Hello dear blog! Need I share my latest excuses for dropping out of the blogosphere over the past few months?
At the end of August, we packed up the past five and a bit years of our lives into boxes (and sent a large percentage of it to second hand stores and the local tip) and moved 500km across the state to our new home.
The actual moving story, if it even warrants one, is for another day however. Instead, I wanted to mark this change in our lives with a bit of a tribute to my time in South Gippsland.
I moved to Gippsland as a very green journalist straight out of university in 2011 with every intention of only staying for a year or two before heading back to the big smoke. As the best laid plans often go awry, at the end of my first year I met Wes – and so continued my love affair with South Gippsland for another five years.
Despite how happy I am to be back living in my hometown, there’s also a lot of things I love about South Gippsland I’ve left behind. I wanted to share some of the absolute gems I’ve enjoyed, and will hopefully go on to enjoy during visits in the future.
And now you can too.
Here’s (in no particular order) my guide to visiting South Gippsland.
You cannot – and I mean absolutely cannot – wander into South Gippsland without a visit to Wilsons Prom (although like many of us, you may have already visited it as part of a primary school camp at some stage!)
Despite flash flooding making the park inaccessible and destroying many of the walking tracks a few weeks after I first moved to the area, I did make up for lost time with numerous visits to the Prom over the past few years.
If you love to hike, the Prom is the place for you, from the 20km return trip to Sealers Cove, beating the crowds to the top of Mt Oberon or hitting the less worn track to the rocky summit of Mt Bishop.
There are plenty of hikes there I’m still yet to do, including embarking on an overnight hike, but what I have achieved are some of my favourite hikes of all time. The place is absolutely stunning and really is Australian nature at it’s best. Make sure your camera batteries are fully charged and you pack a picnic – you’ll want to sit at the summits and enjoy the view for a long while before heading back to the car.
I’m going to sound like a broken record, but once again – if you visit South Gippsland, do both of us a favour and pick up a pizza at Trulli Pizzeria in Meeniyan. Having eaten pizza in Italy earlier this year, I can confirm that Trulli is the real deal.
If you’re after a suggestion, the Al Crudo is my personal fave, and make sure you leave plenty of room for dessert because their homemade gelato is again, authentically Italian, and ridiculously delicious.
About 95% of the time, Trulli was my go-to restaurant for special occasions, catch-ups with friends and…well just lunch or dinner really!
One more tip – always order the large, or risk the disappointment of realising you don’t have any leftovers to take home with you and enjoy the next day.
(And while you’re at it, make sure you visit their gelato stores Gusto in Inverloch or Wonthaggi. You can thank me later.)
Yes, another hike, but really – look at the photos! The George Bass Coastal Walk can be a pretty tough hike, especially if you choose to do the 15km return trip, but is worth every drop of sweat. It encompasses quite a few different types of terrain, from grassy hills and narrow tracks, to an entire stretch of beach where you may want to kick off your shoes and play in the waves on the way.
My tip? Start at Punchbowl on the outskirts of San Remo, and make your way towards Kilcunda so you can take a break or finish with a delicious meal and cold drink at the Kilcunda General Store.
Don’t forget your camera either – for both the ocean views and the food pics!
As I write about Divas, my heart feels full – not only because I love Indian food, but because every time you walk through the front door, you are greeted like an old friend. The owner, Shalini, is one of the most beautiful souls I have ever met. She has a way of making you feel so incredibly special, and every friend I’ve ever taken to Divas has commented how much they love Shalini. But it’s not only the friendly service that wins you over. The food is absolutely delicious and if you love a big feast, this is the place to visit. I recommend taking along a few friends and indulging in the banquet. As much curry, naan and rice as you can possibly eat? Yes please!
I know this is up there with Wilsons Prom on being a huge international tourist attraction, rather than something the locals get up to. In fact, I’m not convinced it’s something locals really go to at all – you know the deal, not taking advantage of what’s right in your own backyard. It is, however, still something I highly recommend you do!
I’ve been to see the penguins three times, and it is a great place to visit, especially if you have international guests with you. The drawcard? The penguins are just so. freaking. adorable! You will feel like a small child on Christmas Eve seeing the first little heads bob in the shallows, before crowds of penguins waddle across the beach.
Do go prepared. Take a warm coat and prepare for the huge crowds that will be there. Try and visit in summer, because although you have to wait much later for the penguins to come in, there will be so many more of them to see. You can get up close on the boardwalk, but please respect the rules and don’t take photos of them! (I’m totally guilty of barking ‘no photography!’ at other visitors.)
If you love anything second hand, vintage, handmade or homegrown, this is the market for you. An absolute hidden gem of South Gippsland, Kongwak is barely a blip on the map, but has the most incredible weekly market that will have you browsing (and buying) for hours!
It’s room after room of the most interesting odds and ends, and clothing you would have loved to discover in your grandparent’s wardrobes, not to mention the unique furniture, selection of plants, delicious cakes and slices, and fresh organic fruit and veg.
Trust me – you’ll definitely want to take a break to enjoy the curry puffs! Deee-licious!
Yes, another place to find delicious food, but isn’t that what visiting a new place is all about? The Coffee Collective is the trendy, industrial cafe you’d expect to find in a cool Melbourne suburb, but alas, it’s right in the heart of Wonthaggi.
Not only was it my go-to for my daily caffeine hit, but a favourite for meetings, lunches, brunches and any kind of catch-up with friends. The menu choices are a little quirky and absolutely delicious, and is also a great place to pick up a gift for your coffee-addicted and self-proclaimed foodie mates.
My tip? Visit just after 10am on a Tuesday and try their deluxe doughnuts. I’m not going to lie – their doughnut day was most often the highlight of my week.
8. The entire town of Meeniyan
Once you learn how to pronounce it (Meen-yan), Meeniyan will quickly become one of your favourite places to visit.
As previously mentioned, it’s the place to go for an authentic Italian pizza, but was also where I went to find gifts for the people that are impossible to shop for.
You will always find something cute and quirky at The Duck Hutt (and I’m also a little addicted to their flower arrangements. Follow them on Facebook to see for yourself).
If you’re in the market for an absolutely stunning, unique piece of jewellery, you can’t go past Lacy Jewellery Studio and Gallery. Lacys are responsible for my beautiful engagement and wedding rings, as well as Wes’s wedding band, and I don’t think you’ll find better service anywhere.
I fondly refer to Meeniyan as a boutique town – a small, country town that is doing tourism very well. Just wander up and down the main street, grab something delicious from the bakery and enjoy everything it has to offer.
Ok. Another cafe, and the last on my list, I promise! A favourite of ours to take a drive to for weekend breakfast, Milly and Romeo’s is hearty homemade food at it’s finest – meals that warm your belly and your heart.
It may not be on the breakfast menu, but ask for the Canadian Pancakes. If you’ve never eaten eggs, bacon and maple syrup on top of a stack, you have never tasted pure heaven. If I were on death row, it would be my last mean (accompanied by a Trulli pizza of course).
Don’t be deceived by your stomach either – there is always room for dessert, even if it is only 11 o’clock in the morning. Choose a piece (or an entire selection) of slice, cake, pie or scone to take with you if you can’t fit it in at the cafe. And that’s not a suggestion either, but a demand. I will never, ever, get over how good their rhubarb and pear crumble is.