The ideal way to see the lakes is by boat: road travel can involve some long and circuitous routes, just to reach a point visible a short distance away! Fortunately, although the lakes are relatively shallow with depths typically several metres, they are ideal for pleasure boating.
We hired a yacht called a "Cavalier 30" from a company named Riviera Nautic, based in Metung. The company were excellent to deal with and the yacht itself was immaculately prepared and presented. It is worth noting that there were only four of us on a (notionally) six berth yacht - but the other two 'unused berths' were lounges in the main cabin area, so it would have been somewhat crowded with six on board. I note that Riviera Nautic has a new line of yachts and motor boats since our trip, so the best advice I could give would be to consult with them about the sleeping arrangements before choosing the most appropriate boat for you!
Lakes Entrance is a popular fishing and holiday village at the eastern end of the Lakes. It faces the narrow Cunninghame Arm of the lakes and is just to the east of the ocean entrance to the lake system (sorry, there are no points for guessing how the town gets its name). One of Australia’s largest fishing fleets is based here, providing much of the daily fresh fish for the Melbourne markets.
Until recently, Lakes Entrance was just a quiet fishing village with little more than a few small shops, pubs and ‘weekender’ type houses. Now, it seems, it is being ‘discovered’: new motels and units are sprouting up, the foreshore is being redeveloped, tourism is being promoted. That said, it still is far from being in the ‘urbanised beach’ category into which many of Australia’s other fine beaches have descended.
Lakes Entrance is on the Princes Highway, a four hour drive (310 km) from Melbourne; about five hours from Canberra via Cooma and Bombala; or eight hours from Sydney. The trains stopped running here some years ago, but still run to Bairnsdale to the west and there are some buses. Realistically though, you need a motor car to visit this area.
It’s fortunate the place names didn’t change when Australia went metric some years ago – 144km beach just doesn’t sound right: besides, I’ve heard that it really is a bit under 90 miles long anyway!
If you’re untroubled by details about the length of the beach, a visit is well merited, if only to see it disappearing into the mist of salty surf spray. As you stand on the sand, particularly outside the holiday season and away from Lakes Entrance, there is an excellent chance you will see nobody else in either direction on the beach: it is all yours. With the the surf behind you, nothing but vegetation is visible on the beachside dunes. This beach is about as unspoiled as you could wish (this photo was taken on a rainy winter’s day, so the beach is not looking at its best).
For swimming, the safest part of the beach would be at Lakes Entrance, where a surf club operates beach patrols at least during the more popular holiday times. Access at Lakes Entrance is across the footbridge (photo 2) crossing the narrow Cunninghame Arm of the lake, or slightly to the east of the town at the Lions Park.
A number of small pleasant rivers (eg the Nicholson, Tambo and Avon) flow into the lake system. They can be navigated by yachts for some distance, usually until a lowset bridge. Their banks are typically steep and well-forested, so they provide excellent and sheltered anchorages for overnight stays in your own boat or a rented yacht. Reputedly the fishing is good in these rivers, but we were were hardly successful – maybe that says more about my fishing prowess than anything else!
Don’t rely on the map of the lakes I have included in the ‘General’ tips – go out and get a detailed one with depths! Hire yachts and boats should have such a map provided.
If you end up staying at the Coopracambra Cottages...there are plenty of 4wd tracks right there in the national park.
You can also venture on to Genoa Peak...which a great hike.
Eden is also a great place to go and check out the waterfront. There is even whale watching if you get there at the right time of year. One tourist trap we got into was the hours for lunch and dinner. Make sure you arrive before 2pm if you want to feed...otherwise...they don't reopen until 6pm.
One of the best treks we've done in Australia was Tongue's Crossing in Wilsons Prom.
It was a 3 hr return hike which took us through rainforests up to the top of the hill where we overlooked the Tongues Crossing where Tasmania used to be connected to Australia.
There is white beaches and blue waters from above...it's quite a sight to see.