East Gippsland, located around 280 kilometres east of Melbourne, is rapidly emerging as a foodie hotspot. It’s flown under the gourmet radar until recently, perhaps overshadowed by Victoria’s better-known food and wine destinations like the Yarra Valley and Bellarine Peninsula. But that’s about to change. Boasting boutique vineyards, fresh produce aplenty and stunning natural beauty, East ‘Gippy’ is all set to steal the culinary limelight. Here’s a suggested 48-hour itinerary for enjoying some of the best food and wine the region has to offer. Book your stay in East Gippsland with Choice Hotels.
9am: Start with breakfast at Northern Ground in Bairnsdale
Bairnsdale is one of the main towns in East Gippsland and an ideal jumping-off point for touring the region. Start with a hearty breakfast at Northern Ground. English-born chef Rob Turner has channelled Melbourne’s trendy laneways with a menu featuring baked eggs with local fish, homemade granola, delicious buttermilk pancakes and awesome coffee.
10am: Sample the wares of three of East Gippsland’s best wineries
Three amazing wineries are situated within easy reach of each other between Bairnsdale and Lakes Entrance. Start by dropping into Tambo – a family-run boutique winery, which produces just 115 cases of wine each year. Their high quality sauvignon blanc and pinot noir are only available from their cellar door. The unwooded chardonnay – produced in stainless steel barrels rather than in oak – is a popular pick.
Planted in 1978, Nicholson River Winery lays claim to the title of oldest vineyard east of Melbourne. Its wines are produced following traditional European methods. Nicholson’s top drops include a vintage style sparkling (aged for eight years) and a fresh and light rosé.
The limestone terroir at Lightfoot & Sons Wines makes it ideal for producing chardonnay and pinot noir grapes. Among the winery’s most popular tipples is the uniquely Australian sparkling shiraz. The winery’s full range is available for tasting at no charge at the cellar door. It’s been named best large cellar door in Gippsland by Gourmet Traveller Wine.
1pm: Savour a long Lunch at The Long Paddock in Lindenow
Husband and wife team Tanya Bertino and Anton Eisenmenger have worked in several top restaurants, including Melbourne’s renowned Vue du monde. Now they’re turning heads among food critics with The Long Paddock in the tiny town of Lindenow. Housed in a century-old former bakery, The Long Paddock serves up simple but mouth-watering cuisine that heroes Gippsland’s wonderful fresh produce. After lunch, continue on to Lakes Entrance.
4pm: Work up an appetite with a beach stroll to the Entrance
The Gippsland Lakes are Australia’s largest network of inland waterways, covering around 400 square kilometres. The lakes are separated from the waters of Bass Strait by the famous stretch of sand known as Ninety Mile Beach. Work up a pre-dinner appetite with a stroll out to the Entrance. You might spot seals and dolphins, including the Burrunan dolphin – a unique species of bottlenose found only off parts of Victoria’s coast.
7pm: Do cocktails and dinner at Albert & Co
Albert & Co has become something of a flag bearer for East Gippsland’s burgeoning food scene, and is one of the top picks in the region for all-day dining. The café, with its Hamptons-inspired décor, overlooks Lakes Entrance’s fishing fleet. Naturally the menu features the freshest local catch, alongside a cornucopia of Gippsland produce, including honey, cheeses and olives.
11am: Enjoy brunch at Funkey Monkey Café
Start day two of your East Gippsland culinary sojourn with a relaxed brunch at Funkey Monkey Café. Enjoy freshly squeezed juices and great coffee with the expansive all-day breakfast menu. The food is beautifully presented.
1pm: Indulge in freshly baked scones on a scenic cruise of the Gippsland Lakes
Take in the stunning scenery around the Gippsland Lakes on a three-hour tour with Lonsdale Eco Cruises. Cruise past quaint fishing villages and spot dolphins, seals, sea eagles and even native landlubbers like kangaroos. Your nostrils will be filled with fresh sea air alongside the aroma of baking scones, which are prepared in the boat’s galley en route and served for afternoon tea. You can’t get fresher than that!
5pm: Meet the koalas on Raymond Island
After returning to dry land, make your way on to Paynesville – another of the Gippsland Lakes’ most popular tourist towns. Just off Paynesville, Raymond Island is renowned for its koala population. A ferry operates every 20 minutes and is free for pedestrians. Walk off the extra calories you’ve consumed by following the 30-minute signed walking trail. You’ll spot the island’s furry residents perched contentedly in the gum trees.
7pm: Feast on the signature seafood at Sardine
Sardine Eatery + Bar has rapidly garnered a reputation as one of the region’s premier eateries, and was awarded One Hat in The Age’s Good Food Guide for 2019. Chef Mark Briggs and his wife Victoria serve a popular tasting menu that features plenty of fabulously fresh seafood – including, of course, Lakes Entrance sardines. The menu changes regularly to reflect what local produce is in season.
Need a place to stay? Comfort Inn and Suites Emmanuel boasts a lakefront position in the heart of Lakes Entrance. The hotel is also within easy walking distance of cafes and restaurants, and makes the perfect base for exploring everything the Lakes region has to offer.
About the writer
Louise Reynolds is a Melbourne-based freelance travel writer. Louise made up her mind at the age of about four that she would one day travel the world – and has so far visited around 30 countries spread across five continents. Her favourite way to explore the world is on foot and her boots have taken her walking on famous trails in Europe, South America and New Zealand.