Bush and Beach at Mallacoota

Story and Photography by Steve Robertson

Copyright © On The Road Magazine 2001. Any unauthorised use, copying or mirroring is prohibited.

Almost exactly half-way between Melbourne and Sydney, Mallacoota is ideal for a long, relaxing holiday or a short stopover on the coastal route.

Mallacoota, tucked away some 560 kilometres east of Melbourne, is about as far east as you can travel in Victoria. Located close to the ocean on an inlet called Bottom Lake, this village attracts holiday-makers by the thousands for its unsurpassed fishing, boating, swimming and walking opportunities. 

Croajingolong National Park surrounds Mallacoota on three sides, making the village an ideal base to explore the park’s eastern inlets and bays. In short, it’s a brilliant spot for a summer or early autumn family camping holiday.
Bays, inlets and relaxing vistas.

The national park, a World Biosphere Reserve, boasts a 100-kilometre coastline, dozens of lakes and 86,000 hectares of dense mountainous forest, freshwater creeks and rivers. You could spend weeks in this park and still not experience all it has to offer. 

It’s pretty primitive as well, so most visitors take the easy approach and stay in or near Mallacoota, where two wilderness rivers meet the sea.

In no particular order, Mallacoota’s prime assets are her clean and protected beaches, sensational fishing locales, photographable scenery, lush yet accessible rainforest and plentiful native wildlife.

Here’s a must-do list of 10 top activities in Mallacoota. Have a look around and you’ll easily find a dozen more:

1. Explore an unspoilt coast
Three beaches on Betka Road south-west of town are perfect examples of why the East Gippsland coastline is so highly regarded. Betka Beach is sheltered, perfect for the kids on warm summer afternoons. Quarry Beach is edged by colourful rock strata's. Secret Beach is exactly what its name suggests, a seldom-visited cove of clean, pure sand and some nice rock pools full of squishy critters.


2. Go for it at Gabo
Almost on the NSW border, Gabo Island boasts a towering lighthouse, a large colony of little penguins and a delicious get-away-from-it-all feeling. There are day tours you can do from Mallacoota or you can stay overnight at the light housekeeper's cottage (bookings are essential, from Parks Victoria on 13 19 63 anywhere in Australia).


3. Cruise with your own captain
If you haven’t brought a boat here (a great idea if you can), explore the ocean and the lakes with an expert local. Captain Neil Rankin of Rankin Wilderness Cruises is an old-timer who knows every square metre of the vast waterway and the Genoa and Wallagaraugh rivers that flow into it. 

Neil can even guarantee you a close encounter with a sea eagle that follows his boat looking for a feed of fresh fish. Call Neil on (03) 5158 0555 for bookings.

4. Find some wildlife at Gipsy Point

Just 10km north of town is Gipsy Point, an exceptionally beautiful peninsula jutting into Top Lake. 

Rent a boat and cruise up for some serious fishing (mullet and bream are always around), and keep an eye out for the stately sea eagles perched on snags above the shoreline. 

There’s also a big mob of kangaroos that’s well worth a visit. If you want to stay overnight, Gipsy Point Lodge (free call 1800 063 556) or Gipsy Point Lakeside Apartments (free call 1800 688 200) are both excellent.


5. Discover a real rainforest
Halfway between Gipsy Point and Mallacoota is the Double Creek Rainforest Nature Trail. It’s a short and easy stroll through national park-protected bush with signs explaining the significance of this intensely green and lush environment.


6. Go for a four-wheel-drive jaunt
Cross the border just east of the town of Genoa, turn right down Handford’s Road and you are suddenly in the midst of some steep and wooded terrain, perfect for a 4WD with a bit of grunt. A highlight is the view from Mallacoota Lookout at road’s end. 

If you haven’t got a 4WD, or would prefer to leave the driving to a local expert, call Journey Beyond Eco-Adventures on (03) 5158 0166.

7. Reptiles and rapids ahead
Just outside the town of Genoa is Genoa Falls, an impressive multi-decked cascade. If you look carefully and don’t make too much noise, you’ll see water dragons sunning themselves on the rocks. Great spot for a picnic.

8. Cruise from top to bottom
Spending a sunny day exploring Top and Bottom lakes must be one definition of pure bliss. From the jetty at Mallacoota, cast off into Bottom Lake and explore the dozens of bays and arms of the national park. There are jetties at Captain Creek, Gipsy Point and several sheltered wooded spots. 

Go out in the early morning on a sunny day and you’ll be amazed at the vivid reflections of the bush on the flat surface of the water.


9. Sample the local seafood

Crays, abalone, deep sea fish, whatever your seafood taste, a Mallacoota restaurant will have it. 

Barnacle’s Bistro (03 5158 0455) is one of several good eateries, or you can buy something fresh at the jetty and cook it yourself over the campfire.


10. Get in a festive mood
In April, Mallacoota celebrates The Festival Of The Great Southern Ocean with music, dance and parades. To find out more about this highlight of the town’s year, call 1800 637 060.

Accommodation choices here are many and varied, including four- and five-star resorts, motels and plenty of great camping. A personal favourite is Foreshore Camp Park, a grassy foreshore campground that has good facilities and easy access to shops (call (03) 5158 0300). 

Three caravan parks are also recommended: A’Wangalea, Beachcomber and Shady Gully.

If you plan to go bush, Croajingolong national park has several fine campgrounds, some of which are accessible only by 4WD. Call Parks Victoria on 13 19 63 for details.


Fact File

What’s There: 

Mallacoota offers a full range of accommodation, restaurants, petrol, shops and a medical centre. For visitor information, call 1800 676 200. Nearby is Genoa with a similar range of services.

When To Go: 

With daily temperatures averaging five degrees above Melbourne, Mallacoota never has a “bad” season, though it can be rather windy and chilly in August and September. Highly recommended is March to May, when skies are often cloudless. October to December offers the freshness of spring. Summers are delightful but popular, so book well ahead during this time, especially for campsites.


Ours is from Hema’s Road Atlas, (07) 3340 0000.

Copyright © On The Road Magazine 2001. Any unauthorised use, copying or mirroring is prohibited.