The Tarra Valley is a very pretty area, situated between Traralgon and Yarram in West Gippsland.
The unprecedented scale and extent of the recent bushfires of East Gippsland affected the lives and homes of the people and damaged the native forests and wildlife across an enormous area.
Now in the aftermath of the fires townships and local businesses are struggling and are in need of visitor support to help them to come alive again.
Even while the fires were still at their worst, local businesses in nearby areas were already feeling the effects due to lack of visitors during what should have been their busiest period.
We were preparing for our annual short trip with the grandkids when I heard one of these businesses, the Tarra Valley Caravan Park, reaching out on the radio.
The Tarra Valley
Tarra Valley in West Gippsland seemed like a good choice – only two and a half hours from home – but not so close to the raging inferno further east.
The access to the caravan park from Yarram, is via the Tarra Valley Road. This is a windy narrow strip of bitumen that follows the Tarra River as it enters Tarra-Bulga National Park.
Along the way, the road passes two caravan parks and our choice was the second one. This is just a small park, perched on the side of a hill, with cabins and powered and unpowered sites, all neatly laid out in a treed setting.
The river babbles close by and if you dangle a line you might catch a trout.
There was plenty of room for the children to play due to the lack of visitors. There was a playground and room for cricket and frisbee throwing and exploring and paddling along the river bank. The Devonshire Tea or coffee offered by the caravan park was also popular.
What to see and do nearby?
Tarra-Bulga National Park
The park, features giant mountain ash and myrtle beach, plus tree ferns that dominate in gullies and provide shade on the walking tracks beside creeks. A careful drive of only a few kilometres further along windy Tarra Valley Road brings the visitor to a parking and picnic area. From here an easy walk meanders through a rainforest gully on a well-defined circuit track passing Cyathea Falls.
The waterfall is named after the dominant fern found here Cyathea australis, or rough tree fern, which is one of the tallest growing tree ferns in Australia.
The Visitor Centre of the park is located near Balook, a tiny township found at the top of the range on the Grand Ridge Road. There are several walks through the forest from here, the most popular leads to Corrigan Suspension Bridge. This is another easy walk to the bridge which stretches across the rainforest canopy, giving excellent views of the lush fern gully below.
Choose from a selection of walks to see the bridge and return by a different route. We took the Scenic Track, which went higher along the ridge through mountain ash and cool temperate rainforest.
Port Albert, Woodside Beach and Port Welshpool
Port Albert is one of Victoria’s oldest seaports, and was established in 1841 by explorer Angus Macmillan. Port Albert then became the major supply port for pioneers and gold miners until the railway connected Melbourne with Sale in 1878.
There are a number of historic buildings remaining in Port Albert, but our major interest in the town that day was the café selling ‘the best fish and chips’. It received our tick of approval.
From Port Albert we headed for Woodside Beach at the beginning of the 90-mile beach, which stretches – well, 90 miles from here to Lakes Entrance. This wide sandy beach is ideal for swimming and surfing the waves and the two young boys and the old boy were soon in under the watchful eye of the life guard.
Port Welshpool is well-known for its historical Long Jetty. The Jetty has been completely renovated and restored after a fire and decay from exposure to the elements had closed it for many years.
It is now used for walking and recreational fishing, with the historic Broman Diving Bell, used by divers in the Bass Strait oil industry, and a shelter shed located near the end of the jetty. The shelter shed was most welcome when we were there as there was a stiff, cold breeze blowing.
There are many more activities to entertain in this very diverse area, such as driving the Grand Ridge Road for spectacular views over Wilsons Promontory, enjoying a beer at a boutique brewery at Mirboo North or visiting Mini Ha Ha waterfall at Hiawatha or Agnes Falls near Toora.
Apart from the rain that poured down while we were trying to pack up, we thoroughly enjoyed our time here. The Tarra Valley is a great place for a short getaway.