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Paynesville, VIC

Holiday town on the Gippsland Lakes known as Victoria's Boating Capital.

Paynesville is a quiet holiday resort town situated between Lake King and Lake Victoria. Previously known as a shipbuilding centre and port, today it is popular for boating, swimming, fishing, waterskiing at Newlands Arm and surfing at Ninety Mile Beach. Perhaps the most potent attraction in the area is the substantial colony of koalas on Raymond Island.

Location

Paynesville is located 296 km east of Melbourne via the Princes Highway.

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Origin of Name

The Kurnai Aboriginal people called the area Toonalook which reputedly meant "the place of many fish" but in 1886 the town was renamed Paynesville by the Dickson family who lived in the area. No one is quite sure why they chose the name.

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Things to See and Do

Raymond Island
Raymond Island lies just across McMillan Strait and is accessible by a ferry which crosses every twenty minutes. There is a fee for cars but pedestrians are free. The island was home to the Tantungoloong Aborigines of the Kurnai tribe for some 30,000 years. There are still a few canoe trees on the island. Today it is noted for its koala colony as well as its rainbow lorikeets, honey eaters, parrots, black swans, white egrets, sea-eagles, wallabies, echidnas and blue-tongued lizards. The areas beyond the residential areas are also home to manna gum, southern mahogany, banksia, wildflowers and some orchids.

Koalas on Raymond Island
One of the great pleasures of Raymond Island is the Koala Walk. It is remarkably simple. Catch the ferry from the mainland across to the island – it is free if you don't take your car and it makes the crossing every twenty minutes. There are so many koalas on the island that the islanders have actually created a clearly marked track (yellow posts with red tops and an arrow) through the bush and all you have to do is look up. Just remember that koalas set standards in terms of laziness. They reputedly sleep for 18-20 hours a day and spend the balance moving slowly and eating gum leaves. So, although you will see them, you won’t see them doing very much. There is a catch: at certain times of the year you can be savaged by mosquitoes! There were thousands of them in the area where the koalas live.

Messing About With Boats
Paynesville's primary appeal is connected to the water - Lake King and Lake Victoria - which surrounds it.  It is a town that is primarily about boating, swimming, fishing and enjoying the peaceful waters of the Gippsland Lakes. Boats can be hired to explore the waterways. The most famous and longest established is Bulls Cruisers, 54 Slip Road, Paynesville where kayaks, dayboats, fishing boats and cruisers can all be hired. Bulls is the oldest cruiser hire company on the lakes. Captain James Bull arrived in Gippsland in 1878 and began exploring the lakes on his paddle steamer, the Tanjil. He later made an unsuccessful attempt to convert the Burrabogie into a floating hotel. Bulls Cruises can be contacted on (03) 5156 1200. Check out http://www.bullscruisers.com.au for more details.

