Golden Beach, Gippsland, Victoria © Destination Gippsland
8-day wine and nature road trip through Phillip Island and Gippsland
Food, wine, nature and wildlife – this eight-day drive has it all.
Winding between some of Victoria’s most pristine regions, a road trip through Phillip Island and Gippsland provides not only an opportunity for adventure, but also the chance to support a region affected by the 2019/20 bushfires.
Expect epic natural formations, fresh produce, playful dolphins and even a little penguin parade on this nine-day journey through southern Victoria.
Day 1: Melbourne to Phillip Island
Be sure to book ahead to see the Penguin Parade. This popular attraction is often full during peak seasons.
Hop in the car and set out of Melbourne on an easy 1.5-hour drive to Phillip Island. After you’ve crossed the bridge onto the island, make The Cape Kitchen your first stop for a breakfast of regional produce with a side of beautiful views across Cape Woolamai.
After lunch, drive about 15 minutes for an expert-led tasting at Phillip Island Winery (be sure to order a charcuterie board) before continuing another 15 minutes to the township of Cowes. From here, board a Wildlife Coast Cruise to Seal Rocks, home to Australia's largest fur seal colony. You can greet baby seals from October to December as the inquisitive pups approach the boat.
After your up-close marine encounter, enjoy some down-time over a local craft brew and a juicy burger at Ocean Reach Brewing, also in Cowes.
Come sunset, experience the iconic Penguin Parade at Summerland Beach, where little penguins just over 33-centimetres (one foot) high waddle back onto the beach after a day at sea.
Burrow down afterwards in a cosy abode under the stars at Sheltered Glamping.
Day 2: Phillip Island to Inverloch
Farewell Phillip Island with a caffeine hit at The Store in Ventnor, just a few minutes from your accommodation. Then you’re off on the one-hour drive to the pretty villages in the hills of South Gippsland. Indulge in seasonal goodies at Olive at Loch, source pantry goods at Udder and Hoe, then view the distilling process while sampling traditional ale, single malt whisky, gin and fine spirits at Loch Brewery and Distillery.
Just down the road is Korumburra, where you’ll find the unmissable Borough Department Store – a regional showcase of dairy goods, wine, produce, cakes and flowers in a nostalgia-filled store and café.
Continue to Meeniyan, just over a one-hour drive from Korumburra. Head to the Pantry and Cellar and stock up on picnic supplies (you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to dig in), then stop by Trulli Woodfired Pizzeria for a freshly baked pizza for lunch.
Embark on an afternoon adventure down the 14-kilometre (8.7-mile) Bunurong Coastal Drive. Australia’s first dinosaur bone was discovered in this area in 1903, and palaeontology enthusiasts can go fossicking for bones, teeth and footprints at the Dinosaur Dreaming site near Flat Rocks at low tide.
This evening, make your way back toward Meeniyan. Book in at the gorgeous Ross Farm, one of Australia’s most unique accommodation offerings. Choose to stay in cosy cabins, a renovated barn or even the rustic dairy, which was once the old cattle yard.
Day 3: Wilsons Promontory
Wake refreshed for the 1.5-hour drive to Wilsons Promontory National Park, Victoria’s largest Marine Protected Area. Get out into this stunning coastline on a custom-built amphibious boat with Pennicott Wilderness Journeys. The 2.5-hour cruise leads you past a rugged and raw coast of prehistoric granite, and gives you the chance to spot fur seals, birdlife, common and bottlenose dolphins and migrating whales (from September to December and May to July). You’ll also get an up-close look at the iconic granite monolith aptly named ‘Skull Rock.’
Back on dry ground, hike to the summit of Mount Oberon for panoramic views over the coast and offshore islands – tuck into those picnic goods you bought when you need a break. If you have an extra day in your itinerary, you can stay in Wilsons Prom at a wilderness retreat and continue exploring walks at Pillar Point, Squeaky Beach, Whisky Bay and in the temperate rainforest of the Lilly Pilly Gully Circuit.
Stop in at the Fish Creek Hotel for a hearty pub meal on your way back to your Meeniyan accommodation.
Day 4: South Gippsland grazing
This morning, set out for a day of gourmet grazing.
Prepare to stock up your wine cellar at Waratah Hills Winery near Fish Creek, a 20-minute drive from Meeniyan. Make your next stop Gurneys Cider near Foster; order a platter of local small goods for lunch.
