Take a trip to Australia’s largest and most beautiful inland waterways, the Gippsland Lakes. Discover a network of lakes, marshes and lagoons covering over 600 square kilometres, separated from the ocean by the coastal dunes of Ninety Mile Beach. The Lakes are a haven for bird and marine life, with dolphins and pelicans frequenting many locations.
On the lakes
Beginning at Sale on the Thomson River, there are three main lakes: Lake King, Lake Victoria and Lake Wellington and they are all joined and fed by rivers that originate in the High Country, including the Mitchell, Nicholson, Tambo and Avon rivers. Catch a ferry or water taxi from Paynesville to explore the many small islands only accessible by boat.
Take a drive along the Mitchell River silt jetties, a geographical highlight and the largest of their kind in the world. Make your way out into Lake King with the Mitchell River on one side and the lake on the other, and for great photo opportunities, head to the lookout at Eagle Point Bluff.
Pitch a tent and enjoy a holiday under the stars in one of the two national parks that abut the lakes. The Lakes National Park and the Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park both offer great camping facilities and have plenty of walking tracks to explore.
Cruise out to Rotamah Island and get up close to local birdlife, kangaroos, wallabies and other native animals. For a personal encounter with a cuddly koala, take the ferry out to Raymond Island and walk the Koala Trail. Stay on the island a little longer and get to know the local kangaroos and other wildlife that inhabit this special part of the world.
The lakes were formed by two principal processes. The first is river delta alluvial deposition of sediment brought in by the rivers which flow into the lakes. Silt deposited by this process forms into long jettys which can run many kilometers into a lake, as exemplified by the Mitchell River silt jetties that run into Lake King. The second process is the action of sea current in Bass Strait which created the Ninety Mile Beach and cut off the river deltas from the sea.
Once the lakes were closed off a new cycle started, whereby the water level of the lakes would gradually rise until the waters broke through thebarrier beach and the level would drop down until it equalised with sea-level. Eventually the beach would close-off the lakes and the cycle would begin anew. Sometimes it would take many years before a new channel to the sea was formed and not necessarily in the same place as the last one.
In 1889 a wall was built to fix the position of a naturally occurring channel between the lakes and the ocean at Lakes Entrance, to stabilise the water level, create a harbour for fishing boats and open up the lakes to shipping. This entrance needs to be dredged regularly, or the same process that created the Gippsland Lakes would render the entrance too shallow for seagoing vessels to pass through.
Due to the flooding, in 2011, Gippsland Lakes were experiencing bioluminescence.
The lakes support numerous species of wildlife and there exist two protected areas within: The Lakes National Park and Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park. The Gippsland Lakes wetlands are protected by the international Ramsar Convention on wetlands. There are also approximately 400 indigenous flora species and 300 native fauna species. Three plants, two of them being orchid species, are listed as endangered.
The lakes are home to about 50 of the recently described species of Bottlenose dolphin, the Burrunan dolphin (Tursiops australis). The other 150 or so of this rare species are to be found in Port Phillip.
The wetlands provide habitat for about 20,000 waterbirds – including birds from as far afield as Siberia and Alaska. The lakes have been identified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area(IBA) because they regularly support over 1% of the global populations of Black Swans, Chestnut Teals and Musk Ducks, as well as many Fairy Terns.
The Gippsland Lakes are, in order of size:
- Lake Wellington
- Lake Victoria
- Lake King
- Lake Reeve
- Lake Tyers
- Lake Coleman