The dead wombats are tricky. You have to watch for them so you can divert the attention of your little one before it’s too late. Dead wombats look like sad, discarded teddy bears. Dead kangaroos can be sad, but it depends on your kid. Dead wombats don’t depend on your kid – they’re just plain upsetting. Keep your eyes open.
Dead wombats are just one part of a day trip to South Gippsland from Melbourne, though. The rest of the day certainly makes up for them. Heading east on the Princes Highway early in the morning gives you a good excuse for a coffee break at one of the side-of-the-road spots. That could be with piping hot jam donuts, or in the shade of giant bird statue, or maybe at a Cafe Obsession in Trafalgar.
Two hours of driving gets you to the turn-off for Yarram which is where the wombat action starts. The winding Strzelecki Trail is great fun if you like to pretend you’re a Formula 1 driver (and who doesn’t?). Shortly into the drive you will come across the Loy Yang power station looming above the trees. The giant cooling towers double as cloud factories on most days, a true wonder for your kids.
Take the turnoff to Tarra Bulga National Park and the bends in the road become bendier. The road is barely wide enough for two cars to pass, so keep your wits about you. Hopefully someone else in the car will be able to be on wombat-spotting duty at this point. Tarra Bulga has two great spots for a walk. The first you’ll come to has a welcome centre with information about local flora and fauna as well as a walk that takes you across a majestic rope bridge. The second is a short loop through the temperate rainforest with a fun waterfall that you are definitely not allowed to climb around. But obviously, you’ll climb around it anyway because it’s super fun.
Pro-tip – bring a packet of salt in case someone picks up a leech or two. I found one on my leg and hadn’t gone anywhere near water. Rainforests are wet. Who knew?
If it’s summer, you might stop to swim in the river at a few spots at the bottom of the park. There’s great fun for dads and kids to be had in climbing on rocks and exploring the water. If it’s winter, keep your eyes and ears open for lyrebirds. They’re all over the park, so seeing one shouldn’t be difficult. Hearing them is another matter, as they’re perfect mimics, able to sound like other birds or even chainsaws. Basically, if you hear any noise, you can safely say to your kids, “Can you hear the lyrebird?”
Once you’re out of the park it will be time for lunch. Maybe past time if you really enjoyed Tarra Bulga’s treats. Yarram is ten minutes away and the place to go for food and drinks is the Fable Cafe. Yarram is basically a long main street that is part of the South Gippsland Highway. Nearly every business in town is on this road. Fable Cafe isn’t. Of course. It’s behind the main strip in the supermarket plaza. You’ll find filling meals, delicious snacks, and good coffee.
Yarram has a few other spots worth checking out. The Regent Theatre is one of the oldest in Victoria and is a lovely old building. The beautiful Old Court House has a museum and lots of information on regional attractions. If you’re after some kangaroos that aren’t road kill, the golf course is usually a good spot to see some. There is also a playground with toilets and picnic tables near the new library building. The library has wifi for guests, but you should probably be exploring, not sitting at your computer.
On that note, the next stop should be Woodside Beach. Twenty minutes out of Yarram, it’s the start of the fourth longest beach in the world, Ninety Mile Beach. It’s never crowded, so you’ve got ninety-four miles (not ninety) to explore with your kids. Swim, chase waves, be chased by waves, climb sand dunes, roll down sand dunes, build sand castles, destroy sand castles. It’s all available. When you’re finished with the beach, you’ll have access to another playground and toilet block. Playgrounds and toilets tend to be important features of any day trip with my kid, so I share this with you.
From the beach, after you’ve failed to remove all of the sand from your clothes and kids, head back toward Yarram and drive through it towards Port Albert. This is an old fishing town, but there’s plenty for young kids. Look out for pelicans and dolphins on the waterfront after maybe getting some of the region’s best fish and chips at the end of the road. There’s also a great playground and toilet block (you knew it was coming).
With the day coming to a close, head back up the road to the South Gippsland Highway and turn towards Melbourne. Dinner will be in Meeniyan at the superb Trulli Pizzeria. It’s wood-fired and delicious beyond belief. The place is owned by a friendly American who found herself transplanted in this tiny cool town. You’ll be able to finish with a great coffee, which will be important because while your kid will be knocked out in the back seat, you have the most important job of the day: spotting living wombats.
The dead wombats were tricky, but the wombats who walk across the road in the evening are often turned into dead wombats. You don’t want to know what that does to your car. Keep your eyes open.