Saturday, February 16, 2013

Paynesville

Paynesville is a seaside resort in East Gippsland, 298 km east of Melbourne and 17 km south of Bairnsdale. Located in the middle of the Gippsland Lakes and surrounded on three sides by the water of Lake King and Lake Victoria, Paynesville is known as the boating capital of Victoria. This area encompasses Paynesville, Raymond Island, Eagle Point and Newlands Arm.

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Paynesville was originally called Toonalook which is an aboriginal name for a place of many fish. The Post Office opened on 8 Nov 1879 as Toonalook and was renamed Paynesville in 1886 by the Dickson family who still reside in the area.

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Paynesville is a thriving town well served by a range of shops, cafes, a bank and a newly built community centre and library. Much of the town's recent growth has stemmed from the development of a network of canals and prestige homes which have created two artificial islands within the township.

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Burrabogie Island is north of the waterfront shopping district, and Fort King Island is a residential area north of Burrabogie Island. Although Burrabogie and Fort King Island are separated only by an approximate 5 metres wide man-made canal, they are the most distant points in Paynesville by road.

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Paynesville's commercial centre is located on the inland side of The Esplanade, thus it overlooks the beautiful waterways and foreshore just across the road.

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There are extensive lawns, stretches of sand, boat ramps and a pier along the southern shoreline. The eastern shoreline along McMillans Strait also includes lawn areas but is more geared towards boating with several marinas, jetties and Fishermans Wharf with its waterfront cafe and restaurant.

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St Peters by the Lake Anglican Church, located in an elevated position on Sunset Drive, overlooks the surrounding lake. It has been architecturally designed to resemble a ship and was built from Gippsland limestone bricks in 1961.

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Eagle Point

North of Paynesville at Eagle Point, the Mitchell River enters Lake King. The Eagle Point Bluff Lookout provides good views over the lake, river and surrounding countryside.

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At the river mouth, there are two narrow peninsulas of land known as the Silt Jetties which stretch out into Lake King. At 8 kilometres long, they are the second longest of their type in the world after the Mississippi River Silt Jetties. They were formed over millions of years by deposition of sediment along the river's mouth as the waters slowed on reaching the lakes system.

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A holiday accommodation on the silt jetties

Visitors can drive along a narrow dirt road along one of the jetties to its end.


Raymond Island

Raymond Island is a small island (only 6 km long by 2 km wide) in the Gippsland Lakes, just 200 metres off the coast across from the town of Paynesville. It is linked to Paynesville by the Raymond Island Ferry - a vehicular chain ferry which has been running since 1889.

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The ferry takes 2 minutes to cross the McMillan Strait and departs regularly. It is free for pedestrians and bicycles while there is a charge for vehicles ($10 return). There has been continuous local debate over the construction of a bridge to allow for better access and further development.

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Raymond Island has a small residential population and is well-known for its large koala population, originally introduced to the island in 1953. Thirty-two koalas were taken from Phillip Island to Raymond Island, as an insurance population for a species then believed to be threatened. Raymond Island has since become one of the easiest places in Victoria to spot wild koalas.

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The island is also home to over 60 bird species ( including rainbow lorikeets, honey eaters, parrots, black swans, white egrets, sea-eagles) as well as wallabies, echidnas, blue-tongued lizards, manna gum, southern mahogany, banksia, wildflowers and some orchids.


Ref: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 , 6, 7, 8

Friday, February 8, 2013

Omeo

Omeo is a small town in East Gippsland, located in an attractive open and undulating plain, surrounded by high mountain ranges.

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Post office

It is 400 km east of Melbourne on the Great Alpine Road at the edge of the Snowy Mountains and is the commercial hub for the Tambo and Omeo Valleys. The Omeo region encompasses the towns of Omeo, Cobungra, Benambra, Swifts Creek, Ensay, Cassilis and Tambo Crossing.

East Gippsland Shire Council A
East Gippsland Shire Council

The name "Omeo" is derived from the Aboriginal word for "mountains" or "hills". The first reported sighting of the area was by the naturalist John Lhotsky from the southern alps in 1834. The area was first visited by stockmen who drove stock through the region as early as 1835. The town boomed with the discovery of gold in 1845; the goldrush reaching its peak in the 1860s. As the gold ran out, cattle and sheep grazing took over as the town's major industry. Remnants of the town's gold-mining history can be found a few kilometres west of Omeo at the Oriental Claims Historic Area which is the highest alluvial gold field in Australia.

