The South Gippsland Region of Victoria is a fertile dairy farming area that is noted for its lush green grass and rolling hills. We spent four days exploring this region last week with our Probus Club, staying in the town of Foster.
It was an exceptionally wet time with rain, every day and areas of farmland flooded.
On our way to Foster, we stopped at the little town of Loch. At one time it had a quilters shop where Jill used to buy her quilting materials. It is a beautiful, historic town set in a valley of the foothills of the Strzelecki Ranges and close enough to Melbourne for a day trip. Tiny dairy towns like this find survival is difficult but this town has reinvented itself with artistic shops and cafes.
Foster, where we spent three nights, is surrounded by dairy and grazing farms. The town centre itself has a good range of shops along Main Street which also support the smaller outlying communities in the area. The Exchange Hotel with its unique conical tower was built in 1907. This town was the site of a small gold rush in the 1870s and there are memorials to commemorate the town’s gold mining history in the local park
We have always been impressed by the gardens in the main street of Foster. They are planted with colourful flowers as well as a variety of vegetables that the local people are allowed to pick and take home, These plantings have a somewhat ‘architectural’ appearance and when mature, they look stunning. At the moment they are newly planted but they will grow to be something spectacular.
The nearby town of Toora is a quiet place, although it has an enormous milk factory. There is so little traffic in the town, that you are never really at risk if you dawdle across the main street.
Shelley and her partner have a beautiful new store in Toora (The Panton Store). It sells homewares, books and gifts and of course, Shelly’s hand made pottery. It is really worth a visit. Our recommendation is that you call in if you are ever travelling through this area. We bought a number of items for use as Christmas gifts.
Some parts of this region have had over 500 mm of rain in the last few days. Maybe not as much as the extreme rain of far Eastern Victoria but the rivers are flooded and the paddocks are completely sodden.
We found our way to the Agnes Falls in the hills behind the highway and found them to have torrents of raging water falling into the gorge below. It was a very different scene to that which we saw some years ago.
The furthest destination on our trip was to the larger town of Yarram. The South Gippsland Highway passes through Yarram on its way along Victoria’s southern coastline and opens into a wide boulevard through the town centre with attractive gardens in the central strip. The town features several historical buildings, including the landmark Regent Theatre (built in 1928) and the courthouse which now functions as a local visitor information centre and gallery. A number of prominent and colourful murals, depicting various local figures, have been painted on the sides of buildings in Yarram by street artist Heesco. These murals were our favourites
The National Park at Wilsons Promontory is only one hour from Foster. Some of our Probus Club members spent a day there at Tidal River and some of its beaches. We visited Waratah Bay instead, with its broad expanse of sand and long stretch of beach.
To get to Waratah Bay we traveledl through the little town of Fish Creek. It only has nine or ten shops in its main street but it is a browser’s delight. The town has become an arts and culture hub for South Gippsland thanks to an enclave of artists who live there. I stopped in at a gallery and spent a few minutes talking to a photographer who had some excellent images on display.
Like all of the settlements in this area, Fish Creek once had a railway station on a line that stretched from Leongatha to Yarram. The platforms and station buildings on this line are still intact and used for community events. The route of the train line is now a long bike trail.
Overall, the rain did not really dampen our time, although it killed some of the long-range views across the landscape. Even so, it added an atmosphere that otherwise would not have been present..