Heading to Mallacoota? Take a road trip detour to discover these special spots along the way.
Golden sandy beaches that stretch forever, ferny forests, fabulous food, amazing wildlife and some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in the country are all par for the course on this epic coastal road trip between Melbourne and Mallacoota. As far as road trips go, they don’t get any better than this.
Wilsons Promontory (226km from Melbourne)
There are a hundred good reasons why Wilsons Promontory (aka The Prom) is Victoria’s favourite national park– family-friendly camping and cosy cabins, wild walks, granite peaks, secluded beaches, wildflowers, wombats and whales leap to mind– but for sheer wow factor, take the half-day Promontory Cruise with Pennicott Wilderness Journeys.
The Prom is Victoria’s favourite national park.
A highlight is a visit to Skull Rock (officially it’s called Cleft Island, but it’s spookily shaped like a 60-metre-high bird’s skull and looks like it’s come straight out of a James Bond movie). Wildly inaccessible, it’s been explored by fewer people (nine) than have walked on the moon (12). Oh, and expect to see plenty of birds and, if you’re lucky, a whale or two along the way.
A highlight is a visit to the spookily shaped Skull Rock.
On the way:
Stop for a spot of shopping in the galleries and art studios of Fish Creek. The art deco pub does great lunches – you can’t miss it, there’s a giant mullet on the roof.
Tidal River Wilderness Retreat
Exploring ‘The Prom’ is always a good idea.
Tinamba (200km from the Prom)
Tina-where? This tiny Central Gippsland dairy town of 500 or so is worth the detour because it’s home to one of Gippsland’s best dining destinations. Tinamba Hotel has won a swag of awards including Pub of the Year, Best Regional Restaurant and a coveted Chef Hat in the 2022 Australian Good Food Guide Awards. Almost everything on the menu is locally grown, caught or made, including the wine: think Gippsland jersey ricotta and beef, blue-eye trevalla, Snowy River black garlic and Windsong Farm honey. It’s open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through to Saturday, and Sunday lunch – book ahead.
The Tinamba Hotel has been recognized with multiple awards.
On the way:
Stretch your legs on the magical Tarra Valley Rainforest Walk though ferny glens and glades to Cyathea Falls in Tarra Bulga National Park.
The Retreat at Mewburn Park Homestead, Maffra
Foodies absolutely need to try the food at Tinamba Hotel.
Paynesville (80km from Tinamba)
Time to face the water. Perfectly positioned in the middle of one of the largest expanses of inland waterways in the country, pretty Paynesville is the type of place you’ll never want to leave, so think about spending an extra day or two. Hop aboard the free ferry to Raymond Island and wander through the koala colony – sightings are pretty much guaranteed. Take a long walk on Ninety Mile Beach (maybe not the whole way), then treat yourself to a long lunch at Sardine Dining, where Mark Briggs, the former head chef of Vue de monde, transforms the catch of the day into something truly memorable.
You will never want to leave Paynesville.
On the way:
You’re on Gunaikurnai land, so visit Krowathunkoolong Keeping Place in Bairnsdale to uncover 30,000 years of culture.
Captains Cove Waterfront Apartments, Paynesville
Treat yourself to a long lunch at Sardine Dining.
Metung (44km from Paynesville)
As the crow flies (or boat glides) it’s fewer than a dozen kilometres across the lake to Metung. By road it’s about 40 minutes, a lovely drive beside the Tambo River. Sleepy and laid-back, the good life here is all about strolling on boardwalks, maybe dropping a fishing line from a jetty, and definitely enjoying wraparound water views from one of the many restaurants in town – those at the Metung Hotel overlooking Bancroft Bay are hard to beat. It won’t be long before the opening of Metung Hot Springs will make getting wet in winter something to really look forward to.
Drop a fishing line from a jetty in Metung.
On the way:
Take the long way there and head up into the hills to Bruthen, where you’ll find a brewery, wineries, galleries, antique shops and a cracker of a rail trail.
Lakeview Retreat, Metung
Soak in the views at the Metung Hot Springs, Gippsland. (Image: Rikki-Jo Molinaro)
Lakes Entrance (20km from Metung)
If you’ve been doing this road trip right you’ll be well into the rhythm of things by now, and 20 kilometres in a day is more than enough when the scenery is this good. Lakes Entrance might be best known for its watery wonders – it’s the largest lake system in the southern hemisphere – but it’s even better in cooler weather, when you can curl up beside a roaring fireplace in a cosy retreat or restaurant with a glass of something local, admiring the water views from the inside out. Try a local craft beer at Red Bluff Brewers before tucking into some very special seafood at Sodafish.
Fresh seafood on the balcony at Sodafish, Lakes Entrance.
On the way:
If you’re road tripping in winter, take a detour west along the Great Alpine Road. From surfing Gippsland to skiing Mt Hotham in a day, it doesn’t get much cooler than that.
Lakes Entrance Waverley House Cottages
See Lakes Entrance from above.
Marlo (72km from Lakes Entrance)
If you can find a place more relaxed than Marlo, where the famous Snowy River seeps into the sea, we’d really like to know about it. Follow the Snowy River Estuary Walk from the centre of town to Mots Beach; Brad Farmer, Tourism Australia’s beach ambassador, reckons it’s one of Australia’s top 20 beaches of 2022. Just make sure you’re back before dark, because the sunset view from the verandah of the Marlo Pub is a knockout. They’ve been serving cold drinks since 1886 and we can vouch for the Lakes Entrance flathead tacos.
Visit one of Australia’s best beaches.
On the way:
Take a side trip into the hills and down into an underground wonderland at Buchan Caves.
Marlo Caravan Park & Motel
There’s no better place to relax than in Marlo.
Mallacoota (146km from Marlo)
It might be the end of the road on this epic coastal road trip, but as far as endings go it’s a happy one. Surrounded by Croajingolong National Park, Mallacoota really is a secluded paradise. What’s not to love about a place that combines wild beaches, expansive lakes, forested wilderness and fabulous seafood? And don’t leave town without sampling the dumplings and hand-made noodles from Lucy’s. Walk, kayak, cruise or pedal; there are so many ways to explore this beautiful place.
There are so many ways to explore this beautiful place.
On the way:
Take a short side trip out to Cape Conran on the coast. You can marvel at wildflowers blooming in the banksia forests that have re-grown since the 2020 bushfires, and explore the rock pools and deserted beaches.
Karbeethong Lodge, Mallacoota
Mallacoota, it doesn’t get much more idyllic.