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Day Avenue

The town centre is situated on the slope of a hill along Day Avenue, offering scenic views over many historical buildings.

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Waterwheel

The A.M. Pearson Historical Park, in the town centre, consists of the most intact and original Justice Precinct in Australia.

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Log goal

It features the town's original courthouse (year 1865), post office (1890s), gaol built of logs (1858), blacksmith shop, stables and waterwheel.

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"New" courthouse

The "new" courthouse is still an operational court on two occasions every year and at other times is open as part of the historic park. Omeo Historical Society manages the park on behalf of East Gippsland Shire.

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Livingstone Creek Park

An extensive recreational park extends from the town centre at Day Avenue right down to Livingstone Creek and features walking tracks, a rotunda and a swimming area in a wide section of the creek.

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Omeo Region Visitor Information Centre is located at 152 Day Avenue, which is diagonally opposite the Post Office, at the entrance to the town. A place of interest is the German Cuckoo Clock Shop (199 Day Ave) which displays a wide range of hand-crafted cuckoo clocks.

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Cuckoo Clock Shop

Scenic lookouts around Omeo include the Kozsciusko Lookout just outside the town along the Great Alpine Road and the McMillans Lookout. The alpine resorts of Dinner Plain and Mount Hotham are located less than an hour drive west of Omeo. Take a wine and gold drive from Omeo or Swifts Creek and discover the Cassilis historical area, once among the richest goldfields in the state. Or go four-wheel driving along the 17-km Knocker Track.

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Connors Hill Lookout

Fishing is a popular activity in the many creeks and waterways in the area. The Cobungra River, Bundara River, Big River and Mitta Mitta River around nearby Anglers Rest, as well as the Tambo River, all provide good trout fishing. White water rafting can be done on the Mitta Mitta River.

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Omeo hosts the Omeo Plains Mountain Festival in December and January each year, a market and rodeo and polo match at Cobungra around Easter and an agricultural show in November.

Ref: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Gippsland Lakes

The Gippsland Lakes are a network of lakes, marshes and lagoons in East Gippsland, covering an area of about 354 km2 and extending 90 km down the coast. They constitute the largest navigable inland waterway in Australia. The largest of the lakes are Lake Wellington, Lake King and Lake Victoria. They are fed by 5 rivers: the Avon, Thomson, Latrobe, Mitchell, Nicholson and Tambo rivers.

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Lakes Entrance

The original Aboriginal inhabitants of the area were the Kurnai people. Aboriginal legends about the formation of the lakes centre on a frog that once swallowed all of the world's water. The other animals united in their efforts to make the frog surrender the water by making it laugh. All deliberate attempts at humour failed but the sight of the eel upright on its tail caused hilarity and the subsequent outpouring of the waters is said to have created the lakes. The Aboriginal settlements leave behind in the lakes many archaeological sites, including shell middens, scarred trees, occupation sites, burials and axe-grinding grooves.

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Lake King

Angus McMillan was the first European to investigate the area, arriving at Lake Victoria in 1840. John Reeves charted the lakes in 1843 and cattle runs were established soon after. Ewing's Marsh is named after the Ewing brothers who took up one such run around what is now Lakes Entrance in 1850. It was sold to the Roadknight family in 1855. Three years later, the Georgina Smith became the first large vessel to find its way into the lakes from the ocean, sailing up the Tambo River to Massiface with supplies for the Crooked River goldfields.

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The lakes were formed by two principal processes. The first is river delta alluvial deposition of sediment brought in by the rivers which flow into the lakes. Silt deposited by this process forms into long jettys which can run many kilometres into a lake, as exemplified by the Mitchell River silt jetties that run into Lake King. The second process is the action of sea current in Bass Strait which created the Ninety Mile Beach and cut off the river deltas from the sea.

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Silt Jetty at Eagle Point

Once the lakes were closed off, a new cycle started, whereby the water level of the lakes would gradually rise until the waters broke through the barrier beach and the level would drop down until it equalized with sea-level. Eventually the beach would close-off the lakes and the cycle would begin anew. Sometimes it would take many years before a new channel to the sea was formed and not necessarily in the same place as the last one.