The Anglican Church of St Peter by the Lake
St Peter by the Lake (built in 1961) is an Anglican Church featuring boating motifs, inspired by the Church of St Leonards-on-sea in Surrey, England. It was built on crown land which was granted to the church in 1892 by the Reverend Douglas Smith who became the Rector of Bairnsdale in 1950. Built of Gippsland limestone bricks, with furnishings made of local wood, the spire resembles a lighthouse tower with a cross that can be seen at night by fishermen on the lakes. The pulpit, built by Joe Bull, a well-known Metung boat-builder, is shaped like the prow of a fishing boat and even has copper nails. The sanctuary lamp is fashioned from a ship's riding light, and the font is in the shape of a ship's bollard and holds the upturned bell of the SS Dargo: the last trading steamer to operate on the Gippsland Lakes, it arrived from Sydney in 1883 and was destroyed by fire while it was moored on the Mitchell River at Eagle Point. The large windows behind the altar provide a panoramic view over Lake Victoria. On the exterior of the church is a mosaic in the form of a fish to recall the occupation of St Peter (the patron saint of the sea). Its position on a slope has enabled the construction of a crypt underneath the building which serves as a Sunday school and meeting room. It was completed at a cost of £11,000 and dedicated on 25 March, 1961. On the lake side of the church is a "Quiet Garden", a place for peace and contemplation, which incorporates a labyrinth, garden beds, open spaces and a Memorial Garden. In 2009 a project to replace the windows with stained class telling the story of St Peter was undertaken and twelve replacement windows - the "Peter" windows designed by Gippsland Glass Artist, Bruce Hutton, were dedicated in 2010. There is an excellent booklet available at the church titled The Peter Windows. It explains each of the twelve windows which depict Peter's Call to Discipleship through his meeting with the Risen Christ to his Mission to the Gentiles. It is a unique church which is well worth spending time and exploring.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Gippsland Lakes - Geology and Bird Watching
The Gippsland Lakes are a collection of coastal lagoons which were formed when the ocean's sand deposits created lengthy, narrow sand spits, low-lying sand islands and dunes which eventually formed a barrier which separated Bass Strait from the calmer waters. The rivers which flow into the lakes deposited silt and clay which formed a series of lakes and swamps. An artificial entrance was created in 1889 to allow permanent navigable entry. This new mouth lowered and stabilised water levels in the lakes which are fed by a number of river systems - the Latrobe and the Avon (which flow into Lake Wellington), and the Mitchell, Nicholson and Tambo (which flow into Lake King).

Taken together they constitute the largest navigable inland waterway in Australia. The major bodies of water - Lake Wellington, Lake Victoria and Lake King - have 320 km of shoreline and cover a total of 340 square kilometres.

The Gippsland Lakes possess features of international significance. The Mitchell River delta, for example, is an eroded digitate delta which extends southwards from Bairnsdale along the western shore of Lake King to Eagle Point. From this point it forms a series of long, narrow, winding jetties of silted sediment which extend eastwards out into Lake King for 8 km.

Also of geomorphological interest are the Tambo River delta which extends 2.5 km south-west into Lake King; the Latrobe delta, protruding over 2 km into Lake Wellington, which is formed by silt trapped by a reed swamp; McLennans Isthmus (a long, broad sandy promontory that separates Lake Victoria and Lake Wellington) and McLennans Strait (a deep narrow channel that connects these two lakes).

The lake's ecosystem is an important habitat for ducks, swans, coots and other waterbirds. Lakes Wellington, Victoria and King are permanent deep saline wetlands supporting populations of migratory seabirds, including the little and fairy terns. Lake Reeve is an extensive intermittent saline wetland of international significance which provides a highly significant habitat for up to 12,000 migratory wading birds, making it one of the five most important areas for waders in Victoria. Other noted bird populations exist at MacLeod Morass, Sale Common, Clydebank Morass, Dowd Morass, Jones Bay and Lake Bunga. The latter is a relatively small coastal wetland that is fresh to brackish, supporting waterfowl, little tern, hooded plover and the white-bellied sea-eagle. Other good bird watching sites to the north are Blond Bay State Game Reserve, located behind Lake Victoria, and Colquhoun Forest. Vegetation around the lakes includes swamp paperbark, reed and salt-marsh vegetation such as glasswort, shore rush, saw sedge and salt grass.

Silt Jetties on the Mitchell River and MacLeod Morass
The Mitchell River delta which lies to the south of Bairnsdale is an eroded digitate delta. Geologists have nominated it a site of international significance. It extends southwards from the area around Bairnsdale along the western shore of Lake King to Eagle Point which is about 6 km north-east of Paynesville, on the western shore of Lake King. The silt jetties are a series of long, narrow, winding strips of land which extend eastwards out into the lake for 8 km. The silt was deposited over millions of years as the Mitchell River slowed as it entered the lake. The quantity of sediment is particularly high during floods. The silt is thought to have filled in MacLeod Morass - an extensive freshwater marsh, now partly drained, which was probably once a part of Lake King. It is home to a range of waterbirds, including migratory waders and is used for education and interpretation purposes.

