I have a confession to make… forty years ago, I left the small central Gippsland town of Trafalgar where I grew up, for university and the bright lights of Melbourne.
In the intervening years, I’ve lived in Melbourne, Sydney, Boston and Washington DC, with regular international holidays to almost all the continents and several years of interstate commuting within Australia. I saw myself as a city girl and, perhaps, even a global citizen.
But, in 2018 and 2019 everything changed for me. Enjoying a 60th birthday ‘bucket list’ holiday in Norway to experience the Northern Lights, I became newly aware of how my flights were contributing to rising carbon emissions. With the birth of my great-niece in mid 2019, the politics of climate change became devastatingly personal and real for me. I could not reconcile a healthy future for her with the knowledge that each return flight I made to Europe generated about 5 tonnes of carbon emissions. So, I pledged to be flight-free and instead enjoy local, slow travel within Australia.
Falling in love with South Gippsland and the Bass Coast
Consequently, over the past few years, I’ve made several trips of slow discovery through the green rolling hills and pretty townships of South Gippsland, about 2 hours drive south-east from Melbourne. Let me share with you some of my adventures and the delights that await if you, too, are tempted to enjoy holidaying locally (whether by choice or due to COVID-19).
Each February, the Italian festa in Mirboo North contributes to the broadening of my hips – spinach and ricotta cannelloni, caponata, arancini and cannoli. Fortunately, there is tarantella dancing, flag throwing, singing and other activities to serve as breaks between culinary indulgence. As an Italophile, I enjoy inflicting my four years of Italian language studies on the locals, many of whom immigrated from Sicily and Calabria after WW2.
In 2020 the annual tea cosy festival in Fish Creek is converted to an online e-cosy event due to the pandemic. The creativity, imagination and whimsy of the lovingly crafted entries cannot help but make me smile and fills me with admiration. In addition to knitted and crocheted tea cosies, there are elaborate felt creations with appliques and hand stitching. I wish I could be there in person to enjoy tea and scones and hear the stories of individual crafters. As a sewer of Boomerang Bags (reusable fabric bags to reduce plastic use), keen cross stitcher and lover of textiles, I’m sure I could fashion a tea cosy. Bring on 2021!
Less than 15 minutes east of Fish Creek, the town of Foster featured in a recent Gardening Australia episode for its welcoming approach to ‘street eats’. Over the last decade, the council gardeners have planted vegetables as part of their landscaping of nature strips and roundabouts. Local residents enjoy the reaction of visitors who are surprised at the bountiful harvest of vegetables and herbs that are free to pick and enjoy. Depending on the season, the main street can be lined with huge stalks of corn, eggplants, tomatoes, rhubarb, chilis and a wide variety of herbs.
Finally, even though I am neither a surfer nor even a swimmer, I love the rugged coasts and secluded beaches of the Bass Coast. Each time I drive from Melbourne, my heart sings when I reach Kilcunda and spot the wild waters of Bass Strait. With fresh coffee in my hands, the smell of the ocean, and the historic Kilcunda trestle bridge in my sightline, it feels like I’m coming home. From there, I sometimes take a detour through Cape Paterson so I can enjoy the spectacular Bunurong Coast. There’s an abundance of nature to observe – birdlife, whale watching, marine life in rock pools and significant dinosaur fossil sites. Heading east from Inverloch (the site of an annual jazz festival), Venus Bay offers 24km of unspoilt white sand beaches, with its strong currents being suitable only for experienced swimmers and surfers.
I have a confession to make…
I’ve been enjoying my local holidays in South Gippsland so much that after forty years of city life, I’m about to leave Melbourne and embark on a sea change. Say hello to the new country girl next time you visit Inverloch! Who knows – I may well be volunteering at the visitor centre about the delights of the region!