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In 1889, a wall was built to fix the position of a naturally occurring channel between the lakes and the ocean at Lakes Entrance, to stabilize the water level, create a harbour for fishing boats and open up the lakes to shipping. This entrance needs to be dredged regularly, or the same process that created the Gippsland Lakes would render the entrance too shallow for seagoing vessels to pass through.

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Paynesville

The lakes support numerous species of wildlife and there exists two protected national parklands, covering 17880 hectares: The Lakes National Park and Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park. The Gippsland Lakes wetlands are protected by the international Ramsar Convention on wetlands. There are approximately 400 indigenous flora species and 300 native fauna species.

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The lakes are home to about 50 of the recently described species of Bottlenose dolphin, the Burrunan dolphin (Tursiops australis). The other 150 or so of this rare species are found in Port Phillip.

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Pelicans

Owing to the permanence of the main lakes and the reasonably regular flooding of the adjacent wetlands, the ecosystem is an important habitat for over 40 000 ducks, swans, coots and other waterbirds, particularly in periods of drought. Lakes Wellington, Victoria and King are permanent deep saline wetlands supporting populations of migratory seabirds, including the little and fairy terns. Lake Reeve is an extensive intermittent saline wetland of international zoological significance which provides a highly significant habitat for up to 12000 migratory wading birds, making it one of the five most important areas for waders in Victoria.

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Black swans

Other noted bird populations exist at MacLeod Morass, Sale Common, Clydebank Morass, Dowd Morass, Jones Bay and Lake Bunga. The latter is a relatively small coastal wetland that is fresh to brackish, supporting waterfowl, little tern, hooded plover and the white-bellied sea-eagle. Other good birdwatching sites to the north are Blond Bay State Game Reserve, located behind Lake Victoria, and Colquhoun Forest.

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Paynesville

Vegetation around the lakes is varied, including swamp paperbark, reed and salt-marsh vegetation such as glasswort, shore rush, sawsedge and salt grass. Three plants, two of them being orchid species, are listed as endangered.

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Parts of the Lakes system are heavily used for commercial and recreational fisheries and for other water-based recreation, while the immediate hinterland has been developed for agricultural uses and limited residential and tourism purposes.

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Almost all of the lakes are accessible by boat and boat-launching facilities are available at Hollands Landing, Loch Sport, Paynesville, Eagle Point, Toorloo Arm, Mill Point, Seacombe, Goon Nure, Lakes Entrance, Nowa Nowa, Lake Tyers, Nungurner, Metung, Nicholson and Johnsonville. Fishing trips and boating tours of the lakes and rivers are available from Paynesville and Lakes Entrance.

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At the present time, salinity (caused chiefly by the alteration of the ocean outlet) is destroying shoreline vegetation which, in turn, is causing shoreline erosion and thus accelerated deposition in the lakes. Vegetation changes are also depleting the wetland fauna, including some endangered bird species and the breeding habitats for some fish species. Moreover, wind-borne salt is affecting vegetation near the shoreline and destructive algal blooms have become a recurrent problem. Industrial and domestic waste disposal, run-off and a sewage treatment works are also affecting the waterways.

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Paynesville

Ref: 1, 2

Friday, February 1, 2013

Lakes Entrance

Lakes Entrance is a tourist resort and fishing town in East Gippsland, 320 km east of Melbourne. It was originally known by Europeans as Cunninghame after a prominent squatting family in the area, with a post office of the same name opening on 5 Feb 1870. It was renamed Lakes Entrance on 1 Jan 1915. As its name suggests, Lakes Entrance is the gateway that allows ocean-going vessels from Bass Strait and the Tasman Sea access to the Gippsland Lakes, the largest  navigable inland waterway (400 km2 in area) in Australia.

Lake Entrance Lookout A

The original access point to the Gippsland Lakes was a natural opening about 2 km east of the present entrance, opposite and below the Roadknight homestead on Merrangbaur Hill near Lake Bunga. Although the channel was quite deep, it was inconsistent, shifting back and forth along the sand barrier. By 1864, vessels were regularly using the inlet and a pilot boat "The Lady of the Lake" was employed to help schooners and steamers make their way through the inlet.

