Bemm River is a detour on the way to somewhere else and it was our curiosity that sent us to this little coastal hamlet for a little exploring at what turned out to be a secret paradise.
The sun was shining and the temperature was climbing as we packed the gear ready to hit the road for Victoria’s Wilderness Coast area of the East Gippsland region. John and son, Sean, who are both well-known for their tardiness, decided to show me just how organised they can be if they put their minds to it. I was pleasantly surprised to find they were ready to go by 10:15! Wonders will never cease! That is, until we discovered that John’s car keys were still in the tent. That’s right, the tent that was neatly packed in the trailer, underneath the tables, chairs, and assorted bedding and bags! The boys groaned at the thought of having to unpack all of that gear and I let them stew for a while before telling them that I had the spare keys in my purse. It was too good an opportunity to pass up!
A stop at Lakes Entrance
Finally, amid much grumbling and many dirty looks, we were on the road and our first stop along the way was at Lakes Entrance, the gateway to the Gippsland Lakes. The Lakes are quite possibly the largest inland network of waterways in the southern hemisphere, covering some 400 square kilometres (approx. 155 square miles) and are an ideal holiday spot for those who want some beautiful beaches for boating and fishing, as well as time on the sand and in the surf. So say the tourist brochures and I must admit they certainly are beautiful.
The views from the lookout
We stopped briefly at a lookout overlooking Lakes Entrance. The water was unbelievably blue and beyond the Lakes, Bass Strait stretched away into infinity. They say that on a clear day you can see some of the many oil rigs in the Strait. There is an ongoing dredging operation at the entrance to the Lakes; without it, the sandbar would be impassable for many large boats. The dredging vessel April Mamor was operating that day and the boys found it fascinating.
The mouse escapes in Orbost
Back on the road we headed for Orbost where we stopped for supplies and lunch and engaged in a quite comical hunt around the car for Sandy, the escapee mouse.
Yes, Sean’s pet travels with us wherever we go these days and usually stays in her cage but today she wanted out and led us a merry dance for a while. There is a lovely little park just off the main road where we stopped for lunch. It has some landscaped gardens, a footbridge over a little pond, some carved tree trunks, and a sculpture of metal figurines that, from a distance, on a dark night, could almost look lifelike. It’s really a very pleasant place to stop but none of it was important until the missing Sandy was found. The boys searched every nook and cranny but to no avail.
Bemm River on the Wilderness Coast
Finally we decided to press on; she couldn’t have got out of the car so we’d find her later when we unloaded. Bemm River, the town, on the edge of the Cape Conran Coastal park is nestled between Bemm River, the river, the Sydenham Inlet and Bass Strait, and just across the inlet from the Croajingalong National Park. It is approximately 23 kilometres (14 miles) off the Princes Highway where a large sign advises drivers that there are no fuel supplies in Bemm River. In fact, there’s very little in Bemm River. Just the way we like it.
The mouse returns!
It was as we were approaching Bemm River that Sandy made her presence known. In a dash for freedom she ran across my foot and no, I didn’t scream but it was a close run thing! Sean was able to catch her but no matter what box he put her in she continued to escape. We didn’t know it at the time but Sandy’s life expectancy was now measured in minutes and, sadly, while we were setting up camp at the Bemm River Caravan Park ([star][star][star]), she passed away. Why, we don’t know, only that at the time she was in the middle of yet another escape attempt. Sean, understandably, was a little upset and was quite subdued as he finished putting up his tent. But he soon sparked up again.
On the coast at Bass Strait
Later that afternoon we went for a drive down to the beach. This was the first time I’d ever seen Bass Strait and I know that some people think it’s no big deal but for me it was. The first time you do anything is a big deal! I was determined to get my feet wet in spite of the heckling behind me. Or maybe, because of it! We stopped at a couple of different places along that stretch of beach and John spoke to some fellows there about the fishing. I hoped he wasn’t going to promise me his famous fish dinner; there’s not a pizza or chicken shop anywhere within a 100 kilometres!
A pleasant evening in Bemm River
By now it was getting late and we started back in the general direction of the camp. Not that it was getting dark, it stays light quite late into the evening here in Victoria, sometimes it’s still light at 9:00. Some high cloud had rolled in and it was a cool evening with just the hint of a breeze. The caravan park allows open fires at the campsites as long as we collect our own firewood and contain the fire in the designated bins so tonight we lit up, so to speak, and settled back with a bottle of chardonnay to enjoy the warmth of the fire.
Fishing in Bemm River
The next day dawned warm and sunny; beach, here we come! We drove out to Py-Yoot Beach, which is a lovely, secluded spot on Bass Strait. There were a couple of fellows fishing at one end but other than that the beach was deserted. John and Sean got set with their fishing rods and I went for a walk on the sand.
What a spectacular stretch of beach; that gorgeous dark blue water stretches to the end of the earth. This time I got more than just my feet wet but the water was very cold. I could have kept on walking forever, enjoying the solitude and the peace and quiet but I thought I should get back and see how the boys were going. By the time I got there John had caught a salmon. However it was very small, legal size, but small. That definitely was not going to make a fish dinner, not even an appetiser! Soon after, Sean reeled in a flathead. All of a sudden, dinner tonight was looking good! But, again, it was small.
2 small fish do not a dinner make!
There was not enough in the two fish to feed the three of us. So I sent them back to the coalface and settled under our beach shelter to await the next shout of “got one!” Well, I waited and waited, relaxing, trying not to doze off, and finally gave up and went for another walk, this time in the opposite direction. The other fisherman had given up and left and we had the place to ourselves. It couldn’t have been more perfect. This time when I returned all they were catching was sand crabs so it was time to head back to camp for showers and lunch.
