Gippsland Lakes is a popular Victorian holiday destination with a series of large salt water lakes - Wellington, Victoria, Reeve and King - that run tepidly out to the sea through a dredged entrance at Lakes Entrance in the northeast. Two years previously, Doug and I had done a short four day sea kayak trip through the area, launching at Lakes Entrance and paddling to Bunga Arm where we stayed for two nights, before pulling out at Paynesville. At that time, we hadn't spent a lot of time in our new single sea kayaks and were glad to be paddling in protected waters. The paddling is not spectacular, the land and seascape is too tamed by nearby and encroaching civilisation for that, but it is pleasant, and, in the off season, when the powerboats and crowds are absent, an enjoyable trip is possible paddling around the various islands.
Just another shitty Gippsland Lake sunset
This time around we were paddling with two of our old Canadian friends who were on a bicycle tour around Victoria and Tasmania. We left from King Lake Waterfront Caravan Park at Eagle Point where we had got a good deal on camping, caravan and car storage, and paddled east along the shoreline to Point Fullarton. Rounding Point Fullarton we began to see black swans with fluffy grey chicks trailing behind, and their sonorous calls would accompany us for the rest of the trip. Paddling through McMillan Passage between Paynesville and Raymond Island it is hard not to be somewhat boggled by the amount of money sitting on the waterfront in large houses and equally ostentatious boats. After a brief stop at Montague Point, we gladly left this excessive development behind and crossed over to Sperm Whale Head. It was too late in the day to paddle all the way to Bunga Arm, so we found a campsite by the shoreline and stopped for the night amidst a spectacular sunset.
Calm waters and sunny skies early in the trip
Next day we ambled our way up Bunga Arm, stopping at Rotten Island and Ocean Grange before pulling into one of the Bunga Arm campsites. When empty, these camps are delightful, positioned as they are between the sheltered waters of Bunga Arm and the pounding surf of the Tasman Sea on the desolate 90 Mile Beach. The afternoon was spent wandering along the beach. The forecast for the next two days was for strong winds and heavy rain at times, and, although we would have liked to linger at Bunga Arm, either exploring the east end of the arm or nearby Lake Reeve, we thought it best to paddle west to Emu Bight campground where there was a covered shelter.
Bunga Arm sunset
Accordingly, we paddled west, winding our way through narrow passages between low lying islands. On the eastern side of Crescent Island, a pelican colony was making the sort of raucous deep throated sound that is characteristic of this large sea bird when gathered in groups. Most were strutting about on land between the thin trunks of melaleuca but some were bathing in the shallow waters. West of Point Wilson we stopped at the delightful Trouser Point where a sandspit protrudes into Lake Victoria, terns, pelicans and swans roost on the sandspit, and soft succulent ground cover splays over the sand. In the early afternoon we paddled into Emu Bight where a narrow stretch of beach runs into the sandy shallows. The sun was out and we all went swimming although the water was pretty chilly this early in the spring. The campsite at Emu Bight is road accessible but conveniently deserted so we picked a site near the covered shelter and close to a portage route.
Pelicans bathing near Crescent Island
Two days of strong winds followed. The first day we also had heavy rain in the middle of the day tapering to showers in the late afternoon. The shelter made camp life much more comfortable as it was miserable down at the beach where drifting sand was threatening to bury our kayaks. There are walking tracks leaving from Emu Bight winding through the banksia and melaleuca forest and we made use of them both days when the rain was not streaming down taking walks to Lake Reeve, Cygnet Swamp and Loch Sport. Both M and I saw the elusive Hog Deer, apparently introduced from Indonesia in the late 1800's and found only here.
After two enforced rest days we were anxious to paddle again and on our sixth day out we paddled west along Sperm Whale Head into a fresh NW breeze. We had a brief stop just before Pelican Point at a convenient picnic table, and then floated past the pelicans and terns on the sandspit at the aptly named Pelican Point. We paddled into a picnic area at Loch Sport where we could drop off our garbage and then headed directly into the NW wind to Storm Point. There are nice campsites here but they are also road accessible which makes them less appealing. Finally, we turned downwind and paddled past Waddy Point to make camp on some public land to the east.
Black swans huddled against the 30 knot winds
Our last day on the water we had a 25 km paddle east to Eagle Point. The sun rose in a spectacular flare of red as pelicans and swans drifted slowly past camp. The wind had died completely and we paddled on flat, calm waters east past a series of small points and bays. Terns were wheeling acrobatically overhead and then diving straight into the water fishing. A gaggle of pelicans was lined up in order of size, from the smaller fledgelings to the older adults on Turner Point. Black swans with fluffy grey chicks were swimming strongly on the still waters, and, near Paynesville, a pod of bottlenose dolphins were fishing in the glassy waters, their sleek backs breaking the surface all around us. Near Paynesville, the boat traffic increased and the peacefulness of early morning on the water was broken. At Paynesville we paddled through connecting channels in a residential waterfront development where obese houses on too small plots of land were tended by equally obese owners before emerging back onto Lake King just east of Point Fullarton, and finally, to rest at Eagle Point.
Last morning on the water