Last weekend, in an effort to surprise the Wife, I had planned a road trip for us on Saturday (Feb 13) ahead of Valentine's Day (due to weather considerations I might add). She hadn't a clue where we were going until Friday night, when I simply had to tell her so she could look at the maps and navigate us the next morning. She was clearly thrilled, we were going to Gippsland!
We woke up around 7 am and I got ready first and went to pick up our rental car at 8 am from our local Thrifty store. Turned out that we got the same car that we went on our Cape Schanck trip a few months ago. I don't know why but I felt a strange sense of confidence in that I knew the car was good enough to handle the journey and my driving! ;-) Once I got back, we had breakfast and eventually left around 10:30 am.
The first stop was Wonthaggi, a famous old school coal town right on the south-east coast of Victoria. The reason I picked the town was not so much for the State Coal Mine there but for the scenic route that we could take from our home in Clayton. We took the Monash Freeway out of town eventually leading on to the South Gippsland Highway (which passes through some very rural areas south-east of Melbourne) and the Bass Highway (which curves along the gorgeous south Gippsland coast). The view from the highway was spectacular as we were driving up on a cliff that dropped nearly 100-200 m down into the ocean beneath. Passing through the small towns of Grantville, Anderson and Kilcunda, we eventually reached Wonthaggi around 12:30 pm. Since we did not have a detailed map of Wonthaggi with us, we stopped by a tourist information centre to pick up some local area maps and directions to the coal mine.
The State Coal Mine was one of Victoria's main coal mines in the early 20th century, and amazingly, lies just a few kms north of the sea! Fancy digging mines in such a region? It was quite little park and we were able to just walk around and take in the various preserved areas of the mine and the associated history. Unfortunately, we had timed our trip just a little bit off as they were doing underground tours of the mines at 3 pm that afternoon. That could have been interesting but oh well...
Once we finished at the mine, we were quite hungry so we headed back into "downtown" Wonthaggi and grabbed some lunch at a small, but immensely popular Noodle shop. The place barely had seats for 10 but there was a constant, endless stream of people coming in (mostly for takeaways, but we ate there). After lunch, we went back on the road for the short journey to Cape Paterson, the head of the Bunurong Marine and Coastal Park. First up was the Cape Paterson Bay Beach, where we walked down onto the beach and then onto the rocks all the way to edge, about 500 m from the shore. The waves were great, some anglers, some scuba divers, but overall, not too many people on the beach. Words cannot do justice to the beauty of the natural surroundings so here's a video to give you an idea of the waves...
Next, we headed on the gorgeous, shore-hugging Cape Paterson-Inverloch Rd towardsInverloch, stopping at a few lookout points along the way like The Oaks, Twin Reefs, Shack Bay and Eagle's Nest. Eagle's Nest is particularly special because it is not only an amazing rock structure jutting out into the ocean (a la Twelve Apostles along the Great Ocean Road), but also the first location where archaeologists found dinosaur fossils some 100 years ago. And you can walk right up to the fantastic structure and even climb on it if you like!
Then, we finally passed through the town of Inverloch and began our return journey to Melbourne, this time via the highlands of the area known as Prom Country. We made our way through the towns of Leongatha and Korumburra, famous for more coal mines and vineyards aplenty, back onto the South Gippsland Highway which took us back into Melbourne. We finally reached home around 7:30 pm, having stopped to pick up some takeaway dinner along the way, after a thoroughly enjoyable road trip. You can see pictures of our road trip here.