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The completion of the Melbourne to Sale railway in 1879 boosted shipping activity in the area. Supplies, passengers and tourists were soon arriving from Sydney, Eden, Tasmania and Melbourne by steamer, covering the remaining distance from Sale and Bairnsdale by smaller boats. As a result of this growth, boatbuilding soon became an industry in the area and agitation began for the construction of a more stable and permanent, man-made entrance to the lakes.

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Work began on this project in 1869 but was temporarily halted in 1872. It recommenced in 1881 and on a stormy night in 1889, the sea broke through, surging over 3000 sandbags and flooding several homes. The railway and steam engines used to construct the piers are still visible on both sides of the entrance. One unforeseen circumstance was an increase in salinity which has caused erosion on the banks and the decline of plant species which do not tolerate salty water.

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Post Office Jetty

Lakes Entrance, which lies almost at sea level, can be accessed from Melbourne via Bairnsdale and the town of Kalimna to the northwest by a stretch of the Princes Highway, which snakes down and around a point protruding into the Gippsland Lakes known as "Jemmy's Point".

Jemmy's Point Lookout Reserve A
Jemmy's Point Lookout

Spectacular views of The Entrance and of the Lakes can be seen from various lookouts on Jemmy's Point. According to Aboriginal legends, Nyols, small people reminiscent of the fairies of western folklore, lived here. The Princes Highway leaves the north east side of the town through hilly countryside towards Nowa Nowa and Orbost.

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Lakes Entrance is predominantly a fishing and tourism-driven town; the main beach front is a safe harbour for many major commercial fishing and recreational watersport operations.

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The main thoroughfare of the Esplanade runs along the shoreline of the Cunninghame Arm inlet, with marinas and attractive foreshore gardens on one side, and a good selection of shops, restaurants and accommodation options on the other side.

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Esplanade on the left, Post Office Jetty and Cunninghame Arm inlet on the right

There is a Safeway, a Target Country store which opened in 2007, a McDonalds restaurant which opened in September 1997 and a KFC. The town's main residential areas lie further inland.

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Wooden sculptures on the Esplanade

Along the Esplanade, a local wood carver has taken the stumps of trees and carved them into images of Australia at war. It is a novel idea although the carver apparently copyrighted the work which means, at least in theory, that if you take a photograph you could possibly be sued. There are famous images from World War I, including Simpson and his donkey and a nursing sister caring for wounded soldiers.

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Cunninghame Arm Footbridge

A walk across the landmark footbridge, which crosses Cunninghame Arm, brings you to the sand dunes of the Ninety Mile Beach, popular with surfers and swimmers, and patrolled by lifeguards between November and March every summer.

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Eastern Beach

The 2.3 km (or about 5 km return) Lakes Entrance Scenic Walk commences 100 metres to the right of the footbridge, along the narrow peninsula of land which separates the still waters of Cunninghame Arm from the choppy waters of Bass Strait, takes visitors along some scenic coastline and coastal bush to the Flagstaff Lookout which provides good views over the man-made entrance into the Gippsland Lakes.

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Jemmy's Point Lookout

A number of lookouts provide panoramic views over Lakes Entrance and the surrounding waterways, with most located on or near the Princes Highway, just west of the town in the neighbouring community of Kalimna.

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Jemmy's Point Lookout

However, for one of the best views of the area, a drive along the appropriately named Seaview Parade rewards visitors with unparalleled views over the town centre, marinas, Cunninghame Arm and down to the Ninety Mile Beach.

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View from Seaview Parade

Lakes Entrance is the base of one of Australia's largest fishing fleets. The Fisherman's Co-Op is located on Bullock island and has a shop in town opposite Safeway that sells freshly-caught fish to the public. When we drove to Bullock Island, we found some industries and an unsealed road to a research facility of RMIT University. On the return journey, a detour to the North Arm Boat ramp rewarded us with the sight of several large pelicans with their highly-extensible beaks.

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Popular activities in Lakes Entrance include swimming, surfing, fishing, crabbing and boat cruising on the Gippsland Lakes. Paddleboats, catamarans, aquabikes, paddle skis, canoes and body boards are for hire over the footbridge. Surf fishing is popular on Ninety Mile Beach while at Lakes Entrance, dangling a line off the jetties or rock walls can be rewarding. In Bass Strait, both Five Mile Reef and Seven Mile Reef, to the south-west of the entrance, are recommended fishing spots.

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Taking an afternoon nap

Ref: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5