Hop back in the car and return to Inverloch, making a quick detour to pick up sheep and cow’s milk cheeses from Prom Country Cheese in Moyarra.
When you arrive in Inverloch, peruse pinot noir from three different plots at Dirty Three Wines before settling in for an authentic Japanese dinner at Tomo.
Book your stay tonight at Inverloch Glamping or RACV Inverloch.
Day 5: Inverloch to Nungurner via Tarra Bulga National Park
Depart early this morning, rolling through Foster and the small farming township of Yarram – a one-hour drive from Meeniyan – where you’ll spot impressive mural art by street artist Heesco Khosnaran.
After passing through town, drive about 40 minutes north to Tarra Bulga National Park. The winding roads of the Tarra Valley leads you through lush gullies and beneath giant mountain ash trees in a rare patch of cool temperate rainforest. Stretch your legs on a short but stunning walk from the park visitor centre to Corrigan’s Suspension Bridge, keeping an eye (and ear!) out for the mimicking lyrebird.
Back behind the wheel, snake along the spectacular Grand Ridge Road to boutique Toms Cap Vineyard for more vino tastings and lunch with a view, or stop in at the lovely Badger and Hare café in Stratford.
After the feast, carry on for another two hours through Bairnsdale to Nungurner, pulling up at your accommodation for the night – Jetty Road Retreat. Arrive early enough to paddle a kayak from the property’s private jetty or enjoy the sunset from the deck, then head to the Metung Hotel for a meal with a view.
Day 6: Lakes Entrance and surrounds
Check the Parks Victoria website for the latest updates and safety advice on Cape Conran Coastal Park and Buchan Caves.
Wake refreshed and set off inland to explore the Buchan Caves, an underground wonderland of ancient limestone formations created by subterranean rivers almost 400 million years ago.
With a little awe and natural history under your belt, return to the coast and the sleepy little township of Marlo where the Snowy River meets the Pacific Ocean. It’s time for a coastal feed: call in at the local pub for lunch.
Next, visit the Cape Conran Coastal Park. Although much of the park remains closed due to the 2020 bushfires, the East Cape day visitor area, Yeerung River and beach access areas are open.
The park is a nature and wildlife haven, so make the most of it with a walk along the beach or a stroll along the East Cape Boardwalk – keep your eye out for local wombats and echidnas. The boardwalk offers interpretive signs explaining the history of the land’s traditional custodians, the Bidawal, Gunaikurnai and Nindi-Ngudjam Ngarigu Monero peoples.
After your outdoor exploration, stop in at Albert & Co in Lakes Entrance, one of the most popular holiday destinations in Gippsland.
Spend another night at Jetty Road Retreat.
Day 7: Paynesville and surrounds
Rise and shine for breakfast in Bairnsdale at Northern Ground; the focus here is on locally sourced produce, so it’s a great way to support the community.
Next call into Paynesville, a village surrounded by water in three directions. From here you can take the free ferry over to Raymond Island and stroll the 20-minute Koala Trail. Keep your eyes in the treetops to spot wild koalas.
Enjoy lunch at hatted Sardine Eatery + Bar in Paynesville – be sure to book ahead. After lunch drop into the cellar door at Lightfoot & Sons, where you can take your time over award-winning wines with views of the Lindenow Valley to the southwest and the foothills of the Great Dividing Range to the north.
It's your last night near the Lakes so be sure to allow some time to take in the view and relax on the deck.
Day 8: Nungurner to Melbourne via Walhalla
Depart Nungurner early so you can brunch on fresh Gippsland produce at The Long Paddock in Lindenow. Next, make your way deep into the hills to historic Walhalla, once home to 4,000 gold-seekers. Walk the old tramline above the township, visit the Long Tunnel Extended Gold Mine and ride the Walhalla Goldfields Railway along four kilometres (2.5 miles) of restored track. The spooky cemetery is definitely worth a visit!
Make the most of the rest of your valuable dining time in Gippsland with stops at Hogget Kitchen in Warragul, Brandy Creek Estate in Drouin East or Cannibal Creek Vineyard in Tynong North on the drive back to Melbourne. You won’t return to the city with an empty stomach!
This article was written by Visit Victoria. For more information on road trips in Victoria, go to visitvictoria.com.