Words by Staff Writer
The East Gippsland Winter Festival is regional Victoria’s largest winter festival and an unmissable fixture on your annual calendar. Boasting over 150 events, it runs until July 9.
For everything happening in East Gippsland Winter Festival, head to their website here.
Originally created as a response to the devastating 2019/20 Black Summer Bushfires, Festival Founder Adam Bloem says the Winter Festival has now taken on “a life of its own”.
“It was initially established to bring the community together and to provide an economic boost by attracting visitors back to the region after a couple of really tough years,” he said.
“Word of the festival is certainly getting out there now and we have been delighted to see many attendees over the opening weekend from Melbourne and other parts of Regional Victoria. We’ve even had visitors from NSW, Qld, South Australia and W.A that have lined up trips to visit family and friends during the festival. Many of the events are selling out well in advance and the free community events are increasing in attendance year on year, despite a bigger program than ever before – it’s wonderful to see!” Adam added.
East Gippsland Winter Festival 2023 highlights
- 22 June: World Bathing Day, Metung Hot Springs, Metung – this global sunrise bathing event includes breakfast, plus all day bathing at Metung Hot Springs.
- 23 June: Buchan Valley Foothills Festival, Buchan – enjoy a night for the whole family at the old Buchan Butter Factory. Take part in the lantern parade and enjoy live music, food vans, face painting and Buchan Valley’s dark skies.
- 24 June: Bruthen Medieval Winter Fire Festival, Bruthen – featuring sword fights, bonfires, music, roving performers, costumes and feasting – not to be missed!
- 30th June – 2nd July: High Country Art & Adventure, Cassilis, Swifts Creek, Omeo – curated walking tours, market day, celtic band + bonfire, gallery openings and lantern displays – winter the high country way.
- 1 July: Lakes Lights, Lakes Entrance – the largest community lantern parade of the festival, takes place across the Lakes Entrance Footbridge leading to a magical curated display of artist-made lanterns, installations and projection art on the small stretch of land between the Gippsland Lakes and the 90 Mile Beach.
- 8 July: Winter in Laneway3875, Bairnsdale – a laneway party in the heart of Bairnsdale’s CBD featuring live music, street food from Bairnsdale’s best eateries, local craft beer and wine, and the Foundry artist collective.
Stay up to date with what’s happening in and around Melbourne here.
Metung Hot Springs
While we shouldn’t pick favourites, you simply can’t visit Gippsland without a visit to the Metung Hot Springs and if you only visit Gippsland for one reason – sacrilegious as that may be – it has to be the Hilltop Escarpment, where you will soak your worries away for as long as your pruned skin can handle overlooking one of the grandest views of any hot springs in the world.
Situated over 25-ish acres, the Metung Hot Springs is majority owned by the same group that owns the Mornington Peninsula Hot Springs, so if you love their bigger and older sister then you’ll know the quality you can expect. By the end of 2023, the Metung Hot Springs will boast a massive range of attractions, but none will ever beat their bubbling barrels overlooking tranquil waters spanning all the way to the horizon. You’ll never have experienced anything quite like it.
Metung Country Club
An ideal spot for lunch after a morning bathe, take in the rolling green hills and play a few holes at the Metung Country Club.
Sailors Grave Brewing
While the Metung Hot Springs may overwhelm the side of us that just loves to be pampered in utter luxury, Sailors Grave firmly grasps the other side – the side that loves to watch rough and ready local bands thrash out dolewave classics in the gravel backyard of a former grain warehouse, turned panel beaters, turned Gippsland’s best bloody brewery.
They’re absolute sticklers for local produce, which we love. They like to get weird with their flavours, which we love. They’ll take you on a brewery tour if you buy a case, which we love. We’re currently enjoying the rhubarb strawberry creamsicles at home, which we love. There’s so much to love about Sailors Grave and you can check them out every Sunday, when they throw a little backyard bash just for the locals.
The koalas of Raymond Island
While any roadtrip around Victoria is likely to encounter a few kangaroos and a roadside echidna, koalas are a slightly more elusive sight. This is a shame, because they’re just about the cutest animals on earth, so if you want to see a koala guaranteed – you read right – look no further than the Australian bushland oasis of Raymond Island, a short ferry ride from Paynesville.
Raymond Island is a koala haven, filled with eucalyptus trees hosting sleepy, furry koalas. For $11 you can take your car over and drive around the island with your head craned towards the tree-tops, or you can walk on the ferry for free and spend a couple of hours walking around the quiet bushland. We were there for all of an hour and spotted five different groups of koalas, it’s an excellent opportunity to learn first hand about one of Australia’s most wonderful animal icons.
