AQA

Discover Gippsland's accessible gems

17.03.22 08:46 PM By Dan

Traralgon resident Gerard shares his favourite accessible travel destinations in his patch of Gippsland.

Wilsons Prom is one of the most accessible (and stunning) parks in Victoria.

Growing up in Warragul, at the western end of Gippsland, Gerard spent his weekends hiking and exploring the bush. 


Since he sustained a spinal cord injury six years ago, Gerard’s favourite hobby of mountain bike riding has been off the table. But he can stand, walk short distances, get in and out of his Toyota Landcruiser, and theoretically use his camper trailer. 


Gerard, a member of AQA’s Gippsland Community Network, recently gave a presentation to Network members from around Victoria, showcasing some of the best bits of his region.


He says he was just getting settled back home, and building up his strength, when the pandemic hit. Hence, he hasn’t been four-wheel driving or camping since he was injured. 


After a six-year hiatus following his injury, Gerard hopes to get back into four-wheel driving and camping this year.

“This is the year,” he says. 


“I’m going to get back out there and start exploring again.”

 

Gerard settled on Traralgon, east of Warragul, as his home because it has good facilities and is about an hour and half from Melbourne, the ocean, and the hills. These features also make Traralgon a great base for a weekend of exploring, he says. 


If coming from Melbourne, Gerard suggests making a weekend of it, as most of the destinations would be a tight day trip from the city. 


Gerard’s top pick: Walhalla 


“For me, it’s a really nice timeout,” says Gerard. 


“Whether it’s rainy, or misty, it’s just a lovely time. And I like places with a bit of history, and Walhalla is steeped in it.”


Located about a 45-minute drive north of Traralgon, Walhalla is an old gold-mining town, tucked away in a lush valley on the southern edge of the Victorian Alps.


“If you’ve got the arms for it, something I’ve really enjoyed is just rolling down the main drag. There are very few cars, and it’s on a hill, so I just pushed up to the top, and rolled all the way down - it was a lovely roll.”


[Above] Gerard appreciates both the rich history and lush scenery of Walhalla, an old mining town at the bottom of the Victorian Alps. [Below] Pre-injury, Gerard enjoyed night rides through the forest surrounding Walhalla (Gerard's wearing the red helmet).


Activities:


Long Tunnel Extended Gold Mine

 Explore an old mining tunnel, and hear about the mining techniques used, with a guided tour. The tour operator’s website says the tunnel is wheelchair accessible, and Gerard confirms a friend of his did it in a wheelchair. 


Walhalla Goldfields Railway

“I haven’t been on the train since I’ve been in a chair,” says Gerard.  “But I would have paid for one of the carriages the amount of times I’ve caught it over the years - it’s a great experience, and the scenery is beautiful.” 


Gerard says the railway operator has assured him they have a ramp for wheelchairs, check out their website for more details. 


Gerard's planning to dust off his beloved Toyota Land Cruiser and camper to visit Wilsons Prom.

Sightseeing and camping 


Wilsons Promontory National Park

A well-known and loved coastal park, the Prom is also one of the most accessible parks in Victoria, with accessible accommodation and tracks, and beach wheelchairs for hire. Gerard says he hopes to organise a camping trip to the Prom with the Gippsland Network, and anyone else who’s interested (see Gerard’s contact details at the end of the article and get in touch if that might include you). Check out this video from Parks Victoria detailing the accessible experiences on offer at Wilsons Prom. 


Country drive to Licola

About 1.5 hours north of Traralgon, Gerard says the drive is quite scenic, and includes lookouts and nice places to camp. 


Gerard recommends stopping and drinking in the views at Lake Glenmaggie, but avoiding the caravan parks on its shores. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, and up for camping, Gerard suggests Paradise Valley, a picturesque spot on the Macalister River, with a small accessible toilet facility. 


Arriving at Licola, you’ll find a charming little town, as well as a campground which Gerard’s been assured has an accessible shower and toilet (but no commode). 


The accessible boardwalk that follows the curves of Tidal River at Wilsons Prom won't disappoint.

If you’re feeling adventurous, Gerard recommends driving northwards from Licola, and visiting Howitt’s Hut, a hut built in 1899 by cattlemen who’d spend the summer grazing their stock in the Victorian Alps.

“It’s fascinating to see how these men lived for months at a time - they were made of tough stuff,” says Gerard. 


Gerard says the road to Howitt’s Hut is two-wheel drive accessible, if you don’t mind your car getting dirty. But he cautions that it can snow at any time, so be sure to bring cold-weather gear. 


Art 


Gippsland Art Gallery, SaleWhile in town, Gerard says there are some nice boardwalks along the river. 


Latrobe Regional Gallery, Morwell. Gerard describes the gallery as small and modern, with a very nice restaurant attached. “But unfortunately, the food is very healthy,” warns Gerard. 


Yarram street art. A street artist called Heesco has been invited to paint murals all over Yarram, to incredible effect. Watch this short video showing some of his work. 


Car museums

 

If you’re into cars, Gerard recommends the Gippsland Vehicle Collection in Maffra, and the Holden Car Museum in Trafalgar. 


Coastal towns


Gerard reports that some pretty spectacular fish and chips can be found at Port Albert Wharf Fish and Chips, in Port Albert. And while you’re digesting lunch, you could check out the Port Albert Maritime Museum, detailing the port’s rich history as one of the oldest in Victoria.


A bit further west along the coast is Port Welshpool, which boasts an 800m long jetty. Gerard says the jetty is a great place to catch fish from and is also a lovely roll along its length.


A winery


The Narkoojee Winery, just 15 minutes north of Traralgon, hosted the Gippsland Community Network for a lunch last year. The Network members were the first to use a freshly installed ramp at the winery’s restaurant, instigated by Gerard. 


“There are other wineries in the area, but this one is good because it’s quite flat, and the food and wine are pretty good,” says Gerard. 



Gerard has generously offered his contact details if you had any questions about exploring Gippsland, which he’ll attempt to answer. Email gerardjj@bigpond.net.au. 

Author Dan Nathan is Publications Officer with AQA.

Explore Victoria's accessible parks with a video series from Parks Victoria.

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