These silt 'jetties' are the second-largest of their type in the world, next to those of the Mississippi River at the Gulf of Mexico. They have been eroded since they were first mapped in the 1840s. This erosion began when Lakes Entrance was created in 1889, causing an increase in salinity in the lakes which has slowly killed off the vegetation that once bound the jetties. They were also damaged by cattle grazing on the river banks and scouring by boat wash. There is a vehicle track which provides a closer view and leads to some popular fishing spots. The road is narrow and can be potholed but the journey is genuinely fascinating.

Rotamah Island
Rotamah Island is a "bushland delight" across from Paynesville (it is 6 km by water) which can be reached by boat. It is an ideal location for bushwalks with four (each outlined at http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/the-lakes-national-park/things-to-do/rotamah-island) being popular:
* 90 Mile Beach Walk (3.8 km - 90 minutes) - along the beach from the jetty.
* West End Walk - (4.8 km - 2 hours return) - from the jetty to the end of the island.
* Rotamah Loop - (7.6 km - 3 hours return) - from the jetty and around to 90 Mile Beach.
* East End Walk - (4.6 km - 2 hours return) - East track from jetty and back via the Forest Track.

Rotamah Island is noted for its bird observatory, which fell into disrepair and was only reopened in February, 2015. The observatory, the only one of its kind in Victoria, is situated in an old farmhouse on the shores of Lake Victoria and run by the Rotamah Island Bird Observatory Inc. The Weekly Times reported on its opening: "In the first stage of the $250,000 redesign solar and wind power have been installed, as well as a sewage treatment plant, an oil seabird rescue centre, and accommodation for 15 in the four-bedroom homestead. The second $400,000 stage, planned for the next five years, will include building accommodation for 40 and a lecture theatre, allowing school groups to stay and learn about the natural environment." Environments ranging from swamps to sand dunes, heath and woodland can be found swans, pelicans, ducks and other waterbirds, as well as kangaroos and emus. Sheltered areas on the island are good for canoeing. Birdwatchers will also find 200 species of native birds in the area. There is a useful, downloadable National Parks brochure. Check out http://rotamah.customer.netspace.net.au/rotamah%20park%20notes.pdf.

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History

* Around 75,000 years ago Raymond Island was formed as a coastal barrier when the river altered its path.

* About 20,000 years ago the Gippsland Lakes were formed when the Outer Barrier formed and cut off the sea.

* Around 18,000 years ago the Kurnai, specifically the Tantungoloong Aborigines, settled in the area.

* In 1842 John Reeve explored the Gippsland Lakes and named Raymond Island after Willliam O'Dell Raymond, a magistrate and pastoralist.

* By 1888 a small ferry was operating between Paynesville and Raymond Island.

* Historically large vessels could reach Lake King via the McMillan Straits.

* In 1901 a wooden punt, made from oregon and kauri, was built to cross from the mainland to Raymond Island. It was capable of transporting cattle, horse-drawn buggies and livestock.

* In 1908 the largest passenger ship to ply the lakes, the Gippsland, was constructed at Paynesville.

* By the 1940s Raymond Island had become a popular holiday destination for people from Sale and Maffra.

* In 1961 the church of St Peter by the Lake was built.

* In 1993 the East Gippsland Shire Council was formed.

*Today the town is a pleasant holiday destination easily accessible from Melbourne and popular with holiday makers during the summer months because of its variety of aquatic activities.

* The ferry service between Paynesville and Raymond Island now carries 500,000 passengers and 250,000 vehicles a year.

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Visitor Information

There is no official visitor information centre. The nearest is the Bairnsdale Visitor Information Centre, 240 Main Street, Bairnsdale, tel: (03) 5152 3444, 1800 637 060. There is a village information centre at the local newsagent's shop.

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Useful Websites

There is a useful local website. Check out http://www.visitpaynesville.com.au/ for accommodation, eating and activities in the area.

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Got something to add?

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2 suggestions
  • I’d like to know more about the history in detail.

    Jennifer Hardy
  • I’d like to know more about the history of the place. I am researching someone in my family tree and he was there in 1897. He died there. He was living in Melbourne. I wonder if he was speculating or going there for pleasure. His name was Sterritt Duff Watson.

    Jennifer Hardy