Sodafish at Lakes Entrance
Lakes Entrance is a familar name to all Victorian holiday-makers but beneath the watersports lies a brilliant culinary scene, epitomised by Sodafish Restaurant. Perched on an offshore jetty, Sodafish is the best place to head for local Gippsland seafood, their King George Whiting in particular is utterly delectable. Beyond seafood, we can also recommend their beef-cheek pastas and they have a fully-fledged degustation menu for those feeling ravenous.
Albert & Co Cafe
The owner of Albert & Co Cafe, Matt O’Donnell, is the gastronomic genius behind Rivendell Farm and his pristine cafe serves the best flat white in Gippsland, not to mention a perfect breakfast roll that will keep you going well into the afternoon.
The perfect spot to stay in Lakes Entrance, the Bellevue is located immediately adjacent to the Albert & Co Cafe to start each day with aplomb. Rooms look out over the water and the impressive collection of old-world vessels that call the harbour their home. There are even interior gardens, what more could you ask for!
The best things to do in Bairnsdale
Bairnsdale is a perfect weekend destination for Melburnians and there’s never been a better chance to discover it in all its glory.
The East Gippsland Winter Festival brings some wonderful attractions to the already resplendent town of Bairnsdale, so after journeying through Gippsland’s finest attractions, we’ve handpicked some of the best events to see for the remainder of the program and put together an ideal long-weekend itinerary.
South East NOW: A free and insightful First Nations art exhibition
We recommend basing yourself in Bairnsdale as part of a broader East Gippsland adventure, where you’ll find the East Gippsland Art Gallery set above a picturesque walking trail along the river. It’s an intimate yet storied space in Bairnsdale, perfect for a relaxing afternoon purveying the finest in local art. Right now, they’re exhibiting the Koorie exhibition South East NOW as part of EGWF.
Now in its 7th year, Southeast NOW 2022 is a group show of Koorie artists with a connection to Gunnai Kurnai Country. The exhibition features work by Leann J. Edwards, Hollie Johnson, Chris Mongta, Alice Ann Pepper, Patricia Pittman and Alan Solomon.
Exhibiting artist Leann J. Edwards is also facilitating art workshops (free booking essential) during the exhibitions (July and August), made possible with support from East Gippsland Shire Council. These workshops are for kids, youth, adults, schools, community groups, anyone and everyone! As part of the East Gippsland Winter Festival, exhibiting artist Patricia Pittman will be running a lantern making workshop for kids (adults can join in too) on 1 July.
Winter in Laneway3875
A laneway party in the heart of Bairnsdale’s CBD featuring live music, street food from Bairnsdale’s best eateries, local craft beer and wine, and the Foundry artist collective. It’s happening on July 8, find out more information here.
There are not many nicer ways to spend an afternoon than drinking local Sailors Grave beers – they have some truly fanciful creations, their Lemon Meringue Cream Soda one particularly recommendable drop – set to local East Gippsland acoustic musicians by a crackling fire. You can experience all this and more in the beautiful bricked courtyard with overhanging vines in the rear of Bairnsdale venue Northern Ground. We also recommend sinking your teeth into one of their delectable Wagyu Beer Burgers.
A night at The Riversleigh
The Riversleigh is a historic hotel dating back nearly 150 years but thanks to some beautiful renovations you can enjoy the wonderous high ceilings and mid-century decor in a wonderfully-maintained environment with a sleek restaurant space and perfectly manicured gardens. The Riversleigh boasts ample off-street parking, a brilliant array of amenities, spacious rooms and generous hosts and staff, who will make your stay a delight.
We recommend their charcuterie platters of fresh Gippsland produce especially, these really showcase the very best of Victoria’s breadbasket. Their continental breakfast, included with your room, is also a bountiful cornucopia of homemade yoghurts and fresh-baked pastries.
Mitchell River Walk
Perfectly situated a stone’s throw from The Riversleigh and the East Gippsland Art Gallery, the Mitchell River Walk is roughly a 90-minute loop around the river if taken at a luxurious strolling pace and reminds us a little of the beautiful riverside paths around Warrandyte, just without the traffic.
With plenty of amenities including powerpoints, these paths are also wonderful places to stop on a roadtrip.
The best things to do in Bruthen
The Bruthen Blues Festival is a hallmark on any blues-lover’s calendar but in its temporary absence, we were pleased to see that East Gippsland Winter Festival has well and truly filled the void.
