippsland, Victoria, in the heart of Australia’s largest inland network of waterways.

Having said that, when it comes to serious boat reviewing, the area is no flatwater fun fair. Nearby lies the notorious Lakes Entrance bar, gateway to the wild waters of Bass Strait, so you can be sure this year’s entrants were thoroughly tested.

Nonetheless, Lakes Entrance is the very definition of an aquatic playground and a popular destination not just for Victorian boaters, but even those from further afield. They are all lured by the promise of pristine lakes and estuaries, abundant fishing and pretty waterfront accommodation.



Lakes Entrance bar

As you’d expect of any spot where the Gippsland Lakes meet Ninety Mile Beach and the Southern Ocean, there are superb boating facilities nearby, including handy launch ramps, a fuel dock, chandlery and fishing supplies.

Flathead, whiting, bream and are popular inshore species for fishos, with salmon, tailor, salmon trout and gummy shark targeted off the beaches. Venture further offshore and you can expect big tuna, snapper and assorted sharks.

When you’re not fishing, there’s plenty more to do. Ninety Mile Beach is patrolled by lifesavers during the summer months for safe swimming, or take a leisurely hike around the Gippsland Lakes.

Visitors can also enjoy a boat cruise on the lakes or hire a paddleboat or catamaran in the warm weather. Scenic Lake Tyers is bordered by the ocean, a state forest and a river that meanders inland to Nowa Nowa.



If the fish aren’t cooperating, a large number of trawlers operate nearby, keeping the region well supplied with fresh seafood. Luckily, there are also a range of locally-produced wines and even boutique beers to accompany your fresh produce.

Bullant Brewery is located on the Great Alpine Road in Bruthen, just 15 minutes from Bairnsdale in East Gippsland. The concept for the Bullant Brewery is simple – pairing the best onsite brewed beer with the best regionally sourced food.

Nearby wineries include Nicholson River Winery, Wyanga Park Winery, Ensay Winery, Mount Makery Winery, Tambo Wine, and Lightfoot and Sons Winery.



Dolphins in Lakes Entrance

For something different – or even on the way home – a trip along the Great Alpine Road is recommended.

Winding its way from the Gippsland coast through the high country and over the Alps into north east Victoria, the Great Alpine Road is 339km of jaw-dropping adventure through rolling valleys, lush forests and sparkling waterways.

Iconic destinations nearby also include Buchan Caves – a honeycomb of spectacular limestone caves – and rock formations in East Gippsland.

Nearby Paynesville is another charming spot surrounded by lakes on three sides, with canals and inlets providing plentiful sheltered moorings for boats and watersports of every description.

From Paynesville, foot passengers can take the free car and passenger ferry to Raymond Island – one of the best places in Victoria to spot a koala and also home to more than 60 bird species.

A little further afield, toward the NSW border to the east is the stunning Croajingolong National Park. This 875km² wilderness is one of just 12 UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves in Australia – testament to its unique ecosystems and biodiversity.

The park is made up of varied eucalypt forest, rainforest and heathland, making it ideal for secluded coastal camping, beach walks and birdwatching, or boating on the Mallacoota Lakes and Thurra River.



Lakes Entrance in Gippsland

The entire Australia’s Greatest Boats production took in a whopping 40-odd people, including boat manufacturers and brand representatives, boat reviewers, Trade-a-Boat staff, photographers and videographers, plus caterers, logistics crew and more.

This year’s spectacle saw us take over not one but two tourist parks. For that we are grateful to Silver Sands Tourist Park and Eastern Beach Holiday Park, both a mere tent peg throw from the inlet and Ninety Mile Beach.



Eastern Beach Holiday Park

Watch a video on Eastern Beach Holiday Park


Silver Sands Tourist Park

Watch a video on Silver Sands Tourist Park.


Find accommodation in Gippsland



Gippsland tourism information

East Gippsland information

Great Alpine Road

Croajingolong National Park


Map of Gippsland

See the full version of this story in Trade-A-Boat #459, November / December 2014. Why not subscribe today?


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