The area encompassing East Gippsland in Victoria and the Far South Coast of New South Wales has some of the largest and most extensive forests in Australia. Almost entirely these are within either various National Parks or State Forests: the difference is that State Forests may be used for logging. The two designations are not invariably seen as compatible, frequently leading to disputes between ‘green’ groups and forestry interests.
It must be noted that forestry operations have been conducted in many areas of the ‘southeast’ since the 1800s and, for many small rural villages, are the main livelihood. That said, in recent years the nature of forestry operations in certain areas has changed, from ‘selective logging’ to ‘clear felling’. The first involves taking only a few trees from a forest and allowing the balance to continue growing naturally, the second involves removal of the forest and its subsequent replacement with new tree plantings (often of only one species).
The issues are complex, controversial, and not easily resolved. From a tourist perspective though, I feel it adequate you are broadly aware of the issues (and sensitivities, if you find yourself in a pub with a protagonist of either side). Most importantly, there still are extensive eucalypt forests for you to admire as you drive along the main roads of the area – I have made this tip “off the beaten path’ only because it is not strictly at the Gippsland Lakes.
The railway formerly ran as far as the little town of Orbost, somewhat to the east of the Gippsland Lakes. Although it now has been closed for some years, the old route still remains.
Back in the 1800s as the country developed, small armies of men worked in all Australian states, building bridges for roads and railways. These bridges had to be built of local materials. Eucalypt hardwood trees were readily available in most places, so it is not surprising that, in most places, the bridges were made from timber trestles.
There are some excellent examples of now disused trestle bridges in the area. This one, describing a graceful curve into the distance, is alongside the Princes Highway in the Nowa Nowa area, a little to the east of the Gippsland Lakes.