We were lucky enough to experience the best of Bruthen as part of our sojourn to East Gippsland Winter Festival this year and have happily taken some notes, so all you Melburnians keen for a weekend away can follow in our footsteps.
Catch live music at the Bruthen Inn
Everywhere in East Gippsland boasts spectacular views of rolling hills, lush valleys and flowing rivers but the 170+ year-old Bruthen Inn is a particularly special location, perched on a hill above the quaint music-loving town, it’s a must-visit destination for those wishing to experience one of the best music towns in regional Victoria.
They love a local artist in this region and they’re spoiled for choice. When we ventured to Bruthen, we were delighted to catch the booming blues man Mike Elrington, the Misty Harlowe band, Raven & the Dove, Organic Joe, Elfie Shetran and the renowned stylings of Todd Cook & the Rufous Whistlers (Todd being the organiser of the wonderful Songs of the East event).
Bruthen Recording Studio and Retro Recycling
It would be remiss of us at this point not to reserve special mention for Brent Hodgkins – a very popular fixture at events like Sounds of the East – and his endearingly-ramshackle Bruthen Recording Studio, which you’ll find next door to the similarly fashioned Bruthen Retro Recycling, a little op-shopper’s dream unaffected by the costly gentrification of inner city thrift stores.
Brent himself fronts IO, a Radiohead-esque group that played at Songs of the East alongside many of the artists Brent is producing. Check them out above.
Ye Olde Oppe Shoppe and Bullant Brewery
Speaking of the land that inflation forgot, if you want to find your next vintage outfit, look no further than Ye Olde Oppe Shoppe, located conveniently next door to the Bullant Brewery. After buying two pairs of $4 pants, you can spend your hard-earned savings on what really matters – beer.
There are two art galleries to enjoy in Bruthen – a per-capita average that must be among Victoria’s best. The Bruthen Art & Information Centre is a volunteer-staffed council-run information centre that displays some lovely local works, but it’s definitely worth heading over the road to Art Dreaming – Bruthen’s one-stop shop for gifts, knick-knacks, art supplies and a various range of paintings and small sculptures, all of which give a tantalising taste of the local community’s art-oriented ethos.
For East Gippsland Winter Festival
Spell Bound Winter Exhibition is showing at Art Dreaming Bruthen Art Gallery. You’ll experience the mystical magical ambience of artworks accompanied by handcrafted jewellery, enchanted faeries, crystal wands, nature dolls, curiosities, dreamcatchers, suncatchers and more created by artist Jacqui Reid.
Enjoy something delicious from the Sweet Charcuterie Table catered for by The Willow Buchan Valley, we take no responsibility for the spell you’ll be under after taking a bite. Visit the boys at their café for a mouth watering meal in Buchan. Take a journey into the unknown guided by Gail Conley from Chakra Angel Oracle and experience her gentle nudge as she reads your cards. After knowing more, you may feel the pull to learn the tarot through Gail’s 6 week Tarot Course.
Deepen into the mystery with local author Kirstie Pearce as she guides you to meet the female archetypes. This soulful experience is based on her best selling book The Moon Lodge, have your copy signed and find out how to join one of Kirstie’s workshops.
The exhibition will run until Sunday 9th of July with the following opening times;
Gallery Opening Hours
Monday – Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday – Friday: Open 10:00am – 3:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: Open 10:00am – 2:00pm
Walk along the Gippsland Rail Trail
The Bruthen Inn is just one of the picture-perfect destinations to visit in Bruthen on your Friday afternoon. While the trail is enormous and you can start and finish virtually anywhere along the many towns it covers, we started our walk along the Gippsland Rail Trail in Bruthen. Here you can enjoy the bucolic scenery up close as you traverse across meadows and over and under antique bridges, while you learn about the conservation work inherent in a changing landscape and spot climate change graffiti plastered around the area. Perfect for a bike ride.
Tambo Valley Honey
We’ve saved the sweetest until last. Tambo Valley Honey is a fascinating concept store and a real rarity for such a small country town. Dedicated to all things honey, the store features honey-infused spirits, milkshakes, cakes and all manner of foodstuffs. There are free samples aplenty – you can even sample the honey gins – plus a large range of honey by the tub, big and small. At the time of writing, we’re currently eating their manuka at home by the spoonful, a dark amber nectar of the gods.
The best part? They have their own beehive that’s connected to the outside world through a transparent channel reaching up and out of the roof. The bees come and go as they please – an impressive feat of homing pigeon sensibility – and its adorable to watch them climbing up and down the tube.
For everything happening in East Gippsland Winter Festival, head to their website here.