Sightseeing in Bemm River
I wanted to do a little sightseeing this afternoon and we set off for Cann River, the next town along on the highway and the only place to get fuel. There isn’t very much here, either but there is one of those old fashioned pubs. It didn’t look very busy; in fact the whole town didn’t look very busy. I guess not a lot happens in this neck of the woods but don’t get me wrong, it’s more peaceful than boring.
A little off-road exploration
We left Cann River and started to make our way back to the campsite via the “scenic route”. A few bush tracks beckoned and John has never been one to shy away from some off-roadexploration. These tracks are well travelled so not rough at all but quite sandy in some places. Still, most 2-wheel-drive vehicles, with careful drivers, could negotiate them. Almost all of the tracks are seasonal, though, closed from June to November, the wet months. So, getting off the beaten track, so to speak, wasn’t all that bad. We’ve been on highways that have been in worse condition than these tracks!
A drive into the Croajingalong National Park
We drove around the tiny town of Bemm River and it didn’t take long to see it all. The hub of entertainment in town is, of course, the Bemm River Hotel. There were a few cars in the parking lot and several drinkers on the wide verandah at the front of the hotel but little more. Bemm River is mainly a fishing village so the facilities are aimed at the angler more than anyone else. The bridge over the Bemm River led to some
logging areas and, according to the map, the unsealed roads traverse the Croajingalong National Park all the way through to Point Hicks where the lighthouse is. This remote lightkeeper’s settlement has the third tallest light tower in Australia and Captain James Cook named it after a Lieutenant Hicks who was the first to see this land in April 1770. We drove a little way into the National park but it was getting late and we decided not to go any further and returned to camp. We had had a great day but we were all tired and the boys’ plan for an early fishing trip in the morning meant an early night for us all.
The only thing that can get them out of bed early!
Well, John said he wanted to go fishing early in the morning and that’s exactly what they did. He and Sean left at about 6:00. I didn’t even hear them go; by the time I got up the sun was climbing and so was the temperature. They tell me that the beach was beautiful in the early morning; the cloudless sky, the air crisp and clear, the sand undisturbed as though at the beginning of time, the blue water stretching further than the eye could see, and the waves gently lapping the shore. A most perfect scene and to top it off the beach was deserted. Unfortunately, so was the ocean. Not even a bite; nothing, zip, zilch, nada! Even the crabs were still in bed. So it was just on 10:00 when they arrived back at camp empty-handed. They didn’t even tell me any stories about the one that got away! Talk about dejected!
An off-road track to be avoided
After John and Sean had showered and had a cup of coffee we went for a walk to the local shop, such as it is, to buy ice and while we were having lunch they told me about another off-road track they had discovered. Oh no, I groaned! Well, my boys learned today that some off-road tracks, no matter how inviting might they look, are best avoided. At all costs! The track certainly looked safe enough, those wheel ruts filled with water didn’t appear to be too deep. How wrong can you be!
It was just soft, squishy mud and in we went, all the way to the axles. We were well and truly stuck with the wheels just spinning and flinging mud all over the place; I was not amused. Thank heavens we weren’t too far from camp! A car stopped and they attempted to pull us out but no luck, so the driver offered to take Sean back to camp to get help. After about a ½ hour Sean was back with a couple of fellows and another 4×4 vehicle. They also attempted to pull us out but the car remained firmly wedged. It was lucky that they had a large jack, which was soon put to good use.
I stayed in the car and had absolutely no intention of getting out until we were free of the mud. John was in total agreement with my choice; he had already seen “the look” and wasn’t sure he cared for the follow-up! It took another ½ hour before the car was jacked up, some logs thrown under the back wheels, and the snatch strap firmly secured. By this time the car, John, Sean, and our rescuers were completely covered in mud and no longer in possession of a sense of humour. Once we had something for the back wheels to grip, getting out was easy; washing all the mud off was another thing entirely. We drove down to the lake, thinking to use the hose at the boat ramp to wash the mud off the car but I think some of it will be there forever.
A swim in Bass Strait
After the clean-up we decided, not surprisingly, to give the off-road a miss and go directly to the beach. There were a few people at Py-Yoot Beach today but they were spread out and it certainly wasn’t crowded.
John and Sean wanted to go for a swim in Bass Strait and tried to talk me into going in with them but that water was freezing! Up to the knees was as far as I would go! I left them to it and went for another walk along the sand; this is such a lovely place that I don’t want to leave, I could quite happily stay here forever. John and Sean didn’t swim for long because of the cold water and the light wind blowing made them feel colder.
Worth the wait!
Sean went off to collect some beach rocks, I settled down with a magazine, and John pulled out the fishing rod. And after trying all through our holiday for a decent sized fish, this one was certainly worth the wait! A salmon weighing almost 2 kilograms (4 pounds) and about 55cm (22 inches) long! More than a meal for the three of us! And to think he didn’t even promise a fish dinner!
We left the beach soon after, the fish had stopped biting and I was getting sunburned. And tonight we had a delicious dinner of fresh fish and salad, a glass or two of Chablis, and just ourselves and the stars in the sky for company. Perfect. Our stay at Bemm River had come to an end and it was time to move on. For those who decide that they’d like a few days break from the “big smoke”, my suggestion is that you take that detour to Bemm River; it’s well worth it. No television, no radio, no mobile phones, no emails, no fax machine; we couldn’t get much closer to heaven if we tried! Of course, catching that salmon did help but Bemm River gets a “thoroughly recommended” from us.
The information contained in this journal is derived from our personal recollections of our visit to this town or region and is correct as at the time of publication. austracks accepts no responsibility should any of this information be incorrect or misleading due to changes, improvements, or upgrades that may have occurred to places and/or